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Open Certain Compressed Windows .exe Files

When you come across a Windows self-extracting zip file—an archive that may contain Mac-compatible files wrapped in a seemingly unusable Windows executable file—you needn’t fret. If you receive one that you’re reasonably confident is a zip archive file (a PDF manual from Nikon, for example), here’s something you can try.

Change the file’s extension from .exe to .zip, and then drop it on Allume Systems’ free StuffIt Expander —OS X’s built-in zip expander can’t handle these files. If the file is nothing more than a zip archive in disguise, it will expand into the uncompressed contents of the archive.

If you’re comfortable in Terminal, however, you can use the

command—without first renaming the file. Just make sure that you’re in the same directory as the file, and type

Create a Keyboard Shortcut for Making .zip Archives

One of OS X 10.3’s nice features is that it lets you create keyboard shortcuts for most of the Finder’s menu items. Click on the Keyboard Shortcuts tab of the Keyboard & Mouse preference pane, click on the + (plus-sign)button, select the application you want to modify from the pop-up menu that appears, enter the exact menu title, and then press a combination of keys to create the shortcut.

But when you try to add a shortcut for creating .zip archives, it doesn’t seem possible—when you select an item to compress, the menu item (in the File menu) is Create Archive Of, followed by the name of the selection. So how do you enter a changing selection name in the Keyboard Shortcuts panel?

Well, you don’t. To create a .zip-archive shortcut, specify the Finder as the application and then just type

Create Archive
in the Menu Title box. Assign your keystrokes (Command-control-shift-Z, for instance) and click on the Add button. To make your new shortcut take effect, you’ll need to restart the Finder. You can do this by logging out and then back in, or through the Force Quit dialog box. Just press Command-option-escape, select Finder in the list, and then click on Relaunch.

You should now have a keyboard shortcut next to the Create Archive menu item, and OS X will simply add the selection name as needed when you execute the command (See screenshot). From now on, creating a .zip archive is as simple as highlighting something in the Finder and pressing your magical key combination.

You can use this trick for most other menus that change with the Finder selection; just ignore the variable piece at the end and type in the core of the menu item’s name.

Pause Playback of Animated GIFs

Many people think that animated GIFs were one of the worst inventions of the early days of the Internet. However, when used properly, those animations can convey information that would be difficult to get across in other ways. For instance, The Imaging Resource, a digital-camera-review Web site, uses animated GIFs to show the different overlays on each camera’s LCD screen. Aproblem, though, is that the animations blink by so quickly, you can’t really get a good view of any individual screen.

To temporarily pause any animated GIFs on a page, you can either click on and release a top-level menu such as File or Edit (which may obscure part of the page you’re trying to see), or just click and hold the mouse button on the scroll bar’s thumb (the part that moves). As long as you have the mouse button down, the animated GIFs won’t play. Release the mouse button, and the GIFs will go back into action.

If you’d like to really study a particular animated GIF, however, drag it to your desktop and open it in Preview. You’ll then be able to view each frame as a separate image that you can browse with the Page Down and Page Up buttons.

Take Advantage of Page Scrolling in Safari and Mail

Both Mail and Safari suffer from the same scrolling bug: the page-up and page-down keys don’t seem to work just where they would seem to be most useful.

In Mail, for example, if you have a long list of messages, pressing page-up or page-down won’t let you scroll through them quickly—those keys affect only the message displayed in the preview pane, not the message list.

And in Safari, if you’re viewing your bookmarks or browsing history, page-up and page-down don’t work at all. You have to use the arrow keys (or your mouse) to move around these potentially long lists.

But a hidden keyboard shortcut can save you scrolling time in either application. Press and hold the control key before you press page-up or page-down, and you’ll find that you get page-at-a-time scrolling—just as you would have expected the keys to perform when used on their own.

[Contributing Editor Rob Griffiths is the author of Mac OS X Power Hound, Panther Edition (O'Reilly, 2004) and runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site.]

Save yourself some time by adding a keyboard shortcut to OS X’s built-in tool for creating .zip archives.
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