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Change the desktop picture from the Finder Desktop
I noticed on my system that the preference for the desktop background sometimes doesn't "stick". Sometimes (usually after one or two background changes) it's not possible to drag an image file onto the well. It's also a bit tedious to select your image folder everytime you want to have a picture from a different folder because the app only remembers the last chosen folder (yes, I've read the hint about editing the corresponding .plist file).

Here's how you do it easily and without any "hacking" whatsoever. Download Joakim Nygård's freeware app DesktopControl, save the app somewhere on your disk (give it a more original icon) and then drag it into the Finder's toolbar.

Now you can just drop any image file onto the icon and bingo, instant background switching! Works everytime.

[Editor's note: There are other tips here discussing auto-switching desktop picture software, but this little app is a great program to use if you wish to change the background image yourself.]
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Desktop cleanup reduces Finder switch delay? Desktop
An anonymous tipster submitted the following a few days ago:
I found today that I could get rid of the dreaded spinning technicolor ball whenever I switched to the Finder by moving all the zillions of files on my desktop to a folder on my desktop. Now I don't get the spinning wheel when I go the the Finder!
I'm posting this hint in the hopes that others may be able to validate its functionality. As a rule, I keep very little stuff on the desktop, and I've never experienced a delay when switching to the Finder. But I'm not sure those two things are related.

As an experiment last night, I added literally 100 or so aliased items to my desktop and then spent some time using the system. The result? No change. I tried this on both a G4 tower and our 2001 iBook/500, and neither system seemed bothered by a large number of aliases on the desktop. I'm not sure if results will differ with actual files instead of aliases, but I'm not going to move that many actual objects out to my desktop to find out.

So how about it? Is this tip true? Can a loaded desktop cause the spinning cursor when switching to the Finder? Anyone care to test it out for themselves and post their results? I went zero for two in my testing, but maybe I missed something.
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Keyboard shortcut for 'Don't Save' Desktop
For dialogs where options are "Save" (the default), "Cancel", and "Don't Save", 'return' or 'enter' and 'escape' are the keyboard shortcuts for the first two, but what about the last one?

I couldn't find this shortcut in the Finder Help, but after some experimentation, I discovered that control-D works for "Don't Save". I don't know if it's standard, but it worked for all apps where I tried it.

[Editor's note: It may well be standard, but I'm certain I never knew about it.]
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Hide volume names in the Finder Desktop
An anonymous tipster submitted the following:
Like many of you, I wanted to move my virtual memory to a separate partition. I didn't, however, want to have it show up on my desktop. I thought maybe the convention of putting a period at the beginning of the Volume name would hide it. Sure enough, it works like a charm. To rename the volume though, I did have to boot into OS 9 as well as use a mv command in /Volumes.
Although this probably works as described (I have not tested it myself), you may find it easier and a bit safer to simply toggle the visible bit of the volume in question. You can do this with one Terminal command if you have the Developer Tools installed:
  % sudo SetFile -a V /Volumes/volume_to_hide
The next time your Finder is updated, the volume will vanish. If you want it back, just reissue the same command with a lowercase 'v' instead. No rebooting into OS 9 and no physical renaming required. There may well be some GUI tools which do this as well (XRay?).

I'm not sure if there are any downsides to invisible volumes...
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How to recover from 'microdock' Desktop
You might ask "What's microdock?" It's my personal name for what you get when you're trying to drag a large selection of something (images, for example) and drop it onto a folder in the dock (say a new destination folder) ... and miss the target. When this happens, the 1,254 images you were trying to place in "My Pictures" are instead added to your dock ... and you get the microdock (a 10K image file, but it's 1600 pixels wide).

So how do you recover, as the only obvious way to get the stuff out of the dock is one item at a time? There's a quick two-step solution. First, delete com.apple.dock.plist from your ~/Library/Preferences folder. Second, use ProcessViewer (or the Terminal) to quit the dock. When it restarts, you'll find a new dock with the default OS X icon set installed.

If you had a highly customized set of things in your dock that you'd rather not have lost, you're out of luck at this point (short of hand-editing the dock.plist file). In the future, though, create a backup of the dock.plist file while the dock is "good", and then just replace the "bad" dock.plist file with your good backup and restart the dock -- you'll have your pre-incident dock back complete with customization.

The publication of this hint is in no way an admittance that I may have actually done something like this, of course ;-).
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Speed dock and Finder window interaction Desktop
I found a trick in Mac OS X to speed up window minimize and expand operations, and speed up general dock usage. For most users, the dock is almost always filled up. When the dock reaches the edge of the screen and another item is added, the dock's contents shrink to allocate room for the item. However, this scale operation can be quite taxing at times, even on a G4.

I found that if I make my dock 6 to 7 "ticks" smaller than the maximum, it is usually enough extra room to accommodate more dock items without having to scale the current items. The speed improvement is really noticeable, and makes using even a sometimes processor-intensive "genie effect" to shrink and expand dock items much more bearable.

[Editor's note: I don't use the dock in this manner (I'm hopelessly addicted to "hide" as opposed to "minimize"), but it does make sense -- the scaling operation can take some time, especially if you have a large number of items in your dock.]
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Disable Office v.X network serial number check Desktop
Despite the title, this isn't a tip about software piracy. I run MS Word on my Tibook and on my desktop G4. One great advantage of OSX is that, once launched, you just leave your apps running until you need them. With virtual memory and lots of RAM, there is little reason not to.

However, if I leave the same serial number install of MS Word running on both machines then Microsoft believes that I am a pirate and insists on deactivating one of the running programs. They do this by an illegal and unauthorized use of the bandwidth on my network.

Read the rest of the article for an AppleScript that disables this check...

[Editor's note: I debated a while before deciding to publish this hint, but the presence of the network serial number check does make it harder to use Office if you have two machines -- even if you never break the terms of the license agreement regarding simultaneous use. I do not condone nor support software piracy, but I do believe that I should be able to use the software as I wish within the terms of the agreement. In addition, this hack has been published on many of the other Mac sites, so this isn't new information...]
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New user's tip - how to customize an icon Desktop
OK, maybe this one was too obvious, but not for me. I understand that this feature is a carry-over from previous versions of Mac OS, but Unix and Windows users switching over (like myself) might need a little push to the obvious.

You may want to change the icon for a file. For example, I have a Terminal file saved, and even though OS X launches that file using Terminal, it gives it an ordinary "white blank paper" icon. Not the end of the world, but just a tad boring. Anyway, changing it is ridiculously simple:

Highlight the file, brings up the Finder menu bar. Select "File : Show Info" (or command-I). The upper left hand corner of the Info box shows the icon, which you can select. This was where I had previously faltered, by double-clicking it, right-clicking it (until I remembered I couldn't right-click anymore), and everything else before giving up. But it turns out that you can copy and paste the selected icon.

So the rest is elementary. Find the application whose icon you want to use (in this case Terminal), and select it. Note that the "File Info" dialog box is global, so every time you select a new widget it will replace the information in the box. Anyway, copy it, select your destination file, make sure the icon is selected, paste -- you're done.

[Editor's note: Yes, this is a very elementary tip. But for those new to the platform, sometimes the simplest of things may not be the most obvious of things. So I've chosen to publish this 'introductory' tip in the interest of possibly helping those new to the platform.

You can also paste just about any graphic image you desire in the box, not just the icon from the originating application. In general, if you can get the image on the clipboard, you should be able to paste it into the icon box.]
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Jump to top of finder window in list view Desktop
Check out this annoying behavior when navigating finder windows in list view:
  1. Scroll to the bottom of a finder window with a long list of items, such as the preferences folder.
  2. Jump straight to another folder that uses list view, but with a short list of items, such your home folder.
  3. You're presented with a blank finder window and a long scroll to get back to the top of the window. Annoying!
Quick fix: Press fn-home (or just home on a full keyboard) to jump straight to the top. It's not wizardry, but it has saved me many annoying scrolls. Check out the fn-pg up, fn-pg dn and fn-end key combos while you're at it.
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Synch your Palm with Palm Desktop 4.0 Desktop
At last! Palm have released version 4.0 of Palm Desktop - which has allowed me to sync my Palm m515 five times so far without crashing, timing out or corrupting my Palm Desktop file. Prior to this update only one sync out of five would be even vaguely successful.

Definitely worth the download for any OS X / Palm users out there...

[Editor's note: I don't normally post standard software announcements, and this one is slightly "old news" by now, but it's worth mentioning given the large number of Palm users out there. Palm 4.0 works very nicely, especially when compared to the beta. I connect via Keyspan USB to serial connector on two different machines. I had mixed success, at best, with the beta, but have had 100% success with the new final code. I was waiting to publish this story until I had some time to test more extensively. Now that I've run the thing a number of times on three different machines, I'm now confident that this is a good release.]
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