Apple has provided not only a completely new operating system but also a collection of new applications and utilities to show it off. Like the MacPaint and MacWrite programs on the earliest Macs, the new Mac OS X applications exist as much to demonstrate the promise (and polish) of OS X as to do their primary jobs.
Take the Clock application. Despite its location in the Utilities folder, its actual utility is debatable. After all, if you want to know what time it is, you need only glance at the right side of the menu bar. But when you adjust the transparency of Clock’s analog display so that it floats faintly over a document window without obscuring your work, the elegance of OS X’s Aqua interface is undeniably apparent. A similar claim can be made about the updated Stickies application. No, the world hasn’t been clamoring for a better, prettier Stickies app, but this one sure
Given the resources Apple surely invested just to get the first version of OS X out the door, it’s a little surprising that apps as nonutilitarian as Clock or as inessential as the Chess program were included at all. But most of Apple’s OS X applications serve more practical needs. Console, Process Viewer, Terminal, and NetInfo Manager, for instance, help Unix and network geeks get their work done. Internet Connect, Grab, QuickTime Player, Image Capture, Calculator, and TextEdit take care of basic functions–often far more elegantly than their predecessors. And showing its commitment to open-source standards, Apple includes Applet Launcher (for Java applets), too.
Here’s a look at the most-important applications that come with OS X. And to help you get some OS X dirt under your nails while you wait for Carbon apps to appear later this year, we’ve also included some tips on using them.
For Apple to call Address Book an application is somewhat misleading. This is not what used to be called, in pre-handheld days, a “personal information manager,” or PIM. Address Book is not what you’ll use to address your holiday newsletter or to keep track of birthdays. Rather, Address Book is like a part of Apple’s Mail application (see “Mail Review,” elsewhere in this feature) that has been split off into its own app–kind of like
Joanie Loves Chachi
was spun off from
Every e-mail program has some kind of address book where you can keep a list of e-mail addresses that you frequently use. Address Book provides that functionality in stand-alone form. Its primary purpose at present is to provide address-book functionality to Mail, but there’s no reason it couldn’t work with other e-mail programs or interact directly with your handheld in the future. Address Book supports the vCard specification for personal information–a standard endorsed by everyone from Microsoft to Palm. Address Book lets you save individual addresses as vCards, essentially electronic business cards. They can be sent (by e-mail or IR beam) as files and then imported into applications such as Address Book by dragging and dropping.
Putting It in Contacts
When you open Address Book, a window lists all of your contacts. This view lets you see only each contact’s name, phone number, and e-mail address. To view more information, you must open a contact’s record.
There are two easy ways to add contacts. One is to import them from a tab-delimited list. If you keep e-mail addresses in a PIM such as Palm Desktop, it’s easy to save your contacts in a text file and then use Address Book’s File: Import command. If you want to import addresses from a different e-mail program’s address book, things might get trickier. Check out the
eMailman Web site
(http://emailman .com/conversion/#addrmac) for tips on importing address books from various programs.
The other approach is to use Address Book’s Add Sender command (command-Y) to quickly add a bunch of e-mail addresses. Say you have a folder of saved messages from your friends. Select them, and redirect them to yourself from within your e-mail program. (Don’t forward them or they’ll be sent to you from yourself.) Send these messages; then quit your e-mail program before it has a chance to check your mailbox. Log on to OS X’s Mail program to receive the messages that you just redirected to yourself. Select them, and press command-Y.
Address Book has a few other cool tricks, as well. To put a vCard from Address Book onto your desktop, click on the address’s head icon and drag the vCard to where you want it (see ”
Desktop Business Cards
“). If you receive a vCard that you’d like to add to Address Book, double-click on the vCard, and it will open in the Address Book application–with a button that allows you to add it.
Every vCard has a field for a picture. It’s simple to add a photo to this field: you just drag and drop a JPEG, GIF, TIFF, PNG, or PDF file. Apple says you’ll get the best results using a file that’s 64 by 64 pixels, but you can get acceptable results with photos nowhere near that size or proportion, as the following example illustrates.
1. First, create a new contact record in Address Book.
2. In the Name fields, enter
columnist and beloved industry figure).
3. Enter Andy’s e-mail address:
email@example.com. This step is essential, because without an e-mail address, a record cannot contain a picture.
4. Using Microsoft Internet Explorer, visit www.andyi.com.
5. Scroll down to the “unnaturally flattering” photo of Andy; click and hold the mouse on it to download it. Save it to the desktop for easy access.
6. Quit Internet Explorer.
7. Drag the photo from the desktop to the Picture field on the address record you just created. Once Andy’s face appears in the field, you can click on Save. Andy Ihnatko’s name, e-mail address, and photo should now appear in your Address Book.
Adding a photo to a record has one immediate benefit: every time you get a message in OS X’s Mail application from that e-mail address, the person’s photo will appear in the upper right corner of the Address Book window. Of course, to test our example you’d have to get an e-mail from Andy Ihnatko; fortunately, he’s a prolific correspondent.
Before 1984, most computers used what was essentially a “terminal” interface. You may remember it well: the blinking orange cursor waiting for you to type something such as
on a black screen. The Mac changed all that, as the first personal computer to have a GUI (graphical user interface). So it may seem odd that Mac OS X includes Terminal, an application that lets you access the Unix command line underneath the interface.
Why would Apple catapult us back to the early eighties? Well, even though you’ll be just fine if you never venture beyond OS X’s Aquified programs, you can do much more with OS X by taking control of the command line. You can use OS X’s built-in suite of Unix commands to perform a wide range of tasks, from finding hidden files to deleting files you’re unable to put in the Trash Can. (See ”
Take Command of Mac OS X,” How-to, for help with using the command line.)
But you don’t have to limit yourself to the commands under OS X’s hood. The Internet abounds with Unix applications that you can compile and run from the command line. For instance, you can use pine (a popular text-based e-mail client) and mmap (an application that scans IP addresses for open ports, helping you find security holes in your network). You can also use the command line to create
scripts (similar to AppleScripts) that enable your Mac to perform tasks such as copying a set of files to a removable disk and then compressing them. Using a script with the Unix
command–which lets you schedule system functions such as copying or synchronizing files–you can even have your Mac run scripts in your absence.
Hey, Good Looking
Before you dive into using the command line, you may want to try customizing Terminal’s appearance. For example, you can change the size of the Terminal window if you want to see more or longer lines of text than are visible in the default setting, 80 by 24 characters. Simply go to Terminal’s Preferences dialog box and click on General to get to the window-size options. Keep in mind, however, that if you access a computer remotely, Terminal will use the standard 80-by-24-characters setting on the remote display. The result could look rather odd.
You can also go for a whole new look by customizing the font and background colors of the Terminal window. You do this from within the Colors and General panels in the Preferences dialog box (see ”
Perhaps a more useful trick is making the Terminal window semitransparent, so you can see other applications while you’re using Terminal. To adjust transparency, type
defaults write com.apple .Terminal TerminalOpaqueness .4
in the command line:
is the level of transparency; the higher the number, the more opaque Terminal’s window. One limitation is that all you’ll be able to see through it are your Carbon and Cocoa applications.
Grab is a simple program that performs an essential task: capturing screen images as TIFF files. Apple no doubt had to create Grab so that the developers working on OS X applications could illustrate on-screen help and instructions. The program is useful for the rest of us, too, since it offers an easy way to quickly grab low-resolution images off the screen. And Grab has a couple of nifty features that far outstrip the old keystroke combinations of early Mac OS iterations: for instance, you can choose the cursor you’d like to appear in your screenshot, take timed shots, or choose a portion rather than the entire screen.
Grab is also one of the applications that appears as a service in other applications. To see how this works, open the TextEdit application from the Applications folder. Type in some text, and then choose Services: Grab: Selection from the TextEdit menu. After you select a portion of the screen as directed, Grab inserts it into your text window.–
NetInfo Manager is a powerful administration tool, but it’s not for the average user. If you’re a system administrator, or if you’ve had experience managing Unix computers that used the NetInfo Database or Mac OS X Server, you’re a prime candidate for putting this application to work.
You use NetInfo Manager primarily to perform Unix administration tasks. You can use NetInfo Manager to mount NFS directories, for instance (Network File System is a Unix file-sharing standard for localnetworks). Since OS X stores user and password information in the NetInfo database, you can also use NetInfo Manager (instead of System Preferences) to make changes to user accounts. If the database is shared on a network, you can administer user accounts on multiple Macs and Unix machines.
Are You Ready for Your Mystery App?
There’s nothing Mac-like about the NetInfo database, and the NetInfo Manager utility is only remotely Mac-like. Making changes in this application–such as selecting an item and pressing the delete key–can cause damage and even make OS X unusable on your Mac. Be sure you know how to use this program before opening it.
It’s not easy to obtain help in using NetInfo Manager. Don’t even bother looking to the Help menu, which will tell you only, “Help isn’t available for NetInfo Manager.” Fortunately, you
access information from the Unix command line. Open Terminal (Applications: Utilities), and type the command
in the Terminal window. This will bring up a Unix manual (circa 1990) that defines the various aspects and parameters of the NetInfo database. In order to scroll through the manual, just press the return key. When the percentage displayed at the bottom of the Terminal window reaches 100, you have reached the end of the document.
Getting into NetInfo Manager
Except for its Aqua interface, this NetInfo Manager is the same as the Mac OS X Server version. The top half of its main window consists of a Directory Browser that looks like the Finder’s column view. However, NetInfo
are not folders in the file system but subgroups of the database. When you click on a NetInfo directory, the bottom portion of the NetInfo Manager window will display Property fields and a corresponding value. You can edit the field names and values or create new directories. To edit them, click on Users and then on a user name. This will let you see and edit the user’s name, short name, password, password hint, and other attributes.
If you need maximum control over a system so you can do low-level Unix troubleshooting, log in to NetInfo Manager as the root user. This will give you access to every folder in OS X–even the invisible ones. (Unless you’re sure of what you’re doing, though, skip this trick; it gives you so much control that you can endanger your entire system.)
To log in as the root user, click on the padlock icon in the lower left portion of the NetInfo Manager window, and type in your administrator password (the password you chose when you installed OS X). Now go to the Domain menu, select Security, and choose Enable Root User from the submenu. You’ll be asked to create a password for the root domain. Do so, and you’ll be able to log in as the user Root.–
The Last Word
The extra applications that come on the Mac OS X installation disc are certainly not the be-all and end-all of what we can do with this new operating system. Instead, they simply whet our appetites for the feast that will be available in the Mac’s near future.
is a former editor of
Associate Lab Analyst
writes about Mac OS X in his weekly online column (www.macworld.com/subject/macosx/).
is the author of
How the Mac Works
(Que, 2000) and creator of the MacWindows.com Web site.
Get in touch with your inner geek-change Terminal’s look by using green Monaco text on a black background (think Apple II).
The Key to Change
You can use NetInfo Manager to make changes to Mac OS X user names, passwords, and hints; all are stored in the NetInfo database.