How to share files between OS X user accounts

In a recent column about making the most of Migration Assistant I made the off-hand remark that it’s no big deal to move files from one account on your Mac to another. This caused concern from at least one commenter who considered the process onerous. Given that moving files between accounts isn’t entirely clear to everyone, I thought I’d provide the details now.

We start with the understanding that OS X is designed as a multi-user operating system—one where files stored in one account are not easily accessible in another. For example, if Susie and Chris share a Mac, Susie should not be able to see the contents of Chris’ Documents folder while working in her account and vice versa. If Susie tries, she’ll see that Chris’ Documents folder bears a red “no trespassing” icon indicating that her way is barred.

There are ways around this. You could, for example, change permissions on another account’s folders if you know that account’s administrator password. Or you could log in as root, which grants you permission to everything on the drive. Each of these techniques, however, is considered sneaky by the best sorts of people.

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Tips for maintaining your media for eternity and beyond

Reader Kirk Edgar has a question for the ages. He writes:

I’m in the process of cleaning out my iMac—removing data that’s not current and apps that I don’t use or won’t work under Yosemite. Because I’ve done this before and been stuck with unreadable media, what’s the best way of archiving digital material so that it can most likely be retrieved in the future if desired?

Given that my prophetic powers are no more honed than the average guy who writes on the Internet, I can’t, with absolute certainty, tell you which formats will and won’t survive. But I can offer some guidelines.

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Making more of Migration Assistant

Bob White (not the bird) needs just a little bit more help with transferring his data from an old Mac to a new one. He writes:

Can I use Migration Assistant to transfer my data from my old MacBook Air (that’s running Mavericks) to my newer MacBook Air (which came with Yosemite installed)? Or must I upgrade my old Mac to Yosemite first? (I would rather not update to Yosemite on the old one just yet.)

Well then, today’s your lucky day! Migration Assistant in both Mavericks and Yosemite can copy data between your new Mac and another Mac running a version of the Mac OS as old as Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.8). Apple suggests that if you want to migrate data from a Mac that’s running a version of OS X created before Snow Leopard, you either update that Mac to a compatible version of OS X or transfer the data manually.

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How to easily switch between startup volumes

Reader Robert Kapp would like a shortcut for a tedious task. He writes:

I haven’t fully committed to running OS X Yosemite on my Mac, but I do it often enough that I find myself having to change from my Mavericks startup disk to the Yosemite disk every couple of days. Is there a faster way to do this than through the Startup Disk system preference?

There is. I bounce between a couple of startup volumes each day and, like you, I find the required journey to this system preference a little tiresome. Because I do, I’ve created an AppleScript application that goes a little something like this (copy and paste it into the AppleScript Editor app):

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Exploring the many miracles of Image Capture

Reader Colin Pritchard would like more information about an app I mentioned recently. He writes:

When you talked about how to delete images from your iPhone you said something about an app called Image Capture (and mentioned that hardly anyone uses it). I must be one of those people as I’ve never touched it. What does it do?

Apple’s pretty good about giving apps and services descriptive names. Image Capture is no exception. It pulls still images and movies from compatible connected devices such as scanners, iOS devices, cameras, and removable media. And it's included with every Mac. You'll find it in the Applications folder. In the screenshot below you can see that connected devices appear in the Devices pane. In this case you find my connected scanner, an iPad Air, an SD card reader, and the hard drive of a camcorder connected via USB. In the main portion of the window you find a lot of information about the images a device holds. But Image Capture can do more. Such as:

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How to bulk delete images from your iPhone

Reader Melissa Mead has a bad case of the overloaded iPhone. She writes:

My iPhone is running out of storage space and I think it’s because I have a lot of photos on it. I’d like to remove them all in one go, after backing them up. Is there a simple way to do that?

Try this: Jack your iPhone into your Mac using the included syncing cable and launch Image Capture. This is an oh-so-handy utility (that hardly anyone uses) for grabbing images from connected devices (including scanners, cameras, and iOS devices).

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How to create mail merge documents with Pages and Numbers

Reader Ann Grace wishes to send form letters to her clients. She writes:

I’ve recently upgraded to OS X Yosemite as well as to the latest versions of Apple’s Numbers and Pages apps. Is there a way I can use the two of them to create mail merge documents?

There is, although it’s not a feature directly built into either app. This is possible through the power of AppleScript (don’t worry, I’m not going to ask that you learn AppleScript in order to carry out this job). Instead, I’ll direct you to the Mac OS X Automation site. Here you’ll find an AppleScript and Pages page that provides instructions for using the free Pages Data Merge utility (the page also includes a link to that utility). As its name suggests it lets you incorporate data found in a Numbers spreadsheet into a Pages documents.

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