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FastTasks – a utility for ten common terminal tasks


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 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

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.

stop update notifications for unwanted apps

There it goes again – that little red badge on the App store telling you that there’s an update for your software. Only problem is, when you go to check it out, it turns out to be some little app that you downloaded but rarely use or which, for some reason (like not using up a limited download cap), you don’t particularly want to update.

Actually, there’s two ways you can get round this problem. The first, as obvious as it may seem, is to simply delete the app from your computer. If it was an app you purchased, don’t worry – it’ll still be in your purchases tab in the App store if you decide you want it back again one day.

Another way – and one which might also come in handy for those who use the app but don’t want the update – is to hide the app from your purchases list. This means you keep the app on your system, but the App store won’t inform you about updates. If this is the trick for you, then here’s how to do it:

To hide an app:

1. Open the App store and go to your purchases page. Sign in if necessary.

2. Control-click on the app you want to hide, and chose ‘Hide Purchase’.

It’s as easy as that! If you ever want to unhide this app, see if there are any updates, or just check whether any apps are already hidden (I found iPhoto had somehow got hidden without my knowing about it, and thus I wasn’t getting any updates for it!) then:

To unhide an app:
1. Open the App store.

2. In the menubar at the top, click ‘Store > View My Account…’

3. Sign in and wait for the Account page to show up.

4. Under ‘iTunes in the Cloud’, click on ‘Hidden Purchases’ and choose the apps you want to unhide. If you don’t see the ‘iTunes in the Cloud’ heading, then you don’t have any apps hidden.

5. Click ‘Done’ on the bottom right of the Accounts page.


featured picture: ‘Stop’ by SpongeSponge

maximizing screen space in OS X

If you don’t like full-screen apps because they hide the menubar, or you’re using Snow Leopard and you need to increase screen real-estate, here’s a few tricks you can try.

1. Try to maximize the app to take up all the rest of the screen space by clicking the green indicator light in the top left corner (there are three in a row, red, amber, green).

2. You can hide or collapse the toolbar (that’s the top part of the app that the indicator lights and other icons sit in) in some apps by clicking the elongated button on the far-right of the toolbar (if present). Alternatively, if there’s no button, look in the menubar at the top for ‘View > Hide Toolbar‘. While you’re there, look for ‘Hide Status Bar‘, which is the strip at the bottom of an application window.

3. Try either right-clicking or ‘control’ clicking anywhere on the toolbar and experimenting with the options. Some apps will let you hide the toolbars (like Office for Mac), while others give you options such as ‘use text only’ to remove icons which will reduce the size of the toolbar. Experiment to see what works best.

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