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Options for removing the system-wide Flash plug-in Apps
While recent versions of the MacBook Air ship without Adobe Flash installed, the idea of voluntarily removing Flash from /Library/Internet Plug-Ins got some attention when John Gruber wrote about his technique. Put simply, Gruber removed Flash from its default location, thus trying to force sites to load HTML5 versions of content. For instances when that didn't suffice, he would load the page in Google Chrome, a browser which has the Flash plug-in embedded within it. His add-on trick is to enable the Develop menu in Safari and use System Preferences » Keyboard to map a shortcut for taking a page in Safari and opening it in Chrome.

The underlying logic of such an approach is generally twofold. For one, it helps site developers get a sense of how many folks are viewing pages using Flash-free systems, thus possibly encouraging them to publish content that doesn't rely on Flash. Two, and much more pragmatically, it reduces the system load since Flash on the Mac is known to regularly use a large percentage of the CPU, sometimes even after the user has closed the window (or tab) where Flash content was viewed.

Should anyone pursue a route like this, Google Chrome is obviously an option for when content is only available using Flash. I tried that for a while, but for subjective reasons I didn't much like Chrome, mostly because of its lack of support for system-level features (e.g., the built-in pop-up dictionary), large footprint, and auto-updating behavior. So I went hunting for alternatives. Here's what I've found that works:

InDesign CS4: Perhaps earlier versions have it, too, but this version of InDesign has a Flash-embedded version of Opera embedded within it (I recall it was version 9.x of Opera). I can't speak to the current version of InDesign, now at 5.5, but standalone version 5 does not have Opera. Perhaps it's only installed when a full Creative Suite installation is performed.

OmniWeb (currently v. 5.10.3): Right clicking on this application and choosing Show Package Contents will reveal a PlugIns folder. Simply move or copy the Flash plug-in here (even the one embedded in Chrome) and this browser will handle Flash content.

iCab (currently v. 4.8): This is my personal preference. It has the leanest footprint of the options I've found, and it easily imports (or just uses) things like Bookmarks, History and Cookies from Safari. While it doesn't have a Plugins folder embedded within it, simply creating one called PlugIns with a copy of the Flash plug-in will work.

Perhaps there are other browsers which can be used, but my tests with SeaMonkey, Camino, Firefox, Shiira, Sunrise, and the current Opera (v 11.10) were not successful.

[crarko adds: I tested this on a few of the mentioned browsers, and it works as described.]
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How to Turn on Anti-Aliasing in GeekTool Apps
One of my biggest pet peeves on my Mac has always been that GeekTool doesn't have the option for anti-aliased fonts. After searching around, I found countless complaints about this on a bunch of web sites and forums, but not any solutions that actually worked.

After a little OS X font research, I found that shadows force anti-aliasing, regardless of the application. This method allows you to reap the benefits of anti-aliasing without having to see a shadow next to all your widgets.

To turn on anti-aliasing in GeekTool widgets, go to the font preferences for the widget and, if you can't see it already, resize the font window so that you can see the shadow sliders. Click the shadow button (the button right before the sliders) and then set the opacity to as close to 0 as it will go, but not 0. Just a pixel above. Then set the other two sliders to 0. This will cause Mac OS X to force antialiasing on your widgets, even though GeekTool doesn't support it out of the box.

[crarko adds: I tried this with GeekTool 3.0, and as far as I could tell it only applied to the 'Image' type Geeklet.]
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Change Default Bullet List format in Word Apps
Changing the default for bulleted lists in Word is neither intuitive nor obvious.

I use Word 2008 as my main text editor. Somewhere along the way, the default style for the bulleted list that arises when you click the bullet icon in the toolbar got completely mangled. The first line was indented a full inch, while subsequent lines in the bullet point were indented an inch and a half. Ugly. I finally figured out the process for changing the default bullet format and I'm sharing in case anybody else has the same issue. I'm assuming similar steps would apply in Word 2004 and 2011, but I don't have them and don't know.

  • In a new, blank document, Choose 'Bullets and Numbering' from the Format menu
  • Click on the first option under the 'Bulleted' tab and click the 'Customize' button
  • Choose the options you want for type of bullet, font, indent, etc. (I use Bullet position of 'indent at .25' and text position of 'indent at 0.38,' but you may prefer different options)
  • In order to ensure that these options apply in any new document you create, you must add the Bulleted List style to your Normal template.
  • Choose Format » Style... and click the 'Organizer' button.
  • On the left of the Organizer window, choose 'List Paragraph' and then click the 'Copy' button to copy to Normal.dotm
Now every document you open should have the default bulleted list style you prefer. You can also create a regular old style for your preferred bullet style to apply whenever you want, but I prefer to be able to just click the 'bullet' button and keep writing.

[crarko adds: I haven't tested this one.]
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Another way to remove PDF passwords Apps
My insurance company requires me to fill in claim forms in a .pdf form, but won't let me save it once it's filled in (it is password protected). After using virtual printers, utilities, etc. I have found an easier way to bypass the password and save the .pdf (and thus the drudgery of filling in the same info every time I make a claim). Just mail it!

When Preview doesn't allow you to save a file, nor 'Save as PDF' (nor open in Preview) from the print dialog, you can still use 'Mail Selected PDF Document' from the File menu.

Mail will then open a new message with the unprotected document as an attachment. The unprotected document is buried deep inside the private/var folder but can simply be opened in Preview by clicking on it in the mail message and then saved (unprotected) wherever you like.

[crarko adds: I haven't tested this one. This strikes me as a bug.]
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Add fonts to the built-in Stickies widget Apps
The built-in Stickies dashboard widget lets you use a few Apple-selected fonts, but the selection doesn't have very many options. I wanted a way to add other fonts to the Stickies widget. By adding two lines to the code that supports the widget, you can add any font on your computer.

It may be helpful to have some knowledge of HTML and JavaScript, but the procedure is simple enough that you should be able to do it even if you don't have experience with those languages.

The first step is to make a copy of the widget so you're not working on the original. Go to /Library/Widgets and find Stickies. Copy it and paste it into ~/Library/Widgets and name it something else, like StickiesWithFonts.

Close the Stickies widget in your Dashboard; you won't be needing that version anymore.

Next, we begin modifying the code. You'll need a good text editor like TextWrangler or Fraise (both free).

Now, find the first file we're going to modify. Right click on the copy you made (StickiesWithFonts) and choose Show Package Contents. In the new window that appears, open the Stickies.js file with your editor. Next is to modify the JavaScript code.
  • Find the line that goes var fontArray = new Array; (it should be around line 407).
  • Below it are a few other lines that are similar to each other. They follow the form of fontArray["font name"] = 0;.
  • Copy the last line of this type (probably American Typewriter) and paste it below itself.
  • Now, change the line you pasted to this: fontArray["font name"] = 8;.
  • For the font name, type in the name of the font you want to add. Make the number at the end of the line one more than the line above it.
  • Save this file and close it.
Now, back in the Package Contents window, open Stickies.html in your editor. This is the second (and final) document we need to modify, in this one, the HTML code.

To start, find the line that goes

<select id='font-popup' class='popup' onchange='fontchanged(this);'> (should be around line 40).

Below, you'll find a few lines that are similar to each other. Each one begins with<option value.

As with the previous file, copy the last line and paste it below itself. Change the line say <option value='font name'>Font Name</option> where font name is the name of the font you added earlier.

Now, restart Dashboard by opening Terminal and typing killall Dock.

Now you're ready to install the new widget you made. Double click on your StickiesWithFonts in ~/Library/Widgets. It will open in Dashboard.

Choose a font how you normally would, and you'll notice your new font in the popup menu. Select it, and you'll be writing in your newly-added font like this.

Repeat this process whenever you want to add another font.

[crarko adds: I haven't tested this one. As advised, make sure you edit a copy of the original in case something goes awry.]
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Mass edit Address Book and iCal using Bento Apps
I sometimes find myself wanting to make large changes to my Address Book and iCal entries -- the kinds of things that I don't seem to be able to do within the applications themselves. Things like being able to search for a group of iCal events, select them, and then change them all to a new iCal calendar. Using Bento, I can do just that. It is a great way of cleaning up the Address Book, too.

You just open Bento (I'm using version 4 now, but 3 could also do it), navigate to either the Address or iCal source lists, choose the list view, and start editing. Could not be easier.

[crarko adds: I tested this, and it works as described. Bento obviously is not free, but there seem to be a lot of people out there who using it.]
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Catalog your CD collection using iTunes Apps
Have you ever wanted to catalog your CD collection in a searchable database but didn't want to shell out the $30 to $40 some cataloging apps cost? You don't have to spend a cent. Everything you need is already on your Mac.

Begin by creating a destination folder with a clever name. I came up with 'CD Collection.'

Get a stack of your CD's and open iTunes. Put a CD into your drive. If the contents of the CD don't appear as a playlist in iTunes, click on 'Advanced' and select 'Get Track Names.' You need to be online and iTunes should then get the track information from Gracenotes.

Next, click Edit » Select All. Right Click in the blue highlighted area and select 'Copy.' Open TextEdit and right click in the white area. Select 'Paste.' Close TextEdit and save the file with the artist's name followed by the album name, like this:

Various Artists_My Big Mix 2

Move the text file you've just created to your CD Collection folder and repeat this process with each CD you want to catalog.

All of your CD's will now be organized alphabetically by artist; and alphabetically by title within that artist's grouping.

To find a particular song, or all songs by a particular artist, use Spotlight to search through your CD Collection folder and display all instances of that song title, a word contained in a song title, or the artist you want. This can come in handy if, for example, you've just returned from a ski trip and want to find music to accompany a slideshow in iPhoto. You could search for keywords like winter, snow, ski; and such to come up with a number of possible sound tracks to use.

Since your CD Collection folder has alphabetized your CD's by artist name; it's also easy for you to physically organize your CD collection alphabetically on a storage shelf. Just remember to keep your database current by adding new CD's as you buy or burn them.

[crarko adds: I tested this, and it works as described. This is a bit more work than using one of the cataloging programs, but does have the virtue of being free.]
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Opening new Terminal window from Finder Apps
I use the Terminal and Midnight Commander quite often. However, opening a new terminal window and then changing to the directory location where I need to use the command line takes time. The Toolbar Dragpoints hint brought me to an idea to create a short AppleScript that opens a new terminal window in the folder active in Finder:
on ApplicationIsRunning(appName)
  tell application "System Events" to set appNameIsRunning to exists (processes where name is appName)
  return appNameIsRunning
end ApplicationIsRunning

tell application "Finder"
    set winLoc to target of the front window as text
  on error
    set winLoc to home as text
  end try
  set pth to quoted form of POSIX path of winLoc
end tell

if ApplicationIsRunning("Terminal") then
  tell application "Terminal"
    do script "cd " & pth & ""
  end tell
  tell application "Terminal"
    set twID to index of front window
  end tell
  tell application "Terminal"
    do script "cd " & pth & "" in window twID
  end tell
end if

tell application "Terminal" to activate
You can save the script in the AppleScript Editor as an application and then just drag and drop it into the Finder toolbar. If you have Midnight Commander installed, you can change the first "do script" line to:

do script "mc \"" & pth & "\" \"" & pth & "\""

and the second to:

do script "mc \"" & pth & "\" \"" & pth & "\"" in window twID

In that case the script opens the Midnight Commander with the folder active in both panels. I found this especially useful when I need to extract just one or few files from a zip archive as Midnight Commander allows you to do that.

[crarko adds: I think we've had simliar hints before; I run this one because the Midnight Commander part may be a new wrinkle on it. There was a time when I used to use MC quite a bit, too. I compiled the script to make sure all the quotes matched, let me know if there are any errors with the commands. Script corrected per author's request -- CRA]
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Play iTunes Music Videos as sound only Apps
I was trying to play a music video in iTunes and it started playing only the sound from it. I looked around for a few seconds trying to find the video window, and I restarted the video a few times to see if it would open.

Finally I realized that I had my AirPort Express selected as an additional set of speakers. I unchecked the AirPort Express and, sure enough, the video started playing.

I don't know if anyone out there wants to know how to stop the video from playing in music videos, but perhaps this might someday help someone who is wondering why only the music part of their music videos is playing.

[crarko adds: The evolution of AirPlay will probably change this.]
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Backup Mail Notes Apps
This hint offers a low tech solution to an all too common problem. The forums are filled with exasperated people who have lost months of notes they created in Mail after a crash, update or simple mistake.

Perhaps Apple is assuming we all have a Time Machine drive hooked up. Whatever the reason, they have not seen fit to provide a straightforward way to backup Notes.

There are two easy solutions, and while they will not update or sync in any way, at least you can recover your notes if you inadvertently lose them all.

If you have just a few notes, the first and simplest is method to make a text clipping.
  • Select all of the text in your note.
  • Click and drag the selected text onto the desktop or your backup folder.
That's it! Your note appears in the folder as a text clipping. It opens in the Finder and can be dragged back into a Note just as easily.

The second involves digging around in the Finder to find where the note files are stored. I found my Mobile Me notes in:


Substitute your own account's shortname for *username*. I then copied the Notes.imapmbox file into my backup folder.

[crarko adds: I tested this, and it works as described. I do have a Time Machine drive hooked up so sometimes it's too easy to forget those who don't.]
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