Compare shots in iPhoto
Tucked away in Apple’s iPhoto ’06 (part of the $79 iLife ’06 suite) is a handy photo-comparison tool you might not know about. You can use this tool to compare similar shots side by side, so you can see which one you like best. Or if you’re struggling to enhance an image, make a duplicate of the picture, try your adjustments on the photo, and then use this tool to compare it to the original.
It’s a cinch to activate the comparison tool in iPhoto’s full-screen mode. Select two or more images and press the Enter Full Screen button at the bottom left of the iPhoto window. The two pictures will appear side by side on a black background. To reveal a toolbar of image-correction tools, just move your cursor to the bottom of the screen.
Multitasker that I am, I don’t like the way the full-screen mode blots out all my other application windows. No problem—there’s another way to compare photos. Go to iPhoto: Preferences and set the Edit Photo pop-up menu to In Main Window. Now when you select two (or more) photos by Command-clicking on each one, and then double-click on one of the selected images, iPhoto will show your chosen images in one window, with the edit tools below them and a horizontal image browser on top (see “Subtle Differences”). (If you don’t see the image browser, select View: Show Thumbnails.)
Whether you prefer comparing photos in the full-screen or default editing mode, there are some additional editing and comparison tricks you can use. First, say you’ve selected three images but then decide you’d like to replace the third image with a different one from your library. It’s easy—click once on the third image and then click on the desired image from the image browser at the top of the window. Presto! The selected photo replaces the old one.
Hold down the Command key and click on another image in the photo browser to add that image to your comparison group. If you had two photos before, now you have three. Repeat these steps as necessary, up to the limits of your screen size. You can now use the editing tools (Crop, Enhance, Red-Eye, Retouch, Effects, and Adjust) on each of the images in your comparison. To remove an image from the comparison area, simply Command-click on that photo in the photo browser again.
Adding Spotlight Comments can help make Spotlight much more useful. Type descriptions into the Get Info window’s Spotlight Comments field. (To access this field, select a file and press Command-I.) Use the comments to identify, for instance, the purpose of a given program (“image sorter and viewer”) or to tag files and folders related to one project (“2007 site redesign”). One Spotlight search can find all files with the same comments, even if they’re stored in different spots on your computer.
It’s relatively easy to add comments to new files and folders as they’re created, but what about the thousands of existing files and folders on your machine? When you have a bunch of files to tag with identical comments (such as the name of a client or project), use Apple’s Automator (/Applications) to fill in the blanks.
Open Automator and click on Finder in the Library column. Select Get Selected Finder Items in the Action column and drag it into the workspace. Now click on Spotlight in the Library column and select Add Spotlight Comments To Finder Items in the Action column. Drag this action below the previous one in the workspace. Leave the Append To Existing Comments option selected. Click on the disclosure triangle next to Options and select the Show Action When Run option (see “Comments, Anyone?”).
Select File: Save As Plug-In. In the dialog box that appears, name your workflow
Add Spotlight Comments
and leave the Plug-in For pop-up menu set to Finder. Click on Save. To use your workflow, all you have to do is switch to the Finder and select any number of files and folders (using the shift or Command key to make the multiple selections). Control-click on any of the selected files and choose Automator: Add Spotlight Comments from the contextual menu. A dialog box appears. Type the text you’d like to add and click on Continue. (If you’ve selected a folder, you’ll notice that the comments apply only to the folder, not to the files inside it.)
That’s it. The workflow appends the specified text to each item’s Spotlight Comments field. Once these files are tagged, you can use Spotlight to quickly zero in on exactly the files you’re after.
Show Spotlight results in Finder
One particular thing has really frustrated me about Spotlight: the Search Results window that drops down from the menu bar after you press the Command-spacebar shortcut. Selecting an item in the results list opens it, but there’s no obvious way to show its location in the Finder. That’s inconvenient in many circumstances—for instance, you might have multiple copies of a document saved on multiple disks, and you want to make sure that you open the proper one.
Turns out there’s a simple solution: hold down the Command key when you click on an entry in the Search Results window. A new Finder window will open to the folder containing the item you selected. This method won’t work with Apple Mail and Microsoft Entourage messages, bookmarks, and Apple iCal events, but it seems to work just fine for everything else I tested—even Address Book contacts.
Make sure your mailboxes are empty
If you don’t like the thought of e-mail sitting around on your server, you can easily set up your POP e-mail accounts in Mail so that messages are removed from the server immediately after you get them. Go to Mail: Preferences; click on Accounts, then Advanced; and set the Remove Copy From Server After Retrieving A Message pop-up menu to Right Away.
But even after you make this setting change, you might still find old e-mail messages clogging up your mailbox. Glitches in the ether—an unstable connection to a mail server, or a problem with Mail itself—may occasionally prevent messages from getting deleted. A few stray messages won’t cause problems, but a lot could eventually fill up your mailbox, especially if some of them contain large attachments.
You can see what’s actually on your mail server by taking a look at Mail’s Account Info window. To access this, control-click anywhere in your mailbox list and select Get Info from the contextual menu. If you have more than one e-mail account, you can choose between accounts via a pop-up menu at the top. Select a mailbox and then click on Show Messages. Any messages on the server, whether new or old, will show up in the list that appears. From here you can select individual messages, select multiple messages in a contiguous group by shift-clicking on them, or Command-click to select noncontiguous messages. To delete the selected messages, click on the Remove From Server button.
This trick can also come in handy when you’re traveling and have only dial-up access. If you want to sift through your messages to delete the spam before downloading your e-mail, you can do so from this window. This will save you time and let you read just the valid e-mail messages.
Subtle Differences: Using iPhoto’s comparison mode, you can look at many images at once—making it easier to determine, for instance, which of a number of nearly identical images you’d like to keep.
Comments, Anyone? This simple Automator action can greatly ease the process of tagging your documents with Spotlight comments, which offer a very useful way of finding files in a hurry.
Make save dialog boxes more useful
I find Mac OS X’s default Save dialog box to be less than user friendly. It makes it appear as though you can save your file only to one of the places listed in the Where pop-up menu—but this short list of locations is basically useless. How often do you really want to save something to the top level of your hard drive?
The trick is to click on the unassuming triangle to the right of the Save As field. When you do so, your Save dialog box becomes a fully navigable Finder-like window (see “Before and After”). Here you can search, choose between list and column view, and even create a new folder to put your file in. If you prefer to see this expanded dialog box all the time, you can make it the default for all your applications in OS X 10.4.
Launch Terminal (/Applications/Utilities) and enter this command (better yet,
copy and paste it ):
defaults write -g NSNavPanelExpandedState ForSaveMode -bool TRUE
(Do not break
—Unix commands don’t always reproduce well in print.)
That’s it—now all new applications you install will use the expanded Save and Save As dialog boxes by default. Keep in mind that OS X remembers your settings on a per-application basis. So if you’ve used the Save or Save As dialog box in one of your current applications and in so doing left it in the simple mode, you won’t see the expanded Save or Save As dialog box even after having entered this command. To change that, the next time you use the app, click on the disclosure triangle to reveal the expanded dialog box before you quit.
If you decide that you prefer the simple dialog boxes, repeat the previous Unix command, but replace
Change the Save Default for All Users If you run a Mac lab, you may be excited to use this tip and, hopefully, reduce the number of support calls you get as a result. Unfortunately, the command I outlined applies only to the user who runs it—it’s not global. If you’d like to change the global default for a Mac so that all users on the machine will see the expanded Save dialog box, enter this command in Terminal or, better still, copy and paste the command from macworld.com/2440 instead:
defaults write /Library/Preferences/ .GlobalPreferences NSNavPanelExpandedState ForSaveMode -bool TRUE
As with the single-user version of the command above, you undo this one by repeating the command, replacing
Install and uninstall
New OS X users commonly ask this question: “How do I install and uninstall applications?” The answer depends on the program, but the good news is that both tasks are very easy to do.
Install It If you’re installing software that came on a CD or DVD, insert the disc into your Mac. A Finder window will open showing the contents of the disc, and most commercial software will have some form of Read Me file or simple instructions visible in the disc’s window. Usually all you’ll need to do is drag a folder from the disc’s window to the desired final location on your hard drive—typically the top-level Applications folder.
If you’re installing a more-complex program—Adobe Photoshop CS, for example—you might need to double-click on an installer to start the process. Once this specialized program launches, follow its on-screen instructions. The installer will place all of the program’s files in the right places.
Software you download from the Internet requires a few more steps. These programs are almost always compressed, so you’ll need to double-click on the file to expand it. Most downloads will expand into something called a disk image, which uses the extension .dmg . This is like a virtual hard drive or a virtual CD, and is a convenient way to place a number of related files together for installation. Double-click on the disk-image file, and it will show up in the Finder just like another hard drive, CD, or DVD. Now you can drag the program you want to install out of the disk image’s window onto your Applications folder. This is a critical step because you don’t want to run the program from the disk image! Eject the disk image, and then trash the downloaded archive and disk-image file.
Uninstall It Installing Mac applications is clearly a piece of cake. But what about uninstalling them? For many Mac converts, this is one of those ah moments—uninstalling programs is very simple. Unlike the Window OSs, OS X has no strange .dll files or registry, and programs typically install everything they need to run within the application itself (excluding some settings files in your user folder). As a result, what is almost always a laborious process on a Windows PC is a very quick operation on a Mac.
To uninstall most programs on a Mac, go to the Applications folder. Drag the program’s folder to the Trash and empty the Trash. That’s it—you’re done. Really. OK, it’s true that there will still be some small bits related to the application left over. If you really want to make sure you get everything, look in your user folder /Library/Application Support for any references to the program. Also check in your user folder /Library/Preferences for the program’s preferences. If you find something related to the uninstalled program, you can drag it to the Trash. But there’s really no need to—the files you find won’t cause any damage if they’re simply left alone.
If you had to double-click on an installer to install a program, try rerunning the installer first. In most cases, after you launch it you’ll see an uninstall option that will automatically remove all the program’s files. Run this. If you don’t see such an option, check the program’s documentation or online help for uninstall instructions.
[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the
MacOSXHints.com Web site. Kirk McElhearn is the author of many books, including The Mac OS X Command Line: Unix under the Hood (Sybex, 2004). ]
Before and After By default, OS X’s Save dialog boxes aren’t all that useful (left). Click on the disclosure triangle, though, and you gain a much more powerful interface (right).