Not too long ago, I was toying around with one of the many third-party tools that allow you to modify how your Mac works. During my testing, I enabled a setting that made those little yellow tooltips pop-up every time I hovered over a URL in Safari. Ugh. Within a week or two, I couldn't take it anymore, and wanted to turn them off again. However, I could not locate the program that I had used to enable them -- I probably had trashed it shortly after trying it out.
So, a little Unix juju to the rescue. First, I had to find where that option was set; it's not a regular preference, as far as I could find. After quitting Safari, I typed this at a Terminal prompt:
I use Firefox on my laptop. When I'm at my desk, I have a second monitor plugged in. I've long been annoyed at how poorly Firefox handles multiple monitors. Specifically, if you do this...
Unplug the second monitor.
Plug in the second monitor.
Move your Firefox window to the second monitor.
Type an m (or any other character -- I chose m because it will auto-complete to macosxhints.com) in the URL bar.
...then the auto-complete drop-down menu will appear on the edge of the first monitor, instead of directly underneath the URL bar in your Firefox window on the second monitor. Form field auto-complete drop-downs behave in the same bad manner.
This annoying behavior doesn't go away until you restart Firefox, which results in a loss of all of your open windows. This morning, I came up with a workaround to make this restart a little less annoying. Instead of quitting Firefox normally, Option-Control-click on Firefox in the Dock and choose Force Quit from the pop-up menu. Then restart Firefox. Firefox will believe that it crashed, and give you the option to restore your session with all of the windows and tabs you had open previously.
[robg adds: I think a more elegant solution would be to install one of the many available session saving extensions for Firefox. With something like Session Manager or SessionSaver .2 installed, you can have Firefox automatically reopen all windows and tabs that existed when you last quit the program. Note, however, that I haven't tested these solutions with the specific two-monitor problem listed here, but I think they should work fine.]
Though opinions seem to vary, I'm squarely in the "annoyed by the backspace in Firefox" camp. By default, the backspace key triggers a 'Back' action, sending you to the previous page in your history. You'd need an Xserve to count the email, messages, and form values that I've lost to this redundant, misappropriated shortcut. Fortunately, the solution can be found in the Firefox's about:configBrowser.backspace_action preference.
How to block the backspace action:
Open a new Firefox window
Enter about:config into the location bar. Press Enter. The about:config page will open. It's a huge list of Firefox configuration properties.
Enter browser.backspace into the filter. This will bring the 'Browser.backspace_action' preference into view.
Contrl-click the 'Browser.backspace_action' Value column, and choose Modify from the pop-up menu, then enter a new value of 2.
That's it! You're done! Fear the backspace key no longer! Of course, you can still use Command-] and Command-[ to go Back and Forward. If you ever want to restore the backspace action, simply change the value of the 'Browser.backspace_action' preference back to 0, using the above process.
Sometimes I need to test a site that's protected with basic authentication with several different users. Safari, unfortunately, does not have a logout function, to forget about basic authentication credentials. To work around this issue, just insert the login and password of the new account directly in the URL, just after the http://. For example, if your URL is something like http://some.protected.site/, use this:
Safari will then switch to the new_user, and it will remember the switch in future visits.
If QuickTime logos containing a question mark appear in Safari after installing the latest version of RealPlayer for Mac OS X, examine the preferences file for the QuickTime internet plug-in (com.apple.quicktime.plugin.preferences.plist) in the user's Preferences folder for repeated occurrences of the qt and mov strings in the the WebPluginExtensions array of the video/quicktime key. Remove repeated string values and relaunch Safari, and the problem should be fixed.
Typing keywords into the URL entry field in Firefox will take you to the top hit of a Google search -- the same thing you'd see if you clicked the "I'm feeling lucky" link on Google's search page. I discovered this by accident, and didn't think much of it at the time, and not certainly worthy of a posting, but I've found myself using it more and more. For example; finding info on a product, where I don't care which vendor site I go to, I just want the specs, a picture, and a ballpark price. So in the URL bar, I type akg 414 or mackie 1202.
For a quick reminder of details, try ortf or FM synthesis or John cage. Need the IRS' 1040ez form? Just type 1040ez into the URL bar. Also try things like art institute hours, babel fish, car talk london review of books, performance audio, and of course, apple store. Or try some software sites, like menumeter, amadeus ii, quickeys, or starquiz. Each of those take you to their site faster than doing a Google search and then clicking the top hit.
Not very fancy, but I love tricks that save me a click and four seconds.
[robg adds: I'm not positive this always runs an I'm Feeling Lucky search; a couple of examples I tried just led to Google's search results page. If I tried those same examples with the I'm Feeling Lucky button on Google, though, then I went directly to a given site. So I'm not quite sure what's going on...]
This may be an obvious one, but I haven't seen it documented elsewhere, nor in my search of this site. Anyway, drag and drop any chunk of text (from any program) to the search field in Firefox, and Firefox will search for that phrase using whatever search engine it has been set to.
For example, if you are typing a report on Napoleon in Microsoft Word, you can check the Wikipedia entry (assuming you have the Wikipedia search engine installed, and it's set as the Firefox default) by simply dragging the text "Napoleon" to the search field in any open Firefox window.
[robg adds: This also works in Camino, but not Safari or OmniWeb (nor probably any of the other WebKit-based browsers).]
If you're using Safari, there's an easy way to download YouTube videos. Open the page with the movie and press Command-Option-A, which shows the Activity window. If you're also loading other sites, you'll see a list of them: scroll until you find the YouTube page and click on the arrow to show details about what is being loaded.
You will certainly notice an element whose size is over 0.5MB (most of the time, over 5MB). Double-click on it (even if it is still loading), and Safari will download it. When the download is over, navigate to the file in the Finder (which will probably be called get_video) and add the extension .flv to its name. Now you can play it with VLC or with QuickTime (only if you have Perian installed).
[robg adds: We've covered the use of the Activity window before, but with the popularity of YouTube, I felt it was worth pointing out this one specialized use.]
When you use tabs, Safari sets the tab's title to include the domain name as well as the page title. For instance, macosxhints.com - Submit a Hint. However, when you have more than one or two tabs opened on the same site, Safari drops the domain name from all the tabs, and just includes the page title: Submit a Hint
It somehow doesn't seem to be completely consistent, but Safari definitely changes the tab's titles on the fly, so as to avoid many macosxhi... tabs, which would be basically useless.
[robg adds: True, there's not really a hint here, but it's this kind of attention to detail that makes much Mac software so pleasant to use. I had never noticed the behavior in Safari before, but I had noticed that its tabs seemed somehow 'cleaner' than those in Camino ... and now I know why!]
You may know that you can use Firefox (or your web browser of choice to browse your Mac's file system. In fact, you can do more than that, with a simple addition to the above tip. This is a solution for times when you need to read, but not edit, Word documents -- and this method is significantly faster than opening Word itself to do the reading. It works by installing a free Word reader plug-in for your browser, and making the appropriate bookmark pointing to your Documents folder:
Download and install the Word Browser Plugin. See the Read Me file for instructions: just double-click to open the DMG file, then drag the plugin to /Library » Internet Plug-Ins (this is the system-level library, not your user's Library). Restart your browser.
Point the browser to file:///Users/your_name/Documents -- note the three slashes. You'll see a list of your files; make a bookmark to this location; call it "Local Files" or something.
Now, pull down your bookmarks menu to Local Files. In Firefox at least, this will bring up a secondary menu of all the sub-folders (and then sub-folders of that, etc.). Note first how much quicker this is than navigating through the Finder. Then find a Word document. Whoosh! It comes up in the browser. Not all formatting is preserved, and you can't edit it, but for simple reading, it's easily 10 times faster than finding the document in the Finder, clicking it, and waiting around for Word to open.
This method is also quick to navigate to and open any other kind of file that the browser can handle. And of course, if you don't have Word, this will let you read .doc files that people send you, and is similarly faster than opening OpenOffice for reading. The intent of the plug-in is to read Word documents on the web, and it works fine for that, too. If you bring one of those up and want to save it or print it, click the icons in the upper left. Also note the enlarge/reduce buttons, and the search button. I've only tested this with Firefox (184.108.40.206), and this method does not work with Safari.
[robg adds: Note that the Word Browser Plugin is PowerPC only, so Intel users won't be able to use this tip unless they want to run their browser in Rosetta mode.]