Mac OS X Hints

Learn how to prevent accidental window closures, see who belongs to which Address Book groups, change iCal's displays, use iChat emoticons in new ways, skip disk-image verification, and more.

Find Group Memberships Fast in Address Book

One nice new feature of Panther's Address Book app is its ability to display a contact's group memberships quickly and easily. For instance, if you've created a group to ease your holiday-card chores (by taking advantage of another new Address Book feature, the ability to print address labels), you may not remember whether your Aunt Martha is in the group. Previous to Mac OS X 10.3's release, you had to go into your Holiday Card group and eyeball its contacts -- not exactly the best method when you've got many contacts in a list. In 10.3, you can simply select the All group, highlight Aunt Martha's name, and hold down the option key. Address Book will highlight the names of all groups that include her.

Change iCal's Displays

If you use iCal, you're probably quite familiar with the Day, Week, and Month view buttons at the bottom of the main window. Click on one of them, and you'll see the corresponding time period displayed on the calendar. But what if you're interested in another period, such as an upcoming three-day weekend?

Thanks to a completely undocumented iCal feature, you can view a period of one to seven days by pressing and holding Command-option, and then typing 1 to view one day, 2 for two days, and so on.

If you view six days, you can access another special feature -- press Command-option-6, and the calendar view will jump forward six days (the last day in the current view becomes the first day in the next view). Why is this useful? Normally, iCal won't let you drag and drop an event from one week to another in Week view -- you have to switch to Month view first. But if you use Command-option-6, you can drag an event from the last day of the prior view into the first day of the current view, effectively moving the event forward in time without having to switch views.

Save Screen Space When Choosing Fonts

Do you find the size of the Font panel (used in applications such as TextEdit and Mail) intrusive? On a screen such as that of the 12-inch PowerBook, the Font panel can be especially annoying -- it's so large that you may not even be able to see what's underneath it at times.

Luckily, there's a very simple solution (in both OS X 10.2 and OS X 10.3): just resize the panel by dragging the resizing triangle (located in the lower right corner) up and to the left. As you do so, the Font panel shrinks intelligently until you're left with just the basics. Although you lose the Collections column and most of the panel's other special features, you can still select the font family, typeface, and size, which should meet your needs in most situations. Once the panel is minimized, you can easily flip back and forth between the miniature view and the full-size view by clicking on the green resize button in the panel's menu bar.

Place a Clock in the Menu Bar and on the Desktop

The Date & Time preference pane lets you view a clock in the menu bar or as a floating window -- but not both. If you'd like to keep both clocks in view, there's a relatively easy way to do so.

At the root of your hard drive, navigate to System: Library: CoreServices: Menu Extras. In the Menu Extras folder, control-click on Clock.menu and select Show Package Contents. In the new window that opens, navigate to Contents: Resources. Drag WindowClock.app to your Applications folder (or anywhere else you'd like to keep it) to make a copy of the app. You may have to provide your administrative password, as the system owns this file.

Once you've copied WindowClock.app, launch it with a double-click. You'll find that both clocks are active at the same time. If you have a multibutton mouse, you can right-click on the clock face and use the contextual menu to switch between analog and digital modes (for some reason, control-clicking will not bring up the menu; only a right click will work). To get rid of the desktop clock, just open the Date & Time preference pane, click on the Clock tab, and toggle between menu-bar and desktop clocks -- when you toggle back to the menu-bar mode, the desktop clock will vanish.

Prevent Accidental Window Closures

It's happened to us all: you accidentally close a window in one application -- say, a long iChat with a close friend -- when you meant to close a window in another app, such as a browser window displaying a weather forecast. You think you're in the browser, so you press Command-W -- and then watch your not-yet-saved iChat conversation disappear!

You can avoid doing this in the future. You may already know that you can create your own keyboard shortcuts in OS X 10.3. But did you know that you can also reassign existing shortcuts? By reassigning iChat's Close command, you'll prevent future accidental closures.

Make sure iChat isn't running, and open the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane in System Preferences. Click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, and then click on the plus (+) sign to add a new keyboard shortcut. In the window that appears, select iChat from the Application pop-up menu, enter Close in the Menu Title box, and type the keyboard shortcut of your choice in the Keyboard Shortcut box. Since you're replacing Command-W, a good choice might be Command-shift-W. Click on Add, and close the Keyboard & Mouse pane.

Now launch iChat and behold your newly reassigned close command. Pressing Command-W in iChat now greets you with nothing more than a simple system alert sound. When you need to close a window, type your new command. If you ever want to remove a custom shortcut, open the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane, click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, find and highlight the shortcut, and then click on the minus (–) button.

Create Read-Only Archives in Mail

If you organize your messages in folders in Apple's Mail application, you may want some of those folders to have read-only access and still be accessible from Mail (for instance, a collection of e-mails related to your 2003 taxes). Although you can't assign a folder read-only access from Mail, you can do so easily in the Finder.

Open your Users: Library: Mail: Mailboxes folder (it's OK if Mail is running); you should see the various folders you use to organize your mail (subfolders will be one level lower, within their respective parent folders). To create a read-only Mail folder, first get information (Command-I) on the folder of interest. Then, in the Ownership & Permissions section of the window, change the You Can pop-up menu from Read & Write to Read Only, and close the Get Info window.

When you return to Mail, you'll find that you can no longer drag a message into the folder you modified. Mail will simply display a warning dialog box stating that the folder is read-only. However, you can view all the messages within the folder, to quickly access archived messages.

Unix Tip of the Month

When you download and mount a disk image in Panther, a small dialog box indicates that Mac OS is verifying the image's checksum; Cancel and Skip buttons also appear. Checksums are values that depend on the disk image's data. When you mount the image, OS X calculates a checksum based on the data on the disk image and then compares this calculated checksum against one stored on the disk image. If the two values differ, verification will fail, indicating that the data on the disk image has changed.

The checksum stage is important and useful, but it also adds time to the image-mounting process -- the bigger the disk image is, the longer the checksum verification takes. If you trust the source of your disk images, you can tell OS X to skip this step: just click on the Skip button in the dialog box. Of course, you'll have to do this for every disk image you mount. A more permanent solution is to disable checksum verification. In OS X 10.2, you could do this easily (by deselecting Verify Checksums under the Verifying tab in Disk Copy's Preferences); in OS X 10.3, it requires a trip to Terminal. Open Terminal and type the following:

defaults write com.apple.frameworks.diskimages

skip-verify true

From now on, disk images will mount much more quickly, since they won't be subject to checksum verification (no restarting or logging out is required -- the change takes place immediately). Note that if someone has modified a disk image's contents, you won't know it, so do this only if you're certain of the source of all your disk images (otherwise, just use the Skip button). If you wish to reenable checksum verification, repeat the preceding Terminal command, replacing true with false.show your ichat mood

Sure, you can set custom status messages in iChat by clicking on your current status, just under your name in the Buddy List window. But did you know you could use emoticons (those cute graphical images you select from the pop-up menu in the iChat text-entry area) as part of your status? If you want to tell the world you're out enjoying some sunshine, for instance, you could show a smiley face wearing a cool pair of shades. The trick is to type the symbols used to create the emoticon, instead of relying on the pop-up menu. To create the sunglasses, just type 8); a smiley face is :). To find the other emoticon keystrokes, look at the lower right corner of the smiley pop-up menu in the iChat text-entry area -- as you mouse over each smiley image, its keystrokes appear. You won't see the emoticon on your own Mac, but other users will.

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