Nancy's Favorite Apple Utilities

I have suddenly realized that I have to increase the document size to 150 percent before I can read what I am typing on my screen. Do you realize just how demoralizing that is? I just finished paying off my last pair of glasses! And since when did it come to pass that we have to make a payment plan to pay for a pair of glasses for goodness sake!

Must have something to do with getting old, but Iim not old yet so I donit get it. Well, maybe a little bit mature, but that is as far as I go.

OK, so everyone else comes up with their end-of-the-year top list of this and that, so I have come up with the list of the Apple applications and utilities that I have found to be the most useful this past year. Taking away those things that are useful to me just because of special tasks that I have to do, such as using Keynote to prepare for presentations or InDesign to put out the latest version of my Tips manual, these are the things that I use day in and day out and always recommend to other beginners.

Mail. A lot of people switching from PCs to Macs want to continue to use the e-mail application with which they are most familiar. They seem to be willing to go through any number of extra steps to try and get their previous e-mail applications (Eudora is a good example) to work on their Macs. Of course they will work, but the problem is they donit interface well with Address Book and iCal, and iPhoto which is one of the best parts of Mail. I always recommend that new users take the time to learn Mail because in the long run they will probably be very happy that they do so.

Those who use internet e-mail accounts such as gmail or yahoo addresses, will find that their e-mail can easily be forwarded to Mail and read without opening a browser unless you are away from home. To do this open Mail, then choose file > Add Account and follow the directions.

Address Book. I canit imagine getting along without Address Book. It has so many user friendly features. All the e-mail addresses that I routinely need are stored there. The phone numbers that I need are stored there. The ability to make those phone numbers appear in giant numbers across my screen is there. (Click on the descriptive word beside the number and choose large type.) The ability to create e-mail groups (click on the + at the bottom of the group listing), the ability to share v-cards (click on the card icon beside someoneis name and drag it into an e-mail), the ability to add photos to a personis listing (drag and drop a photo onto the photo square for a personis address book listing), etc.

There may be like attributes in other applications, but I bet that no others work in such a way that you can open a message in your e-mail, draw a box around the data inside a message and have it automatically create a new entry in your address book like you can between Mail and Address Book.

And the latest thing that I discovered is that with a blue tooth cell phone, I was able to automatically download all the names and phone numbers from my address book to my cell phone automatically.

iCal. I personally canit function without iCal. The best part of it is the ability to color coordinate activities. I have all my Mac user group activities in one color. Medical appointments or reminders are in another color. Work assignments are in yet a third color. The color choices are unlimited and I find it very useful. To set color choices for different calendars:

  1. Select the calendar in the Calendars list (click on it once) and choose File > Get Info.
  2. Choose a new color from the pop-up menu in the top-right corner of the info window.
  3. To customize the color, choose Other, and then make your color selections in the Colors window.

Disk Utility. Disk utility is the built-in way to keep your Mac running smoothly. It fixes things for you when they get out of wack. Open a Finder Window by choosing the Finder icon in your Dock or clicking the ? key and the "F" key. Choose Applications > Utilities > Disk Utilities. Click on the icon for your hard drive.

Disk Utilities Window
(Click the thumbnail for a larger image)

In this example, my hard drive is named Broca. Make sure you choose the tab First Aid. Then click on Verify Disk. A routine will run that checks your computer and fixes any minor problems. Once the process is finished you will get a message telling you no problems were found, or it found problems and fixed them. If you get a message that problems were found that were not repaired then you know you need to seek professional help.

Preview. Prior to the introduction of Leopard I probably would not have included Preview in my top five recommendations, but since Leopard was introduced I find myself using Preview almost every day because it is now so versatile. I use it for making quick scans, for cropping photos, for printing multiple copies of photos on one page, and for quick views of documents. I am very impressed with the changes that Apple has made in this simple little application. Sometime in January I am going to devote a whole column to Preview.

However, first I am going to Macworld. Yes, they are once again going to let me hang out with the big guys. I am going to take it all in, look for things that are of particular interest to beginners, and post one or two reports in this space of what I find and what is happening so I hope you will take a few minutes to check back here to see what is going on as the non-techie visits the big city.

As a reminder my Tips and Hints manual has recently been revised to include new tips for Leopard. For more information, refer to my column of December 14, 2007. Information for purchasing the new version follows.