Mac OS X Hints - Sept. 2007

Hidden QuickTime frame numbers

Mac OS X is full of unexpected touches. Hold down the shift key before you minimize something to the Dock or activate Dashboard, for example, to see the graphical effect in supercool ultraslow motion. Likewise, the new QuickTime 7.1.6 has a tiny feature you’ve probably missed—it lets you see video time codes and frame numbers.

Time codes show you exactly what point of a movie you’re at, which is important when you’re trying to make precise edits. And I find frame numbers even more useful: I often want to make a cut or a splice on a particular frame, and knowing its number makes that a lot easier.

How do you view these features? At the bottom of the QuickTime Player window, next to the progress bar, a time stamp shows the position of the playhead in hours, minutes, and seconds. If you’ve updated to QuickTime 7.1.6, try clicking on the time display. When you do, you’ll see a drop-down menu with (depending on the source of your clip) up to two additional display options: Non-Drop-Frame and Frame Number (see “New Playback Options”).

Transform Smart Playlists into regular playlists

If you’ve used iTunes’ Smart Playlist feature, you know that you can sometimes get very interesting results from it. Say you have created a smart playlist (File: New Smart Playlist) that chooses songs that are in the Latin Dance genre and that you haven’t played more than two times. You’ve also chosen the Limit It To 25 Items Selected By Random option, as well as the Live Updating option, which continually updates the playlist. If one particular 25-song selection happens to be the perfect soundtrack for your weekly salsa-dancing practice, you could well lose it with the next live update. But you don’t have to—if you know a few tricks.

There are two ways to create a standard playlist from the contents of a smart playlist. The first is to open the smart playlist, select all the songs, and then drag them to an empty area in the leftmost column in iTunes. A new untitled playlist containing all the tracks will appear.

The second way is to drag the smart playlist from its present location and drop it on the Playlists header. The header won’t be momentarily highlighted, but a new standard playlist with the same name as the dropped smart playlist will appear at the bottom of your list of playlists. (This doesn’t work if the smart playlist is in a folder; however, you can move it out of the folder, drag and drop it on the Playlists header, and then move it back to the folder when you’re done.) You can also use this trick to turn a Party Shuffle playlist into a standard playlist—just drag it to the Playlists header.

Work with links within multiple Safari windows

If you’re using Safari to do some heavy-duty browsing, you’ve probably got multiple windows and multiple tabs open at once. For instance, when doing research for a paper, you may open Wikipedia in one window and Google in another, and then command-click to open multiple tabs within each window.

What happens if you see a link in a background window that you’d like to open? Try to just click on it, and the background window will move to the front, requiring that you click on the link again to open it. Try instead to command-click on the link in the background window, and it will open in a new tab. That isn’t too surprising, as that’s the normal Safari behavior for command-clicking on a link (if you’ve enabled tabbed browsing in Safari’s preferences). What is surprising is that the link opens in a tab in the foreground window, leaving the background window right where it is. That messes things up if you’re trying to keep your sites separate—for instance, all Google search results in one window and all Wikipedia pages in the other.

Although you can’t get that link to open in a new tab in the background window, you can make it open in that window’s current tab—doing so just requires a bit of mouse gymnastics. First press and hold the Command key, and then click and hold on the background link you’d like to open. While still holding the mouse button down, release the Command key; then release the mouse button.

QuickTime movie-resizing tricks

When viewing a movie in QuickTime Player, you might have used the View menu to change the size of the playback window. You can choose between Half Size (command-0), Actual Size (command-1), Double Size (command-2), Fit To Screen (command-3), and—if you’ve upgraded to the Pro version of QuickTime—Full Screen (command-F). However, QuickTime offers two other, somewhat hidden, ways for you to resize your movies.

If you hold down the option key and drag on the window-resizing triangle at the lower right corner of the window, QuickTime will resize the movie only to those resolutions that it can display most smoothly. Depending on the size of your monitor, this may give you more viewing options than the four provided by the View menu.

The other method of resizing is to use the shift key while resizing the movie. When you hold the shift key down, QuickTime removes all constraints on the size of the movie. This can actually be useful—if you receive a clip that seems to have the incorrect aspect ratio, you can use this trick to set it to something more realistic. Of course, you can also distort clips for the sheer fun of it. After you’re finished, simply press command-1, and your clip will return to its default size and aspect ratio.

New Playback Options: Tucked into the QuickTime 7.1.6 update is a new—and if you edit video, handy—menu. Click on the time display to show options for seeing a video’s time code or frame numbers.
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