See and use huge icons in OS X 10.5

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One of OS X 10.5’s new features is a revamped Finder, which includes a Cover Flow view mode, much like that seen in iTunes.

In Cover Flow mode, you can see exactly what your image and movie files look like, for example. But it can also browse other file types, showing previews of text and PDF files, letting you play audio files, and more. One of the side effects of Cover Flow is that you can see everything on your drive in really large sizes—much larger, in fact, than the 128-by-128-pixel icon size that prior releases of OS X handled. Blowing up a 128-by-128 icon to larger sizes really doesn’t work all that well; you get lots of jaggies.

There are signs, however, that Apple has realized this and has started down the path to make Cover Flow a truly immersive way to browse your system. You see, OS X 10.5 supports truly huge icons—up to a staggering 512-by-512. To put that number in perspective, the original Mac screen was 512-by-342 (and an iPhone’s screen is but 320-by-480). These large icons aren’t everywhere (yet?), but when they’re present, the results in cover flow mode can be quite impressive.

As an example, in the Finder, navigate to System -> Library -> CoreServices. In the CoreServices folder, control-click on CoreTypes.bundle and choose Show Package Contents from the pop-up menu. In the new window that opens, navigate into Contents -> Resources. Now set your view mode to Cover Flow (View -> As Cover Flow, or Command-4). Resize the window so that the graphical area is large, then scroll down (in the list view area) and click on, and enjoy the view. You can use use the arrow keys (either left and right or up and down) to move through the icons, and see some others, like this one.

Keep in mind the above is a small representation of the graphical goodness you’ll get on a large-screen monitor. There are lots of icons in this file to browse—many in the… range, and then one that’s particularly…interesting, a bit further down the list. Scroll down to public.generic-pc.icns in the list and get a little laugh—that’s the icon you’ll see when you connect to a Windows share. And no, I won’t spoil it by including a picture here.

If you like these icons, you can find more in the Finder’s bundle, too. It’s also in the CoreServices folder; just control-click it and use the Show Package Contents menu to open and navigate into Contents -> Resources again. You can make it easier to view just the 512-by-512 icons by clicking the Size column in the text area below the Cover Flow view—this will sort by size, grouping all the huge icons together, as they’re much larger than their 128-by-128 counterparts. Some of these icons are absolutely stunning; I particularly like the Xserve icon in the CoreTypes bundle.

Now for the one-sentence hint part of all this eye candy: Double-click on any icon on your screen, and it will open in Preview—ready for you to save elsewhere for use in personal projects.

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