Along with the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, the recently updated iTunes 11.0.3 introduces several interface tweaks. For my money, the most welcome addition is one that Apple doesn’t even mention on its “About iTunes 11.0.3” page: a redesigned interface for checking on and downloading updated iOS apps.
On the downside, if you’re among the unlucky minority, the new iTunes version may crash on a regular basis.
Updating apps gets a welcome makeover
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Last week we wandered about Mountain Lion’s Messages application to get a feel for the territory. In today’s lesson we’ll dig into some of Messages’ less obvious features, including screen sharing, initiating remote slideshows and presentations, and viewing past chats.
Messages and screen sharing
When exploring the Mac’s sharing features I explained how to share the screen of another Mac on your local network. Through Messages it’s possible to do the same thing, but over the Internet.
Sharing slideshows and presentations
In the last lesson I showed you how to conduct video chats using Messages. But I’ve saved a juicy detail for this week. Within a video chat, you can share images and presentations.
Establish a video chat between you and your buddy as I described last week. (And remember, you must each use the same service—AIM, Bonjour, Google Talk, or Yahoo.) You’ll see your image in the smaller window in one of the window’s corners (you can drag that window to where you want it) and a larger image that contains your buddy’s image as projected by that Mac’s camera.
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If you thought the only way you could use your Mac to communicate with other people was to send email messages, I’m about to brighten your day. For years the Mac OS has supported instant messaging, a form of texting similar to sending and receiving messages with a mobile phone.
In days past this was done with an application called iChat. iChat was significantly reworked, renamed Messages to reflect its relationship with the iOS app of the same name, and released in finalized form with Mountain Lion. Messages supports a number of services including AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and Jabber in addition to Apple’s own FaceTime video messaging and iMessage services. (iMessage is a scheme that allows you to send messages, documents, photos, videos, contacts, and group messages over Wi-Fi and cellular connections to iOS devices running iOS 5 or later and Macs running Mountain Lion. Unlike the SMS services offered by mobile phone carriers, it’s free.)
Messages is relatively easy to use, but it has a certain depth. In this lesson we’ll focus on its interface and basics.
Using other accounts
As I mentioned, Messages isn’t restricted to just iCloud accounts. It also supports AIM, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and Jabber. If you use the Mail, Contacts & Calendar system preference to add an AOL, Yahoo, or Google account, you’ll have the option to enable messaging for each of these accounts. When you do, they’ll appear within Messages’ Accounts preference and you’ll be able to use Messages to send and receive messages through these services. If you have an AIM account (which is AOL’s service designed specifically for messaging) you’ll have to add that account within Messages’ Accounts setting—it can’t be set up in Mail, Contacts & Calendars. Likewise, you must set up Jabber accounts within this same Messages preference.
Fortunately, it’s easy to do. Just choose Messages > Preferences, select Accounts, click the Plus (+) button at the bottom of the window, and in the sheet that appears choose AIM or Jabber from the Account Type pop-up menu. Now enter your user name and password and click Done. Messages will verify and add the account. Which options appear for each kind of account vary depending on the account. For example, with an AIM account you can play with privacy settings. If you have an iCloud account you can choose which addresses and phone numbers others can use to reach you. With a Google Talk account you can enter a nickname.
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Whether it’s to pay the bills, replace furnace filters, or take the ferret to the vet for its annual cleaning, we all need reminding from time to time. Yes, you can accomplish this through a calendar event and alarm, but a calendar is too broad a tool for this kind of thing. What you really need is the digital equivalent of a scrap of paper onto which you write notes and shove into a handy pocket. Such is exactly the purpose of Mountain Lion’s Reminders application.
This is another OS X application originally rooted in Apple’s iOS. And it differs very little from its iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad counterpart. Fire it up and here’s what you see.
☑ The overview
☑ Using reminders
Reminders works very much like a pen-and-paper list, but it’s smarter. When you’ve completed a task, just click the checkbox next to it to mark the reminder as complete. If it’s a reminder that doesn’t repeat, it will disappear from the list and be added to that list’s Completed items. (As well as the overall Completed list that appears at the top of Reminders’ lists.)
If, however, it’s a repeating reminder, that instance of the reminder will be replaced with the next one. For example, if you’ve checked off your fortnightly Suck Up To The Boss item, that item will remain, but it will display the next iteration of the reminder, two weeks hence.
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In weeks past we’ve talked about configuring the Mail and Calendar applications. Without the third leg of this personal information trio—Contacts—using the first two could be a lonely proposition. In this lesson we’ll look at the cans and can’ts of Contacts.
Contacts was called Address Book in previous versions of the Mac OS, and that’s still its most descriptive name. What with its faux-leather border and stitched pages, it reminds you of something in which your parents might have added a new neighbor or business contact. But, old-school though it may look, it has more powerful features than its paper-and-glue counterpart.
Creating groups and smart groups
As I mentioned, Contacts has singular advantages over “real” address books. One is that you can create groups of contacts—your business associates, friends, family, bowling teammates, and political action committee members. To create a group, choose File > New Group (<Shift>-<Command>-N) and name your group. That group appears in the group pane.
To add members to your group, just select All Contacts, select the contacts you want to add to the group, and drag them in. They’ll continue to appear in All Contacts because, well, it includes all of your contacts. But they’ll also appear in the group. Should you delete someone from a group—because your sloshball team’s third baseman has concentrated on the slosh to the exclusion of the ball—that person remains in your All Contacts list. Delete them from All Contacts, and they’re truly gone.
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Last week we took a very long look at the workings of Mountain Lion’s Calendar application. This week, we’ll delve into some of the details. Specifically, getting calendars in and out of the application and how to use Calendar with services such as Google and Yahoo.
We’ll get to shared calendars in a bit, but now I’d like to discuss copying calendars and events out of Calendar as well as importing these things into the application.
Sharing Google and Yahoo calendars
iCloud presents a distinct advantage to those who want to share calendars with other people: It allows you to do everything in Calendar—create the calendars, choose recipients, and send invitations all from within the Calendar application. In the case of Google calendars, you can view and edit them within Calendar, but you can’t create them. For this you must go to your Gmail page within a Web browser. When you’ve done that, you can view your calendar. You can’t, however, share any of these calendars from within the Calendar application. Again, it’s back to the Gmail site to do that.
With a Yahoo account you can create calendars within the Calendars application. But, as with Google calendars, you can’t share these calendars unless you do so from Yahoo’s site.
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Mountain Lion can help you do more than organize your music library, compose and receive email, and work out the complex equations necessary to design a hamster capable of sustained flight. With the aid of a bundled application, it can ensure that you know about upcoming chiropractic appointments, a favorite grandchild’s birthday, or the dreaded yearly visit from a particularly long-winded cousin. That application is Calendar.
Launch Calendar (you’ll find it in the Dock by default, as well as within the Applications folder at the root level of your Mac’s hard drive), and you’re presented with what’s supposed to look like a real-world desk calendar—complete with leatherette top and bits of torn paper where pages have been ripped away.
The big picture
Though Home and Work may cover much of your life, you’ll undoubtedly wish to create more-specific calendars. For instance, a performance calendar for your dad band or a schedule for your kid’s jai alai team.
Adding calendars is a little confusing. The command is simple enough—just choose File > New Calendar. But if you’ve configured your Mac with an iCloud account, your only option is to create a new calendar in iCloud. What if you want to create it on just your Mac? (Because, for example, you don’t want it to be shared with your iOS devices.) There’s a trick to doing this.
If all you could do with Calendar was scribble down events, you’d be just as well served by a paper calendar (with real leatherette). But Calendar does far more—and it does much of that within the Event Edit window.
To expose the Event Edit window, create an event using the Create Quick Event field (or select an existing event and press Command-E). In the window you’ll find the following elements.
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