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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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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Hide and unhide Mac App Store purchases

If you’ve downloaded a lot of applications from the Mac App Store, your Purchases list may get really long—too long to be useful or navigable. If your Purchases list is getting unwieldy, you can hide some of the apps on it. OS X Hints reader rombaldi found a way to do just that—and then undo it later if you wish. Note that this trick is similar to, but distinct from, a technique that works in the iTunes App Store.

In the Mac App Store, go to the Purchases tab and hover your cursor next to the Install button of an app you want to hide. A small X will appear; click on that to hide the app.

Bringing hidden apps back is simple, too, if slightly less intuitive: Click on the Account link on the main page of the Mac App Store under Quick Links. Enter your password, then click View Account. If you’ve deleted at least one app, you’ll see an iTunes in the Cloud section in that account window. In that section, click View Hidden Purchases, then click on the Unhide button for any apps you want to return to your Purchases list.

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Make apps appear correctly in Mission Control

With the switch from Snow Leopard to Lion, some users have reported a peculiarity in the way OS X handles multiple workspaces. (Those virtual desktops were managed by Spaces in Snow Leopard, by Mission Control in Lion): If you try to assign a given app to a specific Mission Control workspace, that assignment doesn’t always stick. And if you try to tell an app to appear in every workspace, that may not stick, either. If you’ve been experiencing this sticking problem, an anonymous Hints reader found a workaround solution.

Typically, you assign an app to a specific workplace in OS X Lion either by dragging it from one workspace to another in Mission Control or by going to the workspace you want, opening the app there, then right-clicking on the app’s Dock Icon and selecting This Desktop from the Options menu. To assign an app to every workspace, you need to go to that same Dock icon menu and select All Desktops instead.

If those assignments aren’t sticking, try switching them around: In other words, if you’ve tried to assign a given app to one specific workspace, go to the Dock icon and select All Desktops instead. Close the menu, then open it back up and select This Desktop. In the same way, if you want an app to appear in all desktops, go the Dock icon menu, select This Desktop, close the menu, open it up again, and select All Desktops. Toggling those selections may make the app behave the way you want it to.

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Remove unnecessary System Preferences icons

Many Mac OS X hints involve quick trips into System Preferences. The app, built into the operating system, gathers together all sorts of systemwide options—which is why it can get a bit cluttered.

An anonymous Hints reader shared a great tip for cleaning up System Preferences by hiding those icons that you need to access less often. This technique was introduced with Lion, but we realized we hadn't yet written it up.

In the System Preferences app (launched from the Dock or from the Applications folder), go the View menu and select Customize. Or, alternatively, click and hold on the Show All button in the System Preferences header, and then choose Customize at the very bottom of the pop-up menu. In either case, you'll see all of your available Systems Preferences icons, with a checkbox next to each one.

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Quickly create new Sticky notes

The Stickies app built into Mac OS X isn’t for everyone, but its devotees—and I count myself among them—can’t live without it. Using the app, which lets you play Post-It-style notes on your desktop, is pretty simple. But a pair of hints from Keir Thomas’s excellent Mac Kung Fu streamlines the steps for starting a Sticky so simply that you’ll soon be Stickying more speedily than ever before.

The first option Thomas shares involves using a built-in Service. We’ve extolled Services plenty, but one such Service makes the act of creating a new note as easy as highlighting the text and/or images you want to jot down and pressing a keyboard shortcut. That shortcut? Command-Shift-Y. (That’s the same as going to the current application’s self-named menu, choosing Services, and then selecting Make New Sticky Note.) Your new note will near-instantly appear on your screen, containing the text you just had selected.

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Enable local Time Machine snapshots on a desktop Mac

With Lion, Apple introduced local Time Machine snapshots. This mostly-silent feature lets your Mac use free space on your main drive to create iterative backups of your files when you’re away from your external Time Machine disk.

By default, Apple disables local snapshots on desktop Macs; the assumption is that you only need them when you're using a laptop, and that your trusty desktop machine is always connected to a Time Machine drive. But what if that’s not always the case? Perhaps you disconnect your Time Machine drive to connect other USB peripherals, or maybe you share the drive with other folks in your home. In any case, there's a way to enable local Time Machine snapshots on desktop Macs that Keir Thomas (author of the excellent Mac Kung Fu) discovered. All it takes is a quick trip to Terminal.

Local snapshots
Local snapshots are shown in gray, Time Machine backups in purple.

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