Mac OS X Hints - July 2006

A scan-and-print Tiger time-saver

Many new scanners sport a handy Scan And Print button. Push it to scan a document and immediately send it to your default printer. But as long as you’re running Mac OS X 10.4, you don’t need to chuck out your old scanner to benefit from this time-saver. You can use Tiger’s built-in features to build a reasonably automated replacement.

First, launch Printer Setup Utility (/Applications/Utilities). Highlight the printer you’d like to use to print scanned documents, and then select Printers: Create Desktop Printer (Command-shift-D), to create a Desktop Printer icon. Repeat for any other printers you’d like to have available. When prompted, name each printer and pick where it should be saved. Click on OK.

Place the document you’d like to scan and print on the scanner. Launch Image Capture (/Applications). In the Scan Setup drawer (if you can’t see the drawer, click on the Scan Setup toolbar button), click on the pop-up menu next to Automatic Task and then select Other. Navigate to one of the desktop printers you created, select it, and then click on Open. Set your scan area, and start the scan. The document will automatically print when the scan is done.

If you usually don’t need to save your scanned documents after printing, choose

tmp
from the Scan To Folder pop-up menu. The scanned document will be saved to the tmp folder, which is erased each time you restart your Mac.

After you complete this setup the first time, you’ll find that Image Capture launches with these same settings every time you scan, making it easy to scan and print quickly.

Reply in Mail with original open

When I get long, involved e-mail messages, I like to open the original in its own window so I can read it in more depth later on. Then, when I have time, I return to the opened window and click on Reply. The only problem is that when I do so, Apple’s Mail takes over the existing message window and turns it into the reply window.

This can be pretty annoying, especially if I was going to copy and paste discrete sections of the original into my reply. (Yes, you can select the text you wish to quote in the message before clicking on Reply to have it automatically included in the reply, but I don’t always remember to do that.) The same thing happens when you click on Reply All or Forward—Mail steals the window for your response.

Thankfully, the solution is easy if not obvious. Hold down the option key before clicking on the Reply, Reply All, or Forward button, and Mail will open your reply in a new window, leaving the original message intact.

Use tables in Stickies

If you’re using OS X 10.4, there’s no reason to fire up Microsoft Word or Excel when you need to create a simple table. You’ve got access to a handy built-in table feature in Apple’s TextEdit (/Applications). Create a blank TextEdit document in Rich Text mode (Format: Make Rich Text), and then use the Format: Text: Table menu to insert and manage a table.

You may have already known this, but you may not have known that you can also take advantage of these tables in Tiger’s Stickies (/Applications).

Sticky Table If you know the trick, you can put useful tables in your Stickies notes.

To put a table in a Stickies note, all you need to do is start the table in TextEdit (or even Word or Excel). Once you have even the most basic structure defined (select Format: Text: Table in TextEdit), select the table in TextEdit, copy it (Command-C), and then paste it into a new Stickies note.

This may not seem very useful, because there’s still no menu item that you can use to control the table’s rows, columns, and formatting. However, position your mouse anywhere over the table, control-click, and notice the first item in the contextual menu—Table. Select it, and a palette will appear with the same table options TextEdit offers (see “Sticky Table”).

If you find this useful, here’s a time-saving trick. Create a new note, paste in a table from TextEdit, and then edit it to have one row and one column. In the one cell, type

Table Template
and then collapse the note by double-clicking on its title bar. When you do, you’ll have a tiny one-line placeholder note. The next time you need a new table in a Stickies note, double-click on the collapsed window, copy the table, paste it into a new note, and edit it as needed.

Make free iPhoto 6 books

The books you can make with Apple’s iPhoto 6 (part of iLife ’06, $79) are beautiful, but they can be pricey. If you go crazy experimenting with new themes and ordering your masterpieces at $30 a pop (and that’s just for the default ten double-sided pages), you may soon find yourself lacking money for food, clothing, and other niceties. What to do? How about creating a free, virtual book that you can post online, e-mail to friends, or burn to a CD or DVD?

First, create your book as you normally would—select your images, click on the Book button, and choose the book’s theme. Organize the photos on the pages, create your text, and so on. When you’re at the point where you’d normally click on the Buy Book button, click on Play instead. A dialog box in which you can specify some settings and music for your slide show will appear. Since you’re trying to emulate a printed book, use the Page Flip transition, and specify how long you’d like each page to appear. If you like, visit the Music tab and attach a song to your book. (Obligatory warning: If you’re sharing the book with the general public, make sure you’ve got the rights to use the music.)

Once you’ve got everything set up, either click on Play to see your slide show or click on Save Settings to return to iPhoto’s Book Layout view. You don’t have to view the on-screen version before the next step, but doing so to make sure it works properly is worthwhile.

A Moving Book Create a free QuickTime version of your iPhoto book by exporting from iPhoto to iDVD. Have a Web site or a .Mac account? Upload your movie book, and let your friends watch, too.

The last step is to convert your slide show into a QuickTime movie. But how? The File: Export menu item is grayed out. Thankfully, the Share: Send To iDVD menu is not. Select this menu item, and iPhoto will convert your slide show for use in iDVD. Your project will be reduced to DV resolution (720 by 540 pixels), but that’s still large enough for an on-screen movie. After a few minutes (the time will vary based on the size of the book and the speed of your Mac), iDVD will launch. Quit it, and click on Don’t Save when warned that you have unsaved changes in the project—you don’t need to use iDVD for this to work.

Switch back to the Finder and navigate to your user folder /Movies. In this folder, you’ll find a new QuickTime movie with the name you gave your book. (If you didn’t name the book, the file will be called Untitled Book.) Double-click on the movie, and you can now watch your “book” in QuickTime Player (see “A Moving Book,” and watch an example movie ).

Speed through the Calendar widget

When Apple released the OS X 10.4.4 update, one of the things it included was a new Calendar widget. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but it turns out that the Calendar widget is perfect for figuring out those seemingly never-ending date questions I encounter every day: What day of the month is next Wednesday? What day of the week will my anniversary fall on next year? I used to answer these questions by switching to iCal, but I’ve found the Calendar widget a much quicker way to get the same information.

Simple Calendar It may not look like there are many ways to navigate the Calendar widget. But thanks to keyboard shortcuts, it’s much easier than it appears.

The Calendar widget doesn’t seem very efficient (see “Simple Calendar”). After you make the month view visible (click on the large day-of-the-month display), it seems as though you need to click on the arrow buttons on each side of the month’s name to navigate forward or backward in time. But you don’t.

The Help files offer one good shortcut—to jump back to the current month, click on the currently displayed month’s name. But here’s the real secret: you don’t even need to use the mouse. To move forward and backward a month at a time, use the right- and left-arrow keys. Jump forward and backward a year at a time with the down- and up-arrow keys. After you’re done zooming through the fabric of space-time, press the home key to jump back to the current month. (If you’re working on a laptop that lacks a home key, use fn-left arrow, which is that key’s equivalent.)

Uncovering the alias

If you’ve ever wished you could be in many places at the same time, then you’ll appreciate OS X’s useful aliases. An alias is basically a small file that points to something else—an application, a folder, or a file. (It’s similar, but not identical, to a Windows shortcut. ) Double-clicking on an alias does the same thing as double-clicking on the original item—folders and documents open, and applications launch. Use aliases to get easy access to files and applications while keeping the originals in one place.

To create an alias, simply select the file you’d like it to point to (the source file), and select File: Make Alias (Command-L). You can also create an alias by holding the Command and option keys while dragging a file to a new location—you’ll see a small arrow in the corner of the icon while you’re dragging it, which indicates that you’ll create a new alias when you release the mouse.

You know something is an alias when you see a small arrow at the bottom left of the file’s icon. If you no longer need the alias, delete it. The original file or folder won’t be harmed, because the alias is just a pointer to the original. Here are a few interesting ways to use aliases:

Work the Dock Put a folder of aliases to often-used applications or documents in your Dock. Control-click on that folder, and you’ll have a pop-up menu of fast-access items. You can even put aliases to other folders in there, and navigate into those folders, all via the pop-up menu.

Keep Track of Current Projects Do you save current projects on the desktop and then file them away inside your Documents folder when you’re done? Instead, keep everything in your Documents folder and put aliases to current projects on your desktop. This is a particularly good idea if your backup strategy involves backing up your Documents folder and not your whole computer.

Collect Launch-Together Applications Say you typically work with certain applications at the same time—for instance, the Camino Web Project’s free browser, Camino; Panic’s $30 FTP application, Transmit; and Bare Bones Software’s $200 HTML editor, BBEdit. Make a new folder containing aliases to these three applications. Now you can open the folder, select all the aliases, and then press Command-O to launch all three programs at once.

Gather Files in One Location Say you’ve been creating artwork for multiple clients and multiple projects, and storing each file in its own project-related folder. Now you’d like to be able to open any of these items quickly, without having to navigate to each project-related folder.

Create a new folder, name it, hold down the Command and option keys, and then drag each file you’d like access to into this folder. From now on, you can just open this folder and have quick access to any artwork by double-clicking on one of the aliases.

Access Files on Remote Servers If you often access files stored on servers, try this trick. The next time you connect, create a folder of aliases to the files or folders you access on that server. Disconnect from the server. Now when you need to access the server, just double-click on one of the aliases. If you’ve stored connection information in your Keychain, the server should automatically mount. (This may not work with all servers, but it definitely works with Personal File Sharing.)

Open Screenshots Immediately

Screenshots often come in handy—for instance, when you need a quick snapshot of something you’re working on or when you want to send a picture of an error message to the IT department. OS X includes some good built-in tools for taking screenshots—Command-shift-3 will take a picture of the whole screen, and Command-shift-4 will let you select a region to capture (or then press the spacebar to take a picture of a window).

But by using these tools, you often do the screenshot two-step. First you take the picture. Then you switch to the Finder, hunt for the saved file on your desktop, and open it to make sure you captured what you intended. With a little help from Unix and AppleScript, you can automate this process (as long as you’re running OS X 10.3 or 10.4). An AppleScript will activate a Unix script that captures the screenshot, gives it a unique name, and then opens it in Preview.

Open Script Editor (/Applications/AppleScript), and enter the following code, also found here:

	do shell script "DATE=`date '+%Y%d%m-%H%M%S'`;
	FILE=~/Pictures/screenshot-${DATE}.png;
	screencapture -i -W -x $FILE;
	if [ -e $FILE ];
	then open /Applications/Preview.app $FILE;
	fi"
	

When you’ve entered the script, select File: Save As, give the script a name, set the File Format pop-up menu to Application, and save the script to a convenient location. One good spot is the your user folder /Library/Scripts folder—from here it will be easily accessible in the Script menu. (Create this folder if you don’t have it already.) If you haven’t turned on the Script menu, go to the /Applications/AppleScript folder. If you’re running OS X 10.3, double-click on the Install Script Menu program, and you’re done. If you’re using OS X 10.4, launch AppleScript Utility. Choose the Show Script Menu In The Menu Bar option and (if you want to have access to some useful scripts) the Show Library Scripts option. Quit the program. The Script icon will appear in the menu bar.

Once you’ve saved your screenshot script, using it is simply a matter of activating it. If you saved it to the your user folder /Library/Scripts folder, choose it from the Script menu. You’ll see the camera icon on screen; press the spacebar when the icon is over the window you’d like to capture. After a brief delay, the image you captured will open in Preview.

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

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