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Recover from a constantly restarting Finder loop Desktop
I was working on something yesterday when, all of the sudden, the Finder closed and opened, then closed and opened again, and again, and again until it was annoying and became apparent that it was a loop. First I restarted, but it was the same all over. I then tried to login as another user, and everything was just fine. So I was puzzled; I tried some stuff like open firmware restart and single user mode, but couldn't do anything -- the Finder kept crashing.

So I tried Google (some apps actually worked when this was happening), and I got some leads on macosxhints.com, but these tips didn't help me out. They did, however, get me thinking that it probably was a file on the Desktop that was causing the loop (I had a desktop full of stuff) ... and Path Finder was mentioned on one of the websites I had googled.

So I downloaded a Path Finder demo from cocoatech.com, and managed to open it because I had to be faster than the crashing Finder. When I finally opened it, I made a new folder on my hard drive and moved all the files I had on the Desktop to the new folder.

I did not even needed to reboot; the crashing Finder loop was over. So I don't know which file originated this, but it was finally done. It took me more than three hours to figure it out. If you have this symptom on your Mac, maybe my little horror story can help you out -- and give Path Finder a try.

[robg adds: While Path Finder is indeed worth trying (it's a previous Pick of the Week winner here), there's another somewhat more straightforward solution to this problem. Logged in as the second user, just use sudo mv in the Terminal to move all of the troublesome user's Desktop files to a new spot:
$ sudo mkdir /Users/username/Documents/tempfolder
$ sudo mv /Users/username/Desktop/* /Users/username/Documents/tempfolder
I'm sure there are other ways to do this as well, but the above would work...]
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A fix for a very slow contextual menu in the Finder Desktop
Recently my Finder's contextual menu (right-click) menu has been taking an age (five seconds or so) to pop-up. Logging out and in fixes it, but not for long.

So I tried removing various items from ~/Library -> Contextual Menu Items and /System -> Library -> Contextual Menu Items and restarting Finder. It turns out that the culprit was FolderActionsMenu.plugin, in the System-level Contextual Menu Items folder. I have no idea why it makes things so slow (the Folder Actions Setup dialog is really unresponsive, which may have something to do with it), but moving it out of the Contextual Menu Items folder (as root or sudo) has made everything better.

You can still configure Folder Actions using the scripts in the Script menu's Folder Actions folder.

[robg adds: I haven't noticed a slowdown on either of my machines. If you're going to try this fix, don't delete the file, just relocate it elsewhere -- you may wish to put it back at some point.]
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Retrieve hidden X11 apps after Finder crashes Desktop
I work with UNIX servers in my day job, and love having X11 on my Mac systems. Unfortunately, every now and then the Finder either crashes or is restarted for some reason. When that happens, any X11 applications minimized to the Dock disappear and can't be reactivated. You can see the application if you control-click on the X11 Dock icon, but if you select any of them, nothing happens.

I found that if I kill and restart quartz-wm then the hidden applications will reappear. Having had this happen to me several times, I came up with this quick fix. First, make a backup copy of /etc/X11/xinit/xinitrc. Next, using sudo, edit the original, replacing this line at the bottom of the file:
exec quartz-wm
with this:
while :
do
  quartz-wm
  sleep 5
done
Restart X11 after you make this change. Now, the next time the Finder dies/restarts and you find yourself with missing X11 windows, either open a new xterm from X11, or launch Terminal and run this on the command line:
ps -ax | grep [q]uartz-wm | awk '{print $1}' | xargs kill
This finds the process id (pid) of quartz-wm (and skips the pid of grep) and sends it to kill. In five seconds, quartz-wm will restart and all of your missing X11 apps should reappear. If this doesn't happen, then you have stubborn quartz-wm that doesn't want to die. Just repeat, but add the -KILL (same as -9) option to kill:
ps -ax | grep [q]uartz-wm | awk '{print $1}' | xargs kill -KILL
Note: If you mess up your xinitrc file, just use Terminal.app to copy your backup back into place and try again.
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10.4: Use Automator to keep the desktop clean Desktop
Tiger only hintIt happens to the best of us: Desktop clutter. Try as we might, we always end up with all sorts of files on our beautiful desktop, and if you're anything like me [ie: retentive], it irks you, but you live with it until you can no longer see any remnants of your wallpaper. Then you must finally go through the arduous process of manually filing all that clutter. No more!

Now I know there are lots of ways to keep desktop clutter to a minimum, like changing default download folders, etc. However, I didn't want to sacrifice the convenience of working with archives, files, and such on the desktop in the short run. Instead, I created an Automator workflow (my first such endeavour) to automatically purge my desktop and file that mess for me, and it does the job very well!

This is what I did, you can obviously ammend it to suit your needs...
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Create special single-click-to-launch Dock folders Desktop
One thing that I've always missed from Classic was the Launcher (or folder tabs with button icons). Neither the launcher nor folder tabs were perfect and neither is this hint, but they accomplished a task somewhat efficiently: easy access to all applications.

I've found that I like to have single-click access via the Dock to all my applications, but given limited space, that's just not feasible. Navigating the Finder is just too much of a hassle for me. I also liked the way you could categorize applications in the Launcher (or folder tabs with button icons), so I have combined the two concepts with a pair of AppleScripts attached as folder actions.

It works like this. I create a folder analogous to the categories I could make in the old Launcher, and I populate it with aliases to applications. I put this folder in the Dock. I then decide on a default application: an application I want to launch if I click on the folder in the Dock. I then insert the appropriate code into an AppleScript, and attach it as a folder action.
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A possible fix for non-minimizable windows Desktop
I came upon a problem once of not being able to minimize windows into the dock. This problem occured several times and appeared to me to be random. I searched my guts out online trying to find an answer to my problem with no results. I even contacted Apple and still got nothing. So I just lived with it for a while. Whenever it happened, any window that was currently open would not minimize, but newly opened windows would. So I would just have to close whatever windows were open and re-open them, which was a pain.

Then one day I figured it out. The problem is caused by some programs that display full-screen and change the resolution, namely video games. Whenever I exit these types of program, the problem occurs. The fix I found was to open up any QuickTime movie, hit Command-F to go to fullscreen mode, then close the movie. After that, voila, the problem was solved.
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Remove double instance of Desktop entry in Save menu Desktop
After a Finder crash, I found that I had two instances of the Desktop in the Save dialog box, but only one in the regular Finder sidebar. To fix the problem, simply delete the preferences file named com.apple.sidebarlists.plist, found in your user's Library/Preferences folder.

This might sound silly, but I went looking in all the wrong places (like com.apple.finder.plist) first.
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Listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed Desktop
I subscribe to far-too-many podcasts now, and I've found that most of the podcasters can actually be cleanly understood even if you speed up their speech by 50%. So, when my iTunes shows that I have 45 minutes left on a podcast, and I'd rather hear that in 30 minutes, I pull down my script menu to reveal and execute the following AppleScript (saved in my user's Library -> Scripts -> Applications -> iTunes folder as Play this song at 1.5x):
tell application "iTunes"
  pause
  set my_track to location of current track
  set my_seconds to player position
end tell

tell application "QuickTime Player"
  open my_track
  set my_movie to first movie
  set ts to time scale of my_movie
  set current time of my_movie to my_seconds * ts
  set rate of my_movie to 1.5 -- starts playing
end tell
Basically, this tells iTunes to stop playing the podcast, figures out where I am in the podcast, then tells QuickTime Player to start playing the podcast at the same place (within a second), but at 1.5 times the speed. Note that the pitch is unaffected -- only the playback rate changes.

I haven't done a lot of testing with what happens when you have multiple windows already open in Quicktime Player, so I could be wrong on guessing my_movie in the script. Feedback welcome!
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Another method to empty trash that refuses to empty Desktop
Occasionally, I would find several items left in my trash that would not empty. Even delete commands with tools like Onyx did nothing. I then found the cure: grab all the items in the trash, and drag them to the Desktop. Then return the icons to the trash, and empty the trash. The files are gone!

[robg adds: Over the years, this has probably been one of the more popular topics to discuss -- it seems there are many possible solutions. Even Apple has jumped into the discussion with their You can't empty the Trash or move a file to the Trash in Mac OS X Knowledge Base document. Suffice it to say, there should be something amongst these tips that works for your specific situation...]
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Show the original for multiple aliases in the Finder Desktop
The Mac has always had an easy way to trace back to the original file of an alias. Select the alias in the Finder and choosing 'Show Original' from the File menu (or just hit Command-R), and the Finder will highlight the original file. What I did not realize until recently is that this functionality also extends to multiple files.

So, if you have aliases to several files, say, in a Burn Folder, and you click 'Show Original,' the Finder will highlight all the original files. If the original files are in the same folder, they will all be highlighted in one window. If they reside in different folders, each of these folders will open in a new window with the original items highlighted. This saves a lot of time and brainpower if you want to label -- or perform any action -- on multiple files in your Burn Folder, or any other folder full of aliases.

Maybe this was obvious to most people, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise to me.
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