Don’t wait on Spotlight
If you use Spotlight searches in the Finder and you’ve got one or more large, data-laden hard drives (my system has two drives with ten partitions), you’re probably well aware of the ability of these searches to turn your Finder into a first-class spinning beach ball. This most often happens just as you start typing your search term. For instance, say you’re looking for a particular landscape photo, and you begin to type the word carnation . Thanks to the live search feature, your Mac wastes time looking for matches for c, ca, and car as you type.
While you can’t totally avoid extraneous results, here’s one way to minimize them. Instead of typing your search term in the Finder’s search box, first type it in any open application. For example, you could type it in Safari’s address bar or Google search box, a TextEdit document, a Stickies note, or a widget. Select the word with the mouse and press Command-C to copy it to the Clipboard. Switch back to the Finder, click inside the Spotlight search box (or just press Command-F), and then press Command-V to paste in your search term. You don’t even have to press return—the Finder will go ahead and do a live search.
Now Spotlight will find matches for the entire word, instead of struggling with matches for all the partial words it can make from your search term.
Select columns in Preview PDFs
If you work with multicolumn PDF documents in Preview, here’s a handy time-saver. You’re probably familiar with Preview’s text-selection tool, accessed via either the Tools: Text Tool menu item or Command-2. Using this tool, you can drag to select and copy a section of text from a PDF (as long as it’s not protected), and then paste that selection to the Clipboard.
But with multicolumn documents, this doesn’t work as you might expect—when you drag the cursor down to capture one column, for instance, Preview captures all the columns on the page. This can be quite frustrating, and makes it difficult to get just the text you want out of Preview. Luckily, there’s a workaround.
After you make the text tool active, press and hold the option key. The cursor will change from the text I-beam to a small cross. Continuing to press the option key, drag a rectangular region around the desired text. This trick makes it a piece of cake to capture just the column you want.
Big Stickies Add scroll bars to your stickies, and you can peruse your long notes with ease. No arrow keys required.
Apple has souped up Stickies—those little notes you can leave on your Mac’s desktop—quite a bit over the years. But the one thing you still can’t do is scroll through a long note. If you have a lot of text you want to keep handy, you have to use the keyboard (the up-arrow and down-arrow keys or the page up and page down keys) to navigate. But as long as you’ve installed Apple’s Developer Tools (Xcode) from your Mac OS X installation disk, you can overcome this limitation.
First make sure Stickies isn’t running, and then make a backup of the application (/Applications), just to be on the safe side. You can option-drag it to another folder or drive to make a copy. If you have a lot of important information in your notes, you may want to back them up as well. (They’re stored in a file called StickiesDatabase in your user folder /Library.)
Now control-click on the Stickies application and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. In the new window that opens, navigate to Contents/Resources/English.lproj. (If you’re not using an English version of OS X, replace English.lproj with your chosen language.) Inside this folder, double-click on StickiesDocument.nib. One of the developer tools, Interface Builder (/Developer/Applications), should launch and open the file.
Interface Builder displays three windows when it opens. You’re interested in the big empty one called Stickies. Click inside the white area in the window. The window will come to the foreground, and you should see a selection rectangle (with smaller rectangles at various points) around the white area. Once this section of the window is active, select Tools: Show Inspector. The NSTextView Inspector appears. Make sure the top pop-up menu is set to Attributes. Select the Show Scroller option. The Automatically Hide Scroller option appears. Select it as well. Press Command-S to save the file, and then quit Interface Builder.
Relaunch Stickies, resize a note, and marvel at the automatically appearing and vanishing scroll bars.
Whether you need to keep track of things to do or groceries to buy, lists are really useful. That’s why it’s so handy that Tiger’s TextEdit now supports them in Rich Text Format (RTF) mode (Format: Make Rich Text).
One quick hidden way to start a list is to press option-tab when you’re in any line of a TextEdit document. This transforms that line, as well as any subsequent rows you add, into a hyphen-delimited list entry. As with lists started in the usual manner, tab and shift-tab change the amount of indent for a given row, and you can change the list type by control-clicking on the list and choosing Lists from the pop-up menu.
But here’s the real trick: the option-tab keyboard shortcut can create lists in any OS X 10.4 application that uses the same text-input routines as TextEdit. That means you can use lists in programs that may not directly support them, including Flying Meat’s $25 VoodooPad and Apple’s Stickies app (but not the Stickies widget).
Smart and Smarter You might think this smart playlist (top) would find all your 1990s Rock and Heavy Metal, but you’d be thinking wrong. It will only find songs that meet all these conditions—each song must belong to both the Rock and Heavy Metal genres. Instead, use one smart playlist to find the Rock and Heavy Metal songs, and then use it as a condition of another smart playlist that selects only songs created in the 1990s (bottom).
Want to organize your huge music collection into more- manageable chunks? Use iTunes’ smart playlists to group music automatically by genre, artist, album, year recorded, or any of 20 or so other choices. Better yet, use some logic in a smart playlist to find a very specific set of tunes.
Select File: New Smart Playlist. Click on the Match pop-up menu at the top of the dialog box. You’ll see two options here, All and Any. Choose All to create an AND search—for example, a smart playlist that includes tunes marked as both reggae and ska tracks. Choose Any to create an OR search—for example, a smart playlist that contains tunes marked blues or jazz.
But what if you want something more complex—for instance, if you want a playlist of all your hard rock music, grouped by the decade it was recorded in? You classify your hard stuff into two genres—Rock for the hard-yet-still-civil stuff, and Heavy Metal for the head-banging ultraloud guitar-slamming good stuff.
If you try to use smart playlists to group the tracks, you’ll reach the limits of iTunes’ logic. You can’t combine AND and OR logic in a smart playlist. So there’s no apparent way to create a smart playlist including songs that are in either Rock or Heavy Metal and were recorded between 1990 and 1999.
So just how can you create an extrasmart smart playlist? The answer is to make two smart playlists and make one a condition of the other. In this example, the first playlist would find Rock or Heavy Metal tunes. Set the Match pop-up menu to Any and then create two rules: Genre Is Rock and Genre Is Heavy Metal. (Click on the plus sign [+] to add rules to a smart playlist.) Click on OK when you’re done and give the playlist a name—say, Hard Rock. For the second playlist, set the Match pop-up menu to All and give it two rules: Playlist Is Hard Rock and Year Is In The Range 1990 To 1999 (see “Smart and Smarter”).
You can create very complex playlists using this technique. Click here for a sample one.
Rename your system folders: If you’re tired of Apple’s stock names for your system folders (Movies, Pictures, and so on), learn how to give them any name you like —without breaking the OS.
Use media discs at login: Want to start playing that CD or DVD in your machine automatically when you log in? Now you can.
Play an old-school adventure game: Try this text-only adventure game for a taste of what the computing world was like before 3-D-graphics cards arrived on the scene.
OS X 101: Tips for Windows
You may think there’s not much to say about Finder windows—you open a window, use it, and close it. But since you access Finder windows frequently, even a few tricks for using them more effectively can shave time off your workday.
Change Your View Mac OS X offers three different window view modes—list, icon, and column. The first two have existed on the Mac forever; OS X introduced the last. You control the view for a given folder through the Finder’s View menus, or you can just use Command-1 for icon view, Command-2 for list view, and Command-3 for column view.
Which view you choose is partly a matter of personal preference and partly dependent on what you’re looking at. For many people, myself included, column view offers the easiest means of navigating today’s large hard drives—in one open window, you can get to any spot on your hard drive with a few clicks. If you have sufficient screen real estate, opening two column-view windows lets you move things easily between folders anywhere on your Mac using drag and drop.
In certain folders, though, other views make more sense. You may wish to use icon view for a folder of images so you can see the thumbnails at a glance. If you download a lot of stuff from the Web, you might want to make a Downloads folder and set it to list view, sorted in newest-to-oldest order.
Amazing Views Use the View Options dialog box to control the appearance of your windows. You can even add information here—for instance, a column that shows any label you’ve added.
How do you do that? Simple. After setting the folder to list view, click on the Date Modified column header—it should default to newest-to-oldest order. If it doesn’t, just click on the Date Modified column header again, and the direction will reverse. This works for all column headers in list view. Click once to sort on that attribute; click twice to reverse the sort order.
Add More Info What if you’d like to see additional columns in your Finder window, such as the Date Created or Comments fields? In the Finder, select View: Show View Options or press Command-J to open the View Options dialog box. This small window has the power to customize how your windows appear (see “Amazing Views”). To modify just one window’s appearance, make sure This Window Only is selected. With the All Windows option selected, you’ll be making your changes to all folders that use the view mode you’re modifying.
As you switch between list, icon, and column views, the contents of the View Options window change—in icon view, for instance, you can choose a background color or picture for a folder.
Customize New Windows One of the questions new Mac users ask most often is how to set the default appearance for new windows—that is, how to control what you see when you press Command-N in the Finder. The answer is easy but far from obvious. Start by pressing Command-N to open a new window. Make the window look the way you want—change the view mode, or tweak colors and columns (depending on which view you’ve chosen, of course). You can also change the window’s size and position. Here’s the important part—do not click on any files or folders within the window; just close the window after you’ve set it to your liking. From now on, new Finder windows will open with your chosen settings.
Rename the Trash in the Dock
When you mouse over each item in your Dock—including the Trash—Mac OS X displays its name in a small floating label. What you may not have realized is that you’re not stuck with the name Trash. You can express your creativity by calling it “The Dumping Zone,” “Unwanted Unused Unloved,” or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Launch Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) and type these commands, one after another:
cd /System/Library/CoreServices/Dock.app/ Contents/Resources/English.lproj sudo cp InfoPlist.strings InfoPlist.bak sudo cp InfoPlist.strings ~/Desktop/InfoPlist.txt
You just navigated into the Dock’s application bundle, created a backup copy of a file, and copied that backup file to your desktop. Now, leave the Terminal window open right where it is. Switch back to the Finder, navigate to your desktop, and double-click on the InfoPlist.txt file you’ll find there. When it opens, you should see something similar to the image in “Name That Trash.” Note that if you’ve got Apple’s Developer Tools installed, the file may open in Property List Editor instead of TextEdit; if so, just edit it there.
Name That Trash Don’t like the boring name you see when you mouse over the Dock’s Trash icon? Type whatever you like within the quotation marks to give Trash a new name.
The line you need to modify is the first one (boxed in red in the screenshot). Do not change anything to the left side of the equal sign (=). Instead, just change the word
to whatever you like, making sure to leave the quotation marks intact. Save the file when you’re done. TextEdit will probably give you a warning that the file is write protected; choose Override to go ahead and save your changes. Once that’s done, close the file and switch back to Terminal.
Now you need to overwrite the default InfoPlist.strings file with the newly modified version. To do that, type this command in Terminal and press return:
sudo cp ~/Desktop/InfoPlist.txt InfoPlist .strings
To make the changes take effect, quit and restart the Dock by typing
and pressing return. When you do so, the Dock will disappear and reappear. Mouse over the Dock’s Trash icon. If everything worked, you should see your newly chosen name.
If you ever tire of your moniker, you can simply repeat the above steps, putting the word
back in place of your chosen term. You could also just replace the altered file with the backup you created earlier, using these two Terminal commands:
cd /System/Library/ CoreServices/Dock.app/ Contents/Resources/English.lproj sudo cp InfoPlist.bak InfoPlist.strings
Restart the Dock once more, and everything’s back to normal.
[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths is the author of Mac OS X Power Hound, Panther Edition (O’Reilly, 2004). ]