Mac OS X Hints - Dec. 2006

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OS X 101: Text-clipping tricks

Many people find that text clippings —snippets of text that have been dragged out of applications and then dropped in the Finder somewhere—are an easy way to store tidbits of knowledge they intend to use in the future. And if you’re running OS X 10.4, you can perform new tricks with clippings.

How to make a clipping

OS X introduced a level of complexity to the simple task of creating a text clipping. How you drag text differs, depending on what type of application you’re in. In Carbon apps, such as Adobe Photoshop, the Microsoft Office apps, Mozilla Firefox, and many other converts from OS 9, dragging works as you might guess. Just highlight a block of text, click and hold the mouse over the highlighted block, and then drag it to wherever you’d like it to go.

If the program was written in Cocoa, as most of Apple’s applications (including TextEdit, Mail, and Safari) are, the procedure is a bit different. After highlighting the text to drag, click and hold the mouse button over the highlighted text, but don’t start dragging right away. If you try, you’ll find that the program will start a new text selection. Instead, hold the mouse button down for about half a second, and then start dragging. If you’re not sure which technique a particular app requires, add the delay before trying to drag.

Clip the clipping Unlike in past versions of OS X, when you go to paste your clipping into another application, OS X 10.4 lets you select text within the clipping, instead of forcing you to use the entire clipping. Select and copy individual words (by double-clicking on a word) or lines (by triple-clicking anywhere on the line) and then drag.

Dandy Dock drags

What’s most handy about text clippings in Tiger is that you can now drag selections of text to application icons in the Dock. This lets you perform a wide variety of tasks more quickly. Here’s a sampler:

Start a new Mail message Drag a chunk of text and drop it onto Mail’s Dock icon. Mail opens a new e-mail message window with the dragged text in the body of the message.

Start a new text file Drop your dragged text onto TextEdit’s Dock icon, and TextEdit creates a new document containing that text.

Run Google searches Drag a chunk of text from Microsoft Word onto Safari’s Dock icon, and Safari will launch a Google search for the phrase. (In Cocoa applications, you can also just control-click on a word and select Search In Google in the contextual menu that appears.)

Create a Stickies note Drop your dragged text on Stickies’ Dock icon, and a new note appears containing that text. (If you’re in a Cocoa application, you can also press Command-shift-Y to do this.)

Create URL shortcuts Have a short list of sites you always access? Drag and drop each address from Safari’s address bar to the right-hand side of your Dock to create a one-click shortcut for that site.

Quickly open a Web page Occasionally, you may want to see what a Web page looks like in another browser (or you may want to try to open a page in Firefox because Safari is having trouble with it). Highlight the URL in Safari’s address bar, click and hold on it, and wait a second. Now drag the selection to another browser’s Dock icon to open the page. (You can also drag the address directly to another browser’s open window.)

Power Tip of the Month: Hide user accounts in Tiger’s login window

Lean Login By using one Terminal Command in OS X 10.4, you can hide user accounts you use infrequently—turning a messy scrolling login window…

One of the nice things about OS X is that it makes creating additional user accounts easy. So you can have as many as you need—for example, a work account, a troubleshooting account for diagnosing system problems, a gaming account that uses lower screen resolutions and doesn’t include startup items, personal accounts for everyone in your family, and even a guest account for visiting relatives. And this is all well and good, but it does lead to one problem—the never-ending login window. Instead of having to pick through accounts in a long list, wouldn’t it be great if you could hide the ones you access only occasionally? If you’re running OS X 10.4, you can do just that.

If you were brave and bold, you could do this in earlier versions of OS X. But now hiding accounts requires only a quick trip to Terminal (/Applications/ Utilities) and the use of one command. To start, you need to know the short name of each account you want to hide. Go to your Accounts preference pane, click on the account name in the My Account column, and look in the Short Name field. Once you’ve got the necessary short names, open Terminal and enter this command (which you can copy here ):

sudo defaults write

/Library/Preferences/ HiddenUsersList -array-add account_name1 account_name2 account_name3

In the above example,

, and
represent the short names of three accounts to be hidden. You can hide as many accounts as you wish; just separate each short name with a space. Press return when you’re done.

… into a trim, neat one.

Now log out (Apple menu: Log Out your user name ) and take a look at the login screen. You’ll notice two changes. First, the user names you hid won’t show any more, and second, there’s a new entry: Other. Click on Other, and you’ll be able to enter a user name and password to access any of the hidden accounts. Accounts hidden this way also don’t show in the Fast User Switching menu (unless the users are logged in).

You can unhide a hidden account by going to Terminal and entering this command (which you can copy from the same page as above ):

sudo defaults write

/Library/Preferences/ HiddenUsersList -array-add

By specifying no names in the command, you’ll reset the list of hidden users. The next time you return to the login window, you’ll see all your accounts again.

[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. ]

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