Mac OS X Hints

Use a Second Monitor for DVD Playback

If you have two monitors, Apple's bundled DVD Player is now smart enough to put the second one to good use. In OS X releases before 10.3, DVD Player would use only the primary display (the one with the menu bar) for DVD playback. In OS X 10.3's DVD Player, just drag your movie from the primary display to the secondary one, and you'll see a Switching Video To New Screen overlay appear in your movie window.

There, you can use DVD Player to play the video at full-screen size by selecting the Video: Enter Full Screen menu option. But if you then click on another application or on the Finder, DVD Player shrinks the movie down to Maximum Size. If you'd prefer that DVD Player leave the movie in full-screen mode, just open DVD Player's Preferences, click on Full Screen, and then select the Remain In Full Screen When DVD Player Is Inactive option. Now you can play a full-screen movie on your second monitor while you work on your primary monitor.

Master Panther's Open and Save Dialog Boxes

Mac users (and Windows switchers) will appreciate Panther's time-saving additions to the Open and Save dialog boxes. One of these new features is reminiscent of Windows -- when you click on the name of an existing file in a Save dialog box, the file you are about to save will assume that name. You can then overwrite the existing file (OS X will provide a warning to make sure you want to do so), without having to retype the name.

Another change relates to navigating your hard drives from the Open and Save dialog boxes. In OS X 10.2 and earlier, you could use the Go To field to type in a path to another folder on your hard drive -- OS X 10.3 lacks this field. You can still use the shortcut, though. To jump quickly to any folder anywhere on your system, press 1-shift-G (it's the same sequence as for the Finder's Go: Go To Folder command) in the Open or Save dialog box. When the new window opens, type the path to the folder you want to reach, and then press enter. You can even press the tab key to autocomplete entries and avoid some typing (just as in Terminal).

You can now navigate the Open and Save dialog boxes' file listings by typing the first letter of any item in the list. For instance, to go to your Documents folder, make sure that you're looking at your Home directory and that the file list area of the Open or Save dialog box is active, and then type do to highlight the Documents folder.

View Suggested Word Completions

When you're working in a Cocoa application, such as TextEdit, Safari, or Mail, you can use Panther's new autocompletion feature to find that certain word that's just itching to flow from your fingertips. Enter the first part of a word anywhere you can type -- say, in the Google search box in Safari or anywhere in a TextEdit document -- and then press the option and escape keys at the same time. You'll find a list of possible completions for the current word fragment.

View System Performance with Activity Monitor

Activity Monitor is an Apple utility (found in Applications: Utilities) that can help you diagnose system problems, kill stalled programs, and examine CPU and memory usage in Panther. Activity Monitor is a more powerful replacement for Process Viewer, included in OS X 10.2 and earlier.

One neat feature in Activity Monitor is the ability to view all processes in a hierarchical tree. Select All Processes, Hierarchically from Activity Monitor's pop-up menu, and you can see which tasks spawn subtasks, such as the pmTool program that Activity Monitor launches. Without this view, you'd see pmTool listed alone, and you might decide to quit it since you don't know what it is.

Another useful new feature is the Inspect button in the toolbar. Select an application in the list and click on the Inspect button, and you'll see a new window full of information that only a programmer could love -- or so you might think. The Inspect window contains detailed data on memory usage, thread usage, page-ins, CPU time used, and much more. Why should you care about all this? If you have an application that seems to be out of control (for example, if Photoshop becomes unresponsive when you try to open a new file), switch over to Activity Monitor while the app is stuck, select the application in the list, and click on the Inspect button. In the new window, click on the Sample button to get a snippet of the code that the application is running. While 99 percent of this window's content probably looks like gibberish, these tidbits can help you diagnose the cause of the problem -- Photoshop may be trying to find a file on a network server you've recently disconnected, for instance. You won't need this feature often, and you probably won't understand most of the stuff in there, but keep it in mind for when you need troubleshooting assistance.

If you enjoy this kind of low-level technical knowledge, you can even control-click on Activity Monitor's Dock icon to make it display CPU usage, disk activity, network activity, or memory usage. And if you really like to keep an eye on exactly what your machine is up to, check out the free MenuMeters ( menumeters), which can display information about all of these items in your menu bar, in OS X 10.3 and earlier.

Find the Missing Key Caps

If you've upgraded to OS X 10.3, you may have noticed that the venerable Key Caps application is no longer around. Key Caps presents an on-screen keyboard, extremely useful for finding and adding special characters such as ™, ©, and π to your documents. Don't panic -- Apple hasn't removed Key Caps entirely, but it has relocated, temporarily disabled, and renamed this essential utility.

To enable the new Keyboard Viewer in OS X 10.3, open the International preference pane, click on the Input Menu tab, and then select the Keyboard Viewer option. You'll see a flag icon in your menu bar. When you need the functionality of Key Caps, click on the flag icon and choose Show Keyboard Viewer from the drop-down menu that appears. Now hold down a modifier key (option or 1, for example), and click on a key to add a particular character to your document.

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