Help Desk

This month, you'll learn how to quickly find e-mail messages related to other messages in Apple's Mail, close docked windows without opening them, use Mail's Move To command more efficiently, test the security level of your user pass-word, and use an Address Book plug-in to view the weather in one click.

Search for Related Messages in Mail

The version of Mail that comes with Panther has a new search feature. Highlight a message in one of your mailboxes, and then select From, To, or Subject -- under either In Selected Mailbox or In All Mailboxes -- from the search box's pop-up menu. Mail will then fill in the relevant data from the currently selected message.

For example, to find all the messages from a certain person, highlight one of his or her messages, select From in the In All Mailboxes section of the search box, and then press enter. Mail will display every e-mail message you've received from that person.

Close Minimized Windows from the Dock

Before Panther, you had to do the OS X two-step to close minimized windows in the Dock: first you had to click on the minimized window and watch it do its genie thing; then you had to click on the red close button or select File: Close Window.

Now, at least for some applications, the process is easier -- control-click on the program's icon in the Dock, and select Close from the pop-up menu that appears. Which applications will this work with? Unfortunately, there's no easy way to tell. Oddly enough, it doesn't work with Cocoa applications, such as TextEdit, Mail, Safari, and iChat. It does work with most, but not all, Carbon applications, including the Finder and Adobe Acrobat. You'll be frustrated, though, if you use Macromedia Flash MX, Adobe Illustrator, or Adobe Photoshop Elements -- none of these applications support this useful feature. The only way to know for sure is to test your application and see whether you get the Close contextual menu for docked windows.

View a Sidebar Item's Path in Column View

If you use the Finder's column-view mode and keep folders in the Finder's sidebar, you may have noticed an annoying quirk. When you click on a folder in the sidebar, the column-view window jumps directly to that folder and doesn't show its parent folders. This negates one of the column view's benefits -- the ability to see the path by which you arrived at a destination.

Since there are no visible horizontal scroll bars, you may think that your only way out of the selected folder view is to click on another sidebar or toolbar item. There are, however, two hidden means of escape from this view. If you 1-click on the name of the folder in the Finder window's title bar, you'll see the path to that folder. The second, and easier, method is to simply press 1–up arrow. This will take you up one level in the hierarchy, but it will also instantly create a full column display, showing the path from the top level of your hard drive to the current location.

Use Mail's Move To Menu Item More Efficiently

Mail has a very handy Move To contextual-menu command, which appears when you control-click on a message in your in-box. But if your local mail-boxes are expanded in Mail's drawer, this contextual menu can get quite long. Navigating this menu can be time-consuming, especially if you have lots of local mailboxes.

To see only the top-level view of your mailboxes, collapse your locally stored mailboxes before activating the Move To menu. When you hover over one of the main folders in the list, you'll see a submenu that shows the available subfolders.

Filing this way is much quicker because you won't have to navigate through tons of folders. Instead, just follow the expanding submenus into the desired folder. In fact, you can leave your local mailboxes in their collapsed state all the time. Even if you file items by dragging and dropping, the mailbox folders will expand when you mouse over them while dragging.

Instantly Add a Bookmark in Safari

There's no doubt that Safari is a fast Web browser, but adding bookmarks in Safari can be a tedious process. You know the routine: find a site you'd like to bookmark, press 1-D to add the bookmark, type in a name, and pick a bookmark folder in which to store your new bookmark. If you're trying to bookmark a number of sites, perhaps for a research project, this can really slow you down. To skip the dialog boxes and file your new bookmark in a hurry, use 1-shift-D instead. This will instantly add the bookmark to the Bookmarks menu, with the site's page name as the bookmark name. Later, when you have more time, you can revisit the Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks menu item and organize to your heart's content.

Open Manual Pages from Your Browser

Have you ever been browsing the Web and run into a Unix command that you'd like to know more about (an article about using rsync to back up your Mac, for example)? You might know that many Unix programs include help files, known as man pages (short for manual pages), and you can open these pages in Terminal by typing, for instance, man rsync. But if you're in a browser, you need to switch to the Finder, launch Terminal, and then type man rsync. There is a shortcut, however. In your browser's address bar, just type x-man-page://rsync and press enter. Terminal will launch (or activate) and display that command's man page. This should work in nearly every OS X browser; it also works in programs such as iChat, so you can send man page links to your iChat buddies.

How's the Weather Over There?

Have you ever wanted a quick way to check the weather at a relative's or a friend's location? If you have someone's address in Address Book, you can use Panther's new Address Book plug-ins to make checking the weather a one-click operation.

First, download the AppleScript file Weather at find.macworld.com/0010. Make sure Address Book isn't running, expand this script, and place it in your user folder's Library: Address Book Plug-Ins folder (or in the top-level Library's version of the same folder, where all users can take advantage of it). Launch Address Book, click and hold the Home or the Work label next to a contact's address, and select the Weather Underground option from the pop-up menu that appears to check the weather in that location.

Test Your Password

Have you ever wondered just how safe your user password is? With Panther's Keychain Access application, you can get a sense of your password's relative strength, as well as some pointers on how to make it stronger.

Launch Keychain Access (in Applications: Utilities). Select File: New Keychain, and then enter a name (Test Keychain, for example) and location in the resulting dialog box. It doesn't matter what you name this Keychain -- you won't be saving it. After entering a name and a location, click on the Create button.

In the next dialog box, click on the circular button with an i in it (next to the question-mark button) to open the Password Assistant dialog box. Enter your password in the Password box, and note the resulting score and warnings in the Password Assistant area. If your password is too simple, Password Assistant will tell you so and suggest ways to make it stronger. Passwords that result in a red graphic in the Quality area are of minimal value and are relatively easy to break. Try to pick a password that generates a score high enough to display a fully green bar, but make sure you can easily remember it. The safest password in the world does you no good if you have to keep it written down on a piece of paper near your computer.

When you're done experimenting, click on the Cancel button. You'll see an error message about failing to create the Keychain, but you can ignore it.

Unix Tip of the Month

One of Panther's new features is a Secure Empty Trash option, which overwrites your data files with meaningless data, making it nearly impossible for anyone to recover those files in the future. Using the Finder's Secure Empty Trash menu item will ensure that your data is safely shredded and prevent thieves from recovering deleted personal financial data from a stolen laptop, for example.

But what do you do if you're working with files in Terminal and would like them securely deleted? If you use just the rm command, the files will be deleted, but not securely. Instead, use srm, the secure-removal command. To remove a file named mystocks.txt from your Home directory, for instance, you would type srm~/mystocks.txt.

You can add -r to remove entire directories (be very careful with this one), and if you're truly paranoid, the -m option will use a seven-pass U.S. Department of Defense–compliant erasure method. For more information and additional options, type man srm in Terminal to read the brief but clear manual page.

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