Mail, Address Book and iChat: Tips for Staying in Touch

I just finished updating my beginners Mac manual. It is all about tips and hints for beginners and experienced beginners. You know who you are, and it includes things that no one remembers to tell you as well as cool stuff that you can use to become more independent. This edition is for Leopard and Snow Leopard and contains 185 tips. In this column I am including a few of the tips from the manual. Information about purchasing the manual is available at the end of the column.

Customize The Format You Want to Use For Phone Numbers in Address Book
Everyone has a phone number format with which they are comfortable. You like parenthesis around the area code? Go for it. You hate them? That's OK too. Like that new way of just putting a period between the sets of numbers?

Whatever you prefer, you can set up your Address Book files to meet your atheistic needs. But the really cool thing is that once you set the parameters, you just type in the numbers, like 5555555555, in the phone number field, and Address Book puts them in the format you want. No more hunting for dashes or parentheses or even the plus sign if you are entering international numbers.

Here are the steps:

  • Select Address Book > Preferences > Phone.
  • Use the menu to select your format of choice or make up your own.
  • Put a check mark in the box next to Automatically format phone numbers.

Setting The Preferences For Phone Number Format


Create Smart Groups in Address Book Just Like You Do in Mail
This is new in Snow Leopard. We have been able to create groups in Address Book from the beginning and Smart folders in iTunes and iPhoto for some time, so it makes sense that the Smart Group option is now available in Address Book.

To create a Smart Group in Address Book, select File > New Smart Group and give it a name.

Smart Group Set Up

The beauty of the Smart Group is that the address cards automatically appear in the group for you.

To make it work you have to set conditions. Again, you set conditions in the same manner as for smart group designations in other Apple applications.

There has to be some common designator in each record that says "Put me in this Smart Group." You can add new fields to create designators, but I found that the easiest way to do it is to add information to the Note section. When I wanted a Smart for our local Mac users group Board of Directors I just added a sentence in the Note section that says "CapMac BOD" and made that the qualifier for the Smart Group.

How Can I Leave You? Let Me Count The Ways
Here are four ways to quit open applications:

  • Click the program name in the menu bar and choose Quit.
  • Use Command-Q. The Command key looks like this: ⌘
  • Point to a program icon on the Dock and hold down the left mouse button so that a contextual menu appears, then choose Quit.
  • Control-click (or Right-click) a program icon in the Dock and when the pop-up menu appears, choose Quit.


Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later, Only Later It Costs More
There are proper ways to shut down your Mac. Don't shut it down by unplugging it. Well, maybe if it is on fire, but then the whole shut down process becomes sort of a moot point.

When you unplug your desktop Mac while it is running you stop the normal shut down process and you will probably have problems the next time you start up. Do it very often and it is pay me later time.

If you can't do the normal shut down step of selecting Shut Down from the Apple Menu, and there WILL be times when you can't, try these Safe emergency shut down procedures:

  • Hold down the power button for several seconds.
  • On a laptop you can press Command-Control-Power.


Hello, I'm Here
If you are a frequent user of iChat you might want to set your preferences so that iChat status shows as Available the moment your computer starts up.

  • In iChat, select iChat > Preferences > General.
  • Check At user login, set my status to Available.


Inserting Text in an Email Message
Sometimes you want the text you are inserting into an email to match the message's font. At other times you may want to have a different font so that something will stand out. Mail gives you both options.

  • To paste text into your message so that it retains its original format choose Edit > Paste. That means the text you are inserting may or may not match the font you are using in your message.
  • To paste text so that its format matches the text around it, choose Edit > Paste and Match Style. (This works in other Apple apps also.)
  • To paste text with a single single quote bar to the left of the text, choose Edit and Paste as Quotation. You would use this if you were quoting from a previous email or referencing a previous discussion. Some people like to respond to long messages by quoting the portion of the message they are responding to above their response. It keeps everything nice and tidy.

As I noted at the beginning of this column, the updated version of my manual is ready. Purchase information follows. The Table of Contents and a sample page are available for review. The book is available in three formats.

The first is the more traditional printed book format, spiral bound. Cost is US$17.15 each, plus shipping. All the illustrations have been printed in black and white to reduce the purchase price.
The second option is a PDF download version. This is the full version of the book available in the same format as that available in the free review. The contents are hyperlinked from the Table of Contents for ease of location. This version is US$9.85. After payment has been verified the purchaser will be sent a URL where they can download the document.
The third option is a CD format. It is the PDF version saved to a CD and the contents are also hyperlinked from the Table of Contents for ease of location. This version is $10.85 plus shipping.

Payment for any version must be made using PayPal. Clicking on the Buy Now button next to the version you want to purchase will take you directly to PayPal where you can place your order and make your payment. Payment can be made through PayPal even if you are not a PayPal member.

Anyone wishing to pay with a money order or cashier check may contact me through TMO.