Tips To Make You More Independent

I was wondering around muttering to myself a few days ago and a friend of mine asked me what was wrong. I replied that I had not written a column in weeks and it was driving me crazy. Knowing that I have been dealing with a family illness he asked me what was the big deal.

I told him that he obviously did not understand the basic concept of this column - every time we learn something new it is one less thing we have to ask our children to teach us. Where are his priorities?

Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know which makes it impossible to fix what needs fixing - know what I mean? I remember a time way in my past when I didn’t know that you needed to change the oil in your car or get the brakes checked when they made a “funny” noise. Unpleasant memories to be sure.   

Well, it’s not the 60s and the computer can equalize a lot of things, so here are a few tips to add to your computer independence.

How Is The Battery In Your Laptop Doing? 

I know, I know, I’m not supposed to call it a laptop. I’m supposed to call it a notebook. So, how is the battery in your notebook doing? You can find out without lifting, moving, or unplugging anything. Just Option-click the battery icon in the Menu Bar. A drop down menu will appear that tells you the status of your battery. You will see Normal, Replace Soon, Replace Now, or Service Battery, right next to the word Condition. Click that entry and an Apple Help page will open, explaining what each term means if needed. If you battery is bad or going bad, remember that it can probably be replaced so check with an authorized service center — like the Genius Bar at an Apple Store — to find out what your options are.

Battery Check

SlimBatteryMonitor 1.5

Talking about battery monitors. There is a donationware battery monitor application, SlimBatteryMonitor 1.5, that replaces the usual horizontal battery monitor icon found in the tool bar with a vertical battery icon to indicate the charge level of your battery.   The app, by Colin Henein, offers several options as indicated here. (Note: Donationware means it is a free download, but if you like it and use it, it is customary to make a donation to the developer to support his or her efforts.)

SlimBattery Monitor Options

Drag -> Open 

If you use your Dock to hold the icons for the applications you use the most, then take advantage of it to open documents. Drag the document over the appropriate icon on the dock and release. The document will open in that app (unless it is a completely inappropriate app for that document, such as trying to open an Excel document with Graphic Converter).   

You can however, open graphic documents (JPG, GIF, TIFF, Photoshop) using Preview, Microsoft Word documents using Pages, Excel documents using Numbers, PowerPoint documents using Keynote, and Photoshop documents using Graphic Converter as just a few examples of your choices. If you try to drag and open a document with an application with which it is incompatible, it will simply bounce away and not open.

Certainly you can open any existing document simply by clicking on it and it will open in the application in which it was created. The drag and open technique is probably more practical when you want to open a document in a different application and I use it most frequently to open documents in Preview, but do keep it in mind as a tool if you are a dock user. It is just so simple and fast.

Empty iPhoto Trash

When you throw away pictures from iPhoto they don’t go in the regular trash, they go in a trash can located in iPhoto. It is under the Recent Tab. You have to remember to empty that trash can just like you have to empty the regular trash can. (There is just no end to the housework is there?) Those thrown away photos can take up a lot of space on your computer just sitting there in the trash.

To empty, right-click and click on “empty trash”

iPhoto Trash Can Location

Adding Glyphs to Your Documents 

When you are putting together a document and you need to add something extra to it such an @ or ® or é or even there is a whole bunch of them to choose from. You just have to set the proper preference up one time so you know how to get to them.

Select Apple Menu > System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Source Tab. Place a check mark in the box next to Keyboard & Character Viewer. As soon as you do, you will see a little box appear in your tool bar next to the date or time (depending on how yours is set up) in your tool bar.

While you are in that preference, click on the Text tab and look at all the things you can automatically format, particularly the numbers so that when you type 1/2 your Mac automatically changes it to ½.

Back to the Keyboard and Character Viewer. Click on that little box in the tool bar and select Show Character Viewer. You will get a number of selections such as currency symbols, miscellaneous symbols, arrows, math symbols, or braille patterns, to name just a few. There are also language choices. The most useful option will be the tab labeled Favorites. You can find a symbol that you like and frequently use and add it to your favorites so you don’t have to hunt for each time you need it. To add a symbol to your favorites list click first on the desired symbol and then click and hold down the mouse button on the little cogwheel in the bottom left corner of the window and choose “add to favorites”.

Adding Glyphs To Favorites

To add any symbol to a document click on the symbol and then click on the insert button in the bottom right corner of the window.   Many of the symbols are matched to specific fonts. The symbol will be added to your document at the point where your cursor is blinking.

These are four more tips that I hope will make your life easier and Mac world more fun, plus give you the occasional opportunity to tell your children “I already know how to do that.” (-:

For more tips check out my manual for experienced beginners.

The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.

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