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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Some Basic, Some Cool, & Some Handy Mac OS X Tips
August 19th, 2003

Reader Questions

A couple of Computing With Bifocals readers recently sent in questions, the answers to which may be of interest to other readers. So hear goes.

HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help.

Address Book

Joe Lanier wanted to know how to alphabetize the names in his address book. After we got past a few stumbling blocks -- I gave him information for OS X when he is still using OS 9 -- we got it figured out. The actual steps will vary between mail applications, but Joe and I discovered that the concept is the same, and once you have a place to start you can easily do it.

Here is how you would do it using OS X's wonderful Address Book application. With Address Book open, select Preferences from the Mail Pull-down menu. A small window will open, offering you several options. Click on the "General" tab. As you can see you have options for sorting. Note also that in the off chance that you need a larger font you have the option of changing that as well. The main secret is to find the preferences for whatever application you are using.

The Preferences Window for Address Book

Including images in a Web page

Lee Camacho wrote to ask how I get these columns published and how I include pictures. I thought that was a really interesting question. In a nutshell, here is what I do. The hardest part is thinking up a topic. All suggestions from readers are gratefully accepted.

The first step is to create a new folder that will hold all the documents for the column. The editor requires that columns be submitted to him that way. The next step is typing the column. I can do it in Microsoft Word or Appleworks, but that is an extra step that really is not necessary unless you like your HTML to be what purists technically refer to as "butchered," especially with Word.

All I really need is an application that creates HTML documents (and has a spell check feature). I HAVE to have spell check. There are many applications available to Mac users. The gamut runs from the free and simple to use (Netscape Composer) to professional level applications such as Go Live or Dreamweaver, with lots in between. Information about any of these applications, plus trial downloads, are available at My usual choice is to open one of the HTML applications and create my column as I go. I type the text, and the application converts it to HTML code as I go.

Since I write this column for new users, I find it frequently helpful to include simple images of what is being discussed. It's that bifocal thing. When you are using a Mac it is very easy to take a picture of what is visible on your desktop. In fact, you actually have three options.

  1. I can take a snap shot of everything visible on my desktop by holding down the Apple key, the Shift key, and the 3 key at the same time. (Use your thumb, it helps reach them all at once.) The resulting image will appear on the desktop as a PDF image.
  2. If I want to take a picture of a specific thing rather than the whole screen, I can do so by holding down the Apple key, the Shift key, and the 4 key at the same time. When you do this, your cursor becomes a cross-hairs, like a camera's focus. In OS X, it appears as a small circle with 4 lines going off from it (top, bottom, left, right). Once it appears, hold down the mouse button and drag the cursor over what you want to capture. You'll see that area conveniently greyed out, to show you what you are capturing. Release the mouse button to take the picture. Again, it will show up on your desktop as a PDF image.
  3. In OS X there is a third option. If you want to take a quick image of a specific open window (such as I did for the image above), place the cursor inside the window you want to save, hold down the Apple key, the Shift key, and the 4 key at the same time. When the cross-hairs appears, hit the space bar (it's OK to let your fingers off the other buttons to do so). When you hit the space bar, a camera icon appears. Click the mouse button in the window you want, and the picture of only that window will appear on the desktop as a PDF file.
Take a picture of the whole desktop. Apple key
+Shift key
+3 key
Image will appear on your desktop as a PDF file. Open and view or print in the PDF format. Convert to a .jpg or .gif for inclusion in any HTML based document using a graphics application such as Graphic Converter or Photoshop.
Take a picture of a specific item on the desktop, such as the Dock. Apple key
+Shift key
+ 4 key
Image will appear on your desktop as a PDF file Open and view or print in the PDF format. Convert to a .jpg or .gif for inclusion in any HTML based document using a graphics application such as Graphic Converter or Photoshop.
Take a picture of an open window on your desktop (In OS X only). Apple key
+Shift key
+4 key
followed by the space bar
Image will appear on your desktop as a PDF file. Open and view or print in the PDF format. Convert to a .jpg or .gif for inclusion in any HTML based document using a graphics application such as Graphic Converter or Photoshop.
Table: How To Take Pictures of the Desktop

After I have the PDF file, I have to convert the image to a .jpg or .gif document so that it will be compatible with the HTML code when I submit the column for publication. To do that, I open my favorite graphics application, Graphic Converter, and save the PDF document into one of the other formats, usually .jpg. When I save the .jpg image I save it to the folder that I mentioned earlier.

My next step is to submit the cumulative text and images in the designated folder to the editor of TMO. In review:

  1. Create a folder for the column text and images.
  2. Type the content and save to folder.
  3. Insert existing images or create images from the desktop into the text, saving the images to the folder.
  4. Submit folder and content to editor of TMO.
  5. Bug him to get it published.

Other OS X Hints

  1. To make all new Finder windows in Mac OS X open in Column View, make the Finder the running application (click on it in the Dock, or click on the desktop itself), and choose Preferences in the "Finder" pulldown menu. You'll see several options, including a check box for "Open new windows in Column View." Check that, and your new Finder windows should always open in Column View.
  2. If you are still working primarily in OS 9, but want to start up in OS X, click the Apple key+X at startup.
  3. If the Dock is in your way, choose Dock from the Apple menu, then choose Turn Hiding On or choose a different position on the screen.
  4. To make the Dock always visible, choose Dock from the Apple menu, then choose Turn Hiding Off.
  5. To close all the open windows at once Click Option + click close button (red button in the top left corner of any open window).
  6. To move a window out of the way without making it active, click the Apple key while you drag the window.
  7. You can copy text, graphics, pictures, and movies from one document to another by dragging. You can copy between documents in the same application or even between (most) different applications.
  8. When you get new fonts, follow the instructions included with the fonts to install them. In many cases, you can just drag the fonts to the Fonts folder in the Library on your Mac OS X disk.
  9. To have your computer read text open System Preferences and click Speech, then click the Spoken User Interface tab. Then select the way you want text spoken.
  10. To stop a process once it has begun, click on the Apple key+period.

 That's it for this week. If there's something you want to know about, drop me a note!

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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