Panther Secrets Declassified

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With all the buried features and subtle changes hidden away in OS X 10.3 (alias: Panther), you'd think that Steve Jobs were running a covert operation. Sure, you know about Exposé and Fast User Switching -- but look deeper, and you'll find that there's much more to this cat than meets the eye.

To get you the dirt on your new OS, we sent out our own secret agents -- men and women who get paid to dig through the inner recesses of OS X. And what they discovered surprised even us.

From working more efficiently, to restoring missing standbys, to uncovering hidden features, we'll let you in on some of Panther's best-kept secrets.

Get Smart:
16 Ways To Work More Efficiently

As with our brains, few of us use our Macs to their full potential. We fumble through dialog boxes, repeatedly resize and relocate our windows, and generally work hard instead of working smart. But it doesn't have to be this way. To quickly boost your Mac IQ -- while also shaving valuable time off your workday -- try out a few of these essential shortcuts for managing files, navigating windows, and automating repetitive tasks.

Prioritize Label Colors

For some Mac users, Panther's best attribute will be the long-awaited return of Labels -- a feature that was stripped from previous versions of OS X. Labels let you selectively color-code files and folders so you can quickly identify important or related items in the Finder. To assign a label, control-click on the item in the Finder and choose a color from the Color Label contextual menu. To quickly sort your files according to label color, just add a Labels column to the Finder's list-view mode. (Select View Options from the View menu and activate the Label option under Show Columns.) When you click on the Finder's new Label column header, all files and folders of the same color will appear together.

However, the Finder's default sort order for Labels isn't always ideal -- it sorts according to the label's name, not according to the order of the colors as they appear in the Labels menu. So even though you've chosen the color red to denote your most-important files, say, those files will be buried in the middle of your list. To ensure that a particular label color always ends up on top, use a numerical prefix when renaming your labels. Go to the Finder's Label preference pane and type 1. Top Priority in the text field next to the red label. The next time you sort by Labels, your most important files will jump to the top (see "Color My World"). -- rob griffiths

Use Title-Bar Proxies

You may already know that you can 1-click on a document's or a Finder window's title-bar icon to see a pop-up menu of the item's path. It's less commonly known, however, that you can use that icon as a draggable proxy for the folder or document. By clicking and holding on a window's title-bar icon, you can manipulate it just as you would any Finder icon. For example, click on the small page icon in the title bar of an open Microsoft Word document, and you can quickly drag the document to a new location on your hard drive, option-drag it to create a copy of it, or 1-option-drag it to create an alias of it.

In fact, you can even drag this proxy to another application -- dropping it either on an open window or on a Finder or Dock icon -- to open the document in that application. For example, if you're editing a Web page in BBEdit, you can drag the document's title-bar icon to any Web browser to quickly view your work. There is one thing to remember when you're using this trick on open documents: you'll need to save all changes to the document before OS X will let you drag the file's icon to another location. -- dan frakes

Resize All Column Widths

In OS X 10.3, Apple has changed the Finder's default column-view behaviors. Now when you click and drag the icon at the bottom of a column divider, only the preceding column is resized. This is useful if you need to quickly expand a truncated file name. If you want to resize all the columns at once -- to fit more columns in a window, for example -- hold down the option key while adjusting the column width. -- rg

One-Click Printing

If you need to print a class assignment or a project file before running out the door, there's no reason to waste time waiting for the application to start up. Thanks to Panther's revival of desktop printers, you can now drag the needed file onto your printer's icon and start printing immediately. (Some applications will still require that you go through a Print dialog box.) To create a desktop printer, launch Printer Setup Utility (Applications: Utilities), select the desired printer, and choose Create Desktop Printer from the Printer menu. The resulting dialog box will ask you to name the printer and to specify a location for the printer's icon. Despite the command's name, you don't have to place the desktop printer on your desktop. You also can drag the printer icon into your Dock or to the Finder window's sidebar for even easier access (see "Print on Demand"). Double-click on the printer icon to view your print queue and to manage print jobs. -- df

Work with Docked Items

Panther makes it easier than ever to open, move, or duplicate files and folders stored in the documents side of the Dock. For example, say you keep an often needed PDF form in your Dock. In Panther, you can quickly open that file in Apple's Preview, or in Adobe Acrobat or Photoshop, and you can even attach it to an e-mail message -- by 1-clicking on its Dock icon and dragging it to the desired application. If you press the option key while 1-dragging the icon from the Dock, Panther will create an alias of the item in the currently selected folder. To fully copy the item into the selected folder, 1-click on the Dock icon, drag it a short distance from the Dock, press the option key, release the 1 key, and then let go. -- rg

Automate Finder Tasks with Script Editor

Even very productive Mac users spend an inordinate amount of time performing the same small tasks again and again -- opening folders, changing views, and so on. Although AppleScript, Apple's built-in scripting language, can help by automating these routines, its unintuitive syntax often discourages beginners from taking advantage of its powerful features. In Panther, however, Apple has helped to break down this barrier by making the Finder a recordable application -- so you can use Script Editor to record your actions and let it create the necessary script for you.

For instance, if you like to leave your Documents folder sorted by name but often need to find the most-recent files in it, you can record a script that automatically opens the folder and sorts it by date. To do this, launch Script Editor (in Applications: AppleScript) and click on the Record button. Switch to the Finder, and then hold down the 1 key while double-clicking on your Documents folder (this opens the folder in a new Finder window). Set the window to list-view mode if necessary, and then click on the Date column header. Switch back to Script Editor and click on the Record button again to stop recording. You should see a completed script -- reflecting the actions you just performed -- in the Script Editor window. Select File: Save, give the script a name (View Docs By Date, for example), set the File Format menu to Application, and then select a location for your saved script.

To use the script, just double-click on its name -- the Documents window should then pop up and sort itself by date. You may even want to drag the script to the Finder's sidebar window for easy access.

Not every action in the Finder is recordable. If you don't see an action you've taken reflected in the Script Editor window, it's not supported. -- rg

Jump to Any System Preferences Pane

If you spend a lot of time in System Preferences -- switching between networks, starting and stopping services such as file sharing, or changing your screen saver -- here's a way to avoid opening the entire System Preferences window and instead jump directly to the preference pane you need.

Open System Preferences; then hide the application by pressing 1-H. (Unlike previous versions of OS X, Panther automatically quits System Preferences when you close the window.) When you need to return to a preference pane, just click and hold the System Preferences Dock icon: you'll be able to choose from a pop-up list of every preference pane (see "Jump to It!"). -- rg

Drag Images from Preview's Drawer

In earlier versions of OS X, Preview offered a great way to quickly view several images at once -- a side drawer popped out from the window and displayed thumbnails of each selected image, so you could jump from one to the next for fast comparison. But if you then wanted to refine those photos in an image editor such as Photoshop, you had to close Preview and locate the files in the Finder. In Panther, you can simply drag thumbnail images from the drawer, just as you would drag icons in the Finder. Drag them onto the Dock's Photoshop icon, and the images open in Photoshop, for example, or drag them into a Finder window to copy them. -- rg

Quicker Googles

If you're using Safari and you come across a word or phrase that you don't understand or that you want to know more about, you can use it as a Google search term without retyping it in Safari's search box. Just highlight the word or phrase with the cursor, control-click, and choose Google Search from the contextual menu. Voilà! Up pop your search results. This great feature isn't new, but it's often overlooked. -- kelly lunsford

Keep to the Keyboard

One of the most effective ways to steal back precious time -- and reduce the likelihood of repetitive strain injuries -- is to stop reaching for your mouse. All that clicking, dragging, and scrolling can seriously add up over the course of a day -- time better spent knocking back lattes at the coffee shop.

In Panther, you can access almost any menu, command, or dialog box without ever taking your hands off the keyboard. For example, pressing 1-, (comma) calls up the Preferences window for the current application, and pressing 1-T automatically adds the selected item to the Finder's sidebar. (For a comprehensive list of systemwide keyboard shortcuts, open Mac Help from the Help menu and search for Keyboard Shortcuts.)

Here are quick ways to harness the power of Panther's keyboard shortcuts:

Quickly Navigate the Find Dialog Box

If you use the Search In Specific Places option in Finder's Find dialog box -- to limit a file search to a specific drive or folder, for instance -- you can press the tab key to highlight different search locations, and the spacebar to turn the locations on and off. Once you've indicated which places to search, press control-tab to leave the Specific Places menu and jump to the next input field.

Stop Scrolling through Menus

You probably know that you can quickly navigate through open Finder windows by pressing the first couple of letters in the name of any listed folder or file (press D-O to highlight your Documents folder, for example). In Panther, this rule also applies to contextual menus, Open and Save dialog boxes, and most application menus. Control-click on any item in the Finder and press G-E to open a Get Info window, M-A to make an alias, and so on.

Customize Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts won't help you much if you can't remember what they are, or if they don't exist for the commands you use most often. Well, no more excuses: Panther lets you define your own keyboard shortcuts for almost any command in any application. For example, the Finder's Secure Empty Trash feature -- which writes over deleted data so that no one can retrieve it -- is very useful, but it isn't accessible via a keyboard shortcut. However, a quick trip to the Keyboard Shortcuts area of the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane can take care of this oversight.

In Keyboard Shortcuts, click on the plus-sign (+) button to add a new shortcut. In the resulting dialog box, select Finder from the Application menu and, in the Menu Title field, enter the name of the command you want to assign a shortcut to -- in this example, you'd type Secure Empty Trash. (You must type the exact name of the command as it appears in the Finder.) Then decide what keyboard shortcut you'd like to use. The challenge is finding a shortcut that hasn't been assigned to something else. In our example, we used shift-control-option-T (see "Easy and Secure").

Once you've found an available keyboard shortcut, click on the Add button. Applications must be restarted before you can use their new keyboard shortcuts. With a Finder shortcut, you'll have to log out and log back in (or use the Activity Monitor utility to restart the Finder). -- rg

Tip: Easy Access

Pressing the tab key in most dialog boxes will move your cursor to the next input field. To quickly navigate other interface elements -- such as buttons, pull-down menus, and so on -- press control-F1 to activate Full Keyboard Access mode. Now when you press tab, you'll cycle through all dialog-box items. Press control-F1 again to exit this mode. -- kl

Be More Efficient With Expose

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