Mac Dock & Photo Tips, Plus Bifocal Memories

Before I get to the tips I have a great story to share for Computing with Bifocals readers. I swear to you this is a true story. If you are a touch typist you probably remember when the IBM Selectric typewriter was introduced.

Original IBM Selectric Typewriter

Instead of individual typebars that swung up to strike the ribbon and page in a traditional typewriter, the Selectric had a typeball, and you could remove it and put on another one to change fonts. At that time I had a job that required me to type page-long equations. When I got that new IBM I thought I was in heaven.

Here in Austin, TX where I live we have a store that buys and sells computers and parts, and a friend of mine was standing in line at the counter along with a couple of women in their 50s and a young man around 19. The young man was cleaning out his late grandfather’s work room and had some items he wanted to sell. The last item he placed on the counter was an original IBM Selectric. He said “I don’t know where the monitor is and I can’t figure out where it would plug in, but is it worth anything like this?” My friend and the two women in line looked at each other and just smiled.

The Dock

A typical Dock

When it comes to the Dock I hear all kinds of comments. Some people love it and some hate it. Some want it to show, to be on the bottom of the screen, on the sides, to be hidden, whatever. Since we are dealing with an Apple product we have choices.  

The best place to start is with the Apple Menu. From the menu select Dock and make your basic choices. Where do you want the Dock placed and do you want it always present or hidden until you roll your cursor over it’s location which brings it forward.

Finding the Dock Preferences

Then, from that same screen, choose Dock Preferences, where you have more choices. Size refers to the size of the Dock, not the icons. Magnification happens when you roll over a specific icon in the dock. The best thing for each individual to do is experiment until you are happy.

Dock Preferences window

And, in case you don’t know, to remove an icon from the Dock just drag it off the Dock and release it. It will disappear with a poof because all the icons in the Dock are just aliases. The actual application icon remains in your Applications Folder unless you trash it.

But Wait - There’s More

One of the options you have as an Apple user is to have the Dock only display open applications. So if you are using Pages it will appear on your Dock. If you close Pages, it disappears from your Dock. This can appeal to those who do not use the Dock to open applications, for instance, those Lion users who prefer to use LaunchPad. The Finder will always appear on your Dock because The Finder is always open, but it is conceivable that nothing else would be there if you had no other applications in use.

To make this happen you have to go into the terminal. You have to be very careful while in the terminal because one misplaced symbol can cause a lot of problems, so if you choose to do this, enter this command exactly, or even better, copy and paste it.

Select Applications Utilities → Terminal. When the terminal opens type the following code: defaults write static-only -bool TRUE;killall Dock

Should you ever want to reverse this type the code again, but instead of TRUE, type FALSE. If you do this correctly your desktop will blink off and then on and the change will be immediate.

And Yet One More Option

There is a nifty little app called Tab Launcher [updated link]. It is available in the Mac App Store for US$3.99 and works in both Snow Leopard and Lion. It adds tabs to the left side of your desktop. It starts with four, but you can add others. You can divide your apps into categories and drag the icons to the tabs just as you would drag an icon to the Dock.

I’ve used this app for several months and I really like it because I can find the things I need very quickly. In this image I have my Tools tab open. To add new tabs, just right click on any existing tab.

As a result, the apps I used several times a day (Mail, Safari, Preview, iCal, NetNewsWire) all stay in the Dock. The rest are in the tabs.

Working With Photos

I attended a genealogy session today and learned something I didn’t know about working with photos. This is an important piece of information to anyone who scans photos, particularly those old, old family photos.

When you first scan and save the photo save it at the highest resolution possible, 300 dpi, 1200 dpi, whatever you scanner allows. You probably already knew that. But then, you need to save it as a .tiff document, not a .jpg or .gif. There are many programs that will decompress a .jpg file and that results in a lower quality version of the image.

That doesn’t happen with .tiff documents. As long as you keep a master copy of your photo in .tiff format, you can create as many .jpg copies from that original .tiff and each of those copies will remain true. 

That’s it for this column. If you have questions please let me know. If I can find the answer I will do so.