Light Up Your Desktop
The Desktop tab of the Desktop & Screen Saver preference pane contains a Solid Colors option—just in case you’re sick of the gorgeous full-color images and patterns Apple provides. At first glance, it looks as though you have 10 colors to pick from, but there are actually 11: if you click to the right of what appears to be the last color (Solid Mint), you’ll set your desktop to solid white.
Why might you want a white desktop? It’s possible that you just like white, of course, or maybe you want a neutral background behind a screenshot. But one interesting use of this setting is as an additional light source for an iSight. If you’ve ever tried conducting a video chat in a dimly lit room, you’ve probably noticed that your face takes on a blue cast (from the standard Aqua background). Set the desktop to all white, though, and you’ll not only add light to the room but also prevent yourself from turning blue in the face.
Group Movies with iPhoto Smart Albums
Apple’s iPhoto (part of the iLife ’05 suite, $79;
) isn’t just for photos anymore—it can also store most movie clips. Given the program’s organizational strengths, this is a great way to keep track of those 30-second snippets you record with your digital camera. Here are a couple of ways to use iPhoto 5’s skills to organize your clips further.
First, iPhoto automatically attaches the keyword Movie to imported movie clips. That makes it easy to use a smart album to find movies. Just select File: New Smart Album, or press Command-option-N. Give the album a name, and set the three pop-up menus to read Keyword Is Movie. Click on OK when you’re done, and you’ll have a new smart album that contains all marked movies.
But what if you’ve been playing around with keywords and you’ve unmarked some imported movies? In that case, you can modify the smart album to find movies by their file type as well. Control-click on the smart album and select Edit Smart Album from the contextual menu. In the sheet that appears, click on the plus sign (+) next to the first rule. Create a new rule and set the conditions to Filename Contains .avi (including the dot). Click on the plus sign again and create new versions of this rule, changing just the file-name portion each time—add a rule for files ending in
. You need each file to match only one of these conditions, so go to the Match pop-up menu at the top of the sheet and select the Any option. Click on OK (see first screenshot). This revised rule will find
the movies in your iPhoto database.
Quickly Size iPhoto Thumbnails
If you’re an iPhoto 5 user, three keyboard shortcuts can save time and make iPhoto more responsive. In Edit mode, press 0, 1, or 2 to change the zoom level of your image—0 zooms the image to the largest size that will fit in the window, 1 makes one pixel on your screen equal to one pixel in your image, and 2 makes two pixels on your screen equal to one pixel in your image (a 2x zoom, in other words).
You can also use these shortcuts in normal Browse mode, though the keys have different effects. Pressing the 0 key produces very small thumbnails. Pressing the 1 key sets each image’s thumbnail size to fill the available space. Pressing the 2 key displays thumbnails at their native resolutions (240 pixels in either height or width). This last shortcut offers a huge speed boost; when iPhoto displays thumbnails at their native resolutions, it doesn’t have to waste time scaling them, so thumbnails appear very quickly.
Tiger’s Dashboard application lets you instantly access a number of useful utilities (Apple calls them Widgets), including weather, stock charts, iCal events, and more. One of the included Widgets is Stickies, a Dashboard version of the longtime Mac application.
While the Widget is great, you may tire of its pastel tones (accessed by clicking on the small letter
in the lower right corner of the note). Luckily, they’re quite easy to change, although you’ll lose some of the stock colors when you add your own. To do so, you’ll need an image-editing program, such as Lemke Software’s GraphicConverter or Adobe Photoshop, that supports PNG images.
In the Finder, navigate to the top-level /Library/ Widgets folder. Control-click on the Stickies widget and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. In the new window that opens, navigate into the Images folder. Here you’ll find each of the colors used in the Stickies widget.
You’ll need to decide which color you don’t mind losing. If you want to change the default Stickies color, use the yellow.png file; otherwise, choose a color that you don’t use very often. Once you’ve decided on a color, drag and drop it onto the desktop to create a copy. (Leave the Finder window open; you’ll use it again shortly.) Duplicate the file on your desktop by pressing Command-D, and keep the duplicate copy in a safe location. You’ll need this backup if you ever decide to revert to the original color.
Next, open the original image in your image-editing program. Here you can do basically anything you want—add gradients and text, for instance (see the middle screenshot). Once you’re done editing, save the file back to the desktop, using the same name as the original and applying the PNG format.
Switch back to the Finder. Drag and drop your modified file into the still-open Images folder. When you do so, the Finder will tell you that you can’t move the item because you can’t modify the Images folder. Click on Authenticate. When asked, choose to replace the original file. Enter your password when prompted.
And that’s it. Reactivate Dashboard by pressing F12. Click on the plus sign (+) in the corner of the screen to bring up the Dashboard bar. Drag the Stickies widget off the bar to create a new Stickies instance. Click on the i button to turn the Stickies note over, and then choose your modified color (if you changed the default yellow, you can skip this step).
You may lose your changes during system upgrades, so keep a copy of all your modified colors in a backup directory. To undo these changes, drag the original file into the Images folder and authenticate as required. Just make sure that this file has the same name as the modified color you’re trying to replace.
Soup Up iPhoto 5 Keyword Searches
If you take a lot of photos, iPhoto’s Keywords feature can make finding the right ones a lot easier. For instance, select a bunch of photos from your most recent vacation, make sure the Keywords section of iPhoto is visible (click on the small key icon), and then drag the selected photos onto the Vacation keyword. Now you’ll be able to find these in a snap.
One of iPhoto 5’s nicer features is that it lets you search for images using more than one keyword. Click on the keywords you’d like to include (they’ll turn blue), and iPhoto will run an AND search, finding all photos that have all highlighted keywords. But what if you want to run a search that
one or more keywords? For example, you want to see pictures of Aunt Jeanne at your birthday party, but not those with Uncle Jeff hovering in the background. Here’s the secret: option-click on the keyword you want to exclude. The chosen keyword(s) will now appear in red, not blue (see the bottom screenshot). iPhoto will find images that have the chosen (blue) keywords but not the unwanted (red) keywords.
In the previous example, you’d click on the Birthday Party and Aunt Jeanne keywords, and then option-click on the Uncle Jeff keyword. Using this technique, you can quickly find the photos you’d like to see—but for maximum flexibility, assign your keywords liberally when you import new pictures. You can assign keywords by clicking on the small key icon in the main iPhoto window and then dragging images onto the keyword you’d like to assign to those pictures.
Using this special smart album, you can easily collect all your movie clips in iPhoto 5—clips marked with the Movie keyword
If you have a bit of time and an image-editing program, you can free yourself from pastel-hued Stickies notes.Using iPhoto’s ability to exclude certain keywords, you can build powerful searches. Here, I’m selecting only New York City images that don’t deal with kids or vacations.
OS X 101: Secrets of the Dock, Part 1
The Dock is OS X’s command center. Although it seems to be a simple thing, it has more features than you might imagine, and it has power over things you might not expect it to. The Dock lets you know which programs are running (any application with a black triangle underneath its icon). It lets you store applications for easy launching. (Drag the application from the Finder into the left side of the Dock.) And it allows you to store folders, other objects, and—temporarily—program windows in its right pane.
You alter the Dock’s behavior through the Dock preference pane. This is where you can control the Dock’s size, magnification (whether it uses the zoom-in effect when you mouse over an icon), screen position, and bouncing-icon effect, and it’s where you choose whether it remains visible at all times. You can also set some of these items by choosing Apple: Dock or by using the hidden contextual menu in the Dock itself. Just control-click anywhere near the Dock’s dividing line, and you’ll see a secret pop-up menu that offers the same entries as the Apple menu item.
And each icon in the Dock has a contextual menu associated with it. You can activate these menus by clicking and holding on the icon for a second. To avoid the delay, control-click on the icon, or use the right mouse button if you have a multibutton mouse. In OS X 10.3 (Panther), the standard contextual-menu options let you choose any program’s open window, show the program in the Finder, hide its windows, or quit it. OS X 10.4 (Tiger) also lets you add the program to your login items—a handy time-saver.
Some programs may have additional useful features buried in their contextual menus. The iTunes menu, for instance, includes information on the currently playing song, and it lets you switch tracks or pause the player. This is a great way to manage your music without having to stop what you’re doing. (Contextual-menu selections from the Dock don’t activate the associated application.)
System Preferences’ contextual menu lets you quickly select any preference pane, which is great when you know exactly what you want to do. Click on other programs’ Dock icons to see what they have to offer (see the screenshot).
Want to find a docked program in the Finder without using the contextual menus? Just Command-click on the icon: the folder holding the program will open in a Finder window. To hide the current program’s windows when switching to another program, hold down the option key before clicking on the new program’s Dock icon. You can hide
open windows, other than the next program you’ll use, by pressing Command-option and clicking on the icon of the program you want to switch to. To restart the Finder, hold down the option key, and then click and hold on the Finder icon. You’ll see a Relaunch entry at the bottom of the pop-up menu. This is different from clicking and holding on the Finder icon and then pressing the option key: that changes the Hide option to Hide Others (the latter works for any program in the Dock, and it changes Quit to Force Quit for everything but the Finder).
Big Dock, Little Dock
Sure, you can resize the Dock by dragging the vertical bar that splits the two sides. But the Dock also has a series of preferred sizes. If your computer relies on these predrawn icons, it doesn’t have to spend time interpolating (or guessing) what an icon should look like, based on the nearest defined size. Using the preferred sizes makes your icons appear sharper. Hold down the option key before dragging the divider line; the Dock will resize in steps, showing only its preferred sizes.
Next month, we’ll discuss the right side of the Dock and some of the great things you can do over there.The Dock’s useful options vary by application. Mail’s contextual menu lets you compose a message or check for new messages.
Check It Out: Extend Safari’s History
Safari’s History menu lets you easily revisit sites you’ve seen recently. The key word here is
—by default, Safari stores the last 100 sites visited within the last seven days. But if you’d like to keep a longer history, you can. With Terminal, it’s easy. Quit Safari and launch Terminal (/Applications/Utilities). Type this command:
defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitHistoryItemLimit 9999
Press return. Then type this command and press return:
defaults write com.apple.Safari WebKitHistoryAgeInDaysLimit 365
The first line tells Safari to remember 9,999 items; the second tells it to remember things for up to a year. That’s it. Now you’ll find that your history file just keeps growing and growing and growing.
One caveat is that large history files can really slow Safari down. To set a different time period, just change the
in the second line to a smaller number of days you’d like to record in your history, and reduce the number of items to a level that suits your browsing habits. For instance, 30 sites a day for 90 days would be 2,700 entries.
Unix Tip of the Month: Make Terminal Output More Humane
There are three very handy Unix commands for looking at the stuff on your drive. If you delve into Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) at all, you’re probably familiar with
, which lists the contents of a folder. But you may not be aware of
, which reports on total disk-space utilization, and
, which shows disk usage at the folder level.
Though each of these tools is useful in its own right, they don’t necessarily present the output in the most user-friendly format. Consider the
command. If you run
, the output will include something like this:
The first number shows the size of each folder, stated in the arcane measurement system of file system block usage. While that may be useful for the ultrageek, it doesn’t give you a real sense of folder size.
option. This flag, which you can add to
, is the
flag. For example, if you changed the previous example to
du -h /usr/local
, you’d get output that included the following:
It’s now much clearer that the bin folder takes up 12M, or 12MB, of your hard drive. The abbreviations you’re likely to see, in addition to
(for megabytes), are
As you play with the human-readable option, you’ll probably find that
is a much more useful version of
in both commands gets you long output, which includes file-size information). If you’d like to make it easier to use the command often, create a new
for it. This sets up a shortcut that types the modified command for you. To do this, put a .bash_profile file in your Home folder by typing
. (If the file already exists, this command will just edit it.) Then add this line:
alias lsh="ls -lh"
When you’re done, press control-X, and then press Y to indicate that you want to save the changes. Finally, press return to save the file.
The next time you open a Terminal window, you’ll be able to type just
to run the human-readable version of the command. The command
, for instance, will show your Documents folder in its full human-readable form.
Senior Editor Rob Griffiths is the author of
Mac OS X Power Hound, Panther Edition
(O’Reilly, 2004), and runs the
Mac OS X Hints