Beach Ball, Begone!

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The content management system we use to publish everything that appears on—including this very Weblog entry you’re reading right now—uses a browser-based interface. Fill in a few fields, select an option or two from a drop-down menu, push a button, and presto—your very deep thoughts are pushed live for the entire world to see.

Or, at least, that’s how it should work when everything’s humming along like it’s supposed to. But a few weeks ago, every time I went to post a story through Safari, I was greeted by an unwelcome visitor—OS X’s spinning beach ball.

The spinning beach is the multi-colored orb that appears on your display, presumably because it would be too difficult to program your Mac to say “Relax—this is going to take awhile.” It generally limits its (unwelcome) appearances to when you’re trying to perform processor-intensive tasks or asking your Mac to think really hard about something. Only now, the beach ball was popping up whenever I tried scrolling through a list of options or filling in a field using our content management system. And it was spinning for quite a while, too—maybe not long enough for me to make a sandwich, but certainly enough time to pick out the bread and lunchmeat.

So what does a Macworld editor who’s getting mighty tired of cooling his heels do to rid himself of the beach-ball blues? He turns to his smarter, better-informed colleagues for help. Or more specifically, he heads over to Mac OS X Hints for a little enlightenment.

(Full-disclosure: Mac OS X Hints is run by Rob Griffiths, who also writes a similarly-named column for this magazine. I have no idea why this might dissuade you from listening to Rob’s good counsel and advice on OS-related matters, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.)

The tip that saved my bacon came from OS X Hints reader nolaPBG4 who suggested deleting autofill entries by going into Safari’s Preferences, selecting Autofill, clicking the Edit button for Other Forms and selecting Remove All. nolaPBG4 also suggests turning off any languages in Safari that you don’t need. I followed both pieces of advice, and I haven’t been plagued by a beach-ball sighting since.

One lingering question: the tip says to delete autofill entries “from time to time”, but how frequently does that mean? Weekly? Monthly? Every 3,000 miles? Or do I just wait until the beach ball rears its ugly head again? It’s no big deal to delete those entries, I suppose, but I also find it convenient to let the autofill feature fill in frequently-used fields. I guess I'll figure it out on my own soon enough.

But none of that should detract from an excellent tip for solving a problem that probably affects more Mac users than just me. If you’re seeing a little too much of the spinning beach ball when you use Safari, I suggest you follow the advice at Mac OS X Hints and do a little autofill maintenance. Your browser will thank you.

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