Open recent documents from the Help menu

You probably already know about the search box in the Help menu of virtually every Mac application. When you type some text in that box, the app will show you a list of entries in its help files that contain that term. But most apps will also present a list of menu items containing that string: Type print in that box, for example, and you’ll see a list of all the menu items related to printing—File -> Print and so on. If you select one of the entries in that list, the associated menu will open with that item highlighted.

Because of that last part, you can use the Help menu’s search box as an impromptu launcher. Last year, Macworld Senior Editor Dan Frakes explained how this works in your browser: Open the Help menu by typing Command-? (in other words, Command-Shift-/). Start typing the name of a website that you’ve visited or bookmarked in the search box, and you’ll see a list of matching entries in your history and bookmarks submenus. Select an item on that list and press Return, and the browser will open that site.

Hints reader mtaylorGT discovered a similar use for the Help menu search box: You can use it to find and then launch recently opened documents, too. The trick hinges on the fact that many apps have a File -> Open Recent menu item (or something like it). That menu includes document titles; you can therefore search for those titles from the Help box. When you do, you’ll see a list of matching documents. Scroll down that list and the app will show you that item’s entry in the Open Recent menu. Select the document you want from the list and press Return, and the app will open it.

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Paste file paths in Open, Save dialogs

Sometimes, you discover the coolest Mac OS X tricks by accident. That happened recently to Hints reader philostein. And philostein’s accident is our gain.

First, copy a file path to your Mac’s clipboard (by selecting a folder in the Finder and pressing Command-C or selecting File -> Copy). Then, after choosing File -> Save in a new document, press Command-V. That will open a Go to Folder dialog box, with that folder path already pasted into it. When you click on the Go button (or press Return), the Save dialog will navigate directly to that folder.

Surprisingly, the Command-V trick doesn’t work in Open dialog boxes—but there is a workaround. From an Open dialog box, press the keyboard shortcut—Command-Shift-G—that, in the Finder, summons the Go to Folder dialog. Then, as before, you can press Command-V, and the copied folder path will again be pasted into the entry box.

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An easier way to organize iOS apps

It can be more convenient to organize iOS apps and create folders using iTunes on your Mac than it is to do so on your iPhone or iPad itself. Among other reasons, it's easier to drag icons (including more than one at a time) between screens on your Mac. But a little-known extra feature in iTunes simplifies application organization even further by letting you quickly find the apps you want to drag.

First, connect your device to iTunes. Click on its name in the Devices list of iTunes's sidebar, and then click on the Apps tab. This is the screen where you can organize your apps: There's a list of all the apps you've downloaded on the left, and then representations of your iOS device's home screens on the right.

Here's the hint: Look up at the iTunes search box. When you're on this tab, its default text changes to Search Apps. Start typing the name of a specific app there, and the list on the left will be filtered down to show only apps that match what you've typed. From that filtered list, you can drag the apps you want from the left pane onto one of the iOS home screens on the right.

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Publish your iWeb site on Dropbox

Now that MobileMe is on the way out, Hints reader vincent860524 wanted to be prepared for its eventual demise. Specifically, he wanted to figure out an alternative way to publish his iWeb projects online. His solution: Store his sites on Dropbox ( ).

To implement his workaround, open your iWeb project and click on the project's name in the sidebar to get to the Site Publishing Settings. In the Publish To dropdown menu, select Local Folder. Now click on the Publish Site button in iWeb's bottom toolbar. The program will prompt you to choose your local folder. Here's the trick: Choose your Dropbox's Public folder—or, more likely, a subfolder within it that you create just for this site.

Once Dropbox finishes syncing your saved files, go to the Dropbox website and log in. Navigate to your newly-created folder and find the index.html file that iWeb created in it. Click on the blue triangle to the right of the filename, and then choose the Copy Public Link option. You can copy the full URL (which will begin http://dl.dropbox.com/u/), or click on Shorten Link to get a smaller one (which will begin http://db.tt/).

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Monitor your system from the Dock

Power users likely already know about Activity Monitor. This handy troubleshooting tool (/Applications/Utilities) can tell you which apps are running on your Mac, along with how much CPU and RAM they're gobbling up. But Activity Monitor packs a lesser-known yet equally useful feature: You can tweak its Dock icon to display live graphs charting what's going on with your computer.

To change Activity Monitor from its default icon, first make sure the utility is running. Control-click (or right-click) on the Activity Monitor icon in the Dock and select the Dock Icon option from the menu. (Alternatively, choose View -> Dock Icon from the app's menu bar.) There, you can choose from five graph icons: CPU Usage, CPU History, Network Usage, Disk Activity, and Memory Usage. After you select one of them, you'll see a continuously updated chart in your Dock, graphing whichever stat you selected. If you quit and relaunch Activity Monitor, the software remembers the chart you selected most recently.

If you'd like to ensure that your preferred chart lives in your Dock full time, Control-click on the Dock icon again and choose Options -> Keep in Dock.

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Enable text substitutions in every app

Tucked away in the Language & Text pane of System Preferences is a feature that lets create symbol and text substitutions—meaning you can type (c) to generate the © symbol. You can in theory also use these substitutions to auto-correct common typos. But when Irene (a Hints reader who has the added distinction of being my mother) tried to add a shortcut to replace teh with the, it didn't work.

Fortunately, another Hints reader, NaOH, came to her aid. It turns out that, by default, you need to enable text substitutions on an app-by-app basis. Even better, NaOH shared a Terminal command that changes that default setting and makes substitutions available in all apps that support them.

First, create your new shortcut. Launch System Preferences, go to Language & Text, and click the Text tab. Then click on the plus-sign (+) button at the bottom left to create your new shortcut. (For example, Mom would type teh in the Replace field, and the in the With field.) Ensure that your newly-added replacement is checked.

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Quickly copy text clippings and .webloc files

When you drag highlighted text to the desktop, you create a text clipping. And when you drag a URL favicon to the desktop, you create a .webloc file—a document that, when opened, launches the saved URL in your default browser. Hints reader llee frequently uses both clippings and .webloc files, and discovered a clever way to copy those files' contents to the Mac's clipboard quickly.

Start by dragging the clipping or .webloc file towards the upper-right corner of your screen. As you drag, trigger Spotlight's search window. (The default keyboard shortcut is Command-Space.) When you drag the item over Spotlight's text-entry field, your cursor will turn into a green and white plus sign. Release the mouse button, and the contents of the file—whether a URL or a text snippet—will appear in the Spotlight search field. The text will already be selected, so a quick Command-X (or Edit -> Cut) will cut the text from the Spotlight field into your clipboard.

There's a reason you have to trigger Spotlight after initiating the file-drag with good reason: if you open Spotlight's search box first, and then start dragging, the search box will disappear again. And the tip uses Command-X (or Cut) instead of Command-C (or Copy), because otherwise our text will still be in the Spotlight box the next time we go to use it.

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