Close all but the current Finder window
Savvy OS X users might already know that option-clicking on a Finder window’s close button (the red dot in the title bar) closes all open Finder windows. But what if you want to close everything except the frontmost window? That’s possible too.
The Easy Way In the window you wish to keep open, press Command-shift-G. This makes the Go To Folder sheet appear. Now press Command-option-W—this is the keyboard equivalent of option-clicking on the close button. When you press this keyboard command, all Finder windows except the currently active one will close (OS X won’t let you close a window with an active sheet). Now just press the escape key to dismiss the dialog box, and you’re set.
The Fancy Way You can also accomplish this with a simple AppleScript. Put the script in the Finder window’s toolbar or sidebar, and you can close everything but the frontmost Finder window with just one click (see “Easy Window Closer”).
Open Script Editor (/Applications/AppleScript), and type this simple script (or copy it and paste it in):
tell application "Finder" repeat while window 2 exists close window 2 end repeat end tell
Select File: Save and then choose Application in the File Format pop-up menu. Name the script
close_windows, or something else that will jog your memory when you see it in the sidebar. Select the Run Only option, choose a destination for it (your Documents folder, for example), and then click on Save. Now drag the application you just created onto a Finder window’s toolbar or sidebar. Once it’s there, click on its icon whenever you want to close all but the current Finder window.
Open items from Get Info windows
The Get Info window (File: Get Info, or select something in the Finder and press Command-I) and the Inspector window (Command-option-I) show you lots of interesting things about files and applications. You can see the selected item’s size, location, creation and modification times, name and extension, and more. But you can also use the Get Info window as a launcher of sorts. That’s right—you can launch applications and open documents directly from the Get Info box.
Double-click on the icon or image in the Preview section of the window, and the item will launch. If the selected item is an application, that application will open. If the item is a document, the application associated with that document type will launch and then open that document (just as though you’d double-clicked on it in the Finder). The only exceptions are audio and video files. Since these files can be played directly in the Preview area, you can’t launch them with a double-click. (You’ll find that this is also true with PDF files in Panther.)
This trick is useful for the times you use the Get Info window to figure out which version of a document you want to look at. Instead of opening the Get Info window, verifying the data, closing the window, and then double-clicking on the file in the Finder, just double-click right in the Get Info window.
Manage multiple Mail attachments
If your household’s e-mail inbox is like mine, you get a lot of e-mail messages with attachments—pictures of vacations, kids, pets, cars, and so forth. Unfortunately, my whole family has not yet been converted to the way of the Mac, so I can’t tell them to photocast their images. But that doesn’t mean I’m stuck clicking on attachment after attachment. Here’s what I recommend for OS X 10.4 users instead.
First create a new folder in Apple’s Mail (I named mine Pending) by choosing Mailbox: New Mailbox. Put the new folder in Mail’s On My Mac section. You’ll move all the attached images to this folder. Why? It’s a lot more convenient to deal with the photos once they’re together in a folder. You can select them all, drag them to Preview’s icon in the Dock or Applications folder, and then view the images as a slide show (View: Slideshow). This is a great way to view all your images at once so you can decide which ones to add to your iPhoto library. There’s even an Add To iPhoto button in Preview’s Slideshow toolbar.
One way to move the attachments is to look at each message and then drag the attachment into the Pending folder in Mail. But if you’ve got a lot of messages, that could take a while. Instead, select all the messages and then choose File: Save Attachments. Mail will save a copy of the attachments from all the selected messages, and save them to a spot of your choice.
Quickly set the system alert volume
Here’s one of my pet peeves: I’m happily listening to my favorite album when the system’s alert beep interrupts. Wouldn’t it be great if it were easy to set the system volume and the alert volume to different levels? You can do this by opening the Sound preference pane and adjusting the two to different volumes, but there’s a quicker way to do this in OS X 10.4.
Make the Volume control icon (a small speaker) visible in your menu bar if you haven’t already. To do so, open the Sound preference pane and select the Show Volume In The Menu Bar option.
To adjust your system’s overall volume, click once on the icon in the menu bar and then move the slider that appears. If you want to change only the system’s alert volume, hold down the option key when you click on the speaker icon. Move the slider as you normally would, and you won’t notice any change in your overall volume level. If iTunes is playing, for instance, your tunes won’t be affected. But your alert sounds will now play at the new level.
If you’re using OS X 10.3, you’ll have to take an extra step to make this work. When you option-click to change the alert volume, your system volume will also adjust. So you must click on the speaker icon once more (without holding down the option key) and reset your system volume back to the desired level.
Use icons in Camino’s bookmark bar
I use a few Web browsers, but for the last six months or so, my primary browser has been Mozilla’s free Camino ( ). While Camino has its shortcomings, I appreciate its interface and speed.
One of my favorite little features is the ability to put favicons (those small icons next to a site’s name in the browser’s Address bar) in the Bookmark bar. This lets me pack my Bookmark bar full of icons, instead of space-hogging words (see “Just the Icons”). And since favicons are easily recognizable, figuring out which site is which is easy.
To create an icon-only bookmark entry in Camino, first add the site to the Bookmark bar—drag the site’s address from the Address bar (known as the Location bar in Camino) to the Bookmark bar. Then control-click on the entry and select Get Info from the pop-up menu. In the window that opens, delete the name in the Title field and then click on the red close box. That’s all there is to it—the title is gone, but the favicon remains.
What about Safari? Sadly, Apple’s Safari lacks the ability to use a site’s favicon in its Bookmarks bar. But you can slim down your entries by renaming bookmarks with a character or two for the site’s name—for example,
MHfor the Mac OS X Hints Web site, and so on. If you have Safari 2.0 or later (which comes with OS X 10.4), you can make the various sites stand out more by using special characters in the shorter names—for example, use a dollar sign for your bank’s site.
To access the special characters, open the International preference pane and click on the Input Menu tab. Select Character Palette in the list, and then select the Show Input Menu In Menu Bar option. A flag icon will appear in your menu bar. Select it and choose Show Character Palette from the drop-down menu. The Character Palette organizes special characters into categories, so they’re easy to browse. To add a character to a bookmark, highlight the bookmark’s name in Safari’s Bookmarks window (Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks). Then drag the character from the Character Palette to this field.Easy Window Closer: Store a handy AppleScript in a Finder window’s toolbar or sidebar, as shown here, and you’ll be able to close all Finder windows except the currently active one with a single click. Just the Icons: If you use Mozilla’s Camino, save a ton of room in your Bookmark bar by using icons to represent bookmarked sites.
Introducing the Apple menu
No matter what application you’re in, a small blue apple sits at the top left corner of your screen. More than just a reminder that you’re using an Apple computer, this icon contains a menu with a number of useful commands. Here’s a brief summary of what you’ll find in the Apple menu:
About This Mac Choose this menu item to see a window of information about your machine, including the version of OS X that you’re running, as well as RAM and CPU information. Click on the More Info button to run the System Profiler, which will give you a full report about the hardware and software on your machine. All this information is handy during a tech-support call.
Software Update Choose this menu item to launch Software Update and search for updates to the system itself, as well as Apple applications.
Mac OS X Software This menu item opens your Web browser to a page on Apple’s site that lists a huge collection of downloadable OS X programs.
System Preferences Select this item to open the System Preferences application. From here, you can control most of the high-level settings on your Mac: for example, the date and time or your network settings. For you Windows expatriates out there, System Preferences is equivalent to Windows’ Control Panel.
Dock Quickly access many aspects of the Dock’s behavior from here. Use the submenus to hide or show the Dock, turn its zoom effect on or off, or move the Dock to a different part of your screen.
Location If you frequently take your Mac from one spot to another, the Location menu lets you choose a predefined location, which lets you control settings for the Ethernet port, modem port, and AirPort card. (The Automatic setting works well for most people.)
Recent Items Forgot where you put a file? This menu item reveals a list of recently used applications, documents, and (in Tiger) servers. Control the length of each list by opening the Appearance preference pane and changing the settings under the Number Of Recent Items section.
Force Quit If an application seems “stuck,” switch to a responsive application and select this menu item. You’ll see a dialog box that lets you force the troublesome program to quit. If you hold down the shift key when you access the menu, the item will change to Force Quit Program Name, with the name of the current program.
Sleep Select this item to put your system directly to sleep (without having to confirm your decision in a dialog box).
Restart Choose this item to restart your Mac. To skip the confirmation dialog box that appears by default and restart immediately, hold down the option key and then choose the menu item. (Notice that the ellipsis disappears from the menu item’s full name—Restart . . . —when you hold down the option key).
Shut Down Choose this option to shut down your Mac. As with the Restart item, press option and then choose this item to shut down instantly.
Log Out Select this item to log out from your account. As with the previous two commands, hold down the option key and then choose this menu item to skip the confirmation dialog box. Or for a superfast way to log out, use the keyboard shortcut that displays in the menu when you hold down the option key: Command-shift-option-Q.
Make your login window informative
When you log in to—or start up—your Mac, you usually see its name below the large silver Apple logo, along with the words Mac OS X. But when Apple updated OS X to version 10.4.3, it quietly made this information line much more useful.
Now you can click on your machine’s name, and the OS X version number will appear. Click on it again, and you’ll see the OS X build number. Keep clicking, and you’ll see your Mac’s serial number, the Mac’s IP address, the status of any network account (directory services), and, finally, the current date and time. (See a brief movie of what this looks like.) All of this information is especially useful when you—or tech support—are trying to troubleshoot a system.
But what if you’d like to change the piece of information that shows first? I, for one, prefer to see the date rather than my computer’s name. Change the display to Date, however, and the next time you log in, it will be back to the machine’s name. As with so many things, all it takes is a little work in Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) to make a permanent change.
Open Terminal and type this command, or copy it (please note that the following is one long line with no breaks):
defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow AdminHostInfo
Do not press return yet. Instead, press the space bar after
AdminHostInfo, and then type one of these words:
HostName, to show the default display
SystemVersion, to show the OS X version number
SystemBuild, to show the OS X build number
SerialNumber, to show the OS X serial number
IPAddress, to show the Mac’s IP address
DSStatus, to show the networked account info
Time, to show the date and time
After adding the word for the data you wish to display, press return. To show the date and time by default, for instance, here’s the full command:
defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow AdminHostInfo Time
The next time your login window appears, your newly chosen default will be the first thing you see.
[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site. ]
[ This story was updated at 3:55 p.m. PT on September 11, 2006 to correct a production error for the
defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow AdminHostInfo command. ]