Mac 911 - Dec. 2006

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Tip of the month

Cleaner Desktop Dropping: When you drag multiple items to the desktop from another folder, they tend to arrive there in a messy clump. To avoid the mess, don’t drag the items directly to the desktop. Instead, drag them to the desktop icon in the Finder sidebar. When you do so, the items appear spaced evenly along an invisible grid on the desktop, instead of all over each other. Of course, this tip will work only if you have enough free space on the desktop for each item to have its own spot.— Gabriel Dorado

Snappy reminders

Tell me this hasn’t happened to you: Your Mac has crashed badly and you’ve had to reinstall the OS and your applications. You get ready to go to the Web to download the latest updates for your software and to reestablish your connections with your e-mail accounts and your favorite Web sites, but—whoops—you realize that you’ve forgotten the passwords for your network and your e-mail accounts.

Or maybe you’ve moved all your hardware from one part of the house to another, you’re trying to get it set up again, and you’ve forgotten the tangled configuration settings that allowed Device C to talk to Device D.

Or maybe you’re just a do-it-yourselfer who loves nothing more than ripping apart a complex piece of equipment just to put it back together again.

Sure, in each case, you could scribble down all your settings and draw a bunch of diagrams. But it’s easier to follow some age-old advice: Take a picture; it lasts longer.

You can take screenshots of all your important preference panes and settings windows—the ones that contain your network and e-mail settings and your other vital information—for future reference. To do so, just open the window or preference pane you want to record for posterity, press Command-shift-4 to pull up OS X’s built-in screen-capture tool, and take the shot. You can either save a copy on your Mac or—smarter still—print a copy for later reference. While you’re at it, stash a backup copy of the file in some other location, just in case.

For particularly tricky configuration chores, take a series of stills or (better yet) buy a copy of the video-capture version of Ambrosia Software’s Snapz Pro X ($69) and make a movie of your actions.

And for complex hardware setups or repairs, put your digital camera to good use and snap pictures of cabling and components. Name the resulting pictures in a way that will help you re-create a particular setup or state, print a copy, and (as before) store backup files in a safe location.

[ Senior Editor Christopher Breen is the author of Secrets of the iPod and iTunes, fifth edition , and The iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide (both Peachpit Press, 2006). ]

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