Category Archives: OS X Lion

how to use the color picker

how to merge PDF files in OS X

sliver_by_ether

How to merge PDFs into one file is something I have frequently been asked ever since Preview 6 made combining and saving PDFs a little more torturous than it needs to be (see here for the gory details). There are also various little apps that you can buy that will do this for you, but this is the kind of functionality I was talking about here that you can easily do for yourself with a bit of AppleScript magic.

Open up the AppleScript Editor by clicking on the Spotlight icon and typing Apples. Click on the AppleScript code below and copy the code from the pastebin page that opens up:



http://pastebin.com/xvhkZMU3

Paste the copied code into the AppleScript Editor, hit ‘Compile’ in the toolbar (or press ‘Command-K’) and save as either a .scrpt file or .app as I described in getting to grips with AppleScript.

Click on the script or app and enjoy merging those files to your hearts content (and for free)! 🙂


Featured picture: sliver by *ether

how to recover disappearing Notes

disappearingNotes@applehelpwriter.com


There appears to be a bug in Apple’s Notes.app in OS X 10.8 that sometimes causes notes to disappear. If you need to recover the text of any note that’s gone missing on your mac, try pasting this into Terminal.app. It’s all one line, so copy and paste it as a whole, then hit ‘return’:


cd ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/Data/Library/Notes; strings NotesV1.storedata | grep body | open -f

The resulting TextEdit window can be searched or scrolled through for your missing text.

Due to this problem, a lot of people are giving up using Notes.app altogether and switching to alternatives like Evernote or nvALT. However, if for some reason you either want or need to keep using Notes, you might try saving that command above as its own little App that you can keep in the Dock (beats having to dig out or remember the Terminal code all the time).

To do so, we’re going to use the Applescript Editor. It lives in the /Applications/Utilities folder, but you can access it simply by clicking on Spotlight and typing Apples.

With the Editor open, paste this into the window (note, this is slightly different from the command above, as we have to tell AppleScript how to use the code):


do shell script "cd ~/Library/Containers/com.apple.Notes/Data/Library/Notes; strings NotesV1.storedata | grep body | open -f"

Press ‘Command-K’ to compile the script. If there are no errors, hit ‘Command-R’ to run it. If everything checks out fine, then hit ‘Command-S’ to bring up the ‘Save’ box. Change the ‘File Format:’ option at the bottom to ‘Application’, give the app a snappy name (‘findNotes’ ??), then choose your Applications folder as the destination before hitting ‘Save’.

Save Dialog in Applescript Editor

The last thing to do is to go to your Applications folder and drag the icon to the Dock. Now, you can simply click the icon to produce the TextEdit window whenever a Note goes missing.

(Final tip: by the way, if you don’t like the Applescript icon in your Dock, you can always change it to an icon of your own! 🙂 )



Related posts:
getting to grips with AppleScript
sync notes between mac and android
FastTasks – download the free OS X utility from Applehelpwriter

how to stop help windows always being on top

HelpViewer
Ever called up a HelpViewer window in an app only to find that you have to close the window in order to get back to the app and start following the instructions? That can be highly annoying if the instructions aren’t easy to remember.

That’s because the HelpViewer.app is by default set to always be on top. If you want to change that, here’s a nice little Terminal trick that will let you manage HelpViewer windows just like a normal window, courtesy of new tipster site defaults-write.com. Here’s what you do:

1. If you have any HelpViewer windows open, close them first.

2. Open Terminal.app (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal.app) and paste this command into the window:

defaults write com.apple.helpviewer DevMode -bool true

and press ‘return’ on your keyboard.

That’s it! From now on, you’ll be able to switch focus between the app and the HelpViewer window so that you can work with whichever one you need on top.

Tip: If you want to reverse the behaviour, use the same command as above but replace ‘true’ at the end with ‘false’.

If you like exploring the various things you can do with defaults preferences, have a rummage around the defaults-write.com site, a nice little addition to our bookmarks list! 🙂

draft message crashes Mail

Mail 2_512x512

If you try to create a message with a corrupted or oversized attachment (suspect anything over 10MB), you might find that Mail keeps crashing every time you try to start it. This problem can be particularly annoying since you often can’t even get Mail open long enough to delete the problem message. Worse, even when you delete the problem message or attachment, it can just come straight back as soon as you try to refresh your messages from your web-based IMAP mail server. If this problem’s happening to you, here’s the solution.

First of all, disconnect from the internet and then quit Mail.
 
If you’re using 10.7 or later, click on Finder, choose ‘Go’ in the menubar and hold down the ‘option’ key. Choose ‘Library’ from the menu. For users of OS X 10.6 or earlier, navigate to

HOME > Library

in Finder.

Once you’ve found the user Library folder (note: this is not the same as the root or system library folder!), navigate to
 

Mail/V2/Mailboxes

 
In there you’ll see some folders called things like

IMAP-{yourEmailAddress.com}

for each email address you have. In each one there is a Drafts folder. Locate the correct one and delete the file.
 
Do NOT restart Mail, but open your internet connection, go to your web-based email through your browser and delete the draft from there too.
 
Now you can restart Mail. Choose ‘Rebuild’ from the Mailbox menu in the menubar.



Problem solved! 🙂

featured picture: ‘Mail – flurry style’ by Lukeedee

5 things you never knew about Spotlight

spotlight_icon

Whenever I’m helping customers with a misbehaving Mac, one of the most common things I hear is ‘Wow, I didn’t know you could do that with Spotlight!’ Whereas the average user will navigate around their computer by trawling through Finder, the savvy user knows how to get to places, launch apps, search the internet and calculate their tax with a few simple Spotlight tricks. In this post we’ll look at how to increase your productivity by using Spotlight for fast access to a variety of common functions. But first, we need to get Spotlight set up for maximum efficiency.

Set up the hotkey
To get the most out of Spotlight, the first thing to do is set up the keyboard hotkey. By default, this is usually ‘command-spacebar’, but if you are using multiple languages you might want to reserve that for the Input Switcher. Instead, I use ‘option-command-spacebar’, not least because this nice 3-finger combination can be executed with the left-hand while the right hand is reaching for the coffee mug… 😉

Whatever your choice of hotkey, keep it close to the bottom of the keyboard, as the other keys that you will want to be able to rapidly access are the cursor arrows and the ‘return’ key. If you haven’t set up your Spotlight hotkey yet, the fastest way to do so is to click on Spotlight on the top right of your screen with the mouse or trackpad and type 

spot 

and then hit ‘return’ on the keyboard (if Spotlight isn’t the top hit, just use the arrow down key to move down till you hit it)


Spotlight

After hitting ‘return’, you’ll be presented with the Spotlight preferences panel. At the bottom, you’ll see fields to define both the Spotlight menu keyboard shortcut and the Spotlight window keyboard shortcut. For the purposes of this post, we’re only interested in the menu shortcut (but feel free to set up the window one too, if you wish!). Once your hotkey is set up you can forget about the annoying inconvenience of dragging your cursor up to the top right corner. Just hit your hotkey combination to open the Spotlight search field.


System Prefs for Spotlight


But don't close the Spotlight prefs just yet. The main pane in the window is the Search Results panel which lists the order in which results appear. You can alter the order of results that Spotlight shows by dragging items up and down the list. Altering this to your likes is a big part of getting the most out of Spotlight. If Spotlight is always showing you lots of results from Mail that you don't want to see, for example, drag "Messages & Chats" to the bottom of the list.

For the purposes of this tip, make sure Applications is no.1 in the list and System Prefs no. 2, and Folders at no. 3. Follow that with Documents, Images, PDFs and so on according to the kind of files you access most often on a daily basis. A set up like this will make Spotlight much more efficient at navigating around your mac, and once you get the hang of it you’ll find yourself trawling through Finder much less often.

Incidentally, I don't recommend unchecking any of those boxes. We want more power in our searches, not less; you never know when you might be looking for something that just won’t show up in a search because you’ve forgotten that you excluded those results in Spotlight’s preferences. Besides, there are better ways to restrict your searches in Spotlight like this and this.

When you're done with setting up Spotlight’s preferences, hit 'command' and 'Q' to close System Preferences and read on.


1. Use Spotlight as an App Launcher
Long before the Apple engineers dreamed up Launchpad, many of us were already launching apps in half the time it takes in the Dock, Finder, or (now) even Launchpad itself. You can open any app with Spotlight just by typing three or four characters. Sometimes, just one is enough! All you need to do is hit your hotkey (see above) and type the first three or four letters of the App’s name and hit ‘return’.

Try typing tex and hitting ‘return’ to instantly open TextEdit, or act for ‘Activity Monitor’. iPhoto should be the top hit with ip. If you use Terminal a lot, there’s no need to go rooting around in the Applications/Utilities menu to open it. Simply hit the Spotlight hotkey and type

term

and hit ‘return’.

If you have Carbon Copy Cloner, type CCC, and if you use 1Password, just the number 1 and return should do the trick.

saf will open Safari and mai will launch Mail in an instant. Experiment with your favourite or most commonly used apps and you’ll find that using Spotlight is twice as fast as any other method.

As a bonus, if you moved Folders up to no.3 in the Preferences list, experiment with the first few letters of your favourite folders. Try some of these and see what comes up as the top hit:

home, downl, mov, musi, docu.

2. Use Spotlight to access System Prefs
We already saw one of Spotlight’s hidden uses – fast access to System Preferences. In fact you can do this with any of them. Want to check your login items in Users & Accounts | Login Items? No need to go clicking all round the desktop, hit your Spotlight hotkey and type

user

or

secu

if you want to change your Security preferences quickly.

Don’t hit ‘return’ just yet – check to see what is the ‘top hit’, as you might find that you have to “arrow down” an item or two. Even so, this is a whole lot faster than wading through either Finder or the  menu.

Typing

sys

and hitting ‘return’ is also a fast way to open the main System Preferences panel.

3. Dictionary
Hit the Spotlight hotkey and try typing the word 

codec

Just press ‘command-L’ to go straight to the dictionary entry and see its definition in a pop-up panel. Alternatively, hit ‘command-D’ to open the word in the Dictionary app.

Also note that in Spotlight, you can jump around by holding down the ‘command’ key and pressing the down arrow key (each press of the arrow key conveniently takes you to the top of each section; release the ‘command’ key and use the down arrow alone to move one item at a time within the section). Using the ‘control’ key and the down or up arrow takes you to the very bottom or the very top of the list, respectively.

When you’re done with Spotlight, just hit your hotkey combination again to dismiss it. You can also use the ‘esc’ key here: one tap of ‘esc’ will clear the Spotlight search bar, two will dismiss it.

4. Website search
But suppose you type in a word that Dictionary.app doesn’t know? Try

plomic

Again, use your command and arrow key to jump down to the bottom of the results and this time choose ‘search the web’. That will automatically open Safari and put the term in the search bar and return the results. But you’re not limited to dictionary searches, you can use Spotlight’s search bar just like the Google search bar in Safari. Try typing in

mini ipad versus samsung galaxy review

or

best small car of 2012

or anything else you might want to search the web for. Yep, Spotlight isn’t just a file finder on your mac – it’s a google search engine, too!

5. Use Spotlight as a Calculator
Want to quickly know what 17.5% of $45,000 is? Hit your Spotlight hotkey and type:

45000*17.5%

Don’t press ‘return’ – difficult to break that habit, I know! – the result is already listed next to the ‘Calculator’ icon, just look down to see the search results and the answer is already there!

You can of course do all the standard calculator functions like / for divide, * for multiplication and + and – for addition and subtraction. You can even do powers (3 to the power of 5 = 3^5) as well as bracket expansion. Try

(3x5)^2 and compare the result with 3*5^2

So whether its App launching, web searching, opening system prefs or using the dictionary or calculator, hitting your Spotlight hotkey is a habit you want to develop for faster computing. At least for me, it’s probably the most frequent keystroke I use on a daily basis.

🙂

FastTasks – a utility for ten common terminal tasks

FastTasks

Update: I’ve since written a nice GUI version in AppleScript-ObjectiveC which you can download for free here»

If you find you only ever go into Terminal to perform a small number of tasks that can’t be done (easily or at all) in the OS X graphical user interface, this little utility could be for you. It allows you to run a number of common tasks such as

reveal and hide hidden folders
batch change the extension on multiple files
purge system free memory
flush the DNS cache
restore system preferences to defaults

without having to bother looking up the commands. You will, however, have to do a little Terminal ‘dirty work’ to initially get the utility up and running (it’s a shell script which you need to turn into an executable file), but step by step instructions are all provided. 😉

Here’s what you do:

1. Copy or download the entire script from here FastTasks code and paste it into a text editor (TextEdit or Tincta, my favourite, will do).

2. Save the file as plain text onto your desktop with the name ‘FastTasks’

3. Open Terminal.app and paste this command:

sudo chmod 755 ~/Desktop/FastTasks

and press ‘return’ on your keyboard. You’ll be asked for you Admin password which will be invisible when you type it. If you’re wondering what you’ve just done, you’ve just changed that plain text file into an executable program.

4. Paste the next line into Terminal.app

cp ~/Desktop/FastTasks /etc/bin/FastTasks

then press ‘return’ on your keyboard.

As a result of that last command, you can now use the script by typing ‘FastTasks’ in a Terminal window or by double-clicking ‘FastTasks’ in Finder or on the Desktop.

5. By the way, if the Terminal window remains open after FastTasks has completed, change the following settings in Terminal’s Preferences:

Preferences > Settings > Shell > When the shell exits…

and change the dropdown menu from ‘Don’t close the window’ to ‘Close if the shell exited cleanly’.

And that’s it. You can now run any of the tasks in the menu without having to know the commands! 🙂

Fast tips for using FastTasks

1. FastTasks is actually quickest to run by using Spotlight and Terminal.
If you have the Spotlight hotkey set up (usually cmd-space by default), simply open Spotlight, and type ‘Term’ and hit ‘return’ on the keyboard. At the Terminal prompt type ‘fasttasks’ and hit ‘return’.

2. Running it this way has another benefit. If you want to run FastTasks again after performing one task, just hit the ‘up’ arrow on the keyboard (hitting the ‘up’ arrow repeatedly will take you through previous commands entered at the Terminal prompt. Use the ‘down’ arrow to go forward), then ‘return’ when you see ‘fasttasks’ on the command line.

creating secure folders and files



With FileVault 2 having a number of drawbacks, a common question I’m seeing is how best to secure data on Lion and Mountain Lion without using FV2.

There’s a number of tricks on offer, from making transparent folders, excluding folders from Spotlight, or using Terminal to make them invisible or hidden.

However, all of these methods suffer from one inevitable drawback: anyone who knows their way around Terminal can open, read, copy or delete your folders as if you had never employed any of the above tricks at all. Well, not many people know their way around Terminal you say? But everyone knows their way around Google, and learning how to find files via the Terminal is information easily found, even on Applehelpwriter! In short, all those methods listed above are really a waste of time if it’s security that you’re after.

Fortunately, there is a simple answer to securing localised files or folders, and that’s to make a local encrypted disk image with Disk Utility and then move your data into it. To do so, follow this procedure:

1. Open Disk Utility (Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app)

2. Click near the bottom of the sidebar in empty space to make sure none of the disks in the sidebar are selected.

3. Click the New Image icon in the task bar.

4. Give the image a name and choose a location to store it. Storing it in the User Library is not a bad idea. Give it a boring name like ‘old system’, ‘old data’ or something like that, but don’t hit ‘Create’ just yet.

5. At the bottom of the dialogue box is a field for encryption. Click on the option button and choose either 128-bit or 256-bit (the second choice is the strongest but also slower. 128-bit is still so strong that almost no-one save the CIA will be able to crack it!)

6. Create a password that you’re not going to forget. Do NOT use the same password that you use for your Admin account or for anything else for maximum security. Uncheck the ‘save in my keychain’ option.

Warning!

if you forget the password don't waste time seeking help trying to break it. The system is designed to be uncrackable. If you forget the password, your data is lost for good.

PRO TIP: For that reason, you might like to use a password manager like ‘1Password‘ for this and all your other passwords. The main reason people forget passwords is infrequency of use. With 1Password you use a single password to unlock all your other passwords and to have them entered automatically into web pages and other fields.


7. Set up the rest of the options as in the screenshot below.




8. When you’re ready, press ‘Create’ to make the disk image.

9. Once the image has been created, copy the files you want to protect into the disk image window, just like you would a hard disk or other connected device. Now, whenever you want to access your protected data, just click on the disk image and enter the password and your data is ready to be used.

10. Test mounting and ejecting the disk image a few time. Open a few files and save your changes. After you’re sure everything is working as expected, delete the files from the original location that you copied them from. Also, don’t forget to eject the disk image in Finder’s sidebar each time when you’re done using it to prevent anyone else accessing your protected files.

🙂


Camtasia 2 reviewed



I’ve been a long time user of TechSmith’s Camtasia screen capture software, primarily for two reasons: ease of use combined with a rich set of editing features. Camtasia for Mac 2 strengthens this product in a number of significant ways although there are still some usability issues that need addressing, as well as room for further improvements in the feature set. In this review, I’ll walk you through what Camtasia has to offer as well as indicate the kind of uses where it excels as an aid to the technical communicator. Read the review…

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