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Tiger Secrets: System settings

Secret shortcuts. Hidden helpers. Mysterious menus. You could spend months tracking down all the undocumented features tucked away in Mac OS X 10.4, Apple’s newest operating system. But chances are, you’re too busy using Tiger for more-important tasks—such as doing your job. So Macworld sent in a team of specially trained spies to uncover Tiger’s deepest, darkest secrets.

From customizing your system settings to improving Spotlight’s searching know-how, and from working around stubborn quirks to unlocking new Unix powers, our experts show you how to take advantage of Tiger’s lesser-known features in this first of our five-part series. Best of all, you won’t even need your secret decoder ring.

Customize Tiger’s PDF print services

When you press Command-P to print in Tiger, you’ll notice that the Print dialog box sports a new PDF disclosure triangle. Click on it, and you’ll see a series of Automator workflows that you can apply when creating a PDF. The Compress PDF option, for example, slims your PDF file by compressing the graphics. However, you can easily modify the provided workflows—or create your own.

The provided workflows live in the /Library/PDF Services folder. Just double-click on one to open it in Automator. (You may want to duplicate the file first in case you decide to go back to the original version.) Make the changes you want. For example, you can modify the Compress PDF workflow so it moves the Quality slider to a more balanced position. Go to File: Save to save the modified workflow; the next time you print, you’ll be able to access it from the PDF menu.

To build an entirely new workflow, create a PDF Services folder in your user folder’s Library folder, use Automator to create the desired workflow, and then save it to the newly created folder. Your workflow will appear at the bottom of the PDF pop-up menu. —Rob Griffiths

Silence annoying sounds

If you like having audio feedback when your Mac has completed a task—such as moving something into the Trash—open the Sound preference pane and enable the Play User Interface Sound Effects option. For the most part, these sounds are unobtrusive. But you may find that one really grates on your nerves. Although the Sound pane doesn’t let you turn off specific sounds—it’s all or nothing—there is a workaround.

In the Finder, navigate to /System/Library/Components. Control-click on CoreAudio.component and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. In the resulting Finder window, navigate to /Contents/Resources/System Sounds. Within this folder are subfolders containing AIFF files of all the sounds your system makes, each clearly labeled.

Before deleting one of these files, back it up by dragging the sound file to another folder. Then highlight the sound file, drag it to the Trash, and provide your administrative password.

You may need to restart the Dock, the Finder, or the system itself to have the changes take effect. You can easily restart the Dock and Finder from Activity Monitor (in /Applications/Utilities).

If you’re truly adventurous, you can replace the existing sounds with your own audio. Simply create an AIFF file, give it the same name as the file you’re removing, and then drag your replacements into the proper folder. But make sure you have a backup of any sounds you’re replacing—you may tire of hearing “D’oh!” every time you empty the Trash. —RG

Make Tiger bilingual

Foreign Affairs Tiger makes it easy to check your spelling in any language.

Unlike previous versions of Mac OS, Tiger lets you apply language preferences to Apple’s applications individually. For example, you can set Mail’s Autocorrect Spelling feature to French (for your e-mail messages to distant relatives) while keeping the Finder in English.

Here’s how to set it up: Go to the International preference pane and click on the Input Menu tab. Select the language(s) you want to add—French, in this case—and enable the Allow A Different Input Source For Each Document option at the bottom of the window.

Move to Mail and create a new message. Enter the French text you want. When Mail places a red line under the foreign words to signal that they’re not in the dictionary, simply control-click on the underline, choose Spelling from the contextual menu, and then choose Français from the Dictionary pop-up menu (see “Foreign Affairs”). —Christopher Breen

View size requirements for burn folders

Thanks to the Finder’s new Burn Folder feature (File: New Burn Folder), burning files to a CD is easier than ever. Just drag the files you want to burn into a burn folder, insert your CD-R, and click on the Burn button. The Finder fills the burn folder with aliases, rather than the original files. So once the burn is complete, you can trash the burn folder without losing your work. Unfortunately, the Finder’s size display for Burn Folders is incorrect—it shows the size of the alias files, not the originals. So how do you find out how much disc space your files will require?

True Size It appears that this burn folder has only 12KB of data, but clicking on the Burn button displays its true size: 585.7MB.
(Click image to open full screenshot)

The quickest way is to click on the Burn button before inserting any recordable media. The Finder will display a dialog box listing the amount of disc space the files require (see “True Size”). The other option is to select the burn folder in the Finder, press Command-I, and then click on the triangle next to the Burning section of the resulting dialog box. When you click on the Calculate button, the Content Size field will display the size of the files within the folder. —RG

Get networked on-the-go

Tiger makes it very easy to connect two Macs via a FireWire cable—you don’t even have to use Target Disk Mode. On both computers, go to the Network preference pane, select Network Port Configurations from the Show pop-up menu, and enable the Built-in FireWire option. Next, go to the Sharing preference pane (again, on both computers) and click on the Start button to activate Personal File Sharing.

This is many times faster than using an Ethernet connection to transfer files. There’s only one problem: if you’re already using the FireWire port to connect peripheral FireWire devices, such as an iSight camera, either the peripheral devices or the network connection may not work. The simplest workaround is to disconnect the peripheral devices while using the FireWire network. (For more on setting up ad hoc networks, see “Ad Hoc Networking,” Mobile Mac ) —Ted Landau

Securely erase your hard disk

Before you sell or give away a Mac, make sure that no personal data remains on it. After you’ve copied all your files to your new Mac, restart the old one from the Mac OS X installation disc. Open Disk Utility and select your disk from the list on the left. Click on the Erase tab and then on Security Options. Next, choose one of the several erasure methods that are offered. The 7-Pass Erase option is probably sufficient for most people, but if you’re truly paranoid, select 35-Pass Erase, which will make it nearly impossible for anyone, even James Bond, to recover your files. If you’re using a laptop, make sure it’s plugged in. This process can take a long time. —Kirk McElhearn

Create better passwords

Bulletproof? Only passwords that are truly secure will make the grade in Tiger‘s Password Assistant.

All of Tiger’s security measures are for naught if any passerby can figure out your passwords. To see how yours hold up, run them through Tiger’s new Password Assistant (see “Bulletproof?”).

You can access Password Assistant from the Keychain Access utility (/Applications/Utilities) or from the Accounts preference pane. In either, you click on the plus sign (+), enter your password, and then click on the key icon. (If you want to test a password but don’t need a new user account or a Keychain item, just click on Cancel when you’re finished.)

Password Assistant can also create passwords for you. Click on the Type menu to choose the kind of password you’d like to create: the Memorable option creates odd phrases such as emits40\dais, Letters & Numbers and Numbers Only passwords are much harder to remember, and a Random or an FIPS-181 Compliant password should meet the needs of highly security-conscious users. —KM

Slow QuickTime movies

Don’t want to miss a second of the latest iPod ad (or any other QuickTime content)? Watch it in superslow motion. Once the clip starts playing (you can find one here ), you can simply press the right-arrow key to move through the movie frame by frame. If you hold the key down, the movie moves at normal speed without sound. The left-arrow key does the same thing, but in reverse (QuickTime seems to have more trouble playing backward than playing forward, so the results are somewhat jerky).

You can get even more control over playback by using a scroll-wheel mouse. Make sure your cursor is somewhere within the movie frame, and then simply move the mouse wheel up while the movie is playing to control the playback speed and direction. —RG

Return the toolbar to System Preferences

Tiger’s updated System Preferences has a nice new feature—the integration of Spotlight searching, which displays results as you type. However, it’s also missing one very useful feature—the customizable toolbar where you could store frequently used preference panes for quick access. If you prefer the old way, there is a relatively simple solution: use the previous version of System Preferences. If you used the Archive & Install option to install Tiger, you’ll find the previous System Preferences application in your /Previous System/Applications folder. Give it a new name (for example, Old System Prefs) to avoid overwriting the new version, and then copy it to your root Applications folder. When you launch System Preferences, you’ll see what looks a lot like the new version, but you’ll have the toolbar to work with. However, you’ll no longer see the integrated Spotlight search box. Also, the Spotlight panel will be in the Other section. Apart from these changes, the application is fully functional—and you’ll have the toolbar again. —RG

Access invisible login buttons

Invisible Sleep Button You can hide your Sleep, Restart, and Shut Down buttons from the exploring fingers of your children. Then accessing these options just takes a bit of typing, as shown here.

Tired of the smallest members of your household messing with your Mac? If you have little kids who love to click on buttons, consider disabling the login window’s Restart, Sleep, and Shut Down options. To do so, go to the Accounts preference pane, select the account, and click on Login Options. (You might need to click on the lock at the bottom of the dialog box first and enter your password.) Deselect the Show The Restart, Sleep, And Shut Down Buttons option. Without any buttons to click on, children will quickly grow bored and leave your machine alone.

But what if you want to put your machine to sleep, restart it, or shut it down from the login window after you’ve disabled the buttons? No problem. First, make sure your login window is in Name And Password mode. You can set this permanently in the Login Options window (by selecting the Name and Password option). Or you can use a little trick to switch the window in real time: Go to the login window, use the arrow keys to highlight a user, and press shift-option-return. The window will show the list of users. In the Name field, type

> sleep
,
> restart
, or
> shutdown
(see “”Invisible Sleep Button). Click on Log In or just press return. It’ll take a while before the munchkins figure that one out! —RG

Fly between AirPort networks

Suppose you need to regularly connect to two different wireless networks—at work and at home, for example. Of course, each one uses a different network setup, such as DHCP in one case and a manual IP address in the other. Before Tiger, that meant you had to set up a separate network location for each and switch between them. Now you can create multiple AirPort configurations for the same network location. This allows for seamless switching without having to select a different location each time, saving some hassle and mouse-clicking. Simply open the Network preference pane and select Network Port Configurations from the Show pop-up menu. Then click on the New button and select AirPort from the Port pop-up menu.—TL

Give different hard disks different bedtimes

To conserve energy, you can set your hard disks to sleep when you’re not using them. Just choose the Put The Hard Disk(s) To Sleep option in the Energy Saver preference pane. If you have multiple disks, however, there’s no obvious way to set separate sleep times for each—this can be annoying since there’s a delay when you wake a disk up. You can gain more control over your hard disks’ sleeping patterns by using the Developer (Xcode) tools that came on your Tiger installation CD.

Install the tools from the CD. Then go to the /Developer/Applications/Performance Tools folder and open the Spindown HD application. From here, you can select a separate time for each mounted drive. —TL

Hide your Mac from hackers

If you use an always-on Internet connection, make sure to check out Tiger’s new hacker-fighting tools. Go to the Sharing preference pane and click on the Firewall tab to see the new Advanced button. Click on it to access options such as Stealth Mode. With Stealth Mode enabled, uninvited queries to your computer will receive no acknowledgement, making it nearly impossible for someone to surreptitiously discover (and possibly hack into) your Mac. —TL

The 411 Hold down the control key when opening a new Info window for multiple selections, and you’ll see a summary box.

Get better info

Reader Favorite: When you select multiple files in the Finder and go to File: Get Info, a new Info window opens for each file (see “The 411”). However, if you hold down the control key and do the same thing, the Get Info option changes to Get Summary Info. Selecting this option displays a single Info window with a summary of all the selected files and their combined size. If you hold down the option key instead, the Get Info option changes to Show Inspector. This opens an Info window that operates just like the one in Mac OS X 10.1—the window stays on screen and updates to show the file information of any file or folder you click on. —Andy Burson

Consult the dictionary

Reader Favorite: One of my favorite little secrets in Tiger is the Dictionary/Thesaurus pop-up window that appears in applications such as Safari and Mail. Simply hover your cursor over any word and press Command-control-D to bring up a small window with the word’s definition. If you keep the control and Command keys pressed, you can then mouse over other words to see their dictionary or thesaurus entries as well. You can even highlight just part of a word ( embark from disembarkation, for instance) to get the definition of a word within a word, or a part of a compound word (such as science from science fiction ). —Lloyd Viente

[ Contributing Editor Christopher Breen writes Macworld’s Mac 911 column. Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. Contributing Editor Ted Landau is the author of Mac OS X Help Line: Tiger Edition (Peachpit Press, 2005). Kelly Lunsford is Macworld’s senior how-to editor. Kirk McElhearn is a coauthor of Mastering Mac OS X , fourth edition (Sybex, 2005). Dori Smith is the author of Dashboard Widgets of Mac OS X Tiger: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit Press, 2005). ]

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