The Semi-Hidden Features of Leopard

By now, youive likely heard all about the big new features in Leopard (aka Mac OS X 10.5): Time Machine, Spaces, the beefed-up Mail application, the improved Spotlight, and the rest. What you may not have heard about, indeed what you may not even know about despite already having installed Leopard on your Mac, are many of Leopardis small new features. Some of these semi-hidden features (as I call them) are so small that Apple didnit even bother to include them on their list of Leopardis 300+ new features. While they may be tiny compared to their big brothers, these features are not trivial. In fact, some of them can have a very big impact on your daily routine. Exactly which ones have the most appeal for you will vary with your use of the Mac. After digging around Mac OS X 10.5, Iive come up with a list of my six favorite semi-hidden talents of Leopard:

Printing and Page Setup united. One of my long-standing irritations when printing on a Mac dates back to the earliest versions of the Mac OS: the separation of the Page Setup and Print dialogs. If I need to adjust these settings, I too often have to waste time swapping back and forth between the two dialogs. I may start out by clicking Print only to discover that I need to change the orientation of the output. Oops. Itis time to Cancel the Print dialog, select Page Setup, make the change, exit Page Setup and reselect Print.

Leopard finally does away with all this by combining the Page Setup and Print dialogs into a single Print dialog. Hooray! Thereis one significant drawback to this time-saving convenience: Most applications donit use it yet. Youill find it in Preview, Address Book, iCal, Safari, and a few other Leopard applications. Where you wonit find it is in TextEdit, iTunes, iChat, any most other Leopard applications. I assume this is because an application needs to be specifically updated to take advantage of this new feature?and Apple ran out of time as the Leopard shipping deadline approached before it could do this for all its OS X apps. For similar reasons, donit expect to see this new arrangement in most third-party applications as yet. Note: Even if an application does support this feature, seeing it may require clicking the triangle button to the right of the printeris name so as to open up the full dialog.

There is related time-saving bonus in the full view of Print dialogs: a reduced size preview of the entire printed output. It too appears only in updated applications, although it is more prevalent than the Print/Page Setup combo. This option can eliminate the need to click a Preview button to open a document as a PDF in the Preview application. Indeed, the Preview button has been removed from the full Print dialog when this new feature is present (although you can still access the option from the PDF pop-up menu).

Figure 1. Leopardis new Print dialog, with Page Setup and previews included.

Applications for all Spaces. Spaces, when enabled, allows you to maintain multiple virtual desktops, each with their own separate open applications. Typically, you assign an application to a space simply by opening the application when the desired space (1 or 2 or whatever) is currently active. But suppose you want a certain application to always appear in a specific space? For example, suppose you want your e-mail application to always be in Space 2, so it can never overlap with whatever other stuff you have open in Space 1. To do this, go to the Spaces subpane of the Expos? & Spaces System Preferences pane, click the + icon and select the desired application from the dialog that appears. Next, assign the application to the desired space via its pop-up menu in the Space column.

But wait! Hereis an even more semi-hidden kicker: the pop-up menu includes an "Every Space" option. Select this and the application remains visible in all spaces. Why do this? It could be useful for an application such as Stickies, where you might want its notes to be accessible no matter what space is active. It can be especially helpful for the Finder, allowing open Finder windows to always remain in view. Donit know where the Finder is? Youill find it in the System > Library > CoreServices folder.

Figure 2. The Finder application selected for "Every Space" in Spaces.

The Path Bar bonus. To discover another semi-hidden Leopard gem, select Show Path Bar from the Finderis View menu. After doing so, go to any Finder window and take a look near the bottom. What you should see is a bar that lists the full path leading to the currently displayed folder. For example, if you are looking at the Music folder, it should say: {name of your hard drive} > Users > {name of your Home directory} > Music. Double-click any node in this path and you are instantly transferred to that folder. True, you could accomplish a similar feat in previous versions of Mac OS X by Control-clicking on the name of the folder in its windowis title bar (and this option still works in Leopard). But Path Bar is more convenient, as no clicking is required to view the path.

Weire not done yet. Thereis a semi-hidden bonus here: Control-click (right-click if you have a two-button mouse) on any node in a path. This brings up a contextual menu with additional options to "Open enclosing folder" (in a separate window) or access the Get Info display for the selected folder. As a final bonus, if you drag-and-drop any Finder icon to any node of a path in the Path Bar, the item is moved to that folder location.

Login Itemsi revelation. As has been true for previous versions of Mac OS X, Leopard maintains a list of items that automatically open when you log in to your account. In Leopard, youill find this list in the Login Items section of your account, accessed from the Accounts System Preferences pane. One of the mixed blessings of Login Items is that some applications covertly install a component to this list, typically when the application is first installed or launched. The locations of such components are often deep inside application packages or in some other arcane destination. They typically wonit show up in Spotlight searches. This can make finding these items difficult. Leopard helps out here: for any item in the Login Items list, access its contextual menu to get the Reveal in Finder command. Select the command and you are immediately taken to the location for that item in the Finder. You can now use Path Bar to see exactly where you wound up.

TextEdit saves itself. With TextEdit, you never again have to worry about losing your unsaved work. To set this protection in motion, go to Preferences > Open and Save > Autosaving. From the pop-up menu, choose an interval, such as Every Minute. TextEdit will now autosave your document at the selected interval. This happens even for a document that has never been saved at all and is still listed as "Untitled." If TextEdit ever crashes ("unexpectedly quits" in Apple jargon) or if you need to Force Quit the application for any reason, your unsaved work is preserved. The next time you launch TextEdit, the documents are automatically re-opened with their most recent auto-saved text recovered!

One word of caution: Autosaved content is deleted when you quit TextEdit via the normal Quit command or when you close a document. This means, if you ignore the alert to "save the changes you made" and close a document window without first saving it, the unsaved content will no longer be recoverable.

Automatoris recordings. Automator in Leopard now features a Record button. Itis mucho cool. True, this feature is less semi-hidden than the others in this list, but itis still easy to overlook?especially if youive never bothered with Automator because you thought it was difficult to use. To try it out, launch Automator and click the Record button in the upper right of the window. Now start performing almost any sequence of actions in almost any application. When you are done, click the Stop button in the small Automator window that appears after clicking to Record. Presto! You are returned to Automator and your actions have been assembled into a "Watch Me Do" action. You can leave this as a stand-alone action or combine it with other actions to create a more complex workflow. To test it out, click the Run button. A recorded action wonit always work flawlessly. But when it does work, even if some tweaking is required, itis much simpler than having to start from scratch. For many users, this can be the difference between having Automator be a worthwhile tool vs. not using it at all.

Figure 4. A simple recorded Automator action launches TextEdit, types some text and saves the document.

Have some semi-hidden favorites of your own? You can e-mail me to let me know or just leave a comment here.