Mac 911 - Aug. 2007

The not-in-a-playlist playlist

Q: I often receive MP3s that are copied to iTunes’ library when I open them. As time goes by, the library gets filled with stuff I don’t want. The stuff I do want is already sorted into playlists. Can I make a smart playlist with songs that are not in any playlist?— Bruno Grieco

A: Sure. But before I offer a couple of smart-playlist techniques, allow me to refer you to the always helpful Doug’s AppleScripts for iTunes site, where you’ll find the free Not In Any Playlist To Playlist 1.0 script. This AppleScript will do just what its name promises—locate tracks that aren’t in a playlist and place those tracks in their own playlist. Once they’re there, you can select them all, hold down the option key, and press delete. A warning message will ask you whether you’d really like to delete the tracks from your iTunes library. You do, so click on OK. Note that if you have a lot of tracks, the script can take a long time to do its job.

If you’d rather create your own version of this unwanted-songs playlist, there are a couple of ways to do so. The first is to create a smart playlist (File: New Smart Playlist) that includes multiple conditions along the lines of: Playlist Is Not playlist_name_1, Playlist Is Not playlist_name_2, Playlist Is Not playlist_name_3, and so on, with a condition for each playlist you’ve created in iTunes’ Source list. If you have lots of playlists, this will quickly get tiresome.

The second way is to choose File: New Folder (which creates a new folder in iTunes’ Source list), name the folder All My Playlists (for example), and drag all your playlists into this folder. Then you can create a new smart playlist that reads: Playlist Is Not All My Playlists (see “Not in a Playlist”). The resulting smart playlist should contain all the tracks that aren’t in the playlists within your All My Playlists folder.

When fresh applications aren’t

Q: When opening applications, I often see an alert message that reads, “You are opening the application whatever for the first time. Are you sure you want to open this application?” This happens repeatedly for the same application, day after day. What can I do to eliminate these alerts for programs that I have already opened?— Judd Mosser

A: Your Mac is behaving as if its LaunchServices database—the database that keeps track of which applications have been launched and which haven’t—has been mucked with. Given that the guts of LaunchServices are tucked away in places a user wouldn’t normally go, a maintenance utility such as Maintain’s $15 Cocktail (macworld .com/1214) or Titanium Software’s free OnyX (   ) is probably responsible.

As wonderful as these tools can be, they can also cause this kind of unexpected behavior. If you’ve run such a utility, launch it and check its autopilot settings. My guess is that something is working in the background to keep your LaunchServices database fresh yet frustrating.

The computer ate my icons

Q: My wife left our kids unattended for a few minutes at the computer. Now most of my System Preferences icons are absent. In their place are file-looking icons containing tiny System Preferences icons. All the preferences still work, but I’d like my regular icons back.— James Gibson

A: I wouldn’t rush to blame the kids—sometimes these things just happen. Go to your user folder /Library/Caches and get rid of com.apple.preferencepanes.cache. In all likelihood, your cache file got corrupted. Deleting it will create a new one that should make your regular icons reappear.

Accidental Universal Access

Q: Lately my iMac has been in a strange state: Every mouse operation evokes a spoken response, as does every attempt to open a control panel or a window. Additionally, there is always a dark rectangle outlining some object in the current window or on the desktop. I looked through various libraries for an obvious .plist file, but could find none. Restarting my Mac has not helped. Ideas?— Clay Ross

A:Allow me to offer this general advice: When your Mac unexpectedly talks back to you, zooms in on objects, activates windows and menus when you press keys on your keyboard, displays an enormous cursor, or shows you a display that looks like an X-ray image, run, don’t walk, to the Universal Access preference pane.

This System Preferences pane was designed to help people with physical limitations. You can use it to control the cursor with the keyboard or make your Mac recite the names of buttons and menu items, for example. Many of these functions can be initiated with the press of a few keys. Apple has done its best to make accidentally activating these key combinations difficult, but that can still happen.

And it happened to you. Somehow, you managed to press command-F5. This command fires up Voice Over, a helpful tool that can recite the name of the foremost application and the names of items within it, while highlighting those items (that’s the dark rectangle you’re seeing). Press command-F5 once more, and your Mac will cease its jabbering.

Export AIFF podcasts in GarageBand

Q: I create my podcasts in Apple’s GarageBand. I generally like the program, but one thing bugs me. GarageBand will export my podcasts only as compressed audio files. I’d like to export them as uncompressed AIFF files, so I can process them with other utilities that don’t work with MPEG-4 files. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do this.— From the Macworld.com forums

A: It is annoying that GarageBand doesn’t offer an obvious way to export podcast projects as AIFF files. But the operative word here is obvious. It can be done.

The key is the Podcast track that appears at the top of GarageBand’s window—the one that contains such stuff as graphics and chapter markers. Make that track go away, and you can export a podcast as an AIFF file.

Once upon a time, I would have recommended that you assemble your audio, delete the Podcast track, export your audio, have your way with the resulting AIFF file, and import that file back into GarageBand. Adam Christianson, the host of the popular MacCast podcast, offers an even better solution.

All you need to do is hide the Podcast track. To do so, select the track and choose Track: Hide Podcast Track. The Podcast track will disappear. When it does, the Share: Send Podcast To iTunes command changes to Send Song To iTunes, which lets you know that the file will be sent in the AIFF format. (When you want your Podcast track back again, just choose Track: Show Podcast Track.)

Then you can locate the original file in iTunes (control-click on the file and choose Show In Finder from the contextual menu) and do what you like with it. After you’ve processed it to your liking, create a new podcast project in GarageBand and drag the file into a track. Then add your podcasty bits and export it.

Why not just create a song project in the first place if you’re going to export your podcast as an AIFF file? Choosing a podcast project from the get-go provides you with that nice little podcast template—one that includes vocal tracks with the right effects already applied, as well as the Jingles and Radio Sounds tracks that many podcasters find useful.

This technique is also worthwhile when your podcast contains so many tracks that GarageBand bogs down. You can reduce multiple tracks into a single lossless track that maintains all the fidelity of the original but that, when you import it into a new GarageBand project, won’t be so taxing to your Mac.

[ Senior Editor Christopher Breen is the author of The iPod and iTunes Pocket Guide, second edition (Peachpit Press, 2007). ]

Not in a Playlist: There’s an easy way to track down things you haven’t bothered to put in a playlist. Put your playlists in a folder, and then create a smart playlist that finds everything that’s not in the folder.
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