Mac OS 8.5: Beyond the Basics

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Upgrading your system software to Mac OS 8.5 doesn't cost a lot–$99–but it can be a big investment in terms of time and effort. If you've taken the plunge and upgraded, you want to get the most out of your investment–and that means retraining yourself to take advantage of the new tools, shortcuts, keystrokes, and menu commands that are suddenly at your beck and call. Assuming that you've already mastered the basics of OS 8.5, such as tweaking its look-and-feel with the Appearance control panel, it's time to move on to some techniques and shortcuts that take you deep into the heart and soul of Mac OS 8.5.

The new Favorites command offers an easy way to access the files, folders, disks, and servers you use most–you can reach it from the Apple Menu or from a pop-up menu in the revised Open and Save dialog boxes. The Finder's File menu now sports an Add to Favorites command, but don't overlook the easiest way to turn any item into a favorite: just control-click on it to bring up a contextual pop-up menu that contains the same command. This trick also works if you control-click on the tiny folder and disk icons that now appear in the title bars of open windows.

Mac users have complained for years about the Open and Save dialog boxes' shortage of navigation shortcuts. In OS 8.5, improved Open and Save dialog boxes let you view files in sortable lists containing nested folders, similar to standard Finder list views. (You'll find these revamped dialog boxes only in programs that have been updated to support them.)

Not surprisingly, many of the folder-manipulating tricks that work in Finder windows also work in these dialog boxes. For example, you can select a folder in an Open dialog box and press command-right arrow to display the contents of the folder hierarchically within the dialog box; pressing command-left arrow collapses nested folders in the dialog box. These shortcuts let you navigate to a deeply buried file without drilling down through layers of folders.

The same folder-expanding tricks work in the Network Browser, a new interface that provides easier access to file servers. From the Apple Menu, open the Network Browser to reveal a list of available AppleTalk zones, select a zone, and press command-right arrow; the view expands to show all the servers in that zone. Press command-left arrow to collapse the view.

The Network Browser is less hassle to use than the old Chooser, but network access is even easier if you take a shortcut: drag the icons of the servers you use most from the Network Browser window onto the desktop to create instant aliases. You can then log on to those servers by simply double-clicking on the icons; there's no need to open the Network Browser or the Chooser. The same trick works with the AppleTalk-zone icons that appear in the Network Browser window: drag a zone icon to the desktop and click on it to simultaneously open a Network Browser window and display the list of available file servers in the zone.

Easily one of the coolest features in Mac OS 8.5 is Sherlock. This slick, high-speed search engine sifts through your local files or the Internet, looking for information at lightning speed. Sherlock can even search the content of the files on your hard drive for a specific word or phrase. For this feature to work, Sherlock first has to index your hard drive–a process that can take hours. Apple suggests that you initially have the Find application index your drives when you're not using your computer.

But as Sherlock's index of your hard drive falls out of date, so do the results of your content searches; you have to index your hard drive regularly to keep Sherlock's internal database current. The good news is that you can schedule this to happen automatically. In the Find by Content window, click on the Index Volumes button, then click on the Schedule button and pick the days and times when you want Sherlock to rescan your disks. Back in the Index Volumes window, activate the check box next to each of the drives you want indexed. For example, you can schedule your Mac to turn itself on every day at 3 a.m. and have Sherlock index your drives at 3:05 a.m. When you get to work, your Mac will be completely up to date and ready to perform blisteringly fast content searches.

Perhaps even more significant than the Find by Content feature is the fact that the new Find command lets you save the criteria of a particular search. You just press command-S to save a search, or choose Save Search Criteria from the File menu after setting up your search criteria in the Find File window. This action saves the search criteria in a file that you can place anywhere on your hard drive; the next time you want to access the files that the search identified, just double-click on the saved-criteria file to launch the Find application, run the search, and display the results in the Items Found window.

You can also use this technique to rig up an efficient daily backup system. Set up a search that looks for all the documents on your hard drive that were modified today, then save the search criteria. At the end of each day, you can double-click on the search file to get a window displaying all the files on your Mac that need to be backed up. Drag them from the Items Found window to a backup disk, and you're done.

Actually, these tips just scratch the surface of what you can do with Sherlock. See next month's column for a full-blown collection of Sherlock secrets.

February 1999 page: 93

Apple has rolled dozens of subtle changes into the design of the new OS, but at least one new feature is anything but subtle: Mac OS 8.5 makes noise. Turn on the Platinum Sounds soundtrack in the Appearance control panel, and suddenly your Mac is snapping and ticking its way through every drag of an icon or selection of a menu command. The only disappointment is that you just get one set of sounds, but with a little help from ResEdit you can create a new soundtrack with your own custom sounds.

1. Make a copy of the Platinum Sounds file (in the Sound Sets folder, inside the System Folder's Appearance folder), and open the copy with ResEdit.

2. Open the Snd Resource icon to reveal the 67 sounds that make up the Platinum soundtrack. To hear a sound, select it and choose Try Sound from the Snd menu.

3. To replace one of these sounds with your own, first record your sound from any audio source, such as a CD, using the Record New Sound command in the Snd menu; it will appear as a new sound resource at the top of the Snd list.

4. Suppose you want to use this sound to replace the one that plays when you're dragging items across the desktop. Make a note of its ID number and name, then delete the old resource by selecting it and choosing Cut or Clear from the Edit menu.

5. Select your new sound and press command-I to see the Info window for the resource. Type in the ID number and the name of the resource you want to replace, then close the window. Save your changes in ResEdit, close the file, and install it in the Sound Sets folder. Now you'll be able to choose your edited sound set from the Sound Track pop-up menu in the Appearance control panel.

Replacing a whole sound set takes diligence–some of the sounds that accompany system actions are actually made up of several different sounds played in rapid succession&#150b;t with some effort you can give your Mac a voice that's uniquely its own.

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