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Use font sizes smaller than 10pt on the Desktop Desktop
The Clamshell iBooks have a maximum resolution of 800x600. This can get kind of tiring, trying to fit everything in such a small space. To this end, I wanted to decrease the size of the font of the desktop icons (not just the size of the icons themselves). However, the View Options panel (View: Show View Options, or just command-J) only allows you to decrease the font down to 10 point. This is more than small enough on my iMac or my G5 at work, but on the iBook ... I wanted it a little smaller.

So I searched for the preference file that was modified whenever I changed display settings. Low and behold: com.apple.finder.plist. It (like most plist files) is stored in your user's Library/Preferences directory. These plist files are just plain text, so you can edit them using TextEdit, or BBEdit, or SubEthaEdit, or any text editor. IN the section that begings with this:
<key>DesktopViewOptions</key>
<dict>
Find this property:
<key>FontSize</key>
<integer>10</integer>
Now just edit the integer to whatever size you want (9 was small enough for me; 8 was getting hard to read). Save the file, re-launch the Finder (Option-click and hold on its icon in the Dock), and it's done!
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An AppleScript to create a file in the current folder Desktop
Even the best GUIs are challenged to ease the navigation through the plethora of files and folders on a typical set up. Say, for example, that after a bunch of searching or drilling down, you finally have before you the Finder window displaying the folder in which you want to work, and you want to create a file -- right there. Normally, I would launch my app of choice, say BBEdit, create my new file, and in the 'Save As...' dialogue, navigate all the way back down to wherever I had already found in the Finder to save the file in the right, deeply nested, spot.

Or, as I just discovered [Hints history, May 2001: Jump to locations in open/save dialogs], you can drag and drop the Finder folder window to the "Save As..." dialogue box to save that step (remember the trusty Default Folder cdev?). Still, this way, you have to have the windows positioned just so..
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Set a permanent column view default for the Finder Desktop
A relatively trivial annoyance for several years, I've hated the fact my preference to change the Finder's windows to column view never seemed to "stick." I finally discovered that this apparent bug is actually a feature: The only folders your preferences will "stick" on are the folders in your own home folder. Since permissions are an issue, nothing outside of it will adhere to your preference.

Enter root. Open Applications: Utilities: Netinfo Manager, then choose Security: Authenticate, enter your admin user password, then choose Security: Enable Root User, and provide the root user its own password. Now switch over to System Preferences: Accounts, and select the Login Options button at the bottom of the account list. Make sure that the the "Display Login Window as" option is set to "Name and password."

Log off and back on as username 'root' (with the new root password). Once logged in, open Finder: Preferences: General, and check the "Open new window in column view" item. Log off root, login as your normal user again, and now, every user will benefit from the much more productive column view as the default ... finally!

[robg adds: I would also recommend opening NetInfo Manager again and using Security: Disable Root User (after authenticating again) to disable root.]
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Add functionality to Exposť's 'hot corners' Desktop
Exposé hot corners are great, but I've found that I often activate them by accident in all but the bottom left corner. But one corner just isn't enough for the various Exposť options, so what to do? Here is a solution to allow you to put two Exposť functions in one corner.
  1. Activate the Exposé "blob," using one of the available utilities on MacUpdate ... or just use this hint.
  2. In System Preferneces: Exposé, set "All Windows" to the bottom left corner.
  3. Grab the top right edge of the blob you activated in step one, and drag it to the same bottom left corner. This way, the blob will be nearly invisible, but you will still be able to click on it when you throw your cursor all the way into the corner.
Now when you mouse to the bottom left corner, Exposé will show all windows ... and clicking in that same corner will show all application windows. Nice.
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Assign keyboard shortcuts to Recent Items menu Desktop
Given that there are 3rd party solutions for setting keyboard combinations without all the hoops, this tip probably falls under the "why bother" category. Nevertheless, in case someone finds the knowledge useful, it is possible to assign keyboard combinations to launch applications and open specific files in "Recent Items" (under the "Apple Menu") using the "Keyboard & Mouse" preference pane. It will be necessary to log out and back in for the new combinations to become active.

In addition, for this to work, a number of conditions must be met:
  1. Obviously, a programme or file must have been used recently. If an item to which a key-combo is assigned "falls off" the list due to lack of use, the combination will cease to function, although one would presume that most shortcuts would be assigned to frequently accessed items.
  2. The "Menu Title" should be unique - for example, it may not be possible to assign a shortcut to activate "Finder" or "Mail" directly because those words appear under the "Services" menu. In some situations, an AppleScript may suffice as a workaround, or it may be possible to edit the application's "ServicesMenu.strings" file. Renaming the app should be avoided since it may interfere with future upgrades.
  3. Key combinations can be set to work in "All Applications," but within a given application, the combinations will not work until the "Recent Items" menu has been accessed at least once while that application is frontmost. ie. every time you launch an application, you must access "Recent Items" before the combinations will work in that application. This is probably the biggest limitation to this trick.
These previous hints (1, 2; there may be others) on using OS X's built-in capabilities to launch apps via keyboard shortcuts may also be of interest.
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Capture multiple monitor screenshots Desktop
I was recently documenting some OS X laptop features using screen grabs (Command-Shift-3 for full-screen, Command-Shift-4 for regions). I noticed that when taking a full screen grab when I had a second display connected (in non-mirrored mode), the resulting PDF would be two pages -- each page held the grab from one screen. Very useful.

[robg adds: If you ever don't want both screens, there's not really a one-click solution -- your best bet is to use Shift-Command-4 to drag a region, and just drag the one display you want.]
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Extend the Finder via Spark and AppleScript Desktop
As a game programmer, I admit that I hate to touch my mouse when I'm writing my programs. When it comes to the Finder, I have to use mouse or trackpad to move or copy or open file with a strange extension with my favourite text editor. To be honest, I hate it very much. As a UNIX user, normally I heavily use Terminal.app to do this. But recently, I found a cool free program called Spark. This little thing really sparks my Finder (and other applications) by adding shortcut keys to everything. And for moving and copying files, I use Spark with AppleScript -- one for moving, and another for copying.

Just register these to Spark and then in the Finder, select the items that you want to move or copy to, hit the shortcut key and choose your destination from the dialog. Confirm it, and your file will be moved or copied to the destination folder. Enjoy!
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Use the Finder to search iChat transcripts Desktop
I do a lot of chatting using iChat, and I save all of my iChat transcripts to disk by checking "Automatically save chat transcripts" in the Messages Preference of iChat. All of my iChat transcripts are located in ~/Documents/iChats, where ~ is your home directory. I was never really sure why I did this, but I am glad that I did and now I am more of a power user because of this. Someone recently asked me about some information that we discussed sometime ago, but I didn't remember the details. I did recall that I discussed this with her in a chat. I was able to find the specific information by searching my iChat transcripts by doing the following:

Go to the Finder, and do a search. Search in a specific place where all of your iChat transcripts are located. Remember that you have to check "Automatically save chat transcripts" as mentioned above. Search for items whose Extension is 'chat'; 'chat' is the extension of your iChat transcripts. Add Content as part of your search to include what you are searching for in the transcripts. Click Search, and you will get a list of transcripts that will contain the content of your search. Of course, you can narrow your search by adding additional queries such as Name, Date Modified, Size, etc.

Sure it's a simple technique and it might seem obvious, but sometimes the obvious isn't so clear to some people. So I think this hint will help some people utilize iChat a little more effectively.

[robg adds: If you have a ton of transcripts, and search them often, you might want to try out either Logorrhea (info, download) or ChatMaster (info, download). I've used both, and they both make it quite easy to search your transcripts.]
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Navigating folders with letter keys Desktop
Most people know that you can use letter keys to navigate a folder (hit B to go to the first item that starts witha B etc). But what I didn't realize is that you can navigate between items that start with the same letter by pressing the second letter of the item you want, immediately after you've hit the first one (within a half-second or so) Pretty cool!

[robg adds: The 'second letter' trick also works when navigating the menus via the keyboard, as explained in this hint.]
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Easily restore a lost desktop picture Desktop
I often lose my desktop background and end up with a solid blue desktop when changing between using a monitor and using the built-in PowerBook LCD. Each time it happens, I have to go through the desktop settings panel, where I find that the desired picture is still selected, so I have to choose some other picture then choose the original again.

This is a bit of a pain, so I made this little applescript to avoid having to dance with the preference panel every time. I just compile it into an app and save it on my desktop (or in the scripts menu) to be easily run whenever the desktop turns blue. Sometimes I have to run it twice, but that's easy too.
tell application "Finder"
  set currentPicture to the desktop picture as string
  set the desktop picture to ¨
   ":Library:Desktop Pictures:Solid Colors:Solid Aqua Blue.png"
  set the desktop picture to currentPicture
end tell
If anyone has a real fix instead of this workaround, I would love to hear it.

[robg adds: I noticed this very thing this week while at Macworld; after both of my sessions, when I removed the projector, my desktop went to the standard Aqua blue background...]
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