Mac OS X Hints

Compare Fonts Using Font Book

If you use Apple’s Font Book to manage your fonts in Panther, you may have found that comparing two fonts is difficult—especially when those fonts aren’t close to each other alphabetically (Arial and Times, for example). You have to scroll from one to the other, and the preview of one font disappears when you click on the next. Here’s an easy but often overlooked solution: double-click on the name of any font in the Font column, and a preview of that font will open in its own window—you can open as many fonts as you want in this manner. Unfortunately, you can’t highlight multiple fonts to open with one double-click, so you’ll be doing a lot of clicking if you have many fonts to compare.

Stretch and Condense Time in iMovie

If you’ve used iMovie, you’ve probably used the Clip Speed slider below the timeline to speed up or slow down a particular video clip for a neat effect. But what if you’ve already moved the slider to either extreme, and you want to adjust the clip’s speed even further?

You can reset the slider by applying any video effect—and you can do so without actually adding any effects to your clip. Select your modified clip in the timeline and click on the Effects button. Look for an effect that has a None option, such as Earthquake, Letterbox, or Soft Focus. Set the slider(s) for the chosen effect to None; then click on Apply. iMovie will render the effect onto your clip, which will not change it at all. However, when you’re done, you’ll find that the speed slider has been reset and that you can now further increase or decrease the speed of your clip.

Remove iTunes Cover Art

iTunes’ ability to attach an album cover to each song in your collection is a great feature. But you may not realize that each of those covers is actually embedded in the music file on your hard drive— and those covers can take up a significant amount of space. Removing a cover from a song pur-chased from the iTunes Music Store reduced that song’s file size from 3.8MB to 3.3MB. While half a megabyte may not seem like much on the spacious 160GB hard drive in your G5, it’s quite a bit when you’re trying to cram songs onto a first-generation, 5GB iPod.

If you’d like to save some space, you could open the Get Info window for each song in iTunes, click on the Artwork tab, click on the album cover, and then click on Delete and OK. But, needless to say, if you’ve got a few thousand songs with artwork, this will take a very long time. Here’s a much quicker solution:

Select a number of songs at once in the iTunes library, and then select File: Get Info. iTunes will ask whether you’re sure you want to edit information for multiple songs (unless you’ve disabled this warning); click on Yes. In the resulting dialog box, the Artwork field is empty. To remove the artwork from all the selected songs at once, simply put a check mark in the box next to the Artwork field (see screenshot) and click on OK. Although you seem to be enabling artwork, you’re actually enabling blank artwork—in other words, deleting it.

If you miss the album artwork, you can use an application such as Sprote Rsrch.’s free Clutter, which can display artwork on the desktop without adding it to your music files.

Slow Down OS X’s Movements

Have you ever seen OS X move in slow motion? During Apple keynotes, Steve Jobs often shows a window slowly and gently gliding into or out of the Dock. Even if you’ve seen this effect, you may not know just how pervasive it is in OS X. It’s also amazingly simple to do yourself.

To make a graphical effect move in slow motion, just hold down the shift key before you activate the effect. For example, hold shift and then click on the minimize (yellow) button in any window, and watch the window creep into the Dock (this also works when you maximize the window again). For real fun, launch Safari (or any Cocoa application) and open six or seven new windows. Minimize all of them to the Dock, and then shift-option-click on any one of the minimized windows. You’ll be treated to a visual feast as all the minimized windows return to the screen in super-slow-mo mode.

But the slow-motion fun isn’t reserved for minimizing and expanding windows. How about Exposé? Sure. Hold shift and press F9 or F11. Switching Address Book’s view mode from Card and Columns to Card Only (the top left buttons)? Yep. The iTunes Music Store? Shift-click on the blue arrows at either end of the New Releases, Exclusives, and other home page areas. System Preferences? Shift-click on any icon. Mail? If you use threaded views, shift-click on the blue “expand thread” arrow. The login window? Just shift-click on any user name.

Control the Finder’s File-Name Sort Order

Before OS X, the tricks for controlling the Finder’s file-name sort order were pretty simple. For instance, if you added a tilde (~) to the beginning of a file name, that file would move to the bottom of list-view Finder windows. Adding a space or an underscore would move the file to the top of a list.

In OS X, the rules have changed. The characters that moved files to the bottom of a list in OS 9 now move files to the top of a list. What can you do if you want a certain file or group of files to appear at the bottom of a list-view window? If you’re using OS X 10.3, you could use the Labels feature to assign a color label to each file, and then sort by label. But there’s another way to go: you can use one of three Greek letters— mu (option-M), pi (option-P), or omega (option-Z)—or the Apple-logo character (shift-option-K) to force that file to the end of the list.

Sidebar: Set Skinny Sidebars

One of OS X 10.3’s new features is the sidebar, a storage area for drives, files, folders, and applications that lives on the left edge of every Finder window. Though useful, the sidebar can take up quite a bit of screen space—especially if you use a small-screen PowerBook or iBook. One option is to disable the sidebar completely by double-clicking on the divider that separates it from the window’s contents, but there’s a middle ground.

You can make the sidebar less intrusive by dragging the divider bar slowly to the left. As you do so, you’ll notice a point at which the bar jumps and locks into place with just the sidebar icons visible (see screenshot). “Great,” you’re thinking, “but I can’t tell what any of those icons are.” Not to worry—position your cursor above any of the icons, and its name pops up without delay. This even works when you’re dragging and dropping, so it’s easy to see exactly which icon you’re selecting.

Another option is to alter the folders in your sidebar with custom icons. You can find great icon collections at InterfaceLift and Icon Factory.

A skinny sidebar offers the same advantages as a wider one, while conserving precious screen real estate. If you want to return to a normal-width sidebar, just drag the divider bar back to the right.

Sidebar: Unix Tip of the Month

Banish the Crash Reporter

Though OS X is a very stable operating system, applications themselves will occasionally up and quit, presenting a dialog box when they do so. As nice as this dialog box is, it may interfere with the operation of your Mac—for instance, if you want to automatically restart the crashed application via an AppleScript, you need some way to remove the dialog box. Or perhaps you simply find it annoying when the system reminds you that your three-hour video project has just vanished into thin air. In either case, here’s how to banish the dialog box:

Open Terminal and type

defaults write com.apple.CrashReporter DialogType none
, and then press return. From now on, when applications unexpectedly quit, you won’t receive any notice at all.

If, on the other hand, you’re a good Mac citizen who uses the Submit Report button to send crash reports to Apple, you might prefer to run this command with

crashreport
at the end instead of
none
. When an application unexpectedly quits, you’ll be taken directly to the crash submission form.

Finally, if you’d like to bring the standard crash dialog box back, use the previously mentioned command with

prompt
as the last word.

[ Contributing Editor Rob Griffiths is the author of the forthcoming Mac OS X Power Hound, Panther Edition (O’Reilly, 2004), and he runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. ]

To remove the artwork from many songs at once, just put a check mark in the box next to Artwork field in the Multiple Song Information dialog box.With a simple drag to the left, you can force the sidebar into super-skinny mode. When you move your mouse over a sidebar icon, you’ll instantly see the full name of the file or folder.
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