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Desktop picture in PB? Desktop
Here's a weird one. Tonight I tried (for the first time) to change the desktop picture. In the Dock & Desktop Prefences panel, I see a blank square under the "Desktop Picture:" header. It doesn't show the current, default one. I really want to change it to a basic pattern to try and accelerate the graphic speed of the old G3 machine OS X PB is on. Is this possible or do I have to select an image, and why don't I see the current image? Also, where is that image?
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Quick restart when logging out Desktop
I find myself frequently rebooting to play games, and the process can be made quicker with our old friend, the option key. When you quit the Desktop, you are presented with the Shutdown/Cancel/Log Out panel. Hold down the option key when it appears and Shutdown becomes Restart. Nifty.
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PB ONLY - Using the OS 9 app switcher Desktop
[Editor's note: This was probably one of the first hints I published, but it was lost in my database crash back in November, so I'm repepating it now ... -rob.]

If you like the OS 9 application switcher, you can still use it in OS X. Simply launch a Classic application, and tear off the application switcher menu. Even after you quit the Classic app (you need to leave the environment running, but you can kill the app), you'll have a fully functional application switcher in OS X - new programs get added, quit programs go away, etc.

I'm not sure if this will survive the transition to OS X final or not - I don't see why not, but we won't know for sure for another 33 days or so!
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Application switching with the dock Desktop
When using the dock to switch applications, the modifier keys change how the desktop view of running applications behave:
  • cmd+option+click: Switch to selected application and hide all others.
  • option+click: Switch to selected application and hide the current application.
  • cmd+click: Open and switch to a new finder window containing the selected application (I just found this one this morning; I can't believe I hadn't tried that in over three months of using the PB!).
As far as I can tell, no other combinations (shift or control) do anything useful.
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Installing and using Apple's Developer Tools Desktop
This weekend, I set up a second OS X 'experimental' partition on my hard drive. I'm using the new partition for mySQL and PHP work (for this site), as well as anything that I feel is too risky for my main OS X partition. One of those things is Apple's Developer Tools.

I've held off on this 70mb download for quite a while, as I have no real need for the development tools, and I was a bit short on drive space on my main OS X partition. Today I finally downloaded and installed the tools on the new experimental partition. It was definitely worth it, just to see some of the nicer demo apps they included. One of them, EnjoyEffectMovie was used to create the fire QuickTime movie from which the screenshot at right was taken. If you have some interest in the tools, and you have a fast connetion and some drive space, I'd recommend the download. Read the rest of this article for instructions on obtaining and installing the tools,and a brief description of some of the more interesting (to a non-programmer!) included programs.

DISCLAIMER: You can probably do Very Bad Things to your system with the developer tools! Any damage you cause is not my responsibility.
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Defaults commands page Desktop
Pixits has put up a page with a brief explanation of the defaults system and a nice listing of all those cool defaults commands that are circulating around all the mac boards on the net. You can view their list here:

Defaults command page
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Interesting dock 'feature' Desktop
I keep only one thing (the screensaver module) in the dock when nothing else is running. I was somewhat surprised to find a Eudora icon there today, even though Eudora wasn't running.

Experimenting a bit, I discovered that if you simply move (or even just pick up and drop) the icon of a running application, it turns into a permanent dock icon when you quit that application.

I'm not sure whether this should be called a feature or a bug...
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Change the colour of desktop icon names Desktop
To make the names of your desktop icons appear in black enter this in a terminal window:
defaults write Desktop.HasDarkBackground 0
The names will look appear like this.

To return to the default (this) enter:
defaults write Desktop.HasDarkBackground 1
(Of course you need to logout or kill the Desktop to see the changes)
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Finder display of free space and file count Desktop
If you open a new Finder window at its (hopefully changeable in the final!) default size, you'll see a xxx MB available message on the left side, just below the Computer icon. If you expand the width of the window, the display will change to read xxx MB available, y items.

If you leave the window at its default size, however, and click on the xxx MB available message, it changes to read y items. Click on it again to change it back. Not sure how useful this is, but I thought it showed some ingenuity to think to program it that way. Who knows, maybe OS 9 does this too, but I've certainly never noticed it.

I found this little nugget on's Mac OS X Tips page.
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Move background windows around Desktop
Spotted this one over in this MacNN forum. If you want to move a window (call it Window2) which is behind the foreground window (Window1) without bringing it to the foreground, there are a few options, depending on the applications involved. For example:
  • If Window1 and Window2 belong to the same Carbon app (IE 5), use command-drag
  • If Window1 and Window2 belong to the same Cocoa app (RBrowser), use command-drag
  • If Window1 belongs to a Carbon app and Window2 belongs to a Cocoa app, use command-drag
  • if Window1 belongs to a Cocoa app and Window2 belongs to a Carbon app, drag with the right mouse button. What's strange is that control-drag will not work, even though a right mouse button is supposed to be a control-click. Strange.
  • If Window1 or Window2 belongs to a Classic app, there does not appear to be a way to do this - any click combination brings the Classic window forward.
These tricks are quite useful for managing your desktop real estate; use them wisely and you'll do a lot less application switching!
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