Tips & Tricks

Dragging Chunks of Text into Dock Icons

So Macs have been known for their ability to drag and drop across applications easily, but did you know that you can drag and drop chunks of texts into certain applications and it will do various things? Doing this with different applications will produce differentresults. To see if an icon will take a chunk of text, carefully drag the text to the application icon and if it darkens upon drag-over, then it will accept the text. Note that some applications will only accept the text if it is in a certain format (a web adress for example).


Here are a few common applications and the results of dragging text onto the icon:

  • Safari: If you drop a web address (i.e. something that starts with http://) on Safari, it will load up that address. If you drag any other bit of text, it will perform a Google Search on it.
  • Firefox: If dropped text is a web address, Firefox will load it. This is helpful if you want to view a site in a browser other than your default browser.
  • Mail: A new message will load up with the dropped text as the main message body. Annoyingly the text is placed in the body even if it is an email address.
  • TextEdit: As expected, this loads a new document containing the dropped text.
  • Skype: If the dropped text is a phone number, Skype will call it. This will also work with nicknames in your contact list.
  • iTunes: If you drop a podcast address onto iTunes, it will subscribe to it. If the address isn't a podcast, iTunes will attempt to do it anyway (and fail).
  • Stickies: This will make a new Stickies note containing the text open up.
  • Dictionary: This will show you the definition of the dropped word. If you drop a selection of words, Dictionary will display the definition of the first.


Converting PDF to Text

Ever wanted to take a pdf file and edit it? Well, you can use a Macintosh utility program, called the Automator, to easily create a conversion application that will take pdf files and convert them into plain or rich text. To create your conversion application follow these steps:

  1. Open up Automator (located in your Applications folder) and select “New” from the File Menu.
  2. Select “Custom” and click the Choose button. This will bring you to a Library of Actions for Apple applications on your computer.
  3. In the second column, scroll down and select “Extract PDF Text.” Click and drag it into the blank window on the right that says “Drag actions of files here to build your workflow.”
  4. Your action should now appear in the right column. Set your preferences, such as plain or rich text, page header/footer, output location and output file name.
    (click image to enlarge)
  5. Save your newly created workflow by giving it a name, choosing a save location and changing the file format to “Application” rather than Workflow. You have now created your PDF converter.

To use your PDF converter, simply drag a PDF file on top of the PDF converter icon, and the text file will be outputted to the location you identified in the preferences.


Quick Calculations

Included in Mac OS X is the application called Calculator. This is a handy tool for on-the-go calculations and it doesn’t take too much of your computer’s power. Perhaps you would like to check the currency exchange rate for the euro. Open up the Calculator found in the Applications folder. Type in a number, and at the top of the window, click the drop-down menu that says, “Convert.” Choose “Currency.” Choose the appropriate values, and click “Convert.” Now the value in the calculator reads the value of your conversion!

Note, you can use this same “Convert” menu to convert between temperatures, areas, and a number of other options. Also, for all non-Mac users (or Google lovers), you can also use the Google Calculator to do currency conversions.


MS Word and Keyboard Shortcuts

Here's a little tip on how to delete whole words on a Macintosh. This can be helpful if you want to delete a word you just typed that is misspelled or inappropriate, or if there’s a phrase you’d like to get rid of, but pressing the delete key over and over is too time consuming. Also, taking the time to use the mouse to highlight text can sometimes be tedious.

To delete a word at a time (rather than a character at a time) hold the “option key” down while pressing delete. This key is located to the left of the space bar, in between the apple key and the control key. Now the cursor will jump back to the previous space, one word for each tap on the delete key.

Here are a few other helpful keyboard shortcut links!

Mac OS X Internet Explorer
Windows XP Mozilla Firefox
Windows Vista Opera
Microsoft Word Safari


Apple Mail

Removing Quotes in Mail Messages

For those who don't know, the vertical lines you see on the left margin of an Apple Mail message are called quote levels. The more lines you see, the more times that bit of text has been included in the email exchange. While Mail doesn't include a command to eliminate these quote levels in one fell swoop, you can remove them one level at a time.


If you want to remove the quote levels from a Mail message, here's how you do it:

Just select the quoted text that you want to remove the quote levels from, hold down Command (Apple) and Option keys, and press the single quote key (‘). With each press, one level of quote disappears.

Creating a Mailbox

You can create as many mailboxes as you like to file or organize messages you want to keep.

If you are checking your mail via IMAP, you can create mailboxes to store received mail on your computer or on the mail server. You can also create a mailbox within an existing mailbox. A mailbox inside another mailbox is called a “subfolder.”

To Create a Mailbox:

  1. Choose Mailbox > New Mailbox. (To create a mailbox within an existing mailbox, select the existing mailbox before you choose Mailbox > New Mailbox.)
  2. Use the Location pop-up menu to choose the location for the mailbox on your computer or an IMAP account (to store the mailbox on an IMAP server).
  3. Type a name for the mailbox.
  4. Click OK.

To create a mailbox that contains another mailbox (or subfolder), type the name for the mailbox and the subfolder separated by a forward slash (“/”). For example, if you type “Homework/EDU101,” a mailbox named Homework will be created, with a mailbox named EDU101 inside it. (Note that if you create a mailbox this way, the enclosing mailbox can only contain other mailboxes, not messages. Such mailboxes appear white in the mailboxes list, instead of blue.)

Deleting Incorrect Mail Addresses in OS X's Mail

In Mac’s OS X’s Mail, when you create an e-mail message and type in an address, the program puts the address – whether right or wrong – in its cache. If you have typed in an incorrect address in Mail, here is how you can delete it.

If you are running OS 10.2.8’s version of Mail, to remove cached addresses go to the Window Menu> Address History and select the incorrect address in the resulting Address History window, and click on Remove From History.

If you are running OS 10.3.x or 10.4.x’s version of Mail, go to the Window Menu> Previous Recipients and do the same.