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Computing with Bifocals - More Tips and Hints for OS X
by - January 21st, 2005

This column contains what I hope you will find to be helpful and/or fun tips for your Macs running OS X.  Frankly, I continue to be amazed at the things I find out about my OS X operating system.  

A Damaged CD

I recently inserted a previously used CD into my Mac.  I could tell it had been used because there are coloration differences on the back side.  The coloration differences are between the areas that have and have not been recorded over. There was no indication on the front of the CD what it contained, so I was just checking to see what was there.  It slid into the computer and started whirling.  It whirled, and whirled, and whirled, and whirled, and....... 

Pretty soon I figured out I had a problem.  I couldn't drag it to the trash to eject it because nothing showed on the desktop.  I couldn't do a force quit for the same reason.  Hitting the escape key didn't work.  At this point I figured either I had to solve this or my lap top was going to take off for a quick flight around the room.

Fortunately I was able to access the help option in my tool bar and the solution was very simple.  All I had to do was hit the F12 key.  The other option from help was to hold down the mouse button while restarting the computer, but that seemed to be a bit of overkill when the F12 key solved the problem.

Modifying A Toolbar

I found a way for you to earn at least 10 points toward impressing your friends with your Mac knowledge.  This has to do with modifying a Finder window so that you add vertical separators between icons.  This doesn't really do anything important, it is strictly for show, but sometimes show has it value.  Finder windows in OS X open to display the contents of your computer.

A Sample Finder Window

In the upper right corner of any finder window there is a little pill shaped button.  Hold down the Apple key + the Option key while you click that button.  A new window opens containing a selection of icons, any of which you can drag and drop to the tool bar.  In the sample above, I had added vertical separator lines between my folders and other frequently used items.  While you have the icons window open you can also choose to have text added to the icons in your tool bar of turn that option off.  When you are finished click on done.

Finding Your Buddy List

Have you started using iChat yet?  If you haven't and you have friends or family who are frequently on their computers, it is a totally cool way to communicate. 

One of my children works in an environment where personal phone calls are not possible.  She works on a computer all day and iChat is allowed, so we can carry on short conversations as needed.  Another of my children has a very busy schedule.  I can send him an iChat message (something to the effect of "hello son, remember me?") and what do you know, I get a phone call.  Works every time. 

Seriously, I can leave him a message no matter what time of day it is and he will either immediately come back for a conversation or get back with me later. 

My iChat tip is this:  I discovered that if I had a conversation going on with one person I couldn't figure out how to get my Buddy List open to start a second conversation with someone else.  I finally resorted to asking a friend from Apple and as it turns out the answer is quite simple.  Hold down the Apple key + the 1 key (that is the number one) and it will pull the Buddy List up for you.

The Secret Dock Modifier

This next tip I discovered by accident and it was so unexpected and startled me so much that I thought I had messed something up.  It has to do with the Dock and the vertical separator line on the right side of the Dock that divides the icons that are always there from open documents, the trash can, etc.  If you place your cursor right on that vertical line the cursor changes shape.  It looks somewhat like a division symbol.  If, while you have your cursor right on the vertical line and you hold down the control key a window will pop up that will let you adjust the Dock Preferences, change the position of the Dock, adjust magnification, and turn hiding on or off.

Dock Modification Shortcut

Really, Really Empty the Trash

Recently I wrote a column about getting a computer ready to pass on to a new user.  Part of that discussion was about making sure that your personal stuff was really deleted.  Following that column a reader wrote me about Secure Empty Trash.  He said that using this feature could even protect your stuff from 8th graders. 

It is not really a secret.  It is listed in plain sight under the Finder menu in any Finder window.  Apparently this works because it deletes your file and then writes over the drive space. Do note, however, that because it is writing over your file, it takes considerably longer to Secure Delete your files.

Secure Empty Trash Window

How Do Mac Users Recycle?

At Mac World San Francisco there was a protest group complaining that Apple Computer wasn't doing enough to recycle used computer components, and comparing the company to what Dell Computer is doing.  Since Dell is located in Austin, TX, where I live, there was some local interest by the newspaper and I was contacted for a quote. 

It is my personal opinion that Apple does a lot toward recycling and a lot of what Dell claims to be "free recycling" is smoke and mirrors.  It is only free is you buy another Dell. 

Anyhow, I got a call about this and my initial response was that to most Mac users recycling our computers means handing them off to someone else because they last for years and hardly ever break down.  To my surprise they actually used my words.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they use Mac's in the newsroom.

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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