Mac OS X Hints - Nov. 2006

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Stop clicking on dialog-box buttons

Don’t reach for your mouse when you encounter dialog boxes that require clicking on a button—for example, Don’t Save, Cancel, or Save. Often, you can use your keyboard instead.

If you’ve activated Full Keyboard Access, you can use the tab key to cycle through a dialog box’s buttons (see “Plug into Keyboard Power” for details). Then press the spacebar to activate the selected button.

Alternatively, in most applications, you can use these shortcuts: Command-D for the Don’t Save button, Command-C for Cancel, and Command-S for Save. To save a keystroke, try leaving out the Command key. Notably, this works in Microsoft Office 2004 applications and in Apple’s iTunes. For example, in iTunes, if you select a song in your library and press Command-delete, you’ll see a dialog box with three buttons: Cancel, Keep Files, and Move To Trash. Press C, K, or M, and you’ll activate the corresponding function.

Access iPhoto 6’s hidden tools

Apple’s iPhoto 6 (part of the $79 iLife ’06 ) has some nice built-in editing tools, including Red-Eye and Retouch. But you can make these tools even more useful by activating a supersecret advanced editing mode. In the advanced mode, you’ll be able to control the size and strength of the Retouch brush, as well as the size and brightness of the Red-Eye tool.

Start by going to iPhoto: Preferences, clicking on the General tab, and making sure your settings are right. You can’t access the advanced mode if you’ve told iPhoto to launch another application for image editing. iPhoto also won’t stay in the advanced mode if you choose to edit each image in a separate window. Instead, choose Edit In Main Window from the Edit Photo pop-up menu.

Now double-click on an image to enter Edit mode. Select either the Red-Eye or the Retouch tool, press and hold the control key, and then press and hold the caps lock (yes, caps lock) key. Now, with both keys still held down, press 9. Nothing will appear to happen, and you won’t hear any confirmation tone, but you’ve now activated the advanced editing mode. To verify this, press the tab key. You should see the cursor change shape, depending on which editing tool you’ve activated (see “iPhoto’s Secret Weapon”). Press tab to cycle through each tool’s different modes, including the default one. Here’s what they do:

Retouch After pressing tab once with the Retouch tool activated, your cursor will turn into a round marquee with the number 0.50 below it. Using this cursor, you can resize the area the Retouch tool affects, as well as change the tool’s strength. To adjust the area the tool covers, use the bracket keys—press the right bracket (]) to enlarge it and the left bracket ([) to shrink it; the marquee will change size accordingly. To adjust the tool’s strength, press shift-] (to increase it) or shift-[ (to decrease it). The number below the cursor will change to reflect your setting.

Press tab a second time with the Retouch tool activated, and you’ll switch to the Lighten tool. It does just what you might expect—it lightens the area of the image under the tool’s outlined circle. Use the bracket keys with this tool to enlarge or shrink the area affected. To get back to the default Retouch tool, press tab one more time.

Red-Eye Press tab with the Red-Eye tool acti-vated to switch to the advanced Red-Eye tool. Its cursor looks like large crosshairs on top of a hole. Use the bracket keys to change the size of the tool’s area—this is quite useful, as you can home in on just the area of the eye that needs red-eye correction.

Another feature of the advanced mode is the ability to use a lighter red-eye correction. With the advanced tool activated, press and hold the shift key before clicking, and you’ll get a lighter fill than you get with the standard tool.

You’ll have to enter the advanced mode every time you launch iPhoto 6 (or every time you edit a photo, if you edit in a separate window).

Cycle Calculator’s modes

OS X 10.4’s Calculator program (/Applications) has three modes—Basic, Scientific, and Programmer. To switch between modes, you can use the View menu or the keyboard shortcuts Command-1, Command-2, and Command-3. But when your hand is already on the mouse, there’s another way to toggle modes: just click on the green maximize button at the top left of the Calculator’s screen. Each time you click, the calculator cycles to a different mode.

Sort Safari’s bookmarks

It’s easy to add, view, and manipulate your collection of bookmarks in Apple’s Safari. Just select Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks to open a window where you can move bookmarks around as you like. But one very simple feature is missing: the ability to sort bookmarks alphabetically. You can rearrange them manually, of course, but that’s just tedious.

True, you can download add-on programs that handle this task for you. For example, one of the many features you get with Hao Li’s $12 plug-in Saft 8.3.4 is the ability to sort bookmarks directly within Safari. Going a step further, external bookmark managers such as Sheep Systems’ $15 Bookdog 3.8 and Alco Blom’s $25 URL Manager Pro can, among other things, sort your bookmarks. But if you don’t need all the other features of these programs, you don’t have to cough up some dough just to sort bookmarks. Here’s how to do it yourself.

First, open Safari’s Bookmarks window (Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks). Make sure you can see your desktop and the Bookmarks window at the same time. Now drag the bookmark folder you want sorted from the Safari window to your desktop. Switch to the Finder, and open the folder. Choose the List view (View: List), and then close the window (see “To the Letter”). Drag the folder back into Safari’s Bookmarks window. Safari will treat it like a newly imported folder and add it to the list. Open the folder in the Bookmarks window, and you’ll see your bookmarks, sorted alphabetically.

The original, unsorted folder will still be in your Bookmarks list. Click on it to select it, and then press the delete key. (Remember to delete the folder from the Finder as well.) You can use this trick only to sort alphabetically. If you try to sort the List-view window by any other column heading—for example, Date Modified—and import the folder, Safari won't display the bookmarks in that order.

Boot into Windows with your remote

If you own an Intel-based Mac and have used Apple’s Boot Camp to install Windows on it, then you know how to tell your Mac which OS to boot into: just hold down the option key at startup, and then use the arrow keys or the mouse to choose either the Windows partition or the OS X partition.

But here’s a nifty alternative—good for when you want to impress your friends, as well as when you can’t reach the keyboard after choosing to reboot. Make sure you’ve got your Apple Remote in hand, and press and hold the Menu button during startup. The boot loader will appear, just as if you were at the machine.

From there, use the remote’s forward and backward directional buttons to toggle between the two operating systems, and press play to activate the desired one. No muss, no fuss, and no keyboard required.

iPhoto’s Secret Weapon: Use iPhoto 6’s hidden advanced mode to gain more control over the Red-Eye tool and the Retouch brush. The advanced Retouch brush, shown here, lets you control the intensity of the brush’s effects.To the Letter: You can sort your Safari bookmarks alphabetically without add-on software. Just drag a folder full of bookmarks out of Safari to your desktop. View the folder’s contents in the Finder’s List view and then drag the folder back into Safari.
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