Tag Archives: Mac OS X

Power Tip #4: Showing & Hiding Hidden Files on a Mac


As a web developer I'm often working with .htaccess files in my projects. When I want to test a new .htaccess configuration for mod_rewrite I usually make an upload directly to the ftp server (not quite the best development cycle ;-) … I know).

Trying to locate the file in Finder I had no luck. The reason is that Mac OS an unix based operating system is and all files starting with a dot won't be shown in Finder.
One could however upload the file via Terminal with a command line, but that's not a solution to me.

There is a Mac OS command that reveals these hidden files:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder

And you can hide them again with:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles FALSE
killall Finder

It's important to kill Finder to apply the changes.


Now there is even a better solution without any command line typing: a widget for your Dashboard.

It's called hiddenfiles and you can download it directly from Apple's website.


Power Tip #3: Speed Up Mail Client on Mac


If you get a lot of emails or if you have an IMAP account you have maybe noticed that Mail gets slower and slower. The reason for the speed decrease is Mail’s Index file that grows with time. Deleting and moving mails causes gaps in that index file.  To speed up Mail you just need to send that index file on diet.

(before you continue here make as usual a backup)

  1. Quit Mail
  2. Open Terminal ( Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal )
  3. Run command: sqlite3 ~/Library/Mail/Envelope\ Index vacuum index
  4. Optional: automate it on a weekly basis

Now your Mail should be fast again.

Power Tip #2: Softer Volume Control on a Mac


This is another part of the Power Tip Series. Today I’d like to show you how to control the volume softer on a Mac.

Normal Volume Control

As you already know turning the sound volume up you press volume-up and respectively you press volume-down to turn the volume down. On your screen you see the current volume settings:


Now what can be sometimes annoying is the fact that the jumps from level to level are to strong. But there is a trick.

Soft Volume Control

When you press shift+alt together with the volume control keys you will notice that the volume will increase/decrease in smaller steps (usually one third of a box). So this is what you will see on your screen:


Power Tip #1: Forward Delete on a Mac


As of now I will post from time to time short articles with interesting hints on various topics. These articles will be to short to call them tutorials and that’s why I introduced today the Power Tip series.

Today’s power tip is about the forward delete key combination on a Mac computer. As I switched from Windows to Mac missing the Del key I thought this could be a good hint for people in the same.

To delete backwards you use the Backspace key on Windows and Mac the same way.

To delete forward you have the Del key on Windows PCs. On a Mac you won’t find such a key. The solution is to use the fn key together with Backspace.


By the way, I tested it with Sun VirtualBox where I run Windows for testing purposes and it worked fine as well. Just hit fn+ctrl+alt+Backspace to get the process list, to log out or to lock the screen.

Fixing a broken Face Detection Database in iPhoto


From time to time iPhoto’s face detection database gets broken and faces are not recognized on new imported photos. It can even happen that face information of old photos is lost or only partially working.

I think one of the reasons could be using iPhoto image library among several users ( there is an how-to i wrote recently: Sharing iPhoto Library among several users on a Mac). To be more precise it could have something to do with file privileges.

Well the bad news here are that there is no fix for that matter from Apple and all face data is lost. The good news: you can reset the database and make it work again.

The Solution


To reset the face database you need to delete the database files of iPhoto can create a new one. To achieve that you need to launch the Terminal application (you will find it in the Utilities folder within you Applications).

Now type the following commands in the terminal application (before you continue here make as usual a backup and quit iPhoto):


sudo bash – this will give you superuser privileges after typing the admin password
cd /Users/… – change to the folder where your iPhoto library is located
rm -rf face … – delete the two database files that start with “face”

Now when you run iPhoto again your face database will be empty and you can start to add new faces. Depending on the number of photos you have in you library the first scan of all photos can take a while (10.000 photos made me wait half an hour).

Ultimate Spotlight Secrets on Mac OS X


I think the majority of mac users would say that spotlight is a really nice tool. But most of them don’t even know what cool tricks Spotlight can even do. In my opinion, Spotlight is one of the best productivity tools that comes for free (well, you have to buy Mac OS anyway).

Windows users can only dream of it. You would need to buy a lot of software to cover the same functionality. And performance I don’t even want to mention here.

So, what can we actually do with Spotlight?

1. Normal Search

Searching for some documents is pretty simple. Just hit cmd+Spacebar (Spotlight will open in the top right corner of you screen) and start typing the phrase. Let’s say we are looking for: script. And voila, we get a list of everything containing script.


2. Boolean Search

Now that we’ve got a nice list, we want to refine it a little bit. We don’t want to get results that contain editor. Spotlight comes with boolean search functionality. It works with the following operators: AND, OR, NOT. Now the important part here is to type these operators all in capital letters, otherwise they will be understood as search terms.


3. Type Search

When you are looking for a specific type of document, let’s say an image, you can use the kind command followed by a colon and the file type. In this case the command would be script kind:image.

spotlight-kindMake sure that you don’t have any space before and after the colon. There is a list of types you can use with this command:

Search for: Use:
Aliases kind:alias
Applications kind:application, kind:applications, kind:app
Audio kind:audio
Bookmarks kind:bookmark, kind:bookmarks
Browser history kind:history
Contacts kind:contact, kind:contacts
E-mail messages kind:email, kind:emails, kind:mail message
Folders kind:folder, kind:folders, kind:fol
Fonts kind:font, kind:fonts
iCal Events kind:event, kind:events
iCal To-Do Items kind:todo, kind:todos, kind:to do
Images kind:image, kind:images
JPEG files kind:jpeg
Keynote files kind:keynote
Movies kind:movie, kind:movies
MP3 files kind:mp3
Music kind:music
Numbers documents kind:numbers
Pages documents kind:pages
PDF files kind:pdf, kind:pdfs
PowerPoint files kind:powerpoint
Preference panes kind:preference, kind:preferences
Presentations kind:presentation, kind:presentations
QuickTime files kind:quicktime
TIFF files kind:tiff
Word documents kind:word

4. Calculations

There is a nice calculator in the Dashboard but you could use the space for another nice widget. Spotlight can to all basic calculations as well. It also can handle brackets withing the formulas. Furthermore it is capable to handle a few more advanced calculations too, like square root, power, PI, …

As you can see spotlight is more advanced than the regular Dashboard calculator.


5. Application Launcher

That’s my absolute favorite one. The Dock has a limited space to place icons. Of course you can extend it with a stack and put there even more icons but it’s so much simpler with Spotlight. Just start typing fire to show Firefox in the list.  Just think about how many clicks it can take you sometimes to launch a specific application.


6. Definition

Another nice feature of spotlight is that it can show you the definition of a word you type. Just hover the definition row in the result set and it will show you the definition of that word in a tooltip. Really nice.


7. Show in Finder

If you don’t want to open a document within Spotlight but show it in a Finder window you just press cmd and hold it while clicking the found document.

Spotlight is a powerful tool to speed up your work. It is included in every open/save file dialog box and helps you finding lost files in TimeMachine.

Apple unveiled new Snow Leopard at WWDC today


Today at the WWDC Apple presented the all new Mac OS X known as Snow Leopard. A lot of improvements have been done but most of them only under the hood. Yes! More power and more speed.

The release date is planned for September (before Windows 7) and an upgrade will cost only $29. Considering Apple’s upgrade policy in the past will this be a steal.

So here is what you should know about the new Mac OS X:


1. Exposé reloaded

Exposé will be integrated in the Dock. Clicking and holding an application icon in the Dock will unshuffle all it’s windows. Stacks will be scrollable and finally navigation through folders inside a Stack will be possible (man, I was really waiting for that one).

2. Performance

Most of the code base has been rewritten to increase performance system-wide. PDFs are opened 1,5 times faster than before and JPEGs are loaded even twice as fast. Opening Mail will take only 50% of time. I can almost hear it roaring.

3. Full 64-bit and Multi-Core

The gained performance could be a direct result of the full 64-bit integration. All native Mac applications have been rewritten for 64-bit support.

4. Safari 4

The fast browser will get even faster. The Javascript engine has been improved by 50%. And  Safari 4 passes the Acid3 browser test (as the current beta does).

5. TimeMachine

Same goes for TimeMachine. There will be a performance jump up to 50%.

6. Smaller footprint

Snow Leopard will be more lean than the current version. The installation will save 6 GB of the hard disk. Nowadays disk space is really cheap (I can remember my first PC with a 170 MB hard disk) but it’s great for MacBooks where you cannot just add and add more hard drives.

7. More reliable disk eject

One of the situation I really hate about my Mac is when some application just stalls and you cannot eject the DVD or even worse if you cannot eject an USB drive. Snow Leopard will be able to show you the problematic application so you can shut it down completely.

Can’t wait to see my MacBook Pro with the new Snow Leopard in action.

Screenshot Secrets in Mac OS X

You probably know how to make a screenshot on your Mac, but when you are writing tutorials you need often just need an image of the current dialog box or application window. You can crop a screenshot in Photoshop or any other image editing software but there is a way simpler method.

Here is a list of the most important shortcuts for making screenshots on a Mac:

Key Combo


cmd + shift + 3 Capture entire screen and save as a file on the desktop
cmd + ctrl + shift + 3 Capture entire screen and copy to the clipboard
cmd + shift + 4 Capture dragged area and save as a file
cmd + ctrl + shift +4 Capture dragged area and copy to the clipboard
cmd + shift + 4 then Space bar Capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and save as a file
cmd + ctrl + shift + 4 then Space bar Capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and copy to the clipboard

If you know any other key combinations you are welcome to share them by posting a comment and I will update the list.

Swipe to navigate in Firefox on a MacBook


Being used to the 3-finger-swipe functionality to navigate within Safari and other Apple applications I wanted Firefox to behave the same way. Safari is really a great browser but not used by many users. To test my websites in terms of design and functionality I use Firefox and IE as well.

Unfortunately the Trackpad gestures are not working with these browsers. After some research in Google I finally came across a great piece of software:


MultiClutch brings you the MultiTouch gestures to any application and lets you control the action behind every gesture. It embeds within the System Preferences Panel and is really simple to use.

Here is an example configuration for Firefox to use Swipe for back and forward history navigation:


7 essential must have applications for Mac OS X


This is my list of essential little helpers every Mac should have installed. These tools are not very expensive and can improve productivity on a Mac a lot.

1. Little Snitch

little-snitchThe Firewall that comes with Mac OS X is a very simple one. That’s because Apple tries to keep the user’s life simple. That firewall doesn’t allow much of settings and handles only incoming traffic. As long as you are a “normal” user it’s great, but if you would like to control outgoing traffic too you need to find another solution. Looking for a better firewall I came across a lot of apps and Little Snitch turned out to be the only one that would handle outgoing traffic as well. Furthermore it integrates perfectly with your Mac as a small tray icon. After having installed Little Snitch I was shocked about all the applications that where trying to connect to some strange servers. It’s really a must-have security tool for every Mac.


2. iFreeMem

ifreememiFreeMem can help you in optimizing your Mac’s memory after having a long session. It will clean up all memory blocks that are not in use anymore (typically after quitting memory intensive applications) and rearrange others that are in use. After installation you will find a new tray icon in your toolbar which will show you the currently consumed memory. A click will open a small box with a more detailed memory allocation and an “Optimize Memory” button. So from time to time when you need a little bit more memory just run this tool and you won’t need to reboot at all.


3. 1Password

1password1Password can store all your passwords used on websites. Moreover it can handle full forms as well. This is very useful during web development when you need to test extensive web applications. All your passwords and forms can be protected with one master password so you want need to remember all the others anymore. 1Password integrates directly as a toolbar in your browser and will give you the easyness of “one-click-login”.


4. AppDelete

app-deleteWhen I was new to Macs I fell immediately for the simple install/unistall process. But sometimes applications leave a lot of useless trash on your system. AppDelete will help you to clean up your Mac from all associated files of any software. It’s a great tool to keep your Mac healthy.



5. iArchiver

iarchiverBeing used to Zip and Rar files iArchiver became a very good friend of mine. Of course there are more professional solutions out there like StuffIt, but this one is really cheap.




6. KeyCue

keycueEspecially for Mac-beginners this tool can be a lot of help. By simply holding down the command key it will show you a window with the most important hotkey combinations. After a while using it I remembered more and more hotkeys. Great for productivity.




7. AirGrab WiFi Radar

airgrabApple’s AirPort can give you only limited information about the quality of your wireless connection. With AirGrab you can find out exactly how good or bad the connection in reality is and what other networks surround you.