Tip: Auto-Create Playlists with Album and Artist Name

If you have a group of songs in iTunes, and you want to add them to a playlist, you can simply drag them to the left pane of the iTunes screen. However, if you have a group of songs by the same artist, or from the same album, or both, you can drag these songs to the left pane and a new playlist will be created in the format “ArtistName – AlbumName”. It’s a pretty cool feature and I use it every time I download a new album from the iTunes Music Store. It’s also smart, and if all the songs being dragged are by the same artist, but on different albums, or on the same album, but by different artists, iTunes creates the playlist name based on which is common among the files. It saves time, especially if you are creating more than one new playlist based on a group of song files.

Tip: Add a Path Dropdown Menu to Finder Windows

One thing that bothers me a bit about the Mac OS is that you don’t have the ability to show the full path of an folder in your Finder windows. In addition, you have no button that allows you to quickly click to go up one level in the current folder hierarchy. Both of these features are available in Windows, and I use them all the time. There is a similar feature in the Mac OS that sort of combines both Windows features into one compact little icon on your Finder window’s toolbar.

Open a Finder window and click View -> Customize Toolbar (or Control + Option + Click the oval-shaped button in the top-right corner of the Finder window). A slide menu will drop down, allowing you to add additional items to the Finder window toolbar. The changes made will affect all Finder windows, so keep this in mind.

You can add several things to the toolbar, such as an Eject icon, a Burn icon, and separators (for aesthetic purposes), but what you really want here is the Path icon, which is the second from the left in the first row at the top. Drag this icon onto the toolbar and release the left mouse button. Now, the next time you want to find out exactly where you are in a hierarchy of folders, you can click this new button and get a dropdown list of folders, with the top one in the list being the current folder. The list is clickable, meaning that you can click any of the folders in the list to switch to that folder.

Advice for Apple: Add this icon to Finder window toolbars by default in the next release! Users shouldn’t have to add something that they’ll be using often.

Review: FolderOrg

This is just a quick review of a piece of free software that I just saw listed in the “50 Mac Gems” section September 2005 issue of MacWorld (US Edition). FolderOrg is an AppleScript Folder Action that organizes files and folders by moving them into dated subfolders.

FolderOrg sounds like a great folder action for those who have a large number of daily downloads and want their files organized by date without being required to create the dated subfolders manually. It might also be a big help to people who batch-process a large number of files on a daily basis. Keeping things organized is fun, isn’t it? Well, maybe not fun, but it makes getting what you need later much easier.

You will want to read the section in the readme file that details how to set the options for FolderOrg. In a nutshell, you must first copy the FolderOrg.app file to the /Library/Scripts/Folder Action Scripts/ folder, and then double-click the file. This will prompt you, one at a time, for three settings. FolderOrg still works as a folder action without doing this first, but you may prefer to use the options to turn off some of the default settings. For example, I told FolderOrg not to activate the Finder or open the folder that contains the files just moved. I prefer to move the files into the folder and have the subfolder created in the background, and the file moved into it, without being bothered by windows popping up when it’s done. You may prefer different settings.

According to the “readme” file that accompanies the software, “FolderOrg 1.2 is somewhat incompatible with Firefox, Camino, Mozilla, and other Gecko-based browsers due to file renaming” and “FolderOrg 1.2 is not compatible with FileVault. This is due to issues with the way AppleScript handles (or rather doesn’t handle) mounted disk images.” If you are using FireFox, this means you will need to drop files manually into your folder to get the desired result. In my case, I’m interested in this software for other purposes, and not so much to manage my daily downloads, so this doesn’t really bother me. If you are using the FileVault security feature of the Mac OS, you may not be able to use this folder action.

FolderOrg is a neat little AppleScript action written for a specific purpose, and many will find it to be very useful. I’m guessing that this is why MacWorld gave it a four mouse rating. The author, Doug Everly, should be proud of himself for releasing a simple, compact mini-app that does one thing and does it well. The fact that it’s free software makes it even better.

For more information on FolderOrg, and to download a copy for yourself, please see the following link.
FolderOrg: http://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/17432/folderorg

Tip: Grab a Color

If you’re ever working in Photoshop, or a similar application, and need the exact color of a graphic on a Web site, or another document, you can quickly get it by using the DigitalColor Meter. To open this application, look for it in the Applications -> Utilities folder. You can move your mouse anywhere on your screen and DigitalColor Meter will display the color just under the mouse’s current position. It’s a great, simple app for grabbing color values, and it’s free with Mac OS X.

Tip: Auto-Resize a Finder Window

This is a pretty basic tip, but I find that most Windows users don’t know they can do this, so I figured there would be a Mac user or two who might benefit from the info. If you’ve ever opened a Finder window to find that there are elipses (…) in the middle of a file name, this means that the file name is too long to display in the limited space provided. You can correct this, of course, by simply dragging the slider widget and making the display space bigger. Double-clicking the widget, however, does this for you automatically, and resizes the display space to be big enough for the longest file name to be displayed. It’s a time-saving tip you’ll find yourself using every day. Seconds add up to minutes, minutes to hours, and hours to days. At the end of your life, you’ll have a few days to spend doing whatever you like.

Tip: Moving the iPhoto Library

The default location of your iPhoto library is inside your home directory on your startup disk. You may have another disk drive, such as an external hard drive, that you want to use to store all your pictures. This is easy to do, and iPhoto will use the new location to store all current and new pictures.

To change the location of the iPhoto pictures folder, perform the following steps.

  1. Quit iPhoto. It cannot be running when you perform the steps that follow.
  2. Using the Finder, locate the folder that contains your iPhoto library.
  3. Drag the library folder to some other location, being sure to move it, not copy it, if you are dragging it into another volume/disk.
  4. Launch iPhoto again. You will get a dialog that tells you that iPhoto cannot find its library.
  5. Click the “Find Library” or “Choose Library” button and another dialog appears.
  6. Use the new dialog to find your library folder.

That’s it. You now have a new

LaCie Firewire/USB Hard Drive Has Arrived

The LaCie firewire/USB hard drive that I purchased has arrived today. Right now, I’m testing out Carbon Copy Cloner to do a backup of the entire internal hard disk to this new hard drive. After that, I’m going to install a copy of OS X for development purposes on a partition of the new drive.

One thing that I do want to say about this drive is that it couldn’t be easier to use on OS X. I’m not sure if that is attributable to the OS, the drive, or both, but I’m happy. As soon as I opened the box, I plugged the drive into the firewire port with the cable provided. Then I partitioned the drive into two volumes, one for backups and files (miscellaneous things, really), and the other for a copy of OS X. I used Disk Utility (Applications -> Utilities folder) to do the partitioning and formatting. Creating partitions with Disk Utility is about as simple as it gets. I had the drive ready to be formatted with both partitions, clicked the button, and the formatting was done in just under ten seconds! I was completely shocked. I had just taken a drive from a FAT32 filesystem to HFS+ (Journaled) in less time than it takes to check the Weather widget on my Dashboard.

Coming from the Windows world, this is simply unheard of. Partitioning a 100 GB drive on a Windows machine will take a variable amount of time, but we are talking at least ten minutes, and, if you are running a slower machine, up to an hour. This is an iBook G4, one of the lower-end machines that Apple produces, and to see this kind of performance was a shock.

Also, I should mention that the drive itself is quite nice-looking. It’s gray plastic with what appears to be an aluminum plate on the front. It only has one tiny light at the front of the drive, and three ports in the back: 1 firewire, 1 USB, and 1 USB power/AC power. They definitely took the minimalist approach with this drive, and it has paid off. In terms of power, if your computer cannot power the drive by FireWire or USB, you may need to connect the additional USB power cable (provided) to the port in the back and connect that to any available USB port. If that doesn’t get it powered, you may need to purchase the optional AC power supply from LaCie. I didn’t need anything other than the firewire cable, and the drive is fully powered and ready to roll. I did see a post on the CNet Web site, where this drive was reviewed, that was left by an unhappy customer who said that the drive didn’t work on PowerBooks. I’m not sure what she meant (maybe an older model PowerBook), but this drive works on my iBook just fine so far.

I can’t wait to put this drive through its paces and write a review. I’ll give it a few days, but I’m moving my iPhoto and iTunes libraries to the drive tonight, and going through my hard disk and moving any files that I can in order to ensure 10 GB of free space. I’ll keep everyone updated as I work with this new drive.

Tip: Edit HTML Files in TextEdit

One of the things that annoyed me about TextEdit when I first started using it was the fact that HTML files are rendered as Web pages by default. I found a way to change this, however, so the files can be viewed as code and edited in place. To do this in OS X 10.4 Tiger, open TextEdit and click TextEdit -> Preferences. Now click the Open and Save button at the top of the preference panel and look for “Ignore rich text commands in HTML files”. Check the box next to this line, and you’re done. The next time you open an HTML file, you’ll see the code, and not the output. To do this in OS X 10.3 Panther, you’ll need to go to the “Rich Text Processing” pane, and click the same line as in Tiger.

Tip: Fast Window Switching

Most users know about the Command+Tab keystroke (Alt+Tab in Windows) that allows you to cycle from one open application to the next. However, there are probably a least a few users who don’t know about the Command+` keystroke (that’s the accent grave character, just to the left of the 1 key) that allows you to cycle from one open window to another in the same application. If you have ten Word documents open, this key combo is very useful when you need to get from one window to the next. It also works in all other apps, including the Finder.Command+Shift+Accent Grave cycles through in the opposite direction.

Tip: Repairing Your Keychain

Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may need to repair your Mac OS X keychain. As you work with keychains, problems may occur, like out of sync passwords or improper keychains being set as the default keychains. Repairing your keychain is a simple process and the steps below will walk you through it.

  1. Open the Keychain Access application. You can find it in your Utilities subfolder (inside the Applications folder).
  2. Click Keychain Access -> Keychain First Aid (OS X 10.4 Tiger) or Window -> Keychain First Aid (OS X 10.3 Panther).
  3. Enter your keychain password in the space provided.
  4. Click the Repair radio button.
  5. Click the Start button.
  6. Let the process run. When finished, you will see “Repair completed” appear in the window.

If you want to see what is wrong before performing the repair, you should click the Verify radion button, instead of the Repair button. This will show you the list of problems with your keychain. Then you will need to run the process again by performing the steps listed above. Repairing your keychain when you start to notice things getting out of whack might be all you need to fix the problem.