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Showing posts from July, 2012

Get the most out of your laptop battery

If you know the right tricks, you can maximise the lifespan and battery life of you MacBook or MacBook Pro. The way you charge the battery, the conditions is which you use and store your laptop and the way you have your energy saver preferences set all have an effect on how long your battery will last and how well if performs.

Over time, your battery holds less and less charge, meaning your laptop doesn't last as long between charges. Apple claims that their batteries are designed to retain 80% of their original capacity after 300 cycles.

You can check how many cycles your battery has done by looking in System Profiler. You can find this by clicking on the Apple menu in the top left and choosing About This Mac. In the window that appears, click the "More Info..." button. In the sidebar of System Profiler, click on Power to bring up all the details about your battery. The interesting part is the Health Information. (Note that the stats shown below are for a fairly new batte…

Change or disable the Front Row shortcut

In case you don't have a remote handy, Apple have created a keyboard shortcut to enable Front Row. By pressing Command-Escape you can load up Front Row and navigate using the arrow keys.

This isn't very well publicised, and the only reason I know about it is that I keep accidentally pressing it when I go to Force Quit an application (Command-Option-Escape). People with American keyboard layouts also report accidentally activating Front Row when going for Command-Tilde (cycle through windows). As Front Row often takes a few seconds to load up and it takes over your entire screen, this can be pretty annoying.

If you are as clumsy as me, you might want to change the keyboard shortcut for Front Row. This is easily done by going to the Keyboard and Mouse section of System Preferences. Under the Keyboard Shortcuts tab you should find a list of all the keyboard shortcuts you can change.


Simply double-click on the shortcut for "Hide and show Front Row" and press the new combina…

Ignore Software Updates

It’s really convenient that you get get all the updates for the Apple software on your Mac by going to the Apple menu and choosing "Software Update...". However, occasionally you might want to skip an update, and you don't want Software Update to carry on reminding you to update. A common example is a printer drivers update for a printer you don't use very often or not at all any more. To ignore an update, just select it in the list and choose "Ignore Update..." from the Update menu. Alternatively you can just press the delete key. Now the update will stop showing up in the list of new software. If you change your mind, you can all you ignored updates back by choosing "Reset Ignored Updates" from the Software Update menu. Unfortunately this will bring back all of your ignored updates, so if you only want to bring back one you will have to ignore all the rest again.

Delete large files from a Time Machine Backup

If you are looking to reduce the size of your Time Machine backup, it's quite easy to go through you backups and remove files. Just enter Time Machine, locate the file you want to delete, right-click on it and choose "Delete All Backups..." But which files do you delete? You want to get rid of large files, but not those that are important. The best way to do this is to use an application called GrandPerspective. Pierce Wetter has created a modified version of this application specifically for Time Machine backups. It searches through your backups, and finds large files that have only been backed up once. These will be the files that either constantly change by small amounts or were only on your Mac for a very short time. It then produces a nice "map" of your backup, so you can easily see which files are taking up the most space. Hold you mouse over one of large boxes, and make a note of the backup date and location, shown at the bottom. Then just enter Time Machine…

Option-click menu extras to reveal hidden settings

Menu extras are the little icon menus that live over on the right-hand side of your menu bar. Most people will probably have the Volume and Airport menus, but there are loads more that you can enable. You can find 26 built in ones located in /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras that you can just double-click to start. On top of this there are many more that come with applications (like EvernoteQuickSilver and Tweetie) and some that are small applications themselves (like CaffeineF.lux and iStat menus). If you have a lot of menu extras, you can rearrange them by holding the command key and dragging them around. To remove one, just hold command and drag it off the menu bar. One not so well known trick is holding down the Option key when clicking on the menus. For some of them this will reveal hidden settings and information that aren't normally shown in the menu. Here's what you'll see in the Option-click menu for some of the most common ones. AirPortIn Snow Leopard the …

Getting started with the Mac App Store

Download the App StoreThe Mac App store is available through Software Update, which you can access through the Apple menu. It actually shows up in the list of available downloads as Mac OS X Update Version 10.6.6. You’ll need to restart after installing it, and then the App Store will show up as a new icon in your Dock. Different ways to access the App StoreIf you would prefer not to have an extra icon in your Dock, it’s fine to just drag it out to remove it like you would for any other application. Then if you still want to access the store, there are a number of alternative ways. A new item “App Store...” is added to the Apple menu, which gives you quick access no matter what application you are in. This also means you can also set a universal keyboard shortcut for it. Just go to System Preferences, go to the Keyboard section, then click on the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab. Click the plus (+) button to add a new shortcut, and in the dialog that appears, leave the dropdown menu as “All App…

Press and hold keys for iOS-style accents popup

Here’s yet another iPhone feature that has cropped up on the Mac in Lion. While typing, simply pressing and holding on a key will bring up a popup showing all the possible diacritics (accents, cedillas, etc.) that can be added to the letter. You can then choose from the possibilities by pressing the corresponding number on your keyboard, or by clicking the one you want. This seems to be a fairly quick way typing accents, and is much easier to use than the old method which involved remembering a number of Option key combinations. It does have one drawback however — it stops you from pressing and holding to write a long line of repeated letters, like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis. If you don’t regularly type accents, then losing the repeated character functionality might not be worth it for you. In this case, you can disable this new feature using a Terminal command. Open up Terminal (located in Applications/Utilities), paste the following line and press Return. defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEn…

Resize windows like a pro in Lion

A great new feature in Lion is the ability to resize windows in a much more flexible way. Whereas Snow Leopard only allowed resizing a window using a “handle” in the bottom right corner of every window, in Lion placing your mouse near any edge of a window will result in a new “Resize” cursor indicating that you can resize the window from there. If this wasn’t enough, there are a few other new resizing features that can make this even more useful. Firstly, holding the Option key while resizing results in both sides of the window resizing equally. For example, if you have a full screen window and resize it by Option-dragging the left side in towards the centre, the right side will also move in by an equal amount. If you resize from a corner using this method, it essentially has the effect of anchoring the window by its centre rather than by the opposing corner as usual. Secondly, holding the Shift key while resizing forces the window to keep the same proportions. This is similar to when yo…

Disable restored windows when re-opening specific apps

There’s a great tip over on the Macs in Chemistry blog on how to stop Lion from restoring your previous windows when re-opening specific apps. In System Preferences there’s a checkbox for turning this on and off globally, but using a handy little AppleScript you can disable it on a per-app basis. One of the new features in Lion is the ability of applications to resume activity at the point an application was quit. This means that when you reopen an application it will open and display all the documents you were editing in the state when you quit the application. This is obviously very useful but there are times when you may not want confidential documents automatically opened and displayed when you open an application. Here’s an example of the script for Safari: setstatePathtoPOSIX pathof (path tohome folder) & "Library/Saved Application State/com.apple.Safari.savedState" setquotedPathtoquoted formofstatePathtrydo shell script "test -w " & quotedPathsetcurren…

Customize the login screen in Lion

A lot of people have complained that the login screen is too bland and boring in Lion - it now sports Apple’s new favourite grey linen texture. Fortunately, it’s not to tricky to make some customisations. It is possible to change the background, add a custom welcome message and display system stats. Find out how below.

Changing the backgroundIn Lion, the background used for the login screen is located at /System/Library/Frameworks/AppKit.framework/Versions/C/Resources/ The easiest way to get to this folder is to choose Go to Folder in the Go menu while in the Finder. Then just copy and paste in the above line and click Go. The image that is used for the background is NSTexturedFullScreenBackgroundColor.png. You can replace this with any other image, and as long as you give it exactly the same name, it will be used for the login screen background. Before you make any changes, make sure you make a copy of the original file somewhere safe so you can go back to it if you want. You’ll notice …

Customize System Preferences

It’s always been possible to install and remove your own custom preference panes in System Preferences, but until Lion, the default Apple-provided preference panes were there to stay, whether you used them or not. Now, in Lion, it’s possible to hide any icon in System Preferences, including the Apple ones. To do this, just go to the View menu and choose Customize. A checkbox will appear next to each of your System Preferences icons, allowing you to turn off the ones you don’t regularly use. As well as giving you the ability to remove the default preference panes, this also has the benefit of allowing you to hide your own custom preference panes without completely uninstalling them. If you do occasionally need to access one of the hidden preference panes, they are still all accessible from the View menu or by right-clicking on the System Preferences icon in the Dock. Another new customisation available in Lion is the ability to sort the icons alphabetically, instead of by category. Withou…

8 Tips for iCal in Lion

iCal has been completely overhauled in OS X Lion - here are 8 tips to help you take advantage of all the new features. Create a quick eventiCal now has a a great new way to add events that means you no longer have to spend ages filling out dates and times with fiddly controls. Instead, just click the + button in the toolbar or press Command-N to bring up the Quick Event popover. This allows you to type in the event details in a human-readable form — for example, “Movie at 7pm on Friday” or “Meeting at 3pm until 6pm” — and iCal will interpret what you mean and create an event. Specify times in the event nameWhen creating events by double-clicking a day in month view, the new default behaviour is to create all-day events. If you want to create a normal event, just specify the time when typing in the event name. iCal seems to be quite flexible at interpreting what you mean - things like “Gym at 6” and “4pm Meeting” will both work. You can also specify the length of all-day events in this wa…