Quickly set Office 2004 zoom levels
Many programs have a Zoom menu item that you can use to make everything on screen larger or smaller. This helps you see small text and manipulate tiny objects more easily, for instance, or check an entire page’s formatting at a glance. Microsoft Office 2004 is no exception—Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (but not Entourage) all have a View: Zoom menu item. Using it, however, is a bit time-consuming. First you choose the menu, then you pick a preset zoom level (or enter your own), and then you click on OK—hardly a fast and fluid operation.
For quick, nuanced control over zooming, try using your scroll-wheel mouse (or scrolling-enabled trackpad) instead (see “Quick Office Zooming”). In Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, hold down 1-control and then move your scroll wheel (or drag your fingers on your trackpad) to rapidly increase or decrease the zoom level. Move the wheel up to zoom in; move it down to zoom out. The amount the zoom changes with each scroll-wheel tick differs from program to program: Word goes in increments of roughly 10 percent; Excel goes in increments of 15 percent; and PowerPoint goes through the fixed zoom levels. Excel and PowerPoint are limited to a maximum zoom of 400 percent, while Word will zoom to 500 percent.
Use line breaks in iTunes’ Comments field
If you’re the detail-oriented type, you probably like to take advantage of iTunes’ Info window (1-I), where you can enter all sorts of details about the selected song—such as Year, Grouping, Composer, Genre, and Comments.
The Comments field is particularly useful for keeping track of items in your collection. Anything you type here will be picked up by Spotlight searches. For example, you could add your spouse’s name as a comment for his or her tracks, and then either use Spotlight to quickly find all your spouse’s music or create a smart playlist (File: New Smart Playlist) containing it.
However, the Comments field has a somewhat annoying limitation: you can’t make line breaks in it. I hate this because I think it’s easier to read my comments when they’re on separate lines. But pressing enter, return, option-return, or control-enter simply closes the Info window. So what do you do if you want to use line breaks to format some of your comment text?
Here’s the easy, if not obvious, solution. With the Info window open, click on the Lyrics tab (or press 1-6), and enter your comment text there. In this field, you can use the return key to insert line breaks. Once you’ve typed your comment, highlight it, press 1-X to cut, switch back to the Info tab (1-2), and paste (1-V). Presto! You have line breaks in the Comments field. (Be aware that if you export your data, these line breaks may mess up the formatting.)
Add your own alert sounds
Don’t like the scolding beep your Mac makes when you do something wrong? You can customize your alert sound by going to the Sound preference pane’s Sound Effects tab and selecting one of OS X’s 13 other audio options—from Basso to Tink.
If you don’t like any of these sounds, use your own sound effects instead. Create a folder named Sounds in your user folder /Library and then drop your files into it—make sure they’re fairly short AIFF files. You can convert a file to AIFF with a tool such as Apple’s iTunes or $30 QuickTime Pro. A wide variety of free alert sounds is also available online. If you’re feeling nostalgic, for instance, download the Mac OS Classic Sound Pack 1.4. Or go to Simply the Best for everything from a tugboat whistle to a cow’s moo.
Once your files are in the Sounds folder, open the Sounds preference pane, click on the Sound Effects tab, and look for your files in the list. Select one, and it will become your new alert sound.
Make your alerts visual
One alternative to the aural alert is a visual alert—a screen flash. This is handy if you’d rather not have your music interrupted by annoying system beeps, for example. In the Universal Access preference pane, which Apple provides for people with physical disabilities, you can opt to see system alerts. Open the Universal Access preference pane, select the Hearing tab, and then click on the Flash Screen button. If you like what you see, select the Flash The Screen When An Alert Sound Occurs option.
With this option selected, you’ll hear an audio alert in addition to seeing the screen flash, unless you’ve muted your Mac’s sound. So how can you have a screen-flash alert without having to mute your system’s audio? Go to the Sound preference pane, click on the Sound Effects tab, and adjust the Alert volume slider to mute. From now on, any system alerts will result in a screen flash that will get your attention without making a sound.
Keep PDF info private
You may not realize it, but every time you create a PDF in OS X, you’re potentially sharing some personal information: your name. For someone whose job is to anonymously review and comment on manuscripts, for example, this could be a big issue. How is your name captured? When you select File: Print and then choose PDF: Save As PDF, OS X includes some metadata with the file it creates. Depending on the program you’re using, your name might be part of it.
OS X also records the page size, page count, encryption status, creation and modification dates, title (which might include the original file’s name and the program the file came from), and content creator, as well as something called the PDF Producer. Anyone can see all this information by opening a PDF in Preview and selecting Tools: Get Info (see “Remove Personal Data from PDFs”). Other PDF readers have similar tools.
One way to prevent this is to create a compressed PDF file by selecting File: Print and then choosing PDF: Compress PDF. You’ll see a progress bar as OS X compresses your file’s pages. Then name the file and pick a place to save it in. When you open the resulting PDF in Preview and view the Get Info box, you’ll see that all personal data is gone. There is one caveat, however: These “compressed” PDF files are usually larger than PDFs saved the regular way, especially if they contain many graphics. In my testing, I sometimes saw file sizes for these kinds of documents double.
If you’re having that problem, there’s a free program that can remove your name without changing your PDF’s file size. Download Monkeybread Software’s Combine PDFs (macworld.com/ 2632) and open your PDF with it. In the Combine PDFs window, delete the author and creator names. Click on Merge PDFs and then save the document. When you open this file in Preview, you’ll find that all the personal information is gone.Quick Office: Zooming When you need a better look at a Microsoft Office document, press 1-control and then move your scroll wheel (or drag your fingers on a scrolling-enabled trackpad) to zoom in or out. Remove Personal Data from PDFs: When you use OS X’s built-in Save As PDF command to create a PDF, your PDF might include personal information—for example, your name—as seen here. Creating a compressed PDF is one way to remove it.
Dealing with discs
Using CDs and DVDs is, for the most part, simple. You need merely find the CD-DVD tray on your machine, open it by pressing the eject key (or by pressing and holding F12 if your keyboard lacks a dedicated eject key), insert the CD or DVD, and then close the tray by pressing gently on it (or by pressing eject or F12 again). If your Mac has a slot-loading drive, just insert the disc.
Disc Action Exactly what happens after you insert the disc depends on settings in the CDs & DVDs preference pane. By changing them, you can make the system launch a particular program, switch to the Finder, run an AppleScript, ask you what to do, or do nothing at all when you insert a disc. Pop-up menus let you set the behavior for each disc type—from blank CDs to video DVDs. Knowing this can save you a step if, for example, you’d prefer that Photoshop, instead of iPhoto, launch whenever you insert a picture CD.
Hold down the option key while you click on one of the menus, and you’ll see a new item—Options—at the bottom (see “Access Disc Options”). There’s actually only one option: Perform Action At Login. Select it, and the action you’ve chosen will occur when you log in as well. For example, if you want any movie disc you’ve left in your laptop to start playing as soon as you log back in, set the When You Insert A Video DVD menu to Open DVD Player. Then hold down the option key, click on the menu again, choose Options, and select Perform Action At Login.
Stuck Discs How do you get a disc out? You know the answer: Press the eject key! And yep, that’ll work—most of the time. But what should you do when a disc gets stuck?
First, quit all your running programs. Sometimes an open file might cause OS X to think that a disc is busy when it’s not. After quitting, try ejecting the disc again. If that doesn’t work, and if you have an older Mac, look for a small hole close to the CD-DVD tray. If it has one, insert a straightened paper clip into the hole and gently press—that should eject the disc. If your Mac doesn’t have this hole, try restarting your computer and holding down the button on your mouse or trackpad while it boots.
If you’re using a laptop, try shutting it down, positioning it upside down in your lap, and then booting it up while holding the mouse or trackpad button down.
If all these tricks fail, you may have to take your Mac to your nearest service provider—sometimes, discs really are just stuck!
Take back your screen
Even if you like the Dock, you might find yourself annoyed by it—or even by the menu bar—when you work with a program that requires most of your screen. Unfortunately, OS X doesn’t give you the option of hiding these tools on a program-by-program basis. That is, OS X doesn’t let you make the Dock disappear only when you launch iPhoto, or make the Dock and the menu bar disappear when you launch Google Earth. But you can set this up yourself, with just a few simple edits to a special file within the program.
As an example, I’ll show you how to make both the Dock and the menu bar disappear when Stickies launches. Note that the two items are simply hiding—move the mouse into their typical locations, and they’ll reappear. Before you begin, make a backup copy of Stickies to try the modifications on. If something goes wrong, you can simply delete the backup you created to get things back to normal.
You’re going to edit Stickies’ info.plist file to change the value of the property-list variable LSUIPresentationMode. Control-click on the Stickies icon and choose Show Package Contents from the contextual menu. Open the Contents folder and locate the info.plist file. Launch TextEdit or another pure-text editor, such as Bare Bones Software’s free TextWrangler ( ), and drag the info.plist file to the program’s icon in the Dock. Then add the following two lines, just below the
<dict>entry on row four:
Save the file, and you’re done. (See a movie of what these changes look like.) If you want to hide only the Dock, enter a value of
4. You can’t hide only the menu bar. Unfortunately, this trick will not work perfectly in every program—hide the menu bar in Photoshop CS2, for instance, and you may have trouble selecting items in its menus.
If you ever want to undo what you’ve done, delete the backup copy of the program you modified, or open the info.plist file and remove the two lines you added.
[ Senior Editor Rob Griffiths runs the MacOSXHints.com Web site. ]Access Disc Options: Hold down the option key when you activate menus in the CDs & DVDs preference pane to gain access to a hidden Options menu item.