Customize shortcuts for Mission Control, Dashboard

You probably know that you can choose keyboard shortcuts for Mission Control and Dashboard in the Mission Control pane of System Preferences. But the shortcuts listed there are limited. For example, for Mission Control you can choose function keys from F1 to F13, but you can’t select, say, F14 or F15; you have a few other options, such as the right or left Shift or Control keys. The same is the case for Dashboard, though it is limited to only the F keys.

Reader channui figured out a way to enter other keyboard shortcuts for these features. Just go to the Keyboard pane in System Preferences. In the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, select Mission Control or Dashboard and enter your keyboard shortcut there. It will automatically be reflected in the Mission Control preference pane. You can use this same procedure to set keyboard shortcuts for many other system features, such as Launchpad, the Dock (hiding and displaying), and so on.

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Auto-convert songs at higher bit-rates in iTunes 10.6

The recently released iTunes 10.6 has plenty of notable new features, including support for 1080p video and some tweaks to iTunes Match. But many music lovers will appreciate one new feature in particular: In the past, you could automatically convert songs with a high bit-rate to a more manageable 128 kbps when syncing them to an iPod or iOS device. Now, with iTunes 10.6, you have three bit-rate options for that conversion: 128, 192 and 256 kbps.

To access this feature, connect an iPod (or iPhone or iPad) to iTunes, select the device, and go to its Summary tab. At the bottom of that window, in the Options section, you'll see the Convert Higher Bit Rate Songs To option. If you select that option, you can then choose the bit-rate you want from a drop-down menu.

Many iTunes users have been hoping for this option for a while. If you have a lossless library, it allows you to convert audio tracks with higher quality when you sync your iOS device. Note that this conversion can take a long time the first time around, but subsequent syncs will be much faster.

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Use OS X linen pattern for desktop background

If you've been using OS X Lion, you've no doubt seen the dark linen pattern that Apple uses as a background for the login screen. That same pattern pops up in iOS 5, too. If you like that look and would like to use it as your everyday desktop background, OS X Hints reader rgetter found out how to make that so.

In the Finder, choose Go -> Go to Folder, and enter

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Add Finder labels via drag-and-drop

Many of us use Finder labels to mark and more easily differentiate icons and files. There are several 'official' ways of assigning a label to a selected file: from the File menu, from the Action menu on the Finder toolbar, or from the the Finder’s contextual menu. But reader adipoos points out another way to assign labels that isn't so well known.

First, you need to sort your files by label; to do this, click the Arrange button in the Finder toolbar, then select Label from the list. (If you don’t see that button, choose View > Customize Toolbar and add it.) If you haven’t yet assigned labels to any of the files in the current directory, the Finder will sort them all into a single No Label category.

To make use of adipoos’s trick, you need to create a section for the label(s) you want to apply; to do that, you need to assign that label to at least one file. So, if you want to apply the Red label to a bunch of files, at least one file or folder must already be labeled Red.

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Correct spelling from the keyboard

While I certainly like OS X's built-in spell-checking tools, I also find it somewhat annoying because it requires the mouse—first to click on the misspelled word, then again to choose the correct spelling. OS X Hints reader Zonker.in.Geneva points out that you can actually use the keyboard to correct spelling errors in programs—such as TextEdit, Mail, and iChat (or Messages)—that use Apple’s system-wide spell-check system.

For the trick to work, you must first enable two options in each program’s Edit -> Spelling and Grammar menu: Check Spelling While Typing (the While Typing part may be in a submenu) and Correct Spelling Automatically.

That done, when you misspell a word, press the spacebar to insert a space after it, then use the left arrow key on your keyboard to move the cursor back so it’s immediately after the misspelled word’s last letter. If you wait a second, you’ll see a list of suggested spellings appear. Using the up and down arrow keys, select the spelling you want from the list, then press Return. That will replace the misspelled word with the correct spelling. If you want to dismiss the pop-up, press the Escape key.

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Use iTunes to rip audio from videos

Do you have video files that you'd like to have in audio form—say a music video you bought from the iTunes Store that you want to listen to on your iPod? Reader sabberworm has pointed out a nice hidden feature in iTunes that lets you do just that. He uses it to grab audio from video podcasts, but you can use it to save the sound from any video file as an iTunes track.

If you select a video in your iTunes library—this could be a music video, TV show, or concert video—and look in the Advanced menu, the Create AAC Version menu command is dimmed. (The format might be MP3 or Apple Lossless, depending on your import settings in iTunes' General preferences.) But if you press the Option key, this menu item changes to Convert to AAC (or, again, MP3 or Apple Lossless, depending on your settings). Select that command, and iTunes will happily rip the audio from the video.

I've written before about ripping audio tracks from DVDs, using Handbrake as a middle-man. But if you already have the videos, you can get their audio with iTunes using this menu item, as long as the video is in an iTunes-compatible format (.mov or .mp4).

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37

Search iTunes radio stations using playlists

If you use iTunes radio stations, you may have noticed that you can’t search in the Radio list; the search field is dimmed. But OS X Hints reader osxpounder pointed out that you can search if you put the radio stations in a playlist.

To do this, create a new playlist, then click on Radio in the iTunes source list. (If you don’t see it, choose iTunes > Preferences, then click on General, then check Radio in the Show section.) Click on a disclosure triangle to show the radio stations in a genre, such as Alternative, Blues or Classical. You can either choose specific radio stations and drag them to your playlist, or, if you want, select all the radio stations in a genre and drag them to the playlist. (You can’t drag the genre name to the playlist, though.) You can then search for a specific station within that playlist.

Also, you should display the Contents column in iTunes: choose View Options, when your playlist is selected, then check Comments. If so, your search will not only look at the names of the stations, but also the descriptions.

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