In this era of belt-tightening and diminished economic expectations, it’s nice to know that there are a wealth of inexpensive ways to enhance your Mac. In this month’s
for example, I offer some way-cool (and way-thrifty) solutions to nagging problems such as incorrectly named files, uninteresting email alerts, hobbled browsers, too-frisky Macs, and a recalcitrant Trash. I also offer solutions that won’t cost you a penny on getting rid of pop-up windows, accessing Word fonts, and when upgrading a Mac may not be worthwhile.
How can I go through the hundreds of thousands of files on our server and change the file names to make them OS X friendly–adding file extensions and removing forward slashes and other illegal characters, for example?
— Brad Bell, London, England
Use a copy of Frank Reiff’s $15 shareware application, A Better Finder Rename (http://www.publicspace.net/ABetterFinderRename). This simple drag-and-drop utility allows you to rename a single file or a mass of files in one fell swoop. For example, if you want to append the .aif extension to a bunch of audio files, drag them to the program’s icon and select Add At The End Of The Name from the pop-up menu. Then type <*.aif*> in the resulting Add field. A Better Finder Rename also lets you replace and remove characters, add numbers at the beginning and end of file names, make them uppercase or lowercase, and remove extensions.
Expressive E-mail Sounds
Is there a way to substitute your own mail-notification sounds when using Outlook Express 5 as an e-mail application?
— Geof Franks, Christchurch, New Zealand
When I want to do this sort of thing, I enlist the help of Expression (http://www.soundsetcentral.com), a free RealBasic program from Erik Barzeski. Using Expression you can create a custom set of sounds for Outlook Express 5’s Welcome, New Mail, Sent Mail, Mail Error, and No Mail actions. (You can also create custom sound sets for Entourage, which includes a sixth action called Reminder; these work in the OS X version too.)
Expression is very easy to use. Just click the Choose button next to the action for which you want to create a sound, and select a sound saved in the SFIL format (Mac OS 9.2 and earlier uses this for alert sounds). If you’d like to use sounds saved in other formats (WAV or AIFF, for example), simply convert them with Norman Franke’s free SoundApp (http://www.spies.com/~franke/SoundApp).
Once you’ve saved a sound set, you can install it in OS 9.2 and earlier by opening the Documents folder at the root level of your hard drive and navigating to the Microsoft User Data folder. Add the new sound set to the Entourage Sound Sets folder, if you’re using Entourage; or the Sound Sets folder, if you’d like to add sounds to Outlook Express.
The procedure is the same for Entourage running in OS X, with the exception that you’ll find the Microsoft User Data folder inside the Documents folder in your users folder (Xcube : Users :
: Documents : Microsoft User Data : Entourage Sound Sets, for example).
In the past, I made a backup copy of my Netscape Communicator Address Book using the Export command in case something went wrong with my computer. I can’t find a way to do this in Netscape 6.2.
— Ing Francisco Aguirre, Guatemala City, Guatemala
‘Tis too true, I’m afraid, that Netscape 6.2 lacks a command for exporting your Address Book. Thankfully, you can work around this inexplicable shortcoming by simply copying the Address Book file, called abook.mab, from your Mac’s hard disk to the backup media of your choice. Follow this path in Mac OS 9.2 and earlier: Xcube : Documents : Mozilla : Profiles :
oddly named folder
: abook.mab, where
is the name of your profile (mine would be Christopher Breen, for example) and
oddly named folder
has a name consisting of a seemingly random bunch of characters followed by the .slt extension. In OS X, follow this path:
your user folder
: Library : Mozilla : Profiles :
oddly named folder
If you really, really want to export your Address Book, there is a way. Download a copy of Mozilla (http://www.mozilla.org), Netscape’s open-source variant. Conveniently enough, Mozilla uses the files stored in the Mozilla folder that’s created when you install Netscape 6. Unlike Netscape, Mozilla includes an Export command that appears in the File menu when the Address Book is open. You may find you like Mozilla so much that you’ll never use Netscape again.
I love my new Power Mac G4, but I also love my old word processor, WordPerfect 3.5. With such a fast Mac, my WordPerfect documents scroll far too quickly. Is there any way to slow down scrolling speed?
— Fritz Dumville, Providence, Rhode Island
Absolutely. Just download a copy of Marc Moini’s $12 shareware utility, Smart Scroll (http://www.marcmoini.com/SmartScroll.html). This control panel allows you to set six levels of scrolling speed as well as configure windows so they have one scroll arrow at each end of the scroll bar, both arrows on the bottom, or both arrows at each end. Smart Scroll can also provide a
proportional scroll box,
which helps indicate how much of the document is visible on your screen (as can the Smart Scrolling feature in the Appearance control panel).
Smart Scroll is not OS X native, but the speed-governor feature works in OS X’s Classic environment.
When we select Empty Trash from the Finder menu in OS X, the Trash remains full and we receive an error about not having enough privileges to empty the Trash. What can we do?
— Manuela and Christina Cross, Modesto, California
Grab BatChmod, Renaud Boisjoly’s free privilege-changing utility, from http://homepage.mac.com/arbysoft. BatChmod allows you to fiddle with file and folder privileges–the kind that can keep you from deleting a file–in an easy-to-use graphical environment rather than via OS X’s easy-to-use-only-if-you’re-a-Unix-wonk Terminal. BatChmod lets you not only change the Read, Write, and Execute privileges for the Owner, Group, and Everyone, but choose a different Owner and Group (for example, you can change the Owner to root or nobody and the Group to wheel or admin).
Thankfully, you needn’t muck with these privileges to empty the Trash. Just select Force Empty Trash from the BatChmod menu, and the program will attempt to set the proper privileges and, if necessary, unlock the locked files in your Trash and any other local Trashes (you may recall that each user in OS X has an individual Trash). Finally, it will empty the Trash (see “Trash Talking”).
Stop the Pop-Up
How do I stop pop-up windows from appearing in my browser? My poor little dial-up connection and I have had it with offers from casinos, companies that make spy cams, and those Web sites unsuitable for discussion in a family-oriented magazine such as
— Jon R. Conti, Santa Monica, California
For those of you who haven’t kept up with the payments to your ISP and have therefore never encountered one of these things, a pop-up is a window that suddenly appears on a Web page when you enter or exit it. They usually contain advertising, although I’ve seen some that carry an important message about the site or a survey. Pop-up windows have become more prevalent lately thanks to these tougher economic times. As you might imagine, a lot of people ignore Web ads, and some sites have determined that if they just made the advertising a little more obvious–as in right-in-your-face obvious–the ads would generate greater sales.
Given that a number of sites overuse these ads to the point where you immediately slam Command-W before the windows fully draw (and you swear to never revisit the site), I understand your desire to make them pop off. Your browser offers the means for doing so.
Functional Font Field
I occasionally need to change fonts in a Word 2001 document. Because I have a lot of fonts, it’s a real bother to scroll slowly through the font list in the Formatting Palette or Font menu to find the font I need. Please tell me there’s an easier way.
— Ian Pimm, Portland, Oregon
There’s an easier way. Click in the Name field in the Font section of Word’s Formatting Palette (View : Formatting Palette) and type the first few letters of the font you want to use–
for example, if you want to choose Palatino. Press Return and the font should be ready to do your bidding.
While we’re on the topic of typing into fields in Word’s Formatting palette, here’s another trick: Select some text and alter the formatting in some way–create an indent, choose a new font, change the text’s color, and make everything bold, for example. Now click in the Style field within the Font portion of the Formatting palette, and type a name. You’ve just created a new style that you can recall by selecting its name from the Style drop-down menu.
I have one of the original PCI Power Mac G4s, with a 400MHz processor and a 10GB hard disk. Is it possible to upgrade to a faster processor and a larger hard drive? Or should I discard it and buy a newer model?
— C.B. Kennell, Oakland, California
From one C. B. to another, here’s the straight dope: Although Apple is flinging G4 processors with megahertz ratings double that of your Power Mac’s into the consumer-oriented iMac line, you won’t find such high-octane specs in upgrade processors such as those from PowerLogix (512/795-2978, http://www.powerlogix.com), Sonnet Technologies (949/587-3500, http://www.sonnettech.com), and XLR8 (770/564-5682, http://www.xlr8.com). As we go to press, G4 ZIF upgrades–the kind you’d use in your Power Mac–top out at 500MHz.
Frankly, the modest performance gain you’ll realize isn’t worth the $400 you’d have to pay for one of these upgrades. I’d wait for faster upgrades or until the lure of that cool new iMac becomes too much to resist.
Upgrading the hard drive, on the other hand, is a wonderful idea–and easy to do. You can either keep the hard drive you have and add another IDE drive–configuring it as a slave and plugging it into the free IDE cable–or replace your original hard drive with a much more expansive IDE one. You’ll find instructions for upgrading the hard drive in your Mac’s manual.
Tip of the Month
Many people have expressed disappointment that OS X is missing OS 9’s customizable function keys. This is very inconvenient for programs that use the function keys extensively (various business applications, not to mention Baldur’s Gate II). There’s a way around this, however.
Boot your machine in OS 9.x (by selecting it from the Startup Disk preference pane) and open the Keyboard control panel. Click the Function Keys button and turn on the Enable Hot Function Keys option.
Turn off the Use F1 Through F5 As Hot Function Keys option. Run the Startup Disk control panel, select your OS X volume, and restart.
Pressing the F1 to F6 keys in OS X will no longer trigger the default commands. If you have a PowerBook or iBook with an fn (function) key, you can invoke the brightness, volume, number lock, and mute functions by holding down the fn key and pressing the corresponding F-key.
Since we’re focusing on all that’s bright and beautiful in the world of inexpensive tools, allow me to list a few of my favorite OS X enhancers.
Dan Wood’s Watson (http://www.karelia.com/watson) is a scrumptious $29, OS X-only Web-searching utility that allows you to scour eBay auctions; check exchange rates, stock quotes, and flight times; locate images on the Web; search your local movie and TV listings (as well as view QuickTime previews for some movies); track packages; and hunt down recipes. As Wood and associates develop more plug-ins, it will do even more. Apple should throw buckets of money at Wood and incorporate Watson into a future version of Sherlock. (For more information on Watson, see
Universal USB Driver
OS X-compatible USB device drivers are still in short supply. If your favorite USB mouse or trackball won’t work under OS X, give Alessandro Montalcini’s (http://www.usboverdrive.com) $20 USB Overdrive X a try. USB Overdrive is available in a version for OS 9.2 and earlier as well.
Speaking of missing drivers, OS X woefully undersupports scanners (particularly the SCSI variety). Hamrick Software (http://www.hamrick.com) comes to the rescue with VueScan, a $40 utility that may enable your scanner to work with OS X. VueScan doesn’t support all scanners (owners of Umax USB models are out of luck, for example), but if yours is on the list, this may be your only option for getting it to work with OS X.