Make your Mac tell the time

When the power goes out and you're faced with a houseful of futilely blinking clocks in desperate need of setting, your Mac can help. Hints reader jsdetwiler figured out a clever way to turn his Mac into a talking clock. When the clocks go out, he can dial his speakers way up and run a little command line script, then move leisurely from room to room, synchronizing all of his clocks to his Mac's time.

To accomplish this yourself, launch Terminal (Applications/Utilities), paste in this code, and press Return:

while [ 1 ];do z=`date +%S`;if [ `expr $z % 5` -eq 0 ];then say `date "+%l %M and %S seconds"`;fi;done

Read more »


How to quickly sign digital documents

For a variety of reasons—frugality, environmentalism, laziness—I try to avoid printing documents whenever possible. That can get tricky when someone needs my signature. For example, I recently joined Macworld as a full-time staffer and was immediately sent a massive 80-plus page PDF welcome packet. Buried within those 80-plus pages were eight forms that I had to fill out and return to HR. That meant pulling individual pages out of a single PDF, then digitally filling them in.

You probably know how to combine PDF pages in Preview; separating pages is just as easy. To start, make sure the sidebar is showing (Command-Shift-D if not) and that it's displaying thumbnails of the pages in the document (if not, Command-Option-2). To pull a page out of the PDF, open it in Preview, click on the appropriate thumbnail in the sidebar, and drag it to your desktop. Preview will create a new file with just that page, giving it the same name as the original file with (dragged) as a suffix. If you Command-click to select multiple (even non-contiguous) pages from the sidebar and drag them all to the desktop, you'll create a single new PDF containing all of those pages.

Once I'd extracted the forms from the surrounding document, there were several ways I could add my signature to them; for example, we've written before about how to insert a scanned signature into a PDF. I prefer another way: I create a custom font in which one of the characters is actually my signature.

Read more »


How to retrieve files from the Trash

OS X Hints reader AlbertHall found a simple—if counterintuitive—way to retrieve items you want to pull out of the Trash:

Open the Trash folder, select the item or items that you want to retrieve and hit the Delete button (red circle with line through it) in the toolbar. (If you don't see that button, go to View -> Customize Toolbar and drag it from the palette of available buttons to wherever you want to park it.) The item will disappear from the Trash and reappear in its original folder.

As one Hints commenter observed, using the Delete button as Remove From Trash isn't the most intuitive user-interface choice Apple has ever made. Others pointed out that you can do the same thing by selecting the item then selecting Put Back from the File menu; you can also implement Put Back by selecting the item, Control- or right-clicking on it, then selecting Put Back from the contextual menu, or by selecting the item and pressing Command-Delete. Finally, if you delete something accidentally, and want to get it back, you can also press Command-Z immediately to undo the trashing.

Read more »


Save Facebook images in Safari

My mom likes to download photos my wife and I post to Facebook. Doing so used to be simple: She’d right-click on the image she wanted and select Save Image As from the contextual menu. Recently, though, Facebook changed the way it displays photos; if you right-click on one of them (the full-size original, not their thumbnail), you no longer get that Save Image option. Fortunately, Facebook offers an easy alternative—the new Download link below the photo. But there’s another solution: I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to my mother, but if you’d rather copy the photo or just view it full-size without needing to download it first, it can indeed be done.

First, make sure you have enabled Safari's Develop menu (Safari -> Preferences -> Advanced). That done, Control- or right-click on the photo you’d like to save, and choose Inspect Element from the contextual menu that appears. You’ll see a bunch of color-coded HTML; Safari will have automatically highlighted one line, but probably not the one you want. You want an image tag (beginning img class) that includes a really long image URL—it'll start with something like and end in .jpg. Control-click on that image URL and choose Edit Attribute from the contextual menu. The image URL will be highlighted. You can now copy it and paste it into the address bar or into a new tab; that should open the full-size image itself, which you can copy, drag to the desktop, or (yes) right-click and save.

This hint should works with any online image that doesn’t give you a Save Image As option when you Control-click on it. Just look for the image URL after you select Inspect Element and grab the link you need.

Read more »


How to make iTunes' Genius Mixes smarter

The Genius Mixes in iTunes are nice: They group related tracks in convenient playlists without any intervention on your part. But they do have their flaws: You can’t see which tracks are in them, so you never know what’s coming next. Also, if you have a small-ish library and you listen to the same Mix for a long time, songs can start to repeat, as though they’ve been duplicated. But Hints reader Plan K came up with an ingenious way to get the benefits of a Genius Mix without those two problems.

For starters, create a new playlist (File -> New Playlist or Command-N). For the sake of explanation, let’s call it Select Genius. Next, select iTunes DJ in sidebar. (If it’s not there, open the General tab in iTunes’ Preferences and select iTunes DJ in the Show section.) At the bottom of the iTunes DJ window, select the Genius Mix you want from the Source drop-down. Click on Settings and choose to show 100 upcoming songs; while you’re there, select Play Higher Rated Songs More Often to make it more likely you’ll hear songs you like (assuming you’re diligent about rating your tracks).

Now here’s the clever way Plan K gets rid of duplicates: Select then drag the first track in the iTunes DJ playlist to the Select Genius playlist. Then go back to iTunes DJ, select all of its tracks (Command-A), and drag them all over to the Select Genius playlist in the sidebar. You should now see a dialog box telling you that duplicates are being added. Click on Skip to prevent those dupes from being copied.

Read more »


Edit the content of a Web page in Safari

Suppose you want to print a Web page, but it contains some extra text that you don’t need. Or perhaps you want to grab a screenshot of a page, but don't want some personal information on it to show. Hints reader canisbos points out that you can make most content on any Web page editable or removable with a simple JavaScript command:

document.body.contentEditable = true

How to implement that command? The solution canisbos proposes is to use Safari’s JavaScript console. That means first enabling the Develop menu (under Preferences -> Advanced), then choosing that menu’s Show Error Console option. You can then enter that JavaScript code in the Console and press Return.

Read more »


Make new AppleScripts automatically

If you're a regular reader of this blog or the OS X Hints site on which it's based, you know we regularly post AppleScripts that do one useful thing or another. You may also be tired of manually copying-and-pasting those scripts from your browser to AppleScript editor or Automator. Hints reader Maxikubik felt that way, so he created an Automator service to do it for him.

But before you go to the trouble of implementing his script, note that you may already have a similar service installed: Go to the Keyboard pane in System Preferences, open the Keyboard Shortcuts tab, and look for a service called Make New AppleScript in the Development section. If it's there, it'll do much the same thing as Maxikubik's script: Select a script, then choose the service from the contextual menu. A new AppleScript window will open, with the selected script pasted into it. That service is disabled by default so you'll need to turn it on by clicking on its checkbox.

If, for some reason, that service isn't there, here's how to build your own: Open Automator, choose new Service from the list of templates, and configure it to receive text in any application. Next, add the Run AppleScript action (from the Utilities section on the left) and replace the script body with:

Read more »