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.]
Found this app on my local users group - ASM 2.0x. It's a great utility to ease me into independence from the dock.
ASM is the reincarnation of the application switcher menu. It's highly customizable and offers some nice extra features, such as "Classic Window Mode" (orders all windows of an application to front when it becomes active) or "Single Application Mode" (automatically hides applications other than the front-most one).
The fact that its free makes it even better. Download it from their web site. The developer makes the source code available and you can modify it if you want. Very cool!
There are three reasons you may wish to remove channels from Sherlock:
Sherlock loads faster with fewer channels and everybody loves more speed
Some channels are hidden ads anyway (No, I don't shop at amazon.com and never will)
I just hate that woman staring at me on the people channel. She has a crazy look.
The folder that holds the Sherlock channels and plug-ins is located in ~/Library/Internet Search Sites (~ = /Users/username). Now, the catch here is that if you simply go trashing the folders inside, Sherlock will happily recreate them the next time it is launched.
Trash them anyway, but then put a Textedit file with the same name in its place (Ex.: put a file named "People" where the folder "Pepople" is supposed to be). Sherlock won't be able to recreate the channel and will not display it in the future. Any kind of file will do. Just make sure your file does not have any kind of extension (.rtf) at the end.
Disabling a plug-in works the same way. Just put a file named "Altavista.src" in the Internet folder, for example.
Broadband Optimizer for OS X claims to optimize your network settings for broadband connections (like cable modems) to the Internet. There's some discussion of this program and the results obtained with it on the Ars Technica Networking Forums.
[Editor's note: I downloaded and installed this package. It's a very benign installation - a folder which sits in your /Library/StartupItems folder, and sets four different TCP values. To remove it, just remove the folder and restart. If you have a broadband connection, it can't hurt to give it a try. My test results were interesting. I ran the speed tests from bandwidthplace.com, and I also looked at Quake3 ping times. My download speeds seem to have dropped slightly since installting the package, but my Quake3 ping times are notably (and repeatably) lower. I'll keep an eye on it over the next few days and see how things go with both downloading and Quake3 before I decide whether I'll keep this package or not.]
In the now-shipping Office v.X, saving documents with long filenames is not yet supported. You can open a long filename document, and (just as in OS 9), Office will display the name truncated. Upon saving, the long filename is retained.
If you try to save a new document with a long filename, however, you'll be told that the "filename is too long" and must not exceed 31 characters. Dan C., a member of the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft, posted the reason to Omni's OS X Talk mailing list:
Word can open and edit files with >= 32 characters, but will show the truncated file name in title bar. Also, when saving a new file, the name is limited to 31 characters. Supporting longer file names requires rewriting a lot of file handling code in Word and the Office shared code. There's a lot of code there! We are working on adding this support in the future.
So for now, you'll have to create longer filenames in the Finder when using Office v.X.