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Merge contacts in OS X Contacts app Apps
This isn't a hidden feature, but it's one that many people may not know. I found it recently when I discovered that I had dozens of duplicate contacts in my Contacts app, caused by quirky iCloud syncing. If you find that you have two cards for the same contact, you can select them, then choose Card > Merge Selected Cards. This will copy all unique information into a single card.

There is also a Card > Look for Duplicates command, but when you invoke it, Contacts will tell you how many duplicates it has found, and ask if you want to merge them, but won't tell you which cards were duplicates before you merge them; I'd rather do this manually so I don't lose any information.
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iTunes 11: Keyboard shortcut to clear currently playing track Apps
Even though iTunes is my bailiwick over at Macworld, I've found the new Up Next feature to be quite confusing. It's taken me a while to suss out all its details and I've figured it out, but I find it quite confusing.

In updating my Take Control of iTunes: The FAQ ebook, my editor, Michael Cohen, noted a useful keyboard shortcut for working with Up Next. If you press Command-. (that's a period), this stops playback and clears the currently playing track from the iTunes LCD. I haven't yet found a way to clear the Up Next queue from the keyboard, however. If anyone's spotted a shortcut for that, feel free to post it in the comments or submit it as a hint. (As a reminder, you can display the Up Next queue by pressing Command-Option-U.)
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iTunes 11: Empty playlists and syncing to iOS devices Apps
If you choose to sync music by selecting specific playlists, you select your iOS device, then click the Music tab to check the playlists you want. I do this for my iPhone and iPod touch. I have found, however, that with iTunes 11, any playlist that is empty gets unchecked.

Here's why this is a problem for me. I have a few playlists that I use for listening to new music or podcasts. I manually place tracks in these playlists, when I have something to put in them. However, there are times when I sync my iOS devices that they are empty. In the past, this didn't matter; the next time I added something to the playlists, they would sync. But in iTunes 11, they become unchecked in the Music tab, and I have to manually go back and sync them again.

My solution is to add a very short silent track to the beginning of each of these playlists.Some time ago, I made these silent tracks to be able to use them as pauses in playlists, and posted them on my blog. The shortest one is .1 second, which I created for this hint. Just put the silent track anywhere in the playlist, but remember not to delete it, so the playlist never becomes empty.
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Change Mission Control Animation Speed (Mountain Lion) Apps
It's possible to change the time it takes for Mission Control to complete its animation. I'm all for decreasing animation times in Mountain Lion, so this is a handy tweak if you're interested in a similar thing.

In Terminal, type the following:
defaults write com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration -float 0.1  ; killall Dock 
where 0.1 is the time; you can set it to any number you want; try several different numbers to see how this changes the animation. Press Return, and Mission Control's animation time is changed.

To revert it back to the default, enter the following in Terminal, then press Return:
defaults delete com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration ; killall Dock 
[kirkmc adds: This is one of those hints that is, in part, "because we can," but I do understand the desire to make certain animations a bit snappier.]
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iTunes 11: Clear currently playing track Apps
With iTunes 11, when you start playing an album, all its tracks go into the Up Next queue. In addition, the first track starts playing, and is displayed in the iTunes LCD. If you display the Up Next queue - click the list icon in the iTunes LCD, or press Command-Option-U - you can click on Clear to remove all tracks from the queue. However, the currently playing track still remains in the iTunes LCD, which makes sense.

If you want to clear this track as well, and stop playback, display the Up Next queue and click the Clear button again. This is particularly useful if you want to stop playing the current track and add items to the Up Next queue. Since they don't replace the current track, this is one way to do this. (You could also click on the Next button in the playback controls to just skip over it.)
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Keep Yahoo IM Messsages accounts online Apps

If you use a Yahoo IM account in Messages and have a MacBook, you'll find your Yahoo account won't go back online whenever the Mac awakes from sleep mode. Apparently, AOL IM accounts are affected in this way too. Here's one simple solution to the problem that uses crontab to run a simple Applescript that periodically takes all the accounts online.

I write more about this on my blog, including a couple of caveats, but here are the basic steps:

1. Ensure Messages starts at login by right-clicking its Dock icon and Options > Open at Login. Remember that, in OS X Mountain Lion, apps not used for a while will appear to quit automatically, but don’t worry — these steps take that into account.

2. Open a Terminal window. You’ll find Terminal in the Utilities folder of the Applications list within Finder.

3. At the command-line prompt, type crontab -e

4. This will open your (probably) empty crontab file within the vi text editor. Press I to switch to insert mode, so you can type text. Then copy and paste the following, which is all one line:

*/15 * * * * osascript -e 'tell application "System Events" to tell application "Messages" to log in'

Note that if you copy and paste the line, the quotation/single quote marks might be “curly,” depending on which browser you use. This will stop the command working. You might need to delete the quotes, then type them again using your keyboard.

The command causes the AppleScript we specify to run every 15 minutes, which seems reasonable to me because I became a little wary that any more frequent running of the command might impact battery life of my MacBook. But you can change the 15 at the start of the line to any other value, such as 5 minutes.

5. Press Escape, then type :wq which will save the file and quit the editor.

That’s it. You can test it however you wish. Perhaps you might want to take all your accounts offline, then wait up to 15 minutes to find that you’re back online automatically in the background.


[kirkmc adds: I haven't tested this.]
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Approximating iTunes DJ in iTunes 11 Apps
iTunes 11 removed iTunes DJ (neé Party Shuffle), in which it was possible to queue up a random subset of your library or of a selected playlist, and change the queue with a click of the "Refresh" button. At first it seemed as though this was gone completely, but after some fiddling it appears you can get most of the functionality back as part of the new Up Next feature.

First the basics: Starting from a playlist, just click the shuffle icon (the intersecting arrows) in the header of the playlist view, not the shuffle icon in the iTunes LCD. However, there is no shuffle icon when you view your entire music library, so you'll have to fake it by creating a smart playlist with the condition "Media kind is music," with live updating turned on.

Click list icon at the right of the iTunes LCD to view the Up Next queue. The clock icon in that list shows recently played tracks, like the dimmed portion of the old iTunes DJ interface. You can re-order songs in Up Next by dragging them around, and new items can be added to the top of the queue form anywhere in your library using the contextual menu, just like you could in iTunes 10, or by clicking the > icon that displays when you hover your cursor over a track.

What may not be obvious is how to replicate the function of the Refresh button. To do this, click the shuffle icon in the header of your playlist view again.

Now for the caveats:
  • Clicking that shuffle icon again stops the currently playing song, rather than creating a new queue as iTunes DJ did.
  • You have to click on the Up Next list icon again to see the results (or use the new Command-Option-U shortcut), rather than them being immediately visible.
  • Even with shuffle set to songs (Controls > Shuffle > By Songs), you will still see tracks from the same album show up in the list in sequence fairly often. There used to be a way to control this, but I've forgotten and can't seem to find it now.
Perhaps comments on this hint will reveal ways to overcome those issues.

[kirkmc adds: I was initially very confused by Up Next, but I've figured it out, and it's quite practical for queuing up music. However, you can only see 20 songs in the queue, which can be a bit limiting. So it's not a real replacement for iTunes DJ, and this hint does help a bit. Personally, I never used it to play music from my entire library, so the current implementation works for me.]
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Display just one calendar quickly Apps
Sometimes I want to quickly disable all calendars and to display just one, for example, to see upcoming birthdays in month view.

Calendar Help says:

"To show or hide the events on all calendars, hold down the Command key while you click any calendar’s checkbox in the Calendar list."

But if you hold Command and Option, then click a calendar, you achieve exactly what I want: this hide all other calendars except the one you want to see. You can then Command-click another calendar to show them all again.
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iTunes 11: Use Up Next to play one song then stop playback Apps
The AppleScript I provided previously for this doesn't work in iTunes 11, but Up Next can be used instead.

I previously submitted this AppleScript to provide a way to play one song then stop playback in iTunes. The script doesn't work in iTunes 11, but Up Next can be used instead. Also, using this method, it can be accomplished entirely from the keyboard. (It's important to note that "All controls" must be checked at the bottom of the Keyboard Shortcuts tax tab in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences.)

The objective is to be able to select a single song in a playlist, make it start playing, then prevent playback from continuing after the song has been played in its entirety. This can be done in iTunes 11 by selecting a song to play using alternating key presses of Tab, Shift-Tab, Up Arrow and Down Arrow. The next step is most important: open the Up Next list with Command-Option-U, and check to be sure no titles appear in the list (if there are any, press Tab until the "Clear" button is highlighted, then press the spacebar to "click" that button; otherwise press Escape or Command-Option-U again to exit the list), then press Return to play the song. You can pause and resume the song with spacebar if desired, and playback will still stop at the end of the song as long as you don't add anything to the Up Next list in the meantime.

[kirkmc adds: This does seem a bit complicated, but there's no way to use AppleScript to manipulate the Up Next queue, unfortunately.]
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iTunes 11: Change music files to podcasts Apps
After upgrading to iTunes 11, I found it was impossible to change added files from music to podcasts.

A couple of podcasts I listen to that have subscriptions, but only one of them automatically downloads to iTunes. The other one requires me to go to the website, log in, and manually download the file.

What I then used to do was add it to iTunes by double-clicking it, then I'd stop the playback and get info on the track. I would add the show's info (which was missing), and then set it to remember playback position, skip when shuffling, and set its Media Type to Podcast. Since the Artist and Album matched the other files for that podcast, it would end up in that folder, and behave like any other podcast.

With iTunes 11, I can no longer change the file's type to Podcast. It always reverts to music. I can make it an audiobook, or any other type of media, but not a podcast.

This was annoying to say the least. So I went looking for a way to do this, and found a small free app called Typecast from Red Sweater Software.

With Typecast, you drop the mp3 file onto the app's window, enter the name of the podcast, and it sets the Media Type to podcast, and adds it to iTunes. It makes a new podcast for each file you add, even though they are the same podcast, but it shows up under the main list on my iPod, and that's what I wanted.

I don't know if this is an iTunes bug, but this is a workaround.

[kirkmc adds: Yes, it's a bug, and I assume that it will be fixed in the next update, but in the meantime, I think a lot of people will benefit from this hint.]
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