Mac 911

Ours is anything but a one-size-fits-all world, so I do my best to provide my readers with many ways to solve their Mac problems. This installment of Mac 911 provides a plethora of solutions--for launching applications with the press of a key, mating old Macs with new scanners, forcing a Power Mac to stick out its tongue and say ahhh, and recording "unrecordable" audio files.

Key Commandeering

Mac OS 9's Keyboard control panel has a function that lets you launch applications by pressing function keys. I love this feature but find that it's unavailable in Mac OS X. How can I get it back?

-- George Mennel, Kansas City, Missouri

Although this feature is missing from OS X, you can launch OS X applications from your Mac's keyboard--with some help from third-party utilities. I've plundered the Web for solutions and come up with some dandies.

I'll begin with Michael Kamprath's Keyboard Maestro 1.0 (www.key boardmaestro.com). This nifty $20 utility (which is also available in a free, light version) allows you to assign hot keys to applications and use hot keys to enter boilerplate text, switch to the next or previous application, and hide all applications. You can even use the program to remap key commands (a very handy feature for those of us who will never get used to the fact that pressing 1-N creates a new window, rather than a new folder, in OS X's Finder).

Among its myriad talents, James Thomson's indispensable $25 palette-based file-launching utility, DragThing 4.2 (http://www.dragthing.com), allows you to launch applications via your keyboard.

CE Software's $60 QuicKeys X (515/221-1801, http://www.cesoft.com), in addition to being a fine macro utility, lets you launch applications with a keystroke. As with DragThing, you can place shortcuts in easily configurable palettes (known as Toolbars in QuicKeys parlance).

LaunchBar 3.1.2, from Objective Development ($20; http://www.obdev.at), takes a slightly different approach. Instead of assigning a hot key to an application, you press 1-spacebar and begin typing the name of the item you want to launch--an application, file, Web address, or e-mail address, for example. As you type, LaunchBar narrows the list of matching items. The utility also learns as you type--if you type word, for example, and select Microsoft Word from LaunchBar's list, Microsoft Word appears at the top of the list the next time you type these letters.

Old Mac, New Scanner

I'd like to find a new scanner to use with my Power Mac 7200/120. Unfortunately, all the new scanners seem to have USB ports, which my Power Mac doesn't have. What can I do?

-- Dick Snedeker, West Windsor, New Jersey

Although your Power Mac's youthful glow may have faded, you have a couple of options: you can either procure a scanner that's compatible with your Mac as it is now or make your Mac compatible with many of today's scanners.

The first option requires the purchase of a scanner with a SCSI interface. Though most consumer-grade scanners made today offer only a USB port, SCSI scanners are still available from companies including Epson (800/922-8911, http://www.epson.com), Umax (510/651-4000, www.umax.com), and Hewlett-Packard (800/752-0900, http://www.hp.com).

These SCSI scanners--which transfer data more quickly than their USB counterparts--are intended for professionals and are priced accordingly. Whereas you can purchase a fine USB scanner for less than $200, you should expect to pay $500 or more for a SCSI scanner.

If you, like me, know the value of a dollar, I'd suggest that you make your Power Mac compatible with today's USB scanners by adding a USB adapter to one of your 7200's three PCI slots. Companies such as Keyspan (510/222-0131, http://www.keyspan.com) and Belkin (800/223-5546, http://www.belkin.com) offer two-port USB PCI cards for around $40. With one of these adapters snuggled down inside your Mac, you're at liberty to use one of the many inexpensive USB scanners on the market.

Open Sesame!

The media drive on the new Power Mac G4 lacks an eject button. Instead, Apple asks that you use the Apple Pro Keyboard's eject button. Does this mean there is no hope for using a different keyboard with this Mac?

-- Tim Smalley, Lansing, Michigan

Fear not, Tim. With the Power Mac G4, you can use your ergonomic keyboard to eject discs. Though the SuperDrives inside the top-of-the-line Power Macs do not have manual eject switches (such as the switches, found on earlier Mac models, that you engage by shoving a straightened paper clip into a tiny hole in the drive slot), you have oodles of options for making these drives open wide. May I count the ways?

One: You can highlight the disc and drag it to the Trash.

Two: You can highlight the disc and press 1-E.

Three: In Mac OS 9 and earlier, you can highlight the disc and press 1-Y.

Four: You can launch iTunes and then press the Eject button in the main iTunes window.

Five: In OS X 10.1, pressing the F12 key opens the media drawer (yes, even when it's empty).

Six: You can hold down the mouse button on start-up.

Seven: If the disc is a start-up disc (for either OS 9 and earlier or OS X), you can hold down the option key at start-up, select the disc, and then press 1-period (.) to eject it.

Eight: If you can't remove the disc by any other means, hold down the 1, option, O, and F keys at start-up to boot into Open Firmware; at the prompt, type eject cd and then mac-boot to continue start-up.

Nine: You can turn on the Mac's built-in speech recognition, highlight the disc, and trigger the Eject This Disk AppleScript verbally.

Ten: If you're running OS 9.2, open Eject Extras (Applications: Apple Extras) and double-click on the Eject application. To make this process easier, use the Eject control strip.

Real to Reel

I have found some Real Audio files I would like to convert to MP3 files and transfer to my iPod, but there seems to be no way to save them to my hard drive. How can I listen to them on my iPod?

-- Corey Sevett, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Corey, as you probably suspect, Real Audio files that stream across the Internet were not meant to be downloaded or transferred. But what you ask is not impossible. To achieve your goal, you must be running Mac OS 9 or earlier and you must record the output from your Mac's sound-out port into your Mac. Here's how it works:

On the software side of things, you'll obviously need a copy of Real Player (http://www.real.com) to play the Real Audio files. The job also requires a sound-editing application for recording sound. Felt Tip Software's $35 Sound Studio (http://www.felttip.com) is the one that I prefer (see "Sound Advice").

If you have a Mac with a sound-in port, the only hardware you need is your Mac and an audio cable that has a stereo miniplug (a Walkman-style plug) on both ends. If your Mac lacks a sound-in port, you'll also need some kind of audio adapter--a PCI audio card or a USB audio-input device such as Griffin Technology's $35 iMic adapter (615/399-7000, http://www.griffintechnology .com). String the audio cable between the Mac's sound-out port and the sound-in port on your sound-input device. Open the Sound control panel, click on the Sound window's Output tab, and then select Built-in from the list of devices. Launch Sound Studio, select Sound Input Source from the Audio menu, and choose the sound source (the Mac's sound-in port or USB audio, for instance). Click on OK to confirm your choice. Then select New from Sound Studio's File menu to open a new audio document.

Open Real Player and load the Real Audio file you want to play. Press Real Player's Play button; then immediately switch to Sound Studio and press the Record button (don't worry, it will take Real Player a while to stream the audio to your Mac--you won't miss anything). When the Real Audio file finishes playing, press Sound Studio's Stop button to end the recording. Save your recording in Sound Studio as an AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format) file. You are now able to open this file in iTunes, convert it to an MP3 file, and then upload it to your iPod.

Imperfect Words

I have years of work I created in WordPerfect, Corel's now-abandoned word processor. Since it's not supported, I need to convert my files to Microsoft Word. I have Office v. X but can't find a translator. Is there a way to convert?

-- Thomas H. Suttles, Magalia, California

As with all the questions in this month's column, you can approach this problem from a couple of different angles. You can do your work in WordPerfect and create Word-compatible files, or you can convert your WordPerfect files with a third-party utility.

If you want to make WordPerfect more perfect, I suggest that you trip on over to VersionTracker (http://www.version tracker.com); enter the word WordPerfect in the Search field; and from the resulting Web page, download Corel WordPerfect Enhancement Pack 3.5.e, WordPerfect Updater 1.0, and WordPerfect Conversions 2.0. The first of these is a free, full version of the application. WordPerfect Updater 1.0 patches the program so it's more compatible with OS 8 and OS 9, and WordPerfect Conversions 2.0 adds a host of new converters to WordPerfect--allowing you to export your WordPerfect documents in a format Word X can understand. John Rethorst created both utilities. Both are free and are totally unsupported by Corel. To add the converters to Word Perfect, drop the MacLinkPlus WordPerfect 3 file on your Mac OS 9.X System Folder (WordPerfect Conversions 2.0.1: For Extensions Folder). Then select everything else in the WordPerfect Conversions 2.0.1 folder and move it to WordPerfect's Conversions folder (inside the Corel WordPerfect 3.5 Enhanced folder). Restart your Mac or, if you're using OS X, relaunch the Classic environment.

When you next launch WordPerfect and select Save As from its File menu, you can save files as Microsoft Word 6, 4.0, or 5.X documents. To open your files in Word X, save them as Word 6 documents. Most of the formatting from your WordPerfect documents remains, although any hyperlinks they contain no longer function.

To bend documents more completely to your will, purchase a copy of DataViz's MacLinkPlus Deluxe 13 (800/733-0030, http://www.dataviz.com). This $100 utility can translate files from just about any format into just about any format--and that includes files created on the PC!

In OS 9 and earlier, you can perform this translation from within an application--just select a file in the Open dialog box, and MacLinkPlus Deluxe takes care of the translation. Regrettably, this isn't possible in OS X. Instead, you must drag the file you want into the MacLinkPlus Deluxe application, press the Translate button, and select the format into which you'd like to translate the file.

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