Four hints about Mail and Spaces

In today’s hints blog, I’ve got a grab bag of four shorter hints, of which two work in both 10.5 and 10.6, and two are 10.6 only. Three of the hints cover Mail, while one covers a nifty Spaces trick.

The Spaces trick, which works in both 10.5 and 10.6, lets you easily switch between any of a program’s open windows, across all Spaces. For instance, assume you have Safari windows open in Spaces 1, 3, and 5 on your machine. You can see all of these windows by using the Spaces overview window (F8), or by using Control and the arrow or number keys to jump to a given space.

But if you want to quickly cycle between all of those Safari windows, regardless of which Space they’re in, try this: click Safari’s Dock icon. Each click will cycle you to another Safari window, moving between Spaces as necessary. You may not use this trick every day, but consider it just one more Space-switching shortcut to add to your toolkit.

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Sticking with the “works in 10.5” theme, today’s second hint is about deleting messages in Mail without automatically previewing (and hence, marking as read) the next message in the list. One way to do this, which we’ve covered before, is to remove the preview pane (by dragging the divider bar to the bottom of the Mail window).

However, what if you like to use the preview pane, but wish you could delete a message without immediately having the next one show up there? Here’s the secret: press Option-Delete instead of Delete, and Mail won’t immediately populate the preview pane with the next message. Instead, you can manually select whichever message it is you’d like to read next.

Moving on to the two 10.6 Mail hints, both involve URLs, and the first is more of an observation than a hint. In the past, if someone sent you a Windows-style path to a file server (something like \\CoolServer\joeuser\demos, for example), you couldn’t directly do anything with it. Instead, you’d have to modify it into a Finder-friendly layout, i.e. smb://CoolServer/joeuser/demos. Mail in 10.6 has solved this problem—Windows-style file paths are clickable, and when clicked, they will automatically get converted into Finder-friendly URLs.

Finally, if you send e-mails with a lot of links (using rich text formats), you can save yourself a bit of typing time in 10.6’s Mail app. In previous releases, if you wanted a URL to be clickable in the recipient’s email application, you had to include the http:// bit in front of the site’s address. In 10.6’s version of Mail, you can save those seven keystrokes for use at a later date—they’re no longer needed. Instead, just type in the URL proper, and Mail will make sure it’s a clickable link when it sends it out.

You may be wondering, though, why Mail doesn’t show the clickable links as you’re composing your message. While it doesn’t do this by default, you can make it do just that. Open a new message composition window, then Control-click on the message body. From the contextual menu, select Substitutions -> Smart Links (assuming it’s not already checked). Once enabled, you’ll see your URLs convert to clickable links as you type them, so you can see exactly what the recipient will see.

Thanks to Sean Ahern, timcrawf, Skurfer, and the ever-popular Anonymous for today’s grab bag of OS X goodies.

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