Use AirDrop on any Mac with Lion

Back in July, I explained how Lion’s new AirDrop feature lets you exchange files simply between two computers with up-to-date Wi-Fi hardware. As I wrote then, AirDrop is a breeze to use if you have the right Mac. You’re out of luck if your computer doesn’t have the right hardware—specifically, if it doesn't have Wi-Fi chips capable of personal area networking (PAN) for peer-to-peer connections. Many Macs, even many of relatively recent vintage and many that can run Lion, don’t have those chips and so can’t use AirDrop. (Apple provides a list of AirDrop-capable Macs here.)

But, it turns out, there’s a workaround. An anonymous Mac OS X Hints reader found that, if you have one of those older Macs, you can add a setting to AirDrop’s defaults that allows AirDrop to work over regular networks, not just PANs.

The change is a one-liner: Open Terminal and, at the command line, type:

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Quickly open unlinked URLs in Terminal

Sometimes, you’ll encounter URLs in text that aren’t active links. That is, you can see the URLs, but clicking on them won’t open the requested page in your default browser. Instead, you’re forced to copy and paste the URLs, or Control-click (right-click) and choose Open URL from the contextual menu. Hints reader McYukon discovered a Lion shortcut for opening URLs that you come across in Terminal. It could come in handy if, for example, you use Terminal to look at Read Me files or other text documents.

The trick? Hold down the Command key as you double-click on the URL. That’s it! And it works even if the URL you encounter lacks the http:// portion; Command-double-clicking on works just fine.

It’s worth experimenting in other apps, too. BBEdit ( ), for example, offers the same functionality, though the behavior doesn’t appear to be supported system-wide.

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Customize Lion's text navigation

Power users know that, when you're composing text, it's often easier to move your cursor around (and potentially highlight chunks of text) using the keyboard, instead of moving your typing hand over to the mouse. Most Mac apps support something called Cocoa key bindings, a fancy term for system-wide keyboard shortcuts for navigating and working with text. Some are probably familiar to you, such as combining Command with the arrow keys to move the cursor within the current line or document (or Command-Shift-arrow to select text). There's also Option-left arrow and Option-right arrow, which move the cursor through your text word by word. Others are less well-known: Control-A, for example, moves the cursor to the beginning of the current paragraph; Control-O splits the current line, inserting a return without moving the cursor to the new line; Control-T transposes the two letters on either side of the cursor.

Daniel Jalkut, tech blogger and founder of Red Sweater Software, noted on his blog that Lion tweaks the behavior of those Option-arrow text navigation shortcuts. In Snow Leopard, Option-arrow treated certain punctuation-separated strings ( as separate words—meaning you could Option-arrow navigate between each of those three words. Lion, on the other hand, treats such strings as single words. Lion's change may well make sense for you. But for programmers, or for people who type (and edit) URLs often, the change may be less welcome.

Fortunately, Jalkut discovered a straightforward way to revert Lion's keyboard navigation behavior to match Snow Leopard's. Launch System Preferences and select the Language & Text pane. On the Text tab, take a look at the Word Break option on the right side. Lion's default selection is Standard; to emulate Snow Leopard's behavior, change that to English (United States, Computer). (Jalkut's commenters pointed out that the Word Break preference was introduced in Snow Leopard, but it seems that Lion changed the default to Standard.)

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Monitor Wi-Fi with Lion's hidden tool

Hints reader nathanator11 discovered that Lion includes a handy app that provides all sorts of diagnostic information surrounding your wireless network. Much of the information the software generates gets pretty technical, but even Wi-Fi novices may find some of the details that the utility aggregates useful.

Wi-Fi Diagnostics is tucked away in the /System/Library/CoreServices folder. To get there, I pressed Shift-Command-G in the Finder (the equivalent of going to the Go menu and choosing Go to Folder), and then typed in the /System/Library/CoreServices path and pressed Return. Once in the folder, I found Wi-Fi Diagnostics and double-clicked it. Alternatively, you could launch the Terminal and type open "/System/Library/CoreServices/Wi-Fi", and then press Return.

However you find and launch it, Wi-Fi Diagnostics gives you four options: Monitor Performance (which shows you signal strength, noise level, transmit power, and data rate); Record Events (which can keep a log of network happenings); Capture Raw Frames (which records everything coming and going on your Mac's wireless connection); and Turn on Debug Logs.

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More ways to master Mission Control

Hints readers keep discovering clever Mission Control tricks. Once you enter Mission Control in Lion—either by swiping up with three or four fingers, hitting Control-Up arrow, clicking on the Dock icon, or any other means—there are a lot of secrets hiding away in Apple’s new mash-up of Exposé and Spaces.

Mission Control organizes stacks of windows by app. Hints reader geoffliang points out that you can get a better view of the windows open in a given app within Mission Control by performing a four- or five-finger spread gesture (the same gesture you’d use to reveal the Desktop when you’re in Mission Control). If you prefer a simpler gesture, a simple two-finger swipe straight up over the app you’d like a better look at works, too. When you do that, the visible windows for the app expand and fan out a bit (as seen in the screenshot at the bottom of this article).

Remember, too, that as you move the mouse over the windows visible in Mission Control, you can press the spacebar to see an even bigger Quick Look preview of the window in question. And Hints reader vczilla discovered that you can change which window within Mission Control gets selected by typing the first few letters of that window’s title.

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Restore Snow Leopard's three-finger swipes in Lion

Back in the glory days of Snow Leopard, three-finger trackpad swipes could help you navigate the Finder: A three-finger swipe left took you back one step in your Finder navigation; three fingers right brought you forward again. In Lion, of course, three-finger swipes perform a very different function—they navigate between spaces. (You can change that gesture to a four-finger swipe in the Trackpad pane of System Preferences; note also that if you enable three-finger drag, then Lion enables four-finger swiping automatically.) Hints reader rbrough discovered an intriguing way to restore Snow Leopard’s old behavior on an as-needed basis.

The trick? Hold down the Option key while you perform your swipe. That suppresses the space-switching gesture, and lets the old Snow Leopard functionality shine through.

And here’s the best part: The Option-swipe trick doesn’t just work for navigating Finder windows. Back when I ran Snow Leopard, I loved using three-finger swipes to navigate the official Twitter app; when I hold down Option and swipe, I get those gestures of old back again.

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Open Finder folder in Terminal

We've published a variety of hints over the years about opening a Terminal window that's already focused on the folder of your choosing. But Hints reader ceej discovered that Apple's built a new Service into Lion that can make this task even simpler.

To enable the Service, launch System Preferences and click on Keyboard. From the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, choose Services on the list at left, and then choose New Terminal at Folder (or New Terminal Tab at Folder). While you're here, you can add a keyboard shortcut by double-clicking in the whitespace along the right margin of the Services list and choosing a new key combo.

Now, when you Control-click (right-click) on a folder in the Finder, your new Terminal Service should appear near the bottom of the contextual menu. Use that new menu option—or your new keyboard shortcut—and Terminal will open a new window (or tab) focused right on the folder you chose.

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