MM 7 — Day 9: Sal’s Savvy Leopard Session and Two Timeouts

MacMania classes with Sal “Mr. AppleScript” Soghoian promise to be at the geekier end of the scale, and his “The Other Side of Leopard” session this morning did not disappoint. Here’s Sal’s list of the top ten most overlooked new features in Leopard.

1. Expanded Open/Save File dialog Similar to the windows in the Finder, the standard Open/Save File dialogs in Leopard feature a sidebar and three different views (icons, list, columns). Additionally, the Open File dialog also has a new “Media” section in that sidebar for accessing photos in your iPhoto or Aperture libraries, etc.

Here’s Sal’s recipe for quickly creating a photo browser that is available system-wide: create an Automator workflow and add the “Ask for Photos” action. Save it as a plug-in for the Script Menu, naming it “Photo Browser”. By launching this workflow from the Script Menu in the menu bar, you can now access, and search for, all the photos in your iPhoto and Aperture libraries without having to launch either application first.

2. Multiple Partition Dismounts When unmounting (aka “ejecting”) a volume from a hard drive that contains multiple volumes, OS X will now ask whether you would like to eject just the selected volume, or all volumes on that drive.

3. Text to Image To convert text or special characters into an image with a transparent background, choose Print in the respective application (TextEdit, for example), and select “Open PDF in Preview” from the PDF menu, which will create a PDF file of the phrase or character(s) and open it in the Preview application.

In Preview, crop the text as needed by selecting (part of) it with the selection tool and choosing Crop from the Tools menu, and save the PDF as a PNG image file, after which Preview will reload the fresh PNG file.

Click on the Select button in Preview’s toolbar, and a menu should pop up. From this menu, choose “Instant Alpha” and click — and hold down the mouse button — in the area you would like to make transparent. With the mouse button pressed, move the cursor to adjust the sensitivity of the “Instant Alpha” tool. As soon as you let go of the mouse button, that area is now transparent. Don’t forget to also make transparent the areas inside characters, e.g., inside a “D”, etc.

Save the file, et voilà: an image of the text with a transparent background, ready to be used as a sub-title on a photo, a caption for a photo greeting card, etc.

4. One-click User Switching Switching to another account on your Mac is as easy as a single click with the help of the Account Switcher applet.

5. Automatic screen sharing You can remote-control another machine by selecting it in the Shared section in the sidebar of a Finder window, clicking the Share Screen button and logging in. To automatically share another machine, run the “Create Screensharing Link” application (sorry, can’t find the link right now [no pun intended — really!]), create a link on the Desktop and add it to your startup items.

6. Browse Full Screen Place the “Browse Full Screen” AppleScript in the Finder window’s toolbar: click it to maximize the window to full-screen, switch to Cover Flow view, and hide the Dock. Click it again to restore the original window settings. Note that your file selection will be preserved when toggling back and forth between both views.

7. Fast Folder Access The icons for special folders like Applications, Documents, Movies, etc., make it difficult to differentiate between them, what with their subtle new gray-scale design in Leopard vs. the colorful icons in previous versions of Mac OS X. Resort to the Quick Folder widget for a menu of all of those special folders. (Alas, I could not find this widget, but a subset of those special folders is also listed in the Finder’s Go menu.)

8. Hierarchical Replacement for Stacks From the system-wide Scripts Menu, select “Open Scripts Folder” > “Open User Scripts Folder”, and inside that folder, create a new folder “Shortcuts…”. Place aliases to applications etc. in this new folder, so they show up in the Scripts Menu.

9. Automator 2.0 New features in Automator 2.0 include variables, loops, about 50 to 60 new actions, and also an action recorder (welcome back!).

Here’s an idea for a fun screensaver for a party (required Automator actions listed in order with required settings in parentheses):

  • Ask for Text (set question to “Enter your name”)
  • Set Value of Variable (new variable “Name”)
  • Take Video Snapshot (Save as: “Name” variable; Where: new folder “Party” on the Desktop)
  • Start Screen Saver
  • Loop (Loop automatically; stop after 100 minutes)

Save the workflow as an application to the Desktop. Open the Desktop & Screen Saver preferences, select the “Party” folder via “Choose Folder…” and close the prefs.

Before your party kicks off, place the computer near the door to your house or party hall, launch the workflow, and now, whenever a new guest comes in, make them touch the keyboard, have them enter their name, and add a photo via the Mac’s built-in iSight camera. As a result, you’ll have a cool animated display of every guest’s photo and their names. Makes for great introductions when you have invited guests who haven’t met each other yet.

Another Automator hint: if you often switch your Mac’s startup volume, create a new workflow, and start the Action Recorder by clicking on Automator’s record button. Then, open the Startup Volume preferences panel, select a drive, and click restart. Save the workflow as a self-running application, calling it “Restart from [volume name]” or somesuch, and place it on your Desktop. Once you have created worflows for every startup volume you use, you simply double-click on the respective workflow application whenever you want to change the startup volume, instead of diving into the preferences.

10. Auto-Conversing iChat Create an AppleScript that sends out text messages along these lines:

“Hey there. Just a moment. Will be with you in a sec!” [short’ish delay] “Sorry, just got a phone call from The Boss. This might take a while.” [longer delay] “Oh man, totally forgot about the marketing meeting. Gotta run. Talk to you soon.”

In iChat’s Alerts preferences, define to run this AppleScript when a Text Invitation comes in. (Think “Eliza‘s Evil Twin”.)

After Randal Schwartz presented “Amazingly Cool Utilities” on our first cruise day, I had a little chat with him about Quicksilver, and if it wouldn’t be a neat idea to introduce this eclectic geek utility to the more experienced Mac-heads on our cruise.

So, I nagged him and Neil Bauman long enough to eventually give me the opportunity to teach that introduction myself (nibbling away a chunk from today’s Ingenious Bar session. Sorry, Sal!). So, with Randal as my co, who contributed the occasional insight and tip, I presented a 45 minute overview and intro to Quicksilver with some 25..30 people in attendance.

While there was at least one specimen of the infamous almost-falling-asleep-guy (well, this was right after lunch…), most people in the audience paid close attention to what we demonstrated, and they came up with a bunch of very thoughtful and interesting questions. Of those questions, the most unexpected and amusing one was asked right after I got started: “So, who are you?!” Come to think of it, I guess with Mac luminaries like Jason Snell and David Pogue on board, I shouldn’t really consider that question “unexpected”…

Giving this talk was great fun, and it was especially rewarding that a few of my “students” came up to me afterwards, asking for additional info, and some requesting more entry-level explanations of why they should start using Quicksilver on their Macs. I’m sure this session found a few new friends for this great utility.

Rough seas were still with us all through the day — even in the pool.

Rough waters in the pool.

But so were the gorgeous dramatic skies.

Dramatic clouds out on the sea.

Ever heard the songs “Don’t cry for my Cupertino”, “The Girl I met by Email”, or “I wrote the Code”? No? Well, make sure you attend one of David Pogue’s spoof song “concerts” if you get the chance, like we did tonight in “Timeout with David Pogue.” Hilarious. (Some of his songs are available on David’s website.)

Tonight will be our farewell dinner (already? we’ve got another full day and night to go! sheesh), so bring on those cheesy songs and that whacky sparkler-spiked Baked Alaska desert already, will ya!

Share this: del.icio.usDiggreddit

Comments are closed for now.