Mac OS X Hints - July 2007

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Check for unsaved changes

Whether or not you’re an obsessive saver—tapping command-S whenever you pause to think—you might be interested to know that your open files give out subtle signals that tell you if they have unsaved changes. For starters, glance at the red button in the upper left corner of the window’s title bar. If it has a dark blob in its center, then the file has unsaved changes. If you’d rather not move your eyeballs that far, look to the middle of the title bar, where the document’s name and icon appear. If you’ve saved your document’s latest changes, the icon will be in full color; otherwise, it will be dimmed.

Shortcuts for saving

The icon in the center of a document’s title bar is much more than just a visual indicator. This proxy icon has a special role in OS X; it serves as a representation (or proxy—hence the name) of the actual document.

If you command-click on the icon (or the document’s title), a pop-up menu will display the full path to the document’s save location. Once you’ve saved the document, you can do even more. Move your document to a new location by clicking and holding on the icon and then dragging. Option-drag the icon to create a copy of the document, or command-option-drag to create an alias of it. When you need a new point of view, you can even drag the icon to a different application’s Dock icon to open the document in that application. For example, you could use this trick to open a Graphic Converter image in Adobe Photoshop or to quickly try out your BBEdit code in a Web browser.

Uncover Safari’s Activity window

Safari’s very useful Activity window (Window: Activity) shows activity related to the Web pages you’re viewing. If you try to load a page and it stalls, for instance, the Activity window will show you exactly what is causing the problem. Click on the disclosure triangle next to the page in question, and you’ll see an entry for every item on the page, as well as (if the item is loaded) the item’s size or (if it’s not loaded) a message showing its status (see “Web-Page Parts”).

You can also do some interesting things with the Activity window. Are you an aspiring Web designer trying to learn more about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or JavaScript programming? One of the best ways to learn about such things is by looking at examples from other sites. Typically, that involves opening the site, viewing the source code, scanning for the CSS and JavaScript URLs, copying them, opening a new window, and then pasting the copied URL into your browser’s address bar. Safari’s Activity window simplifies this process: click on the disclosure triangle for the site you’re viewing, scan the list of objects for .css or .js files, and then double-click on one. The selected file will open in Safari.

Use the same technique to view embedded Flash or QuickTime movies in their own windows—just find the .flv, .wmv, or .mov files in the list, and double-click on them. Want to download something that’s on the page? Just option-double-click on any element in the window, and it will appear in Safari’s Downloads window and start downloading. Want to download a bunch of stuff? Make your selection, press command-C to copy the entries, switch to the Downloads window, and then press command-V to paste the list. Bingo, everything you copied will start downloading.

Bookmark all tabs

Have you ever found a group of sites and wished for an easy way to bookmark all of them? OS X 10.4’s Safari doesn’t help you create a folder of bookmarks from all open tabs, but you can do it yourself.

Open the sites you want to bookmark, each in its own tab, and then open the Activity window (Window: Activity). Leave all the disclosure triangles closed, so that all you see is the name of each site. Now press command-A to select all and command-C to copy the selection. Press command-option-B to open the Bookmarks window. Navigate to the spot where you’d like to store your new bookmark collection—the Bookmarks Bar, for instance. Create a new folder (if you wish) at that location by clicking on the plus-sign (+) button at the bottom of the window. With the new folder still selected, press command-V to paste the Clipboard’s contents.

True, you can do the same thing in Firefox simply by selecting a menu item (Bookmarks: Bookmark All Tabs), but this workaround gets the job done without making you download any add-on software.

Export multiple contacts

The vCard file format makes life easier when you want to move contact information. In OS X 10.4, drag and drop any contact’s name from Address Book to your desktop (or elsewhere) to create a new vCard. Then import this vCard into any program that supports the standard, including Microsoft Entourage and Outlook for Windows.

If you try the same drag-and-drop trick with multiple contacts selected in Address Book, you’ll end up with one vCard file named something like “Sally Sample and five others.” But certain programs (Microsoft Entourage and Outlook, to name two) can’t handle a group vCard. Drop your newly exported vCard onto Entourage, for instance, and only the first contact will show up.

Does that mean you need to manually drag and drop each contact you want to transfer? Thankfully, no. The trick is to use the option key. Make your selection in Address Book; then press and hold the option key. Now click and hold on your selection for about a second, and drag the contacts to your desktop. Individual vCards for each contact will appear. Once you have these, you can import them into Entourage, for instance, by dragging and dropping the whole selection of exported files onto the program’s Dock icon.

Change playlists’ default columns

If you’re always tweaking your iTunes playlists’ view options (command-J or View: View Options) because they don’t show the fields you’d like them to show, here’s a fix that makes playlists include the columns you want. With your Music library selected, open the View Options pane and choose your fields (see “Custom Playlist Columns”). From now on, iTunes will use those fields whenever you create a new playlist. That’s it; whatever you’ve set for the global Music library will be the default for playlists you create in the future.

[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Web site. ]

Web-Page Parts: Safari’s Activity window lists all the components that make up a Web page—for instance, Apple’s home page (as shown here).Custom Playlist: Columns To set the default columns for all newly created playlists, first select your Music library and then select the columns you want iTunes to display.
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