Mac 911 - Jan. 2007

Smarter Mail filters

I get a lot of e-mail from marketers and PR firms. Because these messages come from both new senders as well as usual suspects, there’s no way to build an Apple Mail rule that’s based on senders that will automatically route the messages to a separate PR mailbox. Any suggestions for building a reliable filter?—Via the Internet

I once handled this problem with a Mail rule that directed messages from known flacks to a special Marketing mailbox. Whenever I received a promotional e-mail from a new source, I added the portion of the address after the symbol (so the rule would catch all e-mail sent from that PR firm) to the rule. But this rule became unwieldy because it had way too many conditions.

What I needed was a way to define a class of senders and then use that definition in my rule. And the best way to define a group of senders is to create a group in Address Book. Unfortunately, adding the name of a Mail message’s sender to an Address Book group is a pain. It requires opening the message, clicking on the name in the To field, adding the name to Address Book, opening Address Book, and then dragging the contact into the group.

Entourage (which is now my main e-mail client) makes the whole process much easier. First, I created a new Entourage Address Book category, Marketing Flack, and a rule that tells Entourage to move any messages from individuals in the Marketing Flack category to my Marketing Flack mailbox. When a previously unknown marketer flings a press release my way, I select the message and press Command-= (equal sign) to add that individual to my Entourage Address Book. I then go to the Categories pop-up menu and add that contact to the Marketing Flack category. When I close Entourage’s Address Book window, that person joins the ranks of marketers, and any future correspondence from him or her will be automatically shunted to the Marketing Flack mailbox.

The stand-alone widget

Is there any way to run a widget outside of Dashboard? I have a widget that I use all the time, and I’d really rather not have to keep hitting F12 to launch Dashboard every time I need it.—R. Gordon Hershey

Check out Mesa Dynamics’ $10 Amnesty Singles, which converts widgets into stand-alone apps. You just locate the widget you want to convert (in the /Library/Widgets or your user folder /Library/Widgets folder) and drag it into Amnesty Singles’ window. Then click on the Build button and select a location for your new widget-application, and Amnesty Singles will turn the widget into an application you can run like any other, without invoking Dashboard. (Senior Editor Dan Frakes’s take on Amnesty Singles.)

Other utilities—I’m thinking of Marcel Bresink’s free TinkerTool or Titanium Software’s just-as-free OnyX —can move widgets from Dashboard, but they don’t truly put widgets on the desktop; the widgets continue to float above the desktop in a widget-y layer. If that’s fine by you, check them out, too.

Terminating test drive

My Power Mac G5 was running slow, so I decided to run a maintenance utility that does things like throw out cache and log files. A couple of days after doing this, I tried to open a Microsoft Excel document by double-clicking on it. When I did, the test-drive version of Excel launched rather than the real one. What happened, and how can I make things go back to the way they were?—Damon Tee

It’s likely the utility reset OS X’s LaunchServices database, which keeps track of your Open With preferences. When you reset it, your preferences are gone, and OS X then has to guess about what should open your documents. In this case, it guessed wrong.

To set it straight, first go to /Applications/Microsoft Office 2004/Additional Tools/Remove Office, and run the Remove Office application. You should see at least two options—Remove Microsoft Office 2004 (Including Test Drive) and Remove Microsoft Office 2004. (You may see even more if you have other Office installations.) Select Remove Microsoft Office 2004 (Including Test Drive)—which will, confusingly enough, remove just the Test Drive version. Once you’ve done that, empty the Trash.

Now select that Excel document and press Command-I. From the Open With pop-up menu, choose Microsoft Excel. Click on Change All, and all Excel documents will be again associated with the full version of Excel. Follow the same procedure if Word and PowerPoint documents are just as clueless about the application that should open them.

AppleWorks and the Intel Mac

I have an iBook filled with spreadsheets and databases I created in AppleWorks. I’d like to upgrade from my iBook to a MacBook Pro. But according to someone at a local Apple Store, AppleWorks is incompatible with the MacBook Pro. What software can I use?—Ernest Arvanitis

First, let’s clear up a little confusion. AppleWorks works perfectly well on Intel Macs—including the MacBook Pro. While no Universal version exists (or is likely to), AppleWorks 6.2.9 runs fine on Rosetta, Apple’s PowerPC emulator. AppleWorks isn’t bundled with Intel Macs, but you can just copy the AppleWorks 6 folder from your iBook to the MacBook Pro, and you’ll be in business.

All that said, Apple abandoned AppleWorks long ago. It’s high time for anyone who still depends on AppleWorks to go out and finally find a replacement for it.

Spreadsheets aren’t a problem, as AppleWorks can save its spreadsheets in a format compatible with Microsoft Excel. You can then work with these documents in Excel, Mariner Software’s Calc ($50), ThinkFree’s Office (   ; $50), or the open-source NeoOffice (free).

Databases are tougher, as there isn’t a clean way to import an AppleWorks database directly into FileMaker Pro. Here’s the not-so-clean-way:

Open the AppleWorks database and choose Organize: Show All Records. Choose a layout that displays every field, select all, and copy the text to the Clipboard. In AppleWorks or Excel, open a new spreadsheet document. Paste the text into the spreadsheet. In all likelihood, your field headings—Address and Phone Number, for example—won’t be there. So be sure to leave a couple of rows free at the top of the spreadsheet, where you can add your headings later.

Save the spreadsheet as ASCII text; then open that file in FileMaker Pro. The data should appear in a spreadsheet layout, so you’ll have to re-create the original database’s layout.

Optionally, if you’re only looking for a way to search for existing data and plan to start fresh in FileMaker, feel free to leave the data in a spreadsheet, which you can easily search.

Tip of the month

Smarter Smart Playlists: I was trying to create an iTunes smart playlist that would contain all of the house, techno, and dance tracks in my iTunes library that had ratings of three stars or higher. But iTunes doesn’t support the Boolean operators AND and OR in defining a playlist. Then it dawned on me that I could solve the problem by using one playlist as the basis for another.

I first created a smart playlist called Dance Music that contained all tracks with the House, Techno, or Dance genre tag, using the conditions Match Any, Genre Contains House, Genre Contains Techno, and Genre Contains Dance. I then created a second new smart playlist with the conditions Playlist Is Dance Music and My Rating Is Greater Than 2 Stars. With those two playlists, I got the results I was after.— Drew Long

[ 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). ]

Work with the Group: Adding a sender to a group lets you quickly shunt future messages from that person to a specific mailbox.Off the Dashboard: Using Amnesty Singles, you can convert Dashboard widgets into stand-alone applications that can live on your desktop.
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