After picking up Office v.X on Sunday afternoon, I'm in the midst of converting the source for the OS X Guidebook into Word (primarily to support higher res images, but also adding some new hints; look for a release by the weekend as a new PDF download). In working with Word (which I generally love, BTW), I've noticed that it's an extremely CPU-intensive application, even when just sitting in the background. With the Guidebook open (about a 3.5mb file), Word takes 40% - 60% of my CPU, whether it's in the foreground or the background. While working on the document, this isn't a problem, but it can be a bit of a problem when I've put Word into the background to do something else.
After some experimentation, I found a solution. It's not ideal, but it works. Simply close the document before switching applications. When I do this, Word's CPU usage drops to basically zero. It's also close to zero with a new blank document open. Somewhere between the blank document and my 3.5mb file, though, Word becomes quite CPU hungry -- and this is on a G4/733 with 1.2gb of RAM.
So if you want a responsive system, remember to close any large documents that you may have opened in Word before putting it in the background. I have not done any testing with Excel or PowerPoint to see if this same issue extends to those applications or not.
UPDATE: Based on an email from Philip D., I tweaked some settings and appear to have eliminated the problem (at least based on what's happening now). I have Word in the background with the 3.5mb file open, and it's using less than 1% of the CPU. What changes did I make? I turned off "Check spelling as you type" and "Check grammar as you type" in the "Spelling and Grammar" preferences tab. I also turned off "Show live word count" in the "Window" portion of the "View" preferences. This seems to have reduced Word's appetite for background CPU power to nearly zero.
In Entourage X, clicking on a URL in an email message launched Internet Explorer, even though OmniWeb was my default browser. I couldn't find a preference setting to change this -- if it's there, never mind the following workaround.
In the Finder, go to the Applications folder and temporarily rename Internet Explorer (I just added "xxx" to the end of the name so it became "Internet Explorerxxx").
In Entourage, click on a URL in an email message. It can't find Internet Explorer, so it uses (in my case) OmniWeb instead.
In the Finder, restore the name of Internet Explorer.
Henceforth, Entourage uses OmniWeb instead of IE, and I am happier. One reason, among many, is that OmniWeb has an option to open a new window when another application sends it a URL to open. IE reuses whichever window is frontmost.
[Editor's note: I have not tested this tip; I just installed Office v.X on Sunday, and have not yet launched Entourage. However, regarding IE, there's a prefs setting in Interface Extras where you can specify the behavior of the browser when answering requests from other applications.]
This feature is actually mentioned on the OmniGraffle web site, but I think it worth publishing here on Mac OS X Hints as well because it is very cool.
Create an outline using OmniOutliner, and save it. Now drag the file onto the OmniGraffle icon. OmniGraffle will display the outline as a diagram. If you happen to be making a diagram that has a hierarchical organization, it is much easier to make it as an outline first. And even if this is a feature you could never use yourself, it's worth trying it out once anyway just to see it :-)
OmniGraffle will also display Project Builder project files, which could be very handy for Cocoa programmers, as well as some other formats.
[Editor's note: If you aren't familiar with them, OmniOutliner is a program that tries to let you capture your thoughts in an outline format, and OmniGraffle is a charting package. Both have freely downloadable versions available for you to try before buying, and are well worth a download.]
MacReporter is a $12 shareware application that runs as a dockling in OS X, and has some cool features that are worth a look. Similar to Slashdock and other dockling news browsers, MacReporter can pull headlines from various sites and display them in the dock. MacReporter makes use of live dock updates to show the number of unread articles in the dock icon, as seen in the screenshot (it may be a bit hard to see in the image, but it shows 24 unread articles). It also notes which articles you haven't read with a small diamond icon, and has access to sites which do not offer traditional RDF output. You can also choose how you'd like to be notified of new headlines - the dock icon, a sound, both, or no notification.
In its unregistered state, you get access to 20-ish news sites, and MacReporter is limited to displaying half the headlines from each site. This allows you to get a good sense of whether you feel MacReporter is worth your shareware fee or not, while still providing a compelling reason to register. macosxhints, unfortunately, is not in the preview version, but is available to registered users (and no, I don't get a kickback if you register! :-). In addition to macosxhints, you gain access to about 60 other sites; there's a full list on the MacReporter website.
MacReporter is a nicely done piece of shareware that's worth a look if you spend much time looking for news around the web.
MetaMorph X is a program which allows you to alter, via ‘themes,' the look and feel of the Macintosh system interface, not unlike what Kaleidoscope provides to Mac OS 9 users. However, it has the capability of causing great damage to your system under circumstances that can very easily befall any user.
If you install MetaMorph X, YOU MUST MAKE SURE that the theme you use is for the current version of your operating system. You cannot use a 10.0.4 theme on a 10.1 system, for example! If you have MetaMorph X installed and are installing a system update, MAKE SURE it is completely uninstalled and that you are in the "Aqua" theme that Apple packaged with Mac OS X before installing any update.
If you don't, what will befall you?
The next time you try to log back in, you will find that your system no longer presents you with a login window. (Enabling automatic login prior to theme installation is not a solution.)
If this happens, the only solution so far has been to re-install OS 10.0. The problem with that is that after the install of 10.0 is complete, many systems will experience kernel panics immediately at startup. Fortunately, you should be able to continue the upgrade to 10.1, which should cure the panic. (Fortunately, even though my computer was "panicking," the Upgrade CD still recognized the system as being eligible for an upgrade to Mac OS 10.1 — the disk was not greyed out. YMMV.)
According to a post in the MacFixIt Forums, the reason for all this sturm und drang may be that the Extras.rsrc file gets corrupted, and that this may be a bug with Apple's themes implementation.
[Editor's note: Whenever you decide to use something that modifies the lowest levels of your system, please make sure you backup your data first! It's just generally good advice in case you end up reformatting your drive.]
Okay, here is a quick run-down of how I fully utilize the power of DragThing. DragThing is a MacOS utility that provides multiple tabbed docks to store aliases, web links, etc. It also has a process dock that acts much like the MacOS X dock (with some customization differences).
What really hooked me, though, was the ability to add hot-keys and applescripts.
Read the rest of this article for some useful examples of both hot keys and AppleScripts with Drag Thing, including a script to automatically display an updated listing of your volumes in a dock layer.
When importing songs from a CD into an iTunes library, command-click on the square widget to the left of a song. This will deselect all of the songs at once ... a lot quicker than manually deselecting every song you don't want to import. Command-click again to re-select all of the songs.
Keyboard Maestro is the OSX version of MacOS Classic utility Program Switcher, which allows you to launch, switch, and quit applications with a simple keystroke.
I love this utility because it makes it very easy to switch back and forth between 2 or 3 programs with one or two alt+tab or other shortcut you prefer while at the same time you have 20 other programs running in the background. I find myself often switching between BBedit and Terminal and doing this for hours, then this is a great utility to use. It's in Public Beta, but I have used it for a month without problems.
Every time you alt+tab, a small switching window is displayed which contains the list/icons of all running applications. If you click on one of them you jump to that app; alt+tab+q quits the app.
[Editor's note: I haven't tried this one myself, but it sounds like it's worth a look. I find the new alt-tab behavior a bit frustrating - before, you would toggle between the current app and the most recent; now, you toggle across the dock, left to right. I'll have to give Keyboard Maestro a tryout!]
I spend a fair bit of time on VersionTracker and macosxapps.com looking for new software. Last night, I downloaded a program known simply as Watson. I wasn't quite sure what it did, but it had glowing reviews on VersionTracker.
It's hard to describe everything that Watson does, but it does it all quite well. It's a very nice Cocoa application that includes interfaces to Internet movie finders, images, phone books, stock listings, and eBay auctions. In addition, there are planned future plug-ins for things such as TV listings, maps, flight finders (available already), automated teller machine finders, ski resort information, and sports and weather. Yes, you can do all this yourself by hitting the various websites, but Watson does the hard work for you and presents the results in a very Mac-like manner.
Take a look at Watson's home page to get an idea of the interface; it's extremely well done and takes advantage of drawers in a great manner - settings drawers slide out of the right side of the main window, and a detail drawer drops out of the bottom.
Watson isn't free - it's a $29 shareware program ... but I've just sent in my fee after only 15 minutes of usage. The interface is useful and intuitive, the functionality is perfect, and it does exactly what you'd expect it to do. I can see this quickly becoming an indispensible tool.
Not sure if this has already been mentioned, but, if you find that the terminal in OS X is too slow for you, then you might want to check out GLTerm. This is a fast, no frills terminal for OS X that will allow you to work at the speed you want.
Give it a try! Now that I have used it I don't think I will ever go back. This is not a paid endorsement.
[Editor's note: GLTerm uses OpenGL to render a predefined selection of font sizes very very quickly. I tried it, and it's definitely FAST. However, I've gotten used to my semi-transparent terminal, and would find it difficult to give up this (trivial yet valuable to me) feature. GLTerm does not currently offer transparency (a future update, perhaps?), but it is incredibly fast and well worth a look.]