In this column I offer three basic Mac tips that may make your computing life more fun, more efficient, and possibly lower your blood pressure.
Short Cut To Online Thesauruses
I can’t spell worth a darn. Never have been good at it and never will be. I like to blame it on brain damage I suffered at birth. (I am a twin and I was breach.) It is as good an excuse as any, right? Anyway, I use the dictionary a lot in spite of the fact that I never could understand how I was supposed to look up a word that I didn’t know how to spell. As an adult I have solved this problem by using the Thesaurus. I look up a similar word and hunt through synonyms until I find the spelling of the word I need.
Hey, it beats asking my children.
I also use the Thesaurus for the intended purpose of finding more appropriate words to enhance my writing or my descriptions of products. I mean, how many times can I say a product is awesome before someone gags.
Enter OS X's built-in dictionary and Thesaurus. Many of us use this every day, but I know there are some users out there who don't yet know it exists. I use the Thesaurus all the time to find words I don't know how to spell.
You can find the built-in dictionary and Thesaurus in most well-made OS X applications. In my examples below, I created a TextEdit document and typed my example word, but you can do the same thing in all of Apple's apps and most third part software, too (some multiplatform applications like Microsoft Word and Adobe's professional software use their own spell checker and internal dictionary, but that's another column for another time).
In this example, I typed "awesome" in my blank TextEdit document. I then highlighted and right-clicked it (control-click also works). The top choice is "Look Up 'awesome.'"
Look Up "awesome"
When I click on "Look Up 'awesome,'" I get a little pop-up pane with three sections, Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Wikipedia. Note that you may have to wait a moment for the Wikipedia option to appear while your Mac goes and gets the info from Wikipedia itself.
Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia
You can click in any of those sections and it will expand with more information, as shown in the image below, where I clicked on the Thesaurus option.
Notice that those aren't comprehensive entries, but it usually does the trick for me. If you need more definitions or Thesaurus entires, my next option is to let Google get me a direct link to one of the online dictionaries by simply search for the word.
Searching for "awesome" on Google returns various definitions and Thesaurus entries as the top six results. Better yet, if I misspell the word, sometimes Google will even properly guess at what I was trying to type, saving me the need to pull up the dictionary entry in the first place.
I find both of these tips to be a great (awesome, excellent, wonderful) time saver.
Page Up, Page Down, Get Where You Want To Go
Sometimes I surprise myself with how obtuse I can be. I have put up with a very annoying problem since the day Mountain Lion was released and all the time the solution was right on my keyboard. Granted, I looked for a solution for this particular problem, but I didn’t look in the right place and I didn’t ask.
I use an external monitor and external keyboard with my 13-inch MacBook Pro. I also use a mouse, determining almost from the first that I do not like the trackpad. I frequently work with very long documents created in Pages. Many are 40 or more pages and I frequently have to scroll up and down throughout the documents for various reasons.
In Mountain Lion when you use the scroll bars you don’t have a lot of control over where you “land” on a page. Sometimes when you try to use the scroll bar to move up between pages, you have no control over how far it goes up, or where it stops. I know I can place my cursor inside the scroll bar and click to move the pages up in small increments, but they are usually not the increments I need.
When I am alone and this happens, I say bad words.
Well, it turns out my extended keyboard has these two little keys labeled page up and page down. Well, whadayouknow? They work! And if you hold down the option key while you press either one the cursor will jump to the middle of each page, allowing you to do what you need to do or see what you need to see on that page.
Even your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air has these keys, too. If you hold down the function key and tap the up or down arrow, they become Page Up or Page Down.
If It Has To Do With Preview It Must Be Cool
I just love Preview and every time I find something new related to it, I just love it more. If you don’t already know it, you should be aware that you can edit images using Preview and save them in different formats. But suppose you are working on a photo in Preview and decide you want to do something extra to it - something that requires Photoshop or Graphic Converter, or Pixelmator or some other graphics software that you prefer.
Look at Preview’s title bar. You’ll see the name of the file currently being worked on and to the left of the name will be a small icon representing the file. This is called the proxy icon.
In the three screenshots below, you can see the proxy icon at work. In the first title bar, the proxy icon is shown. Click and hold it, and it will darken, as you can in the second title bar. Then drag and drop it on the icon of your graphics program of choice on your Dock or in your Applications folder.
The Proxy Icon at Work
The most recent version of the file will open in your graphics app and you can do your editing. It’s a good idea to close Preview at this point, otherwise you will have a problem when you try and save in the other application, getting a message that you can’t save because the file is in use.