Mac OS X Hints

Mute the startup sound, scale fonts in relation to one another, fix a problem with iChat’s image attachment, take advantage of Mail’s threading functions without enabling threading, work with Terminal’s shopt command, and speed up sheet displays.

Mute the Startup Sound

The tone you hear when you start up your Mac is a good-news sound—it tells you that the machine has made it through its basic hardware tests just fine. But it can also be annoying, especially if you’re in a library, a classroom, or a nursery.

There are many third-party programs and AppleScripts that can disable the startup chime, but you also have two built-in methods at your disposal. If you’re restarting a running Mac, you can press the mute button (F3 on laptops, or the mute key on Apple keyboards) or lower your volume to zero before you restart. If you’re starting up your Mac from scratch, press and hold the mute key on the keyboard before pressing the machine’s power button.

If these methods don’t seem to work for you, you may wish to look at the free StartupSound.prefPane ( find.macworld.com/0030 ), an application that lets you set the volume of the startup sound, anywhere from fully muted to really, really loud.

Use Relative Font Scaling in Cocoa Applications

Certain OS X applications have the ability to scale fonts mathematically, not just by absolute font size. What does this mean in English? Consider a document with 16-point bold headlines, 14-point italic subheadings, and 12-point body text. If you decided that everything needed to be just a bit smaller, traditionally you would change all the 16-point fonts to 14 point, the 14-point fonts to 12 point, and the 12-point fonts to 10 point. This is a lot of work, and it poses another problem: you’ll lose the relative sizing between fonts. A 12-point font is 75 percent of the size of a 16-point font, but a 10-point font is roughly 71 percent of the size of a 14-point font.

If you’re using Apple’s TextEdit or Mail, or another Cocoa application, however, you can resize all of your fonts simultaneously and keep the relative sizing the same. Select all the text in your document, open the Font panel (Command-T), and then enter a mathematical expression (*.875 or /2, for example) in the Size field (see “Honey, I Shrunk the Fonts”). By multiplying or dividing all of the font sizes by a certain number, you’ll keep the relationship between the fonts’ sizes intact—your body text will still be 75 percent as big as your headline text, regardless of point size. Note that you can also use the plus (+) and minus (–) operators in the Size field, but they won’t solve the scaling problem—they’ll just add or subtract the same value in points from all the fonts.

Select Fonts via the Keyboard

Did you know that you can use your keyboard to scroll through fonts in TextEdit and other Cocoa applications? Begin by selecting the text you want to modify in your document, and then display the Font panel (Command-T). Now, instead of clicking on the font name, click once in the search box at the bottom of the panel, and then click in the Font column. The font will be highlighted in your system’s chosen highlight color—the column is now active.

At this point, you can use the arrow keys to scroll up and down the list of font names, and you’ll see your selection change in real time based on the current selection.

Reenable iChat Image Pasting

If you’ve ever tried to paste an image during an iChat with a friend who isn’t using iChat or the official AIM client (a Linux user running GAIM, for example), you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t work. The lack of support isn’t a huge problem by itself, but the failed attempt to send an image has broader repercussions.

If you then try to attach an image while chatting with iChat or AIM users—those who can normally receive them—you’ll find that iChat throws up its arms in desperation.

The solution to this problem is slightly more complicated than just quitting and restarting iChat, since iChat uses a background agent that keeps track of your status and other such details. When you quit iChat, this agent remains running, which seems to cause the iChat pasting errors. To fix the problem, quit iChat and launch Activity Monitor (Applications: Utilities). Find iChatAgent in the list of running tasks (or begin typing iChat in the search box until you see it). Select it, and click on the Quit Process icon in the toolbar (see “A Pasting Problem”). When you restart iChat, you’ll once again be able to paste images—except, of course, to any friends who don’t use iChat.

See Mail Threads with Threading Turned Off

The Organize By Thread view in Apple’s Mail application groups related messages, so following an e-mail conversation is easy. However, this view is somewhat difficult to get used to because it rearranges your mailboxes and clutters your screen with colored lines that show the grouped messages.

If you’d like to skip the visual and organizational changes, you can get some threading features without enabling the Organize By Thread view. Even in a nonthreaded view, Mail will highlight all messages in a thread when you select just one of the messages in it. To jump to the previous or next message in a thread, press option– up arrow or option– down arrow.

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