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Archive for the ‘OS X Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

In an earlier article, we looked at 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should. While researching that article we came across a bit more than 10 notable Mac features, so a follow-up article was born.

This time, we have seven more Mac features that are worth checking out. On the premise that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, we’d like to know in return what favorite feature you think doesn’t get enough respect from the typical Mac user. You can add it to the Leave a Comment section, below.

Mine is Stacks, I use them all the time to quickly access the content of folders and smart folders without having to dig through the Finder to locate them, and to have them available no matter how many apps and windows are cluttering up my desktop.

Stacks
Stacks are one of my favorite features of the Mac’s Dock. At its basic level, a stack is just a folder containing items that you’ve dragged to the right-hand side of the Dock. But a stack has a few more capabilities than just a plain folder; you can view the content of a stack by clicking on its Dock icon. You can specify how the content is to be displayed, and you can specify the sorting order of the content when viewed from the Dock, independent of how you have the sorting order set when manually opening the same folder in the Finder.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To give you an idea of the power of Stacks, we’re going to create a Stack to house all the items we’ve marked using Finder Tags, as mentioned in last week’s article: 10 Mac Features You Probably Don’t Use But Should.

Open a Finder window, and scroll down in the sidebar ’til you see the Tags section.

Drag one of the tag colors from the Finder sidebar to the right-hand side of the Dock.

A new stack will be created in your Dock, which you can use to quickly view all of the items on your Mac that you’ve tagged with that specific Finder Tag color.

Stacks have a number of options you can set that control how they look and behave. To find out more about Stacks and the options available, stop by Spacers, Stacks & Swapping: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 2.

There are other Stacks you can create in your Mac’s Dock; another favorite is the Recent Items stack. You can find instructions for creating this stack in the article: Terminal Tricks: Mastering the Iconic macOS Dock, Part 3.

Add Glyphs Directly From the Keyboard
If you use your Mac for just about any type of correspondence, sooner or later you’re likely to need to produce diacritical marks that are placed above a letter to indicate a special pronunciation. In the past, these special marks were hidden away in the in the Mac’s Character Viewer, Emoji & Symbol Viewer, or Keyboard Viewer app (the names of these special character viewer apps change depending on the version of the OS you’re using).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The viewers can be added to the Apple menu bar:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Keyboard tab, and then place a checkmark in the Show Keyboard and Emoji Viewers in Menu Bar box.

You can now access the character viewers directly from the right-hand side of the Apple menu bar.

Of course, there’s an easier way if all you need to do is add the accent glyph for a single character. Ever since OS X Lion, it’s been possible to add an accent glyph by holding down the letter’s key for a second or two, at which point a popover menu will appear directly above the character, listing all of the correct diacritical marks associated with that letter. Simply click on the mark you wish to use, or type the number that appears below the mark.

If none of the glyphs are the correct one, you can hit the Escape key to dismiss the popover menu.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

With each release of the Mac OS, new features are added, older features may be updated, and in some cases, removed or replaced. Over the course of a few OS updates, it’s easy for some very useful system features to be forgotten. That’s why we’re going to take a look at 10 features that don’t get as much use as we think they should.

1) Tabbing Between Fields and Control Elements
The tab key can get quite a workout on the Mac. Besides its obvious use in text editors and word processors to move the cursor a predefined distance, it’s used on the Mac to move between fields in various apps. This makes the tab key extremely helpful when filling in an online form, letting you move quickly to the next field to enter information, or to the next list item to make a selection.

Further Reading: OWC Announces Cutting-edge Thunderbolt 3 Products at CES 2018

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You may have noticed when filling in forms that the tab key will jump past dropdown menus and other types of controls used in forms and dialog boxes. You can make the tab key stop at just about any type of user interface element with this small change:

Launch System Preferences and select the Keyboard preference pane.

Select the Shortcuts button at the top of the Keyboard window.

Near the bottom you’ll find options for Full Keyboard Access. The default is to have the tab key only move between text boxes and lists. You can change the setting to have the tab key move between all controls.

You can also change the tab key behavior on the fly, without returning to the System Preferences, by using the keyboard shortcut Control + F7 to toggle between the two options.

2) New Folder With Selection
This useful Finder feature has been around since OS X Lion, but is still often overlooked when it comes to file management and organization. As long as you select two or more files, you can have the Finder automatically create a new folder and move the selected items into the folder for you.

Open a Finder window and navigate to the files you would like to have placed in a new folder. Select the files; remember you must select at least two files (or folders) for this trick to work.

Right-click or control-click on one of the selected items, and then choose New Folder with Selection (X Items) from the popup menu. The X in the menu name will be replaced with the number of items you actually selected.

You can also select multiple items in the Finder and from the File menu select New Folder with Selection (X Items).

3) Use a Document’s Icon to Move a File or Duplicate a File (Proxy Icon)
The proxy icon is the thumbnail of a document icon that appears in the title bar of the document window of most Mac apps, usually at the top center of the window. It’s called a proxy icon because it’s a stand-in for the actual icon of the document you’re working on.

The proxy icon is more than just a bit of eye candy. It can be used just like the document’s real icon, which means you can:

Drag the proxy icon anywhere on your Mac to create an alias to the original file at the new location.

Option + drag to create a copy of the document at the location you drag the proxy icon to.

Press command or control for a pop-down menu that shows the path to the document.

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by Tom Nelson

Safe mode and single-user mode are two of the special start-up modes that your Mac can be powered up to. They’re often used to troubleshoot issues a Mac may be experiencing, or to assist in isolating and repairing some common issues that can keep a Mac from starting up correctly, or that make it act strangely when it’s in use.

The two modes are distinctly different, with safe mode being a more automated approach to fixing Mac issues, and single-user mode being more akin to the Mac’s Terminal app, giving those familiar with UNIX the ability to manually run various troubleshooting utilities and commands.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to show you how to use each mode to help troubleshoot Mac problems you may be experiencing.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Safe Mode
Up first is safe mode, one of the easiest ways to isolate and fix many Mac problems. Safe mode allows you to troubleshoot problems you may be having in starting up your Mac, working with specific apps, or system-wide issues.

When you invoke safe mode, your Mac will restart and perform various troubleshooting checks on your Mac’s system, hardware, and startup drive. It will also disable some system components, and if it successfully completes the checks, will finish by bringing you to the standard desktop, though with certain functions disabled.

What Does Safe Mode Do?
Safe mode uses a process similar to Disk Utility’s First Aid to verify and repair your startup drive. Unlike Disk Utility, which can’t repair the startup drive directly, Safe Mode can perform both a verify and a repair of the startup drive’s directory structure.

Safe mode only allows the most basic system kernel extensions to be loaded. This will prevent third-party kernel extensions from affecting the startup process, and from being available to use once safe mode drops you into the desktop.

Safe mode allows only system fonts that are provided with the operating system to load; all other fonts are disabled.

It deletes all font caches, kernel caches, and system caches.

It disables all startup and login items from being loaded by the system.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

You made the decision to move from your Windows PC to a Mac. There are a lot of great reasons to make the jump, and one nagging problem that many switchers agonize over: how to transfer their PC data to their shiny new Macs and access the information without any issues.

For the most part, moving PC data to a Mac is a fairly easy process, with quite a few options available to get the job done. And that’s where this article comes in. We’re going to show you a few of the methods available to get your Mac set up with your PC data.

What Can Be Transferred and What Can’t?
Let’s start with the easier part of that question: what can’t be transferred, or more accurately, what can’t you use even if you manage to transfer it over. The answer is: applications. Windows apps that ran on your PC just won’t work on your Mac, not without using some form of virtualization software, such as Parallels, or emulation, such as CrossOver Mac, that can mimic a PC environment, or a complete install of Windows on the Mac (Boot Camp).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

We’re not going to go into the options for running Windows on your Mac, but you can find out more by investigating the links above. What you can easily move to your Mac and make use of is most of your PC data files, the documents you have created, such as photos, music, videos, spreadsheets, and word processing documents, even all of the email messages you’ve collected over time. There will, of course, be a few file types that won’t have any equivalent on the Mac, and those documents may prove difficult to successfully make use of on your Mac. But for the most part, you should find that you can transfer and use most of your documents.

Many of the most popular Windows apps have Mac counterparts. For instance, while your Windows copy of Office can’t be used on the Mac, there’s a complete version of Office that Microsoft developed specifically for the Mac. The same holds true for many other popular apps. Check with the app manufacturer for an available Mac version. If you can’t find one, there’s likely a third-party app that can make use of the Windows files.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Are you the designated IT person for your family, or maybe for your small business? If you are, then perhaps you’re getting a bit tired of everyone asking you to provide your administrator name and password every time a printer jams, an app needs updating, or Time Machine throws an error code.

The Mac has a pretty straightforward model for assigning privileges to a user’s account, and in many cases, only the administrator has the right to stop, start, or pause services, such as pausing the print server when a printer jams. Only a user with administrator privileges can get the print server running again.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you’re tired of running over to a user’s Mac just to enter a password so the print server can restart after a paper jam, then you may be thinking it’s time to give everyone admin privileges. And believe it or not, that may be a valid solution to the problem, depending on the competence and trustworthiness of your users.

It is, in fact, the method we use; all users at our home and office are set up as administrators, relieving us of the more mundane tasks of Mac administration. But if you’re inclined to use the standard, managed, and administrator user models to ensure a bit tighter security, then this tip can help you keep your personal workload low, while allowing other users to perform routine tasks, such as resetting printers, without needing the local overlord to make an appearance.

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by Tom Nelson

Boot Camp and Boot Camp Assistant allow you to install Windows on your Mac. It’s a nice capability that lets you select – at boot time – which operating system you wish to use: Mac OS or Windows.

One of the downsides to Boot Camp and the Windows installer is that it restricts you to installing Windows on your Mac’s internal drive. While Boot Camp Assistant can partition your startup drive for you to make room for Windows, there are bound to be many of you who just don’t have room to spare on your startup drive to install Windows.

Installing Windows on an external drive would be a great solution to the problem of available space, but as we said, Boot Camp and Windows impose a restriction on installing to an external drive – or do they?

There are actually a few ways you can successfully install Windows on an external drive. They range from creating clones of an existing PC installation, or using Microsoft IT tools for installing Windows. But the method we’re going to outline here is a bit different. It allows you to install Windows on an external drive without first having Windows installed on a PC or in a virtual environment.

This is an advanced process with quite a few pitfalls that can trip you up. Be sure to read through the process before undertaking it. Also, make sure you have a current backup before beginning.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Apple’s iCloud service links Macs and iOS devices for sharing, storing, and syncing the data created by some of Apple’s apps, such as Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. You can even use iCloud with Windows, although with a much more limited set of data. One thing that’s missing from iCloud is raw data storage; that is, the ability to save any file to iCloud, regardless of the app that was used to create it.

Update: With the advent of OS X Yosemite, Apple updated the iCloud service with a vastly improved iCloud drive. that now performs pretty much how you would expect from a cloud based storage service. If your using OS X Yosmite or later, you can jump to the end of this article to read about iCloud drive features specific to later versions of the Mac OS.

If on the other hand your using a pre OS X Yosemite version of the OS, then read on to discover some pretty niffty tricks that will make iCloud Drive more useful.​

iCloud is designed to be an application-centric service; it’s accessible through an application’s Save or Open dialog boxes. Each iCloud-enabled app can see the data files that it has created and that are stored in the cloud, but it can’t access data files created by other apps. This very limiting behavior may be a result of Apple’s desire to simplify the process of working with cloud-based documents.

Or perhaps Apple wanted iCloud to be iOS-centric in design, and prevent access to the underlying file system.

But the Mac isn’t an iOS device. Unlike iOS devices, which prevent users from accessing the underlying file system, OS Xlets us access all of the files on our system, using the Finder or Terminal.

So, why should we be limited to an app-centric iCloud service?

The answer, at least with OS X Mountain Lion through OS X Mavericks, is that we aren’t. Since the introduction of Mountain Lion, iCloud has stored all of the previously hidden data in a user’s Library folder. Once you navigate to this folder in the Finder, you can use any stored iCloud data with any app that supports the file type of the selected data, not just the app that created the data. For example, you can use Word, which currently isn’t iCloud-savvy, to read a TextEdit document that you have stored in iCloud. You can even move and organize documents, something you have no control over from the standard iCloud system.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

You’ve no doubt heard the term cache and temp files, at least as it relates to your Mac. There are numerous times when removing a cache or temp file may be part of a troubleshooting tip to return an app or the system to a more robust condition. It’s also common to hear about removing these files to free up space on a Mac’s startup drive.

But before we head down the road to clearing out cache and temp files, let’s take a moment to find out what functions they serve, and whether it’s really a good idea to remove them willy-nilly.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Are Cache Files and Temp Files?
Cache and temp files serve a similar function; they provide a place to temporarily store data in files on your Mac.

Cache files are much more dynamic. They’re being accessed and updated frequently, and they can remain after the app or system function that created them has closed or exited. They can also remain through shutdown or restart cycles.

Temp files tend to be more static, created by an app or system process to temporarily store data that is later used by the process that created the file. Unlike cache files, temp files are usually removed by the process that created them, usually when the process exits, or during a shutdown or restart cycle.

Examples of cache files include browser caches that save the information from a webpage. When you return to the same page, the browser can load the page data from the cache file, provided the page data hasn’t changed. This saves you the time it would take to access the web server and download the entire page again.

Another type of cache you use everyday on your Mac is the DNS cache. Like the browser cache, the DNS cache can let your Mac grab the IP address of a website it has visited recently without having to perform a DNS lookup, which can take a great deal of time.

Other caches are used by the system to store frequently used icons, images, and just about any type of information that is used over and over, where storing the data is faster than recreating the information every time.

Temp files, on the other hand, are transitory; they tend to be removed once the app or process that created them is terminated. An example of a temp file is an application that has many levels of undo. In the loosest of terms, the undo temp file holds the state of the app at each point a command was issued, letting you go back in time (undo) to previous states. When you quit the app, the undo temp file is deleted since it’s no longer needed.

Temp files can also hold static items, such as an image, or data that will be used frequently by an app but doesn’t need to be saved beyond the current app cycle.

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by Tom Nelson

The anticipation of purchasing a new Mac is sometimes tempered by the realization that at some point, you’re going to have to move the data from your old Mac or PC to its new home on your new Mac.

Luckily for us Mac users, the Mac includes the Migration Assistant, an easy-to-use app that, with a bit of help from you, can move all the important data from your old Mac or Windows PC to that sparkling new Mac you just bought. It can perform this task using one of a number of ways to make the connection between old and new:

That should be enough choices to enable you to make a connection to transfer the information. To help you choose between the options, here’s a bit more detail.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Network Connection: Your new Mac, as well as the Mac or PC that contains the data you wish to transfer, must be on the same local network. The Migration Assistant only scans the local network, and won’t look beyond it for hosts to use as the source of the transfer.

The network connection method is probably the easiest to use, especially when you consider that your new Mac can automatically discover the network and make the appropriate connections needed. The only tip here is if your network requires a password, as most Wi-Fi networks do, be sure to have it handy when you first turn your new Mac on.

Thunderbolt and FireWire: The Mac has long supported a special means of connecting two Macs together, known as Target Disk Mode. When a Mac is booted up in Target Disk Mode (hold down the T key when you start your Mac), the OS isn’t loaded; instead, the Mac makes its startup drive available to the connected computer just as if it were an external drive.

Originally, Target Disk Mode made use of the FireWire ports that were common on older Macs. While FireWire is still supported, Thunderbolt, which offers a much faster connection, is a better choice for newer Macs.

In order for Target Disk Mode to operate, both computers need a set of FireWire ports or a set of Thunderbolt ports. It’s possible to use an adapter to connect a Mac with Thunderbolt ports to a Mac with FireWire ports, although for the cost of the adapter and the drop in connection speed, you’re probably better off just using the network method.

Time Machine: You can use your Time Machine backup as the source for copying data with the Migration Assistant. All that’s needed is the ability to connect the Time Machine drive to the new Mac. If your Time Machine drive is located in an external drive, this should be a simple process. You can also use a Time Capsule connected via the network.

External Drive: We already mentioned that the Migration Assistant can use a Time Machine backup drive when it’s connected to the new Mac, but it can also use any startup drive that’s connected to the new Mac.

This is especially handy for anyone who bought a new Mac because their old one had failed in some way; perhaps unable to boot. As long as the startup drive is in good shape, you could move the drive to an external enclosure and migrate the data from there.

If you need an empty external enclosure, you’ll find a wide selection of OWC External Enclosures available.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac OS is chock full of hidden areas where data, information, or features have been secreted away from Mac users. One of these clandestine locations is the users library folder, commonly written out as ~/Library/.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What’s In Your Library?
Although hidden, the users library folder contains quite a lot of useful information. This is one of the places where apps tend to keep any necessary support files. It’s also a preferred location for preference files used by apps to customize their user interface to meet your needs.

The ~/Library folder may also contain logs, preference panes, printers, screen savers, and fonts. Essentially, the users library folder can contain any application- or service-related information that is specific to a user. As an example, consider the Safari browser. It stores individual preference files in each user’s library folder. This allows each user to customize Safari independently of the others, without requiring multiple copies of the Safari app to be installed.

Why Hide the ~/Library Folder?
The users library folder hasn’t always been hidden. It used to be just another folder in a user’s home directory, readily available from the Finder. That changed when Apple released OS X Lion, and the ~/Library folder was banished from the Finder.

We don’t know Apple’s reason for removing the ~/Library folder from sight, but we can guess: Apple support was tired of calls from users complaining about various apps no longer working, or acting strangely. In many cases, tech support was probably able to trace the problem to app support files in the users library folder being deleted or manipulated without authorization, so to speak.

Hiding the ~/Library folder was an easy, and effective, solution.

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