Mac OS X Hints - Nov. 2007

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Using URLs in iCal

It’s easy to include a link to a Web page with an event or to-do item in Apple’s iCal. Just create the event (File: New Event) and then type the Web address in the Info pane’s URL field. (If you don’t see this field, choose View: Show Info.) Once you do, you can jump to that URL from within the event. But that’s not the only way to include URLs—you can also create events or to-do items that have a clickable link as their actual title.

Drag a URL from your browser’s address bar directly into iCal, for instance, and iCal will create a new event with that URL as its title. When you click on this event’s title in iCal, the specified URL will load in your browser. If you use Month view, you might think it’s now impossible to edit this event, because anywhere you click seems to take you to your browser. Switch back to iCal and press command-I to open the Info pane and then change the event’s particulars from there.

Alternatively, you can create your own hyperlinked events and to-do items by typing a URL inside angle brackets as part of the item’s title. For example:

Meet with Apple <>
. After you finalize the event or to-do item, you’ll see that the URL portion of the title functions as a clickable link while the text outside the angle brackets does not. You wouldn’t want to use a superlong URL as a clickable link, but you might find this approach useful if you have Web-related events or to-dos. (And you can always use the site to shrink ultralong addresses.)

Perhaps even more of a time-saver is iCal’s ability to let you link events to local files, so you can easily jump to a saved party invitation for an upcoming event or a document that you need to complete as a to-do item (see “Link Events to Local Files”).

Before you can link to a local file, you need to know its URL. The easiest way to track that down is to use your browser. (Don’t use Safari. I tested this in the Camino Project’s Camino, Mozilla’s Firefox, and the Omni Group’s OmniWeb.) Type the following URL into a browser’s address bar:

file:///Users/your user name
(yes, three slashes after the word file ). Press return and your browser should display a page that lists the content’s of, in this case, your user folder. Navigate through the links until you see the file or folder you seek.

Once you’ve found it, control-click on its name and then choose Copy Link Location (or Copy URL) from the contextual menu. Switch back to iCal, create your event or to-do item, and then select the URL field and press command-V to paste the address into it. Now it’s a simple matter to access this file or folder—just click on the word URL in the Info pane and choose Go To Location from the menu that appears. Voilà! Easy access to your file when and where you need it.

Copy iCal event information

Have you ever wanted to capture the basics of an iCal appointment so you could use the information in another program? If you drag an iCal event to the desktop (or other location in the Finder), you’ll wind up with an .ics, or iCal calendar format, file. While that’s helpful in moving the event to another calendar, it’s not so useful for extracting text about the event.

There are two simple ways to get event text out of iCal. You can select the event and then choose Edit: Copy (command-C) to copy it. Switch to the destination application—a new message in Mail, a TextEdit document, or what have you—and then choose Edit: Paste (command-V) to paste the copied event. What you get won’t be perfectly formatted, but it’s good enough for e-mailing to a friend or coworker.

You can even copy and paste multiple events—just hold down the command key as you select the events, and then copy and paste them. You’ll have to insert a line break between each event yourself, though, because this process doesn’t do it for you.

If you’re more of a mouse user than a keyboard user, try another trick: Drag and drop the event from iCal directl y to another program.

Trim Mail attachments

If you use Apple’s Mail and are short on hard-disk space, don’t forget one potential disk hog: your e-mail attachments. By default, Mail keeps a copy of all your attachments, even if you routinely save these files elsewhere. Over time, you can build up quite a collection of old attachments. On my Mac, for example, I have roughly 400MB of attached files, even though I’ve saved all those files in other places.

So how can you track these files down? If you’re running the Mac OS X 10.4 version of Mail, select Mailbox: New Smart Mailbox, and when the dialog box appears, name the mailbox

Messages With Attachments
. Select Contains Attachments from the pop-up menu and then click on OK. This mailbox will now contain a convenient list of all e-mail messages you’ve received that include attachments.

Leave the smart mailbox sorted by date to see your oldest attachments, which might be good candidates for deletion or attachment removal (Message: Remove Attachments). Alternatively, click on the Size column header to sort your attachments by size, and then scan the messages with large attachments. If you’ve already saved these files, delete their respective messages or remove the attachments.

You don’t have to pick through and delete attachments one by one either. Remove attachments from multiple messages all at once by selecting them while holding down the shift or command key, and then choosing Message: Remove Attachments.

Rotate individual PDF pages in Preview

Have you ever downloaded a PDF brochure that has a mix of portrait and landscape pages? In Preview you can use Tools: Rotate Left (or Rotate Right) to flip the pages around, but the problem with that command is that it flips all the pages, not just the one you’d like to turn. An alternative method is to use the toolbar’s Rotate Left and Rotate Right buttons—you might have to select View: Customize Toolbar to add them if you haven’t done so already. However, they too rotate the entire document.

So here’s how to make Preview rotate just the currently displayed page in your PDF: hold down the option key before selecting Rotate Left or Rotate Right (either the toolbar buttons or the menu commands). With the option key held down, only the current page will rotate. (And if you save the document, it will be saved with the single page rotated.)

[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Web site. ]

Link Events to Local Files: If you use iCal to remind yourself about projects related to files on your Mac, go one step further: link directly to those files in the event itself.
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