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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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10.4: Use the Finder as an outliner Desktop
Tiger only hintSo, what is the perfect outliner? I wanted it to be project related. Ideas and project files should be organized in one simple way. I tested many outliners, but they all had the same problem: some stuff stays in the Finder (important but unsupported project files like Freehand, Illustrator etc.) and other stuff (ideas, mindmaps, notes...) goes into the outliner.

So you need the Finder for the project files, and the outliner as a conceptional layer. That just didn't feel right. I think the Finder is still the best way to organize files and folders for projects. So I just needed some way to store text and multimedia in one file inside these project folders ... and there is a somewhat obvious way: .rtfd files.

These are textfiles with the option to store any Apple-supported media files within them. Movies, pictures, bookmarks, you name it. Now every project folder contains a folder with the cheesy name projectname__ideas. I made the name unique with the two underscores. Later you will see why. Inside is one (or more) .rtfd file containing notes, tables, bulleted lists, pictures, movies, basically all project-related stuff.

But what about a nice sorted overview of all ideas, like in a classic outliner application? Well, I just saved a Finder search for the term __ideas. Thanks to Spotlight, you get a nice list of all folders whose title includes __ideas. Thanks to the unique naming with the underscores, only the expected folders were found by Spotlight.

That's all I need for my outlining needs: a folder-based project structure with all contextual information in one place, and a quick overview of all that information. What's missing is some inline view of the .rtfd files to make this concept perfect. But I really believe that the future of the Finder will include the ability to work with even more metadata, to make it a nice tool for organizing all your data in one place. The ultimate outliner.
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Secrets of the Preview icon in Get Info windows Desktop
I am not sure if people are aware of this, but I discovered it completely by accident. Go to the Finder, click on a file and open the file's Get Info window (Command-I, via the contextual menus, or File: Get Info). Look for a triangle next to the Preview section, and click on the triangle so it is pointing downward. Now here are some things to try...

If you hold down the Option key and move the icon, it will copy the file to the dragged location. If you simply drag it to a new location, the file will be moved to that location. You can even drop files onto an application icon and open files associated with the icon. If you double-click on the icon, the document will open up in its chosen application.

It appears that the Preview section has all the properties associated with a file in a Finder window, except for a contextual menu.

[robg adds: This worked for me on everything other than movie files. With a movie file, the Preview area is a small QuickTime player showing the movie itself, and I wasn't able to do anything with this, other than watch the video.]
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10.4: Print directly from the Finder Desktop
Tiger only hintI can't remember seeing this before Mac OS X.4.3, so I think it's a new feature ... if you click on a document in the Finder, you can now choose Print from the file menu. You can also control-click on it, then choose Print from the contextual menu.

I have tested it out with a few document types. Images that open in Preview print, TextEdit documents print, but Pages documents do not.

[robg adds: I just noticed this myself, and in my testing, I found its operation to be so strange that I almost consider it a bug, not a feature! What happens seems to vary depending on the type of document you choose, as well as the state of the application which created the document.

For instance, if Pages is not running and I use File: Print on a Pages file, then that document opens in Pages, but does not print. If Pages is already running, however, the document opens and prints immediately (no OK button, it just goes).

With a Word document, if Word is not running, then Word launches and opens a new blank document, but not the one I told it to print. If Word is running, then the proper document opens and the Print dialog box appears. But this isn't common to all Office 2004 apps -- Excel documents will open and display the Print dialog, regardless of the state of the application.

PDF files printed from the Finder seem to work, but there's no print dialog; you tell the file to print, and then your default printer just starts churning out pages -- this is probably why Apple didn't map Command-P to the Print menu item. Overall, its behavior is somewhat strange...]
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A simple but effective Mac speed-up tip Desktop
Here's a tip I was made aware of recently that I thought I'd share (though I'd like to take credit, I must give that to some Smart Friends of mine); it'll help speed up your Mac, and may reduce the appearance of the SPOD (the rainbow cursor). It's not a hack, and there are no modifications necessary to any of your software; there's nothing to download, and there's a fringe benefit (subjectively speaking, of course) of cleaning up your Desktop.

The tip: Reduce the number of icons on your Desktop!

That's it. Really. No, really, try it and see. If you only reduce it by a few, you probably won't notice much of a difference, but the more you remove, the snappier it will feel (dependent on your machine, of course).

Why? Well, every icon on your Desktop is a little window, and as such, has a corresponding backing store allocation in the window server. Lots of these little windows apparently can put a strain on the window server, especially when you've got lots of other (normal) windows open as well.

Don't believe me? Well, you can see for yourself, by running Quartz Debug found in /Developer -> Applications -> Performance Tools (assuming you have the Developer Tools installed -- you do have the Developer Tools installed, don't you?). Show the window list (Tools -> Show Window List), order by Application, and click on the various Finder entries to highlight each "window." You'll soon see that each desktop icon is treated as its very own window. See, I told you so.

No no, no applause necessary, cash donations will suffice...

[robg adds: I thought we had something similar in the archives, but I couldn't find it. Using Quartz Debug was somewhat enlightening for me; I don't have a ton of icons on my Desktop (about 10 or so), but each one clearly uses up a chunk of memory. I didn't notice any speed bump from reducing the number, given the small number I had to begin with. However, I suspect that if your desktop looks like the landing zone for 400 daily flights of icons and folders, then you would see a nice speed bump -- if you fall into this category, and try working with a clean desktop for a bit, please post your experiences.

For those who don't have Xcode (Developer Tools) installed yet, I wrote a very detailed how-to for Macworld a while back...]
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Use a unix-style syntax for copies names in Finder Desktop
When you duplicate an item (myfile.txt, for example) in the Finder, the duplicate's name becomes myfile copy.txt. If you're a Unix user, you might prefer to see the Unix-style copy syntax, which would be myfile~.txt.

To change the default copy name, navigate into /System -> Library -> CoreServices -> Finder.app -> [Control-click and Show Package Contents] -> Contents -> Resources -> English.lproj, and then open Localizable.strings with administrator privileges. Replace this line...
"N4" = "^0 copy";
...with this line:
"N4" = "^0~";
. Save your changes, quit the editor, and relaunch the Finder (Option-click-hold on its Dock icon, via Terminal, Activity Monitor, etc.).

Another thing you should know is that known extensions will make the tilde appear before the dot, while unknown extensions will produce a name like User.ini~. Pure old-school!

[robg adds: As with any system file modification, I strongly suggest you back up this file before modifying it. This file contains all of the Finder's responses to various events; you could tweak the heck out of your system by changing multiple lines in this file -- from a quick look, I think you could, amongst other things, rename the Sidebar, change the way labeled items are displayed, tweak various Spotlight search language, modify error messages, and tons more. One line of interest to me is this one:
"N2" = "untitled folder";
Change the untitled folder bit to something else, and you change where new folders appear in a sorted-by-name view. In my case, I set it to _• new folder (the underscore is really a space; I just wanted it to show here), which forces all new folders to the top of my column view windows.

The easiest way to edit this file is to drag it to your Desktop; this will make a copy, leaving the original in place. Make another duplicate and add "backup" or somesuch to its name. Now open the Desktop copy of the original, and make your changes. Save the changes, and drag the modified file back into the English.lproj folder, and answer the authenticate and replace dialogs as necessary. Note that this will change the permissions on the source file, though I've never had any issues it. If you run Disk Utility's Repair Permissions, all will be back to normal...]
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Use a black image to instantly blank an Apple LCD Desktop
On an iMac G5, it's impossible to turn the screen off immediately. There is a workaround:
  1. Create a screen-sized black image in your favorite image editor.
  2. Import that image into iPhoto (like any picture).
  3. Create a forlder named "Black" in iPhoto, and drag your picture into it.
  4. Open System Preferences -> Desktop & Screen Saver, on the Screen Saver tab, scroll down to the iPhoto section and choose the "Black" folder.
  5. Configure one Hot Corner to launch the screensaver.
That's it; now you just have to put your mouse in the corner of the screen to have a black screen.

[robg adds: Note that this isn't a screen saver as such, just a quick screen blacker. When I wanted something similar for my Apple LCD equipped Mac, I just created a shortcut (using Butler) to fast user switch to the login window...]
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Use Command-select and drag-select together Desktop
We all know that if you select an item in a Finder window (in column or list view) while holding down the Command key, you can select non-contiguous items in the column/list by clicking on them.

If you try to select contiguous items, though (by dragging through them), you end up dragging your previously selected items, unless you drag through the empty space to the right of the filenames. If you drag in the empty space with the Command key down, you can select contiguous items, and then command click to add/subract from the selection.

This is very handy for selecting groups of files that are scattered in a list/column view window.
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Use a triple-click for an 'open window behind' action Desktop
I have noticed that rapidly triple-clicking a folder in Tiger opens your chosen folder's window, and then returns you to the orginal folder you first clicked on. This works even if the folder's window opens on top of the original folder you triple-clicked. In practice, it appears to work as an 'open window behind' command.

This only works if the window you open has a lot of icons or you are using a picture as the background pattern for that window, so I supect it is a bug of sorts to do with timing issues.

[robg adds: In experimenting with this, I was able to make it work with a variety of folders -- even those in column view with only a few items. Still, I agree with leeww in that it appears to be some sort of a timing glitch. Since I use OS X in single-window mode, I was using Command-triple-clicks, which also worked just fine. I also tested this in 10.3, and it works the same way there.]
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Delete matching files in two Finder folders Desktop
If you have two folders that have certain files in common, and you want to delete all the items in the second folder that have the same name as an item in the first folder, here's how to do it:
  1. Select All in the first folder.
  2. Drag the selection onto the second folder.
  3. Select 'Replace' and check 'Apply to All' in the resulting dialog.
  4. Choose Edit: Undo Copy of nn Items from the Finder's menu.
This will undo the move of files from folder #1 to folder #2, but it will not undelete the matching items in folder #2 which were replaced by the copy. This is not unlike the "Difference" operation in set theory.

[robg adds: I'm not sure whether this is a bug or a feature, but it does work as described. I tested it in both 10.3 and 10.4.]
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