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  • Florian 
  • 9 min read

Kaleidoscope Prism

(Part 3 of our series about the major new features in Kaleidoscope 4. See Part 1 to learn about the powerful new Text Filters, and Part 2  about editing text comparisons through New Merge from Comparison.)

Kaleidoscope 4 comes with an entirely new companion app called Kaleidoscope Prism. By default, it launches along with Kaleidoscope and remains running, so you may have noticed a new icon sitting quietly in your menu bar.

The Kaleidoscope Prism menu bar icon, left of the battery.

Some of the features in Kaleidoscope Prism will take a while to get used to before they feel natural and become part of your workflow. We suggest you try them for a few days before making a decision so your muscle memory has a chance to adapt. If you feel we missed an opportunity to make something really useful, please let us know!

New ways to add content via Drag & Drop

You have always had a convenient way to get content into the app via drag-and-drop. The Kaleidoscope app itself offers two primary drop targets: the app icon and existing windows, including the welcome window. If you don’t keep Kaleidoscope in your Dock and the app is not running, neither of these is available. And, depending on whether you are hiding the Dock and which windows are displayed on your screen, you might be out of luck even when the app is running. Enter Kaleidoscope Prism.

The Prism window

Show the Prism window by locating the Kaleidoscope Prism menu icon and selecting Show Kaleidoscope Prism from its menu.

The small square window in Kaleidoscope Prism is a great new target for dropping files and content. In addition to being a convenient visible drop area, the window has a button in the top right that provides another way to access the Kaleidoscope Prism menu. This has the benefit of making the menu available even when the menubar item is set to toggle the window (more about that below).

The window remembers its position, so place it where it feels most useful to you. By default, it opens in the top right area of your screen. But you might even want to position it closer to a screen edge or corner.

The Kaleidoscope Prism window. The button on the top right opens the Prism menu.

In order to be useful as a drop target, the window needs to be visible at the right moment. So let’s talk about how to configure this to fit your needs.

Toggle via menu

By default, you toggle the visibility of the Prism window via the Show/Hide Kaleidoscope Prism menu item from the menubar icon. But that can become tedious over time, moving the pointer all the way up to the menu bar, bringing up the menu, finding and selecting the right option.

There are two ways to customize, if you’d like to easily access the Toggle action:

    1. Add a (global) keyboard shortcut to toggle the Prism window via the Settings > Shortcuts > Toggle Prism window. Try it out and see what a difference it makes. For our examples, I use ⌃⌥⌘P (control+option+command+P), as it is easy to remember and press, and seems to not collide with other shortcuts.
    2. Toggle the window immediately when clicking the Prism menu bar item. This can be set in Settings > General > On Click and selecting Toggle Prism. You’ll notice that this means you will no longer have access to the menu. But you can still access that menu from the Prism window, as mentioned before.

Show Automatically

Wouldn’t it be great if that window appeared by itself when you need it, instead of having to toggle it yourself? That wish can be granted! Go to Settings > General > Prism Window and select Show when Dragging. Then close the Prism window, if it is currently open.

Now each time you starting dragging something, the Kaleidoscope Prism window automatically appears. As soon as you end the drag, it disappears again. Note that it appears where it was located before. This is useful because you can remember the position and therefore know where to drag.

But there’s yet another option that you may like: show the window near the point where you start dragging. To set this, go to Settings > General > Prism Window > Show when Dragging and select Near Mouse Pointer.

Kaleidoscope Prism Settings

We refer to Settings a lot in this article. You’ll open them either through the Prism menu bar item, selecting Settings…, or via the top right button in the Prism window, selecting Settings… The Settings window itself has two important sections, General and Shortcuts. So when writing Settings > General > [xyz], we are referring to opening the Settings window, selecting the General page and then finding an element named [xyz].

The General section of Kaleidoscope Prism Settings.
Kaleidoscope Prism > Settings > Shortcuts

Now, try dragging something again and note where the Kaleidoscope Prism window shows up. Find that convenient? Then leave that setting, and drags will be a lot shorter from now on. Find it too weird? Maybe give yourself a bit of time to get used to it before turning it off again.

Dropping files onto the Prism Window in various configurations:
1. Having the Prism Window visible via manual toggle.
2. Having it show automatically when dragging, at the previous position.
3. Having it show automatically when dropping, new the mouse pointer.

The Minimalist Solution

While it’s a rather tiny drop target, you can also drop content onto the Kaleidoscope Prism menu bar icon itself. Initially, it may feel a little odd to drop stuff onto the menu bar, but it is extremely convenient and space-saving. Plus, there’s no need to trigger anything or remember a location. Just look for the Prism icon in the menu bar.

New Clipboard powers

In the last few paragraphs, we discussed drag-and-drop enhancements brought by Kaleidoscope Prism window. But there’s more. Kaleidoscope Prism comes with two new menu choices for clipboard content. In particular when combined with keyboard shortcuts, these are huge time savers.

Send Clipboard to New Comparison takes the clipboard contents and opens a new comparison in Kaleidoscope, launching the app if necessary. Send Clipboard to Front Document tries to add the clipboard contents to the frontmost window in Kaleidoscope. If the contents don’t match, a new comparison will be opened. This would happen if you try to add text to an image comparison, for example.

Using the keyboard shortcuts for these two new menu choices is best shown in an example. Here we can quickly compare three pieces of text from separate TextEdit windows.

Using the global Send Clipboard shortcuts, you can quickly and easily send multiple pieces of text to Kaleidoscope.
First, ⌘A and ⌘C are used to select all text and copy it to the clipboard.
This is followed by ⌃⌥⌘C to send the clipboard to a new Kaleidoscope comparison, later by ⌃⌥⌘F to send it to the same window.

A global menu

Finally, Kaleidoscope Prism adds a global menu option to open the Kaleidoscope app, which can be convenient.

You’ll see the option to toggle the Kaleidoscope Prism window and the new clipboard commands we just discussed.

Finally, there is a menu item to open the Settings and one to quit Kaleidoscope Prism if you don’t need it for the task at hand. However, it’s easier to let Kaleidoscope do the work of managing Kaleidoscope Prism for you.

The Kaleidoscope Prism menu

Controlling Kaleidoscope Prism

We mentioned at the beginning that Kaleidoscope Prism launches along with Kaleidoscope and remains running unless you quit it. You can adjust that behavior to suit your needs. Open the Settings window in the main Kaleidoscope app and make sure you are on the General page. You’ll see the setting for Kaleidoscope Prism at the top. The 3 available choices are:

  1. Don’t start Automatically. In this case, you’ll get an extra button to start Prism. We don’t recommend this option, unless you are very sure you don’t need the benefits of Kaleidoscope Prism.
  2. Start with Kaleidoscope. This is the default setting, trying to not be invasive. Once you have used Kaleidoscope, the menubar icon will just stick around until you either quit Prism or log out of your computer.
  3. Start on Login. This is the most powerful option, as it will make Kaleidoscope Prism available all the time. Once you start your Mac and log into your account, Kaleidoscope Prism will be ready for use.
The General Settings of Kaleidoscope lets you control when Kaleidoscope Prism should run.

The last option will trigger a notification by macOS, letting you know that Kaleidoscope has added a Login Item. You can manage this in System Settings > General > Login Items. If you turn off Kaleidoscope in System Settings, Kaleidoscope will let you know that the Start on Login is no longer in effect. You are always in control.

What’s Next?

Do you have ideas how to improve Kaleidoscope Prism? Come up with a clever use case? Please get in touch!