Archive for September 2012

Finder Shortcuts – Changing The View

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

In the Finder, you use windows a lot.  Lots of different windows containing different information.  There are a number of ways to display that information depending on your personal preference.  There are 4 main display modes which can be selected by clicking the appropriate icon for view selection at the top of the window.  They are as follows:

Icon View

1.  Icon View - each item displayed in the window is represented by a stylish and usually colourful Icon which makes it easy to identify it.  You will probably find yourself scrolling quite a bit when using this view though.  The shortcut to select this view in any window is CMD + 1 (hold the CMD key and press the number 1 key).

List View2. List View  - items are displayed in a scrolling list from top to bottom.  You can double-click a folder to move inside that folder (the contents being displayed in the same window) or you can use the small "flip" arrow beside a folder to quickly display its contents in a "tree" format.  The shortcut to select this view in any window is CMD + 2 (hold the CMD key and press the number 2 key).

Column View3.  Column View  - this is my personal favourite.  Items are displayed in a list view, similar to above, but each folder you click on opens a new column to display its contents.  You can move forwards and backwards through folders quickly, while still being able to see the contents of the "parent" folder or even the "parent" of that folder.  Try it out, it's a neat way of navigating.  The shortcut to select this view in any window is CMD + 3 (hold the CMD key and press the number 3 key).

Cover Flow4.  Cover Flow - personally I find this more useful for folders containing images and movies.  You get a scrolling list of items at the bottom and a reasonably large preview of each item shown above it.  The shortcut to select this view in any window is CMD + 4 (hold the CMD key and press the number 4 key).

Different views can be useful for different situations, so try them all out and see what suits you best!

Spring-loaded Folders in the Dock

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

The Dock on your Mac has a couple of other very nice features that you should be aware of.  One of them is spring-loaded folders.  In a previous post about the Dock, I mentioned how you could put shortcuts to frequently used documents and folders into the right hand side of you dock.  If it's documents you are putting there, one click will open that document for you immediately, in the same way that a click on an application in the dock will open that application.

If, however, you drop a Folder into the dock, it has a very different reaction when you click on it.  The Folder will actually pop up a type of sub-menu showing you the entire contents of that folder and allowing you easy access to the contents, or even the contents of other folders stored within it.  This makes it very quick and easy to navigate from one folder to another, without ever having to open a Finder window.

But that's not all! You can configure the functionality even further by right-clicking  on the folder icon in the dock.  You will get a different menu, which allows you to configure (on a per-folder basis) how you want that folder to act when it's in the dock.  You can change how the items are sorted and how they are presented to you (Fan, Grid or List) and even the type of icon that is displayed in the dock (Stack or Folder).

Depending on the display mode, the folder will act in different ways:

In Fan mode, a list will appear in a fan shape with the first few items visible.  Clicking one of the items will either open it in the relevant application, or if it's a folder it will open that folder in the Finder.

In Folder mode, the list that appears will show all the contents of the folder in a scrolling icon based list.  In this mode, you can click a folder in the list to see the contents of that folder.  You can do this as many levels deep as you wish, so it's a very quick way to navigate through sub-folders.

In List mode, the contents will be displayed in a scrolling list view, with sub-menus to show the contents of each folder.

It's worth playing around with these settings, as it can dramatically speed up access to files and folders that you use often, without having to constantly open Finder windows!  In fact, because these are in the dock, you don't even have to switch to the Finder to be able to open items contained in these clever little dock items!

Apple Sends Out Invitations To September 12 Event

Posted by on in News Articles.

Apple InviteApple have sent out invitations to an event, scheduled for next Wedensday September 12 in California, in which it is expected they will announce the long awaited iPhone 5.  The invitation featured a large number 12 indicating the date but had a shadowed number 5 hinting that this will, in fact, be the date on which the iPhone 5 will be announced.  It is widely expected that the iPhone 5 will start shipping within a couple of weeks of its announcement.

One feature that has been rumoured for the new iPhone 5 is a significantly larger screen, measuring 4" in diagonal, as compared with the existing 3.5" of the current iPhone 4S screen.  It is also suggested that the headphone jack has been relocated to the bottom of the phone and that the dock connector may be smaller and more compact than its predecessors.

One thing is for sure though - if the iPhone 5 is announced next week, iPhone fever will be in the air again with people queueing for extraordinary lengths of time to get their hands on Apple's latest incarnation of the top selling mobile device!

Mac OS X – Configuring The Dock

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

The dock is a really useful feature of Mac OS X.  If you look at the bottom of your screen, you'll see a row of colourful icons spreading from left to right (unless you've already configured the dock to hide itself or position itself on the left or right of the screen as we'll see below).  The dock looks like this:


The dock is divided into two parts, starting from the left hand side you have the applications and then towards the right hand side you will see a small dividing line, after which you have documents.  Documents can be actual files, folders, bookmarks, shortcuts, minimised windows etc.  Most people know where the dock is and how to use it to open applications and documents, but there are a couple of nice little tricks that can help you to customise it to your own taste.

Firstly, you can change it's position to be on the left or right side of the screen (from top to bottom) instead of along the bottom of the screen.  You can find the option for this in the Apple Menu (top left of your Mac screen).  In that menu, you will see a Dock sub-menu.  Here you can choose the position of the dock.

In the same menu, you can also choose two other preferences.  One is Hiding.  When you switch on hiding, the dock will automatically hide itself until you move your mouse arrow to the part of the screen where the dock resides, whereupon it will be immediately show itself.  As soon as you move away, it will hide itself again.  This can be very useful, especially if you have a small screen and space is at a premium.

If you have a lot of icons in the dock, more than will fit the width of your screen for example, the dock will automatically resize the icons to fit the width of your screen.  If the icons are too small, you can use Magnification which means that when you move your mouse over the dock, it magnifies the icon that is currently below the mouse pointer.  You can turn the magnification on and off in the same Dock submenu in the Apple menu.

There are some other settings that you can change too, but to get access to these you have to go to the Dock Preference Pane which is in the System Preferences.  You can quickly get to this by choosing Dock Preferences... from the Dock submenu in the Apple menu.  The Dock Preferences window looks like this in Mac OS X Lion:

Dock Prefs

In the dock preferences, you can also change the Size of the dock, which basically means you can make the icons bigger and smaller according to your preference.  Use the slider to increase and decrease the size of the icons.  Bear in mind that once the icons are sufficiently large that they fill the whole width of the screen, they cannot grow any larger.

You can also use the Magnification Slider to increase or decrease the level of magnification that you want.  This can be quite fun to play with 🙂

There are a number of other options that you can enable or disable, such as the indicator lights for open applications.  This shows a small white light underneath the icon in the dock for any applications that are open.  This is a very useful feature and I would recommend turning this on.

A very neat trick to quickly resize the dock icons is to move your mouse over the dividing bar between applications and documents and while holding the mouse button, drag up and down.  This will instantly increase or decrease the size of the icons in the dock!

Cool Apps – Shopper

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

Shopper is an app that I find particularly useful.  It's a paid app, but at a great price.  What does it do?  Well, it doesn't quite do the shopping for you, but what it does do is make the whole experience a lot quicker and simpler.  In fact, it has many features that I don't even use (yet) but even the basic features make it worthwhile.

You know when you need to go shopping - and I'm talking food shopping here - you generally need a list.  The old pen and paper job where you painstakingly write the list, not necessarily in the order that you'll find the stuff in the supermarket but more likely in the order that you don't find it in your cupboards and fridge.  Then off you go to the supermarket with your pen and paper, crossing things off as you get them, trying to hold the pen, paper and trolley all at the same time as you pile in the goodies.

Shopper takes the pain out of it and makes it a pleasure.  That's why I love it.  It does just what I want it to do.  The truth is, I was going to make this app myself, but these guys did such a good job I thought, why would I bother?  Pay them for their great work and get on with life!

Shopper has a fully customisable list of items, as well as the facility to add different supermarkets, even different pricing for different supermarkets and even different aisle layouts.  Personally, I use it mainly for one supermarket, but I've configured the items I buy, the aisles that they are in - in my supermarket - and I've ordered the aisles to match the general store layout.  I then use the Browse facility in shopper to quickly run through each item in alphabetical order, checking the ones I'm not sure about, adding what I need to my shopping list with a simple touch of each item.

Now that I have my list, Shopper has already prepared it for me in the correct order, each item in its appropriate aisle.  I don't really use the pricing facility, but I can see how great it could be to see the change in prices of different items from week to week.

Now for the best bit.  I head off to the supermarket, open up Shopper and literally start at aisle one, collecting the items as I go and checking each one off with a single touch.  The items I touch get added to my "basket" and once I'm done, I can check-out to empty the basket.  I never forget anything and even the things that are not in stock remain on my list for the next visit.

I can even share my list over the air with my wife, directly to her Shopper app, or even by email.  I can make the list, share it to her Shopper app while she's in town and she can pick up all the bits on her way home. What a marvellous app, well designed and fully functional!  It's a thumbs up from me!

Enabling Passwords on your Mac

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

Here's how to set up a user account password on your Mac and tell it to ask for that password on wake or when the screen saver is exited:

1.  Set up a Password for your User Account.

Go to the Apple Menu in the top left corner of your screen, select System Preferences, then look for the Users & Groups panel.

You will see a list of the users that exist on your Mac on the left hand side.  Select your user account.  You may have to click the little padlock at the bottom of the window to allow access to change settings.

Click the Change Password button and you will be presented with a window like this:

Change Password Window

If you did not have a password set, you should leave the space for Old Password empty.  If you had a password set and you just want to change it, enter your current password in the Old Password box.

Next, enter the new password that you want to use in the New Password box, then enter the new password again in the Verify box, this is to make sure you typed it correctly.  If you wish, you can enter a password hint in the final box.  This will remind you what your password was in case you forget it.  Don't put the actual password in this box, or anything that would make it very simple to guess the password.  It should be something that you and only you would associate with your password.

Click the Change Password button and you're done!

2. Tell your Mac to ask for a password on Wake, or when the Screen Saver exits:

Go to the Apple Menu in the top left corner of your screen, select System Preferences, then look for the Security panel.

Click to tick the box where it says "Require password for Sleep and Screen Saver".  It should default to the "Immediately" setting.  If you wish, you can change this, but I would recommend leaving it on the default setting of "Immediately".

Your Mac is now pretty well protected, so if someone should steal it, it won't be easy for them to access your files.  If you are still concerned about security, there is one more thing you can do which will make it virtually impossible for an intruder to access your files - set a Firmware Password.  But that's another day's work 😉

Mac Security Tips

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

Yesterday, one of our readers posted a comment with regard to the security of your Mac should someone steal it.  This is a very important topic and I thought it deserved its own posting.  This was the comment made by the reader:

"If you turn off your computer or if you ‘Lock Screen’, then if someone steals it, they need to know your password to get access. If you just close the lid and they steal it, they are fully in!"

Well actually that totally depends on how you have your Mac configured. If your Mac user account requires that you log in with a password, then Logging Out or Shutting Down the Mac will cause that password to be requested when someone tries to log in. If you don't have a password set on your account, anyone can log into it at any time. So if someone steals you Mac, they have access to all your files, even if they shut it down and start it up again.

In the case of an iMac, for example, having a password set on your account is a good idea because in order to steal it they would have to plug the iMac out of the wall and therefore when they start it up, it will ask for the password. There are, however, fairly easy ways to get around that. In the case of a laptop, it may still be switched on and running on battery, which means that a thief could access your files for as long as they have battery power, or if they have a charger (or stole yours) to keep the laptop powered on.

You can also set a preference which will require you to enter your account password on wake, which effectively means anytime you wake the Mac from sleep mode or screen saver mode.  This is very useful if you are away from your desk often and you want the screen saver (or sleep mode) to kick in automatically after a few minutes so that someone walking past can't just access your Mac whenever they want.  As soon as the screen saver or sleep mode is enabled, they will have to enter your account password to be able to access your Mac.  You can find this option by going to the Apple Menu in the top left corner of your screen, selecting System Preferences and then looking for the Security panel.

The best option is to set a good password for your user account, switch on the above option which will require the password to be entered when you wake the Mac or exit the screen saver and set the screen saver to switch on after a couple of minutes of inactivity.  That way, if someone steals your Mac, whether it's a laptop or desktop, they will have difficulty in accessing any of your files or data.

As I mentioned before, if they really know what they are doing they could bypass this password, but most people would not know how.  If you really want to be certain that no one could access your data, ever, then you would also need to set a Firmware Password on the Mac in addition to the above steps.  You must be careful with this though.  If you forget your password, Apple are the only ones that can reset it for you.

Accessing the Library Folder in Mac OS X Lion +

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

As always, some things inevitably change with each new release of the Mac OS.  New features are added, bugs fixed and usually the user interface is improved in some way.  However, sometimes, things that you were used to using suddenly change and it's not obvious what you can do to access that feature in the new version.

One example of this would be the existence (or rather visibility) of the user's Library folder in Mac OS X Lion (10.7) and later.  In previous versions of the OS, the user's library folder was located in their home folder.  All you had to do was click on the home folder icon and you could clearly see the Library folder listed there along with all your other folders.  While many users may never have even noticed this folder, others will have gone in there for various reasons.  Sometimes it can simply be that you are following some instructions from another source that tells you to go to the Library folder in your home folder.  In Mac OS X Lion and later, it's simply not there.  Huh?

Well, actually, it is there.  You just can't see it.  It has been deliberately hidden, I'm not sure why.  The good thing is, it's actually very easy to access it.  There are two simple ways:

1.  While in the Finder, hold down the Option (ALT) Key and click the Go menu in the menu bar.  You will see that Library is now visible.  Choose Library and you will be taken straight to that folder.

2.  While in the Finder, press CMD + SHIFT + G which is the shortcut for choosing the Go To Folder option from the Go menu.  In the box that appears, type "~/Library" (without the quotes) and press the Go button.  You will be taken straight to the Library folder inside your home folder.  "~" is a shortcut to represent your home folder.

Go Window

You might never need it, but if you do at least you'll be able to find your Library folder again!

Cool Apps – StumbleUpon

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips.

There's a very interesting website out there called StumbleUpon, which is kind of like a search engine (like Google) but it works in a completely different and innovative way.  So think about this - most of us go to Google (or another search engine) because we are looking for something, right?  We know what we want, we type it in and we (hopefully) get the answer.  But what about when you're bored and you aren't really looking for anything in particular, but you want something interesting? The key word here is interesting.

We all have our own interests, so what may be interesting to me might not be at all interesting to you.  That's what StumbleUpon is all about.  You register your own interests (by choosing a few from a list of categories and then later you can refine this by adding more or removing some etc.)  StumbleUpon then gives you a big Stumble Button to click which starts to present you with random pages from the internet that are related to your interests.  But that's not all!


With each page that appears, you can rate it with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  It depends on whether you liked the content or not.  The thing is, this is like a community effort.  The more people that "thumbs up" a page, the more likely it is that StumbleUpon will display that page to others with the same interest.  It's like a rating system for pages, which is then used to try and present others with pages that were most liked by previous viewers.  It's a very clever system and the more you rate the pages, the more of the good pages you get to see.  It's actually quite addictive and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff you'll find, which you would probably never find if you hadn't used StumbleUpon, simply because you weren't looking for it!

To take it one step further and make it even easier for you to "stumble" whenever you feel like it, there is now a StumbleUpon app available in the App Store for free.  It allows you to log in and very quickly start (or continue) stumbling your favourite interests.  I have to say, I love it!  Give it a go today and drop me a comment to let me know what you think.

How To Move Apps Around On Your iDevice

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

We all download lots of apps, useful or otherwise, to our iDevices, be it for the purpose of testing them out to see if they're any good or because we've been recommended to try them.  Inevitably, we end up with a bit of a mess - loads and loads of apps on multiple pages, many of which we actually don't use or don't want.  And many more that we just can't find when we want them!

There are several things you can do to organise your apps.  Today I'm going to cover the first one - moving your apps.  When you download new apps, they fill the first available space on your iDevice home screen.  This is usually the last position, which could be on the 2nd page or the 20th page, depending on how many apps you have.  So what do you do if you want that app to be on the first page?  If it's an app that you like and intend to use often, you probably don't want to have to search through 20 pages of apps to find it.  The easiest thing to do is to move it to one of the first pages - but how?

This tip is something that many people find a little tricky, or a bit difficult to understand, but it's actually very easy once you get the hang of it.  The first thing to do is to locate the app that you want to move.  So flick through the pages until you can see it.  Now, press the app as if you are going to open it, but don't release your finger.  Hold your finger on it for a couple of seconds and you'll notice that all the app icons start to wiggle.  That's good news!  You've just put your home screen in Edit Mode so you can now move things around!

Now that you are in Edit Mode, you need to "grab" the app that you want to move and put it where you want it.  Since we have to go back a few pages to get to the first page, how do you move the app without losing sight of it?  It's easy.  You simply do the same as above, hold your finger on the app you want to move and start dragging it around.  You will notice that as you drag the app around on the current page, the other icons move around to make room for it.  This is what you will do, when you get to the page you want.  For now, you need to move the app to the very far left of your iDevice screen and then wait.  Keep holding your finger on the app while it is positioned against the far left of the screen and you will see that your iDevice suddenly starts flicking back through the pages of apps and the app you want is still there, held under your finger!

Once you see the page that you are looking for, simply move your finger (with the app still underneath!) into the page, away from the left side.  This will cause your iDevice to stop on that page.  Now all you have to do is move your app to the location on that page where you want it to be.  The other apps move out of the way for you and once you have the app positioned where you want it, just take your finger off it and it will drop into that spot!  Just like magic!

When you are finished moving your apps around, press the Home button to leave Edit Mode.  The apps will stop jiggling and you can no longer move them around.  They are now locked back into position.

One more little tip - if you go past the page you were looking for when you are moving your app, simply move the app to the far right of the screen and it works in reverse, your iDevice will start flicking forwards again through the pages.  A bit like a rolodex 🙂