Apple pushed a Performance Update out for certain models running Leopard or Snow Leopard last evening, aiming to fix occasional hard drive performance issues the Mac maker says affects a small number of users.
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Leopard's virtual desktop tool Spaces is great, but sometimes the app breaks, leaving you with windows on desktops you just can't get to. Luckily there's an easy solution: Open Terminal and enter killall Dock. When your Dock restarts, Spaces will be back in operation.
Apple pushes out a Leopard update that puts the current OS X version at 10.5.5 today. The Mac OS X 10.5.5 update changelog lists improvements and bug fixes in Mail, Address Book, iCal, and MobileMe. Get the 136MB update download through Software Update; as per usual it'll require a restart to install.
Mac OS X Leopard only: Our favourite free virtual private network client for the Mac, HamachiX, has been updated (finally!) to work with Leopard. HamachiX is a graphical front end to the Windows Hamachi product, and essentially it lets you access your Mac remotely over the internet as if it were on the local network. That means you can listen to shared iTunes libraries, remote control your Mac, and access file shares as well. HamachiX isn't as easy to use or quite as stable as the Windows version, but it lets you network with PCs running the client as well. Here's how to create your own virtual private network with Hamachi.
Macs may be more expensive, and Mac users more elitist (ahem), but blind Apple loyalty aside, there are a number of neat features bundled into your Mac that make it super useful and fun. We've covered dozens of Mac tips over the years in these pages, but today we're highlighting 10 lesser-known Mac tricks that come baked into Leopard. From pure eye candy to outright productivity-boosters, read on to get reminded of some of the more obscure things you can do with your Mac, fresh out of the box.
As Windows user, one of the strangest things about Mac OS is a running, active application can be in focus without any actual windows open. If you use Command+Tab to switch between apps and don't want to get stuck in no-open-window limbo, use the following key sequence to open a new window on your way there: Hold down Command+Tab, then press Option, then release Command. It doesn't work for all applications, but it does for Safari and Terminal at least.
Mac OS X Leopard only: Reader Ben points out that there's a lot more to Mac OS X's built-in Dictionary than definitions. He writes in:I just noticed that in Dictionary.app (at least in Leopard), under to "Go" menu, there is an option labelled "Front/Back Matter." Clicking this brings up a whole slew of useful reference material, including a language guide (complete with a list of clichés to avoid), a list of the chemical elements, and the text of the Constitution. Next time I'm on a place, I think I'm going to brush up on the Bill of Rights. It's true: the Ready Reference area of Dictionary.app's Front/Back Matter is a treasure trove of good stuff for writers or anyone who wants to see if they can name the capital of all fifty states in the U.S. Thanks, Ben!
Mac guy Rob Griffiths points out a few brand new command line utilities in Leopard, like the handy dot_clean command, which sweeps away Mac system files that start with a dot and annoy the hell out of you when you use that thumb drive on your PC. Griffiths writes: Prior to 10.5, you had to manually delete them on the other system, or use Terminal trickery to remove them on the Mac prior to copying. As of 10.5, though, you can just use the dot_clean command on the directory in question. Type dot_clean /path/folder to join the dot-underscore files with their parent files. Read OS X 10.5's manual pages (man dot_clean) for more information. Now you don't have to disable .DS_Store file creation entirely; though you may still have to deal with Windows' annoying Thumbs.db system files on your Mac. Leopard's Unix tricks
Weblog MacApper prefers to keep a clean Dock, and as such doesn't particularly like the new Time Machine icon cluttering up the Dock. Since Time Machine is basically an extension of Finder, the post suggests adding a Time Machine shortcut directly to the Finder toolbar. Setting it up is simply a matter of heading to your applications folder and dragging the Time Machine icon to your toolbar. Once you've done that, just activate Finder and click the Time Machine button whenever you want to hit up your files in Time Machine. Simple, yes, but it makes a lot of sense. If you want the Time Machine button to fit in better with the rest of the toolbar buttons, go download this Time Machine button. The Quickest Tip for Time Machine
All-things-Mac web site Mac OS X Hints discusses how to automatically Quick Look certain files as soon as they're downloaded to your Downloads folder. The best approach from the thread involves setting your browser to automatically open certain file types (like your PDF or Word documents) with the Quick Look Droplet, a simple application that launches a Quick Look preview of whatever file it opens. Of course you could just set your browser to automatically open downloaded files with their default applications, but if you don't want to load up heavy software like Microsoft Word just to peek at the file's contents, this Quick Look Droplet might be a worthwhile solution. 10.5: Automatically Quick Look certain downloaded files
Mac OS X Leopard only: Free, open source application Secrets rolls every hidden feature of Leopard into an easy-to-use preference pane in your System Preferences. Developed by the author of the much-beloved Quicksilver, you can browse Secrets by application to see what tweaks are available for the apps you have installed. There's a ton to look into with Secrets, but the one secret that blew my mind off the bat was the "Arrows link to library instead of store" tweak in iTunes, which may be the most useful thing I've ever done to iTunes (and I've covered the best iTunes add-ons). Secrets is free, Mac OS X only. If you give it a try, share your favourite Secrets in the comments.
Macworld's running a fantastic "Leopard Survival Guide" series, covering little-known Mac tips of all sorts, like how to customise the welcome text in a new Terminal window: Open Terminal and enter cd /etc, press return, and then type sudo pico motd. That second command launches a text editor and loads a new file called motd (Message Of The Day). Type whatever you like for a message (for instance, "Welcome to the land where text is king"), press control-X (for Exit), press Y (for Yes, to save changes), and then press return (to accept the file name, which will be shown as motd). From now on, new Terminal windows will display your new greeting, right below the date and time of the last login. Don't miss the rest of the series, which also covers the Dock and Stacks to Spaces, Expose and the Dashboard. Leopard Survival Guide: System Preferences, Terminal
Mac OS X Leopard only: Dig into advanced user settings on your Mac by Ctrl+clicking on an account name in the System Preferences>Accounts area. There you can change Leopard's default login shell, the account's home directory or short name, and other important, scary, things that are just daring you to mess with them. (Actually, don't, unless you really know what you're doing.) As for shell options? Mac OS Hints explains: In the resulting Advanced Options screen, either type in the path to your preferred shell, or choose among the various shells already installed in /bin: bash, tcsh, sh, csh, zsh, or ksh. Do you prefer an alternative shell on your Mac? Why? Tell us in the comments. Change your login shell in Leopard
Mac OS X Leopard only: If you've got a FireWire drive hooked up to your Mac, chances are Leopard's dead simple backup utility, Time Machine, has you backing up your data—and that's a huge step forward if you weren't backing up at all pre-Leopard. But Time Machine is only one piece of a full backup scheme. Macworld runs down what Time Machine can do (effortless, regular, intervention-less local backups) and what it can't (system clones and online backup). If you want to complete your backup scheme, use an online service (Mozy Home Unlimited is the best 5 bucks I spend per month) and once in awhile, mirror your entire system to a bootable drive. That way if your FireWire drive gets stolen or dies, or your whole system crashes, you'll be up and running instantaneously. What other backup services do you use in addition to Time Machine? Tell us in the comments. Is Time Machine all you need?
Mac OS X only: Yesterday's software update added several subtle options all over Leopard for Mac users, especially for Stacks—to see them, simply Cmd+click on a Stack. We've posted before how to overlay icons on your Dock's Stacks for easy visual identification, but now under "Display as" you can choose "Folder" instead to see the folder icon. (Easier, but I still like the drawer icons better.) Instead of your Mac deciding how the Stack should be viewed (as a grid or list), you can choose under "Display as." Even more exciting, the "List" view isn't that arcing fan any more—it's a throwback to Tiger's hierarchical file list which lets you navigate down into subfolders. Getting to Know the New Stacks
Apple officially pushed out the 10.5.2 update to Leopard today, a release filled with the promise of numerous bug fixes and stability improvements. We're talking improvements with your AirPorts, Back to my Mac, Dashboard, Stacks, iCal, iChat, Finder, Mail, Time Machine, and oh-so-much-more. Hated the menu bar transparency from the get-go? Apple has felt your pain, and you can now disable transparency without third party apps. For a full rundown of changes, fixes, and improvements, check out the update details from Apple.
Mac OS X only: The latest version of our favorite system cloning/backup utility for Mac, SuperDuper, is now fully Leopard compatible. What do you need a third party backup utility for when you're rockin' Time Machine, you ask? Good question, friend. While Time Machine is incredible for incremental file backups that happen in the background, without intervention, SuperDuper's strength is its ability to clone your entire Mac onto a bootable backup, which Time Machine does not do—well, not as easily as SuperDuper does.
Mac OS X Leopard only: You wouldn't think that Leopard's new Quick Look feature would work anywhere but from Finder, but you'd be wrong. From the command line in Terminal, you can invoke Quick Look to preview the contents of a file. Tips web site Mac OS X Hints details how: the command is qlmanage -p somefile where somefile is your document. As Mac OS X Hints recommends, setting up an alias (qlf, perhaps?) is a good way to save your typing fingers when reusing this technique. Use Quick Look from Terminal
Leopard only: A lesser-hyped feature in Mac 10.5 is Web Clips—the ability to turn a section of any web page into a Dashboard widget. We're not huge fans of gadgets and widgets around here, but Dashboard Web Clips can be a big timesaver, because it lets you check several pages you might otherwise manually refresh throughout the day in one keystroke, no browser required.