Early in Mac OS X’s gestation, it became clear that Apple desired a cozier relationship between its operating system and its applications. And with each OS X update, that bond has grown stronger–but a few rough edges remain. In this month’s Mac 911, I explore several OS and application workarounds, such as finding alternative spelling checkers, moving contacts to and from Address Book, making Ink work, and running two versions of iTunes. I also offer tips for increasing AirPort range.
Another OS X Spelling Checker
Is there a way to change the spelling checker used in Apple’s Mail application?
Walt Vennell, Monroeville, New Jersey
If I’ve divined the intention of your question correctly, you’re less than tickled with OS X’s spelling checker. While I couldn’t be happier that OS X includes a systemwide spelling checker that works with a variety of compatible applica-tions, such as Mail, Text-Edit, Project Builder, and OmniWeb, I have to agree that the capabilities of this one are a little thin. More often than not, OS X’s spelling checker offers only a limited number of spelling suggestions. Thankfully, there’s an alternative: Anton Leuski’s cocoAspell (www-ciir.cs.umass.edu/ ~leouski/cocoaspell) — a free OS X implementation of Aspell, which in turn is a free, open-source spelling checker developed by Kevin Atkinson (http://aspell.sourceforge.net).
To install the utility, first drop the cocoAspell .service file into the Services folder of the appropriate Library folder (the one at the root level of your OS X volume if you want all users to have access to the spelling checker, or the one in your user’s folder if you’ll be the sole beneficiary of cocoAspell’s services). If no Services folder exists within this Library folder, create one. Then place the Spelling.prefPane folder in the PreferencePanes folder of the Library folder you’ve chosen (again, if no PreferencePanes folder exists, create one).
Now launch System Preferences, select the Spelling system preference that appears, enable the dictionaries you want to use, and log out and back in to OS X. When you next select the Spelling system preference, a dialog box will appear and let you choose to not enable cocoAspell, to enable it just this once, or to have it enabled each time you log in. cocoAspell includes dictionaries for American English, British English, Canadian English, and English. Leuski has compiled additional dictionaries for Breton, Catalan, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Faeroese, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish — all of which you can download from www-ciir.cs.umass.edu/~leouski/cocoaspell/dictionaries.html.
To enable cocoAspell within an application such as Mail, create a new message and select Edit: Spelling: Spelling. In the resulting dialog box, select the dictionary you’d like from the Dictionary pop-up menu. All cocoAspell dictionaries have (Aspell) appended to their names — American English (Aspell), for example. Once you’ve done this, you’ll notice that the list of spelling suggestions increases by leaps and bounds.
If you’re looking for a spelling checker that works with all applications on your Mac, try Casady & Greene’s excellent Spell Catcher (800/359-4920, www.casadyg.com). An OS X-compatible version should ship soon.
Is it possible to use the data in my OS X 10.2 Address Book in Microsoft Entourage X?
Dav Evans, Sydney, Australia
Yes, it is. Just launch Entourage and click on the Address Book button to reveal Entourage’s Address Book. Then open OS X 10.2’s Address Book, click in the Name pane, and press 1-A to select all the names (or 1-click to select one name at a time). Drag the names to Entourage’s Address Book to add them.
Inky Dinky Parlez-Vous
I’ve done everything I can to activate the highly touted handwriting-recognition Ink function in OS X 10.2 — including buying a new Wacom USB Intuos2 pad. So far, no joy. How the heck does one turn on this function?
Paul D. Guthrie, Maynard, Massachusetts
There’s no real trick to it. Yes, you need an OS X 10.2-compatible graphics tablet, and you have one, in the Intuos2 (sorry, OS X doesn’t support older ADB graphic tablets — nor will it ever, according to Wacom). If the Ink system preference doesn’t appear when you plug in the tablet, follow this path: your hard drive: System: Library: Components: Ink.component: Contents: SharedSupport: InkServer. Then double-click on the InkServer application. This should bring Ink to the fore. If it does but Ink fails to appear when you next log in, add InkServer to your log-in items.
It’s also possible that you’re overlooking Ink even though it’s enabled — there’s no apparent sign that Ink is on the job until you turn the Ink functions on.
To do so, launch System Preferences and click on the Ink system preference. In the resulting Ink window, click on the On button in the Settings tab to turn on handwriting recognition. When you do, up pops the InkPad window at the bottom right of the Mac’s desktop (this window sits in front of any running application). If you select Anywhere from the Allow Me To Write pop-up menu, you can use Ink’s handwriting recognition in any application. Just start writing, and a yellow sheet appears front and center. When you finish scrawling a word, it appears at the insertion point in the foremost application. If you choose Only In InkPad from the Allow Me To Write pop-up menu, handwriting will be recognized only in the InkPad application — where you can write to your heart’s content and send the text to the frontmost application by clicking on the Send button in the InkPad window.
For the sake of others considering the purchase of a graphics tablet solely for the purpose of using Ink, I should mention that Ink is not easy to use. (And yes, I do own a Newton, and Ink has a tougher time recognizing my handwriting than my Newton 2100 ever does.) Adjusting the spacing slider in the Ink system preference — the one where you tell Ink how closely spaced your handwriting is — helps, but I can’t imagine a time when using Ink will be a tenth as efficient as typing characters on the keyboard.
I have the old contact manager Dynodex 2.0, which runs in OS 9 and in OS X’s Classic mode. Is there a way to import those address lists to OS X and its Address Book?
Paul Steinberg, Incline Village, Nevada
Not directly, no. Dynodex is so old that it wouldn’t know a vCard (the contact format beloved by all modern contact managers) if one strolled up and offered to shine its shoes. But that doesn’t mean your contacts can’t have a new lease on life with OS X’s Address Book. The trick, as I mentioned in “Apple’s Information Hub” (December 2002), is to use another application as a go-between.
My go-between contact-management application of choice is Palm’s Palm Desktop 4.0 (408/503-7000, www.palm.com). I prefer Palm Desktop because it’s free (you don’t need to own a Palm OS device to download the software) and has flexible import and export options. The application began life as Claris Organizer and has retained its ability to import data files from contact managers that shuffled off this mortal coil years ago. Currently, Palm Desktop can import files created in Address Book Plus, DateBook Pro, DayMaker, Dynodex, Meeting Maker, Now Contact, Now Up-to-Date, QuickDex, and TouchBase Pro. Palm Desktop can also import data from a tab-delimited text file (a Microsoft Excel file, for example).
Once the information you want is in Palm Desktop, choose Export from the File menu; in the resulting Export: Palm Desktop dialog box, choose Addresses from the Module pop-up menu and vCard from the Format pop-up menu. Click on Export to save your addresses in a single vCard file. To add the addresses to OS X’s Address Book, drag the vCard file into the Name portion of the Address Book window.
iTunes Times Two
I recently upgraded from iTunes 2 to iTunes 3. The problem is that I prefer the Visuals in iTunes 2 to those found in the more recent version. Can I use both versions of iTunes on my Mac — one for the Visuals and the other for everything else?
Bob Rapacki, Macworld.com forums
You can, but you’ll have to suffer a couple of minor inconveniences to do so.
Minor Inconvenience Number One is that whenever you switch from one version of iTunes to the other, the iTunes Setup Assistant will appear — requiring that you click through a couple of windows.
Minor Inconvenience Number Two is that you must redirect iTunes 2 to iTunes 3’s music library. When Apple moved from iTunes 2 to iTunes 3, it changed where iTunes stores its music files by default. In Mac OS X, iTunes 2 stores its music files in your user’s folder: Documents: iTunes: iTunes Music. iTunes 3 places its music files in your user’s folder: Music: iTunes: iTunes Music. To redirect iTunes 2, select Preferences from the iTunes menu, click on the Advanced tab in the resulting iTunes Preferences window, click on the Change button, navigate to the iTunes Music folder created by iTunes 3, and click on Choose. Now click on OK to dismiss the iTunes Preferences window.
Rectifying AirPort Reception
My PowerBook G4/400 gets reasonably good AirPort reception at short distances (about 30 to 40 feet). Beyond that, reception is erratic. What can I do to make it better?
John Vella, Portland, Maine
It’s true that the AirPort range in the early Titanium PowerBooks is terrible. I’ve conducted a side-by-side test with my 400MHz Titanium PowerBook and an AirPort-equipped iMac, and in cases where the iMac exhibits perfectly reasonable reception (three dots in OS 9’s AirPort control strip), the PowerBook can’t see the Base Station at all.
Apple recommends that you move your Base Station around to gain better reception, but this isn’t much help. The antenna’s placement and the PowerBook’s titanium case guarantee poor AirPort reception. Apple has made some improvements in later PowerBooks, but they still don’t get as great a range as other Macs.
At the risk of seeming flippant, I’ll suggest that you don’t use AirPort at all. Instead, purchase a PC wireless card such as the Orinoco PC Card (866/674-6626, www.orinocowireless.com) and slip it into your laptop’s PC Card slot. These approximately $70 cards offer the kind of range you’d get from any non-PowerBook Mac, because they place the antenna outside the case. In OS 9, they behave just like an AirPort card. When inserted, the card appears on the desktop as an AirPort PC Card. To enable it, just select AirPort PC Card in the Con-nect Using pop-up menus in both the AppleTalk and TCP/IP control panels.
OS X doesn’t support third-party wireless network cards, but that doesn’t mean your wireless dreams are over. A group of selfless souls has concocted a free OS X-compatible driver for many of these cards. The driver has some limitations, however. It supports AppleTalk over IP, so if you want to contact a Mac running OS 9 or earlier, that machine must be configured to connect over TCP/IP — an option that could possibly make your own Mac more vulnerable to Internet intrusion. Also, the driver doesn’t support printing to AppleTalk printers (because the driver requires an IP address, rather than just an AppleTalk address).
You can download the driver at http://wirelessdriver.sourceforge.net.
If you want to attack the problem from the other end, you can hack your Base Station and add an external antenna to improve its reception. You’ll find instructions for doing so at http://macintouch.com/airportantenna.html#macmillan.
Tip of the Month
Among its many talents, The Omni Group’s $30 Web browser, OmniWeb (800/315-6664, www.omnigroup.com), has the power to peer into your iPod. To reveal the unseen, configure your iPod so that it mounts as a FireWire drive (select the Enable FireWire Disk Use option in the iPod Preferences window within iTunes).
Drag the iPod’s icon on top of the OmniWeb icon. OmniWeb will launch, and within the browser window, you’ll see a list of all the files on your iPod (even the invisible ones). Double-click on the iPod_Control folder, then on the Music folder inside that, and finally on one of the folders that begin with F (F01, F02, or F03, for example) inside the Music folder. To copy a music file from the iPod to your Mac, control-click on the file you want to copy, and select Download File To desktop: name of file from the resulting contextual menu (where desktop is the location to which OmniWeb normally downloads files and name of file is the name of the song). To use the QuickTime plug-in to play a song within OmniWeb, double-click on the file inside the browser window.
— Matthew Covington, Watsonville, California
If you’ve attempted to restore even a single application from the Software Restore discs included with new Macs, you know that it’s a difficult job — the installer insists that you install everything or nothing. If the discs included with the new Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors) are any indication, the days of inflexible restore discs may be at an end.
These discs allow you to restore most everything (excluding OS X, iPhoto, iTunes, iChat, or iMovie, which are installed from the OS X installer discs), just OS 9.2.2, or a specific application. However, what Apple giveth with one hand, it taketh away with the other. You cannot boot from these discs, which means that should you desire to first erase and then restore your drive, you must boot from the included OS X Installer disc, install OS X, and then restore from the Restore discs. Also, according to Apple, using these Restore discs is the only way to reinstall OS 9 — no separate OS 9 disc is included.