Leopard and my mother's Mac

The fact that you’ve bothered to visit this Web site and click the link that brings you to this particular story tells me two important things:

1. You have a markedly discerning taste in technology.

2. You’re the person your parent/sibling/child depends on for help with their Macintosh.

Come on, don’t be coy. If you weren’t at least mildly rabid about the Mac, you’d spend your time noodling over inane cat captions or considering your participation in the World Beard and Moustache Championships. And because there is that fleck of foam at the corners of your mouth, you’re clearly the person in charge of maintaining your clan’s computers.

As am I.

And it’s for this reason that I hail Leopard and the family-friendly (in this case, mother-friendly) features it brings to my Mac world. Let me to count the ways:

Time Machine My mother doesn’t back up. And I’ll bet yours doesn’t either. Easy as backing up may seem to us, to her it’s as foreign a notion as wearing white shoes in November. It just isn’t done.

There’s no way I’m going to convince mom to purchase an external hard drive, much less plug it in, but on my next visit you can bet I’ll have both a copy of Leopard and a hard drive in hand. I’ll hide the hard drive behind her iMac and maybe drape a doily over it to disguise its purpose. She need never know that her Mac is being backed up automatically. And when that inevitable day arrives and she calls and cries “My computer isn’t working, and I’ve lost all those baby pictures you sent! What should I do now?" I’ll have something more than sympathy to offer.

The Download stack I’ve managed to convince my mother to explore the Worldwide Web and even chance downloading files. In casual conversation, she’ll mention that she thought she downloaded such-and-such a file but now can’t find it. Given that whenever I visit her I notice an increasingly deep pile of files on her Desktop, that’s not too surprising. While I’m not completely crazy about the Downloads stack in my own Dock, I’m thrilled that it will be there for her so she can find the files she’s downloaded with a single click.

iChat Screen Sharing This is the Big Kahuna for those who’ve run up phone bills troubleshooting a family member’s Mac. No longer will I have conversations like this:

“Okay, so double-click the hard drive icon… no, not the… no, listen for a second. I’m not talking about the thing that looks like a folder… no, not in that window… what do you mean ‘next to the ace of hearts?’ Mom, could you quit Burning Monkey Solitaire for a minute and go to the Finder… Yes, I know the monkeys are funny but… GAAAAAAAH!!!!”

Nope, I’ll set Mom rolling in iChat and when it comes time to pull her out of a jam, I’ll simply take over her Mac from a distance, do what needs doing—run Disk Utility, do a Spotlight search for a file she’s missing, or simply reorganize her files and folders—and get out.

The Help Search field In the course of these aforementioned conversations I will often ask her to locate a particular menu command. And she will just as often reply “I don’t see it.” With Leopard installed on her Mac I can now direct her to the application’s Help menu and ask her to type in a portion of the command I want her to find—Bookmarks, for example, if we’re troubleshooting a Safari issue. The first results in the menu that appears are Menu Items. This nicely narrows down her choice and I can ask her to choose the right one.

Spotlight They say you can’t teach an old mom new tricks, but I’m of a mind that with repetition and patience, I can coerce my mother into learning these two helpful Spotlight commands:

name:"filename"

"search phrase"

With them she can use the Spotlight field to search for a specific file name and easily find documents that contain a specific phrase.

Sidebar, Cover Flow, and Quick Look Mom is a bit overwhelmed by her digital camera and while she can now move pictures from her camera into iPhoto, she’s not good about naming her images (nor are the friends who e-mail pictures of their less-wonderful grandchildren). I’ve tried to get her to put all her pictures in iPhoto—including those that were e-mailed to her—but she insists on scattering them around her hard drive. And when it comes time to find just the one she’d like to print, hoo boy.

I’m going to point her in the direction of the All Images smart folder in her Finder windows’ sidebar. I will then click on the Cover Flow button within the resulting window so she can see her pictures displayed in that cool swoopy view. I will finally select one of those images and press the Space Bar so she can take a closer look.

The gift that keeps on giving In our Leopard feature draft, I made it pretty clear which features of Apple’s latest cat I prefer. Regrettably, Apple’s list of 300-plus features failed to mention that one feature I now value most: Helping me to help others.

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