Mac Dock & Photo Tips, Plus Bifocal Memories

| Computing with Bifocals

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.



Ah the Selectric. They got me through high school typing class. I never could touch-type worth a darn but I made a deal with the teacher. I spent half of each class fixing the typewriters, changing ribbons, cleaning the mechanisms, replacing type balls, etc. As long as I kept them working I got a C in typing despite never getting better than 12wpm with 11 errors.

John Martellaro

Way back… I always wanted to own an IBM Selectric. Never could afford one when it was in its prime. When I watch “Mad Men,” I drool.

Nancy Gravley

Ah the Selectric. They got me through high school typing class. I never could touch-type worth a darn but I made a deal with the teacher. I spent half of each class fixing the typewriters, changing ribbons, cleaning the mechanisms, replacing type balls, etc. As long as I kept them working I got a C in typing despite never getting better than 12wpm with 11 errors.

What a deal!  I put myself through undergraduate school typing papers on a Selectric for other people after working all day. Got my speed up to 100 wpm. But big secret - I still can’t type numbers without looking.

Bryan Chaffin

Geoduck, that’s awesome. smile

How fast do you type these days? I’m curious.

Scott B in DC

Geez… youse guys had electric typewriters? When I went to college, we could not afford an electric typewriter, let along an IBM Selectric! I brought a Royal portable typewriter with me. I learned to type on an electric typewriter in school, but typing on that old Royal was very different!

After a year, my department bought some new typewriters primarily for graduate students. Since I worked for the department, I was able to use those electric typewriters. Not Selectrics, but an improvement over the old Royal!

By my third year, the school bought an IBM 6601 Laser Printer. The only way to print to the laser printer was to use a program called Script to format the document. Script was a layout language like troff, TeX, and HTML. Output from Script could be printed on the 6601. One time, a professor was taken aback by the formatting of the paper that she wanted to fail me for “cheating.” It took some convincing by a lot of people that I didn’t cheat!

After that, I used a Selectric for the rest of that class!!


How fast do you type these days? I?m curious.

Not sure as I haven’t been tested since high school, but I can rattle out a page in just a few minutes once I get going, as long as I look at the keys and don’t stop to edit. I use 6 to 8 fingers so the words flow onto the page many times faster than in the class.

I didn’t know it at the time but it was likely where I started on the road that lead me into IT.

I brought a Royal portable typewriter with me.

Wow, I also used a Royal portable, pure mechanical typewriter all through Junior High. I kept the hey tension cranked full up because I liked to rest my hands on the keys. That caused a LOT of problems when I started using the Selectrics.


“There is a nifty little app called AppLauncher. It is available in the iTunes store for US$3.99 and works in both Snow Leopard and Lion.”

Nancy ~ Are you sure about this?  In the App Store (not the iTunes App Store), there is an app called,”Tab Launcher” and it looks exactly like the illustration you included in your description above.  It also is $3.99.

I don’t think you can buy apps for Macs on iTunes, but I never use iTunes, so I’m not certain.

Nancy Gravley

Nancy ~ Are you sure about this?? In the App Store (not the iTunes App Store), there is an app called,?Tab Launcher? and it looks exactly like the illustration you included in your description above.? It also is $3.99.

Oh boy.  You are absolutely correct.  Don’t know where my head was.  I’ll correct the column and get it reposted.  Thanks so much for catching that.

Bryan Chaffin

Thanks for catching that, iJack. We have it corrected now, including the proper link. smile


Never did use an electric typewriter in high school or college. High school had old Underwood beasts that were portable using a hand truck, lol. Needed strong fingers on those; but I got up to sixty something wpm on them. Bought myself a newer version of the Underwood after college because I couldn’t afford an electric.

Eventually, I got my first electric when I bought an Apple IIc.


Ahhhh, the Selectric, the 100wps wonder, never stop typing workers. Ahhh the pain of carpel tunnel syndrome for all those type forever types?
Efficiency gone bad for the workers. Hope you all had health insurance. Brought to you by IBM and a doctor near you.
A pox on IBM.


I learned to type in a high school class, where I was the only boy.  I’m pretty certain they were manual typewriters.  I got up to somewhere in the 60-80 wpm range, but I didn’t type again for a couple of years until I got a job in the Registrar’s office at George Washington University in DC.  Everyone had the new-fangled ‘golf-ball’ machines, but speed wasn’t especially important, since we were filling out printed student record cards.

What I remember most was having to learn the weight of the ‘touch’ all over again.  I spent the first few weeks applying a lot of whiteout.


Fun Fact:
Unlatch the ball in a Selectric, turn the power off and hit the shift key. The next time someone powers it on the ball will get kicked out of the machine and usually will bounce off the ceiling. It’s especially impressive if you do all the machines in the classroom and the teacher is one that insists the class not turn the typewriters on until commanded to.

(Not that I’D ever do that rolleyes )

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