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20 Cool Tiger Features You Might Not Have Heard About

by Scott Knaster
05/13/2005

Heard anything about Tiger lately? Unless you've been living behind soundproof Windows for the past few months, you know that Apple has just shipped Mac OS X 10.4, better known as Tiger. And, of course, Apple didn't simply toss Tiger out into a silent void. No doubt you've heard about the major features in Tiger: searching with Spotlight, Dashboard widgets, Safari with RSS, and so on.

But that's not all there is to Tiger. The major features have nuances that haven't gotten much press, and there are a zillion minor tweaks to discuss. My goal in this article is to explore 20 new Tiger tips that you probably haven't heard about before. Even if you've had the opportunity to play with Tiger yourself, I bet you'll discover some new tricks herein.

OK, let's ride this Tiger.

1. Spotlight: Behind the Beam

Apple has talked a lot about Spotlight and how you can use it to get fast search results just by clicking the magnifying glass in the upper right corner and typing. But that's just the start of what Spotlight does. You'll find traces of Spotlight goodness inside of apps and system bits all over the place:

2. Dashboard

Here are a few Dashboard tricks that haven't been talked about much.

3. Safari Web Archives

Safari 2.0 lets you save a page as a web archive file, which keeps all of the images and formatting intact. When you open a web archive, it looks just like the page you saved.

4. Safari RSS

There are a couple of interesting details to Safari's RSS implementation. When you open a web page, Safari automagically tries to figure out if the page has an RSS feed. If it finds one, Safari puts an RSS button at the right side of the address bar. Click the button and you're looking at the RSS feed.

You don't have to use Safari as your RSS newsreader. Safari's new RSS preferences panel includes a setting for Default RSS Reader. So if you're a fan of NetNewsWire, PulpFiction, or another newsreader, clicking Safari's RSS button will open the feed in your chosen reader.

5. Safari JavaScript Console

Safari has added a JavaScript Console, a window that gives you information essential for debugging JavaScripts. (The JavaScript Console actually appeared in Safari 1.3, which came out a week or so before Tiger, so this one is a little bit of a cheat.)

6. Address Book Smart Groups

You can use iTunes-style Smart Groups in Tiger's Address Book. The criteria for the group can be based on any of the contact's fields, and you can combine multiple criteria. Set up a group that shows upcoming birthdays to avoid embarrassing social faux pas, or have a group that automatically includes everyone who works at your company.

7. Mail Squishes Images

When you add a photo or other image to a message in Mail, a pop-up menu appears in the lower-right corner of the message window. Choose Small from this menu to shrink your image down to a more reasonable size for emailing. The lower-left corner of the window reports your image's new size.

8. Connection Doctor in Mail

If you're having trouble with an email account, you can try out Mail's new Connection Doctor. This feature attempts to connect to each of your accounts, then reports whether it was successful.

9. Slide Shows

Tiger lets you make iPhoto-style slideshows without having to run iPhoto. The slideshow feature is built into Mail, Preview, Spotlight, and the Finder. In Mail, there's a Slideshow button on received messages that have images in them. Preview has a Slideshow menu item. Finder search windows and Spotlight windows have a right-facing triangle, kind of like the iTunes Play button.

When you start a slideshow with any of these controls, you see the images one after another, with those lovely Apple-style dissolve transitions. Moving the mouse reveals translucent controls at the bottom of the screen that include Next, Previous, and Pause. One really cool control called Index Sheet displays tiny clickable thumbnails of all of the images in the slideshow.

10. Bookmarks in Preview

Preview in Tiger has several handy new features, including the new Bookmarks menu that lets you create, delete, or modify bookmarks within PDF documents.

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11. Preview's New Display Options

Preview dresses up its PDF display with a few new options and features. You can take advantage of your giant display (if you're lucky enough to have one) and see pages side by side with the Facing Pages setting in the View -> PDF Display menu. And you can use the Page Breaks setting to draw nice page gutters when you're looking at the document in Continuous mode.

12. Annotations in Preview

Tiger adds two ways to annotate your PDFs in Preview. The Text Annotation tool lets you attach notes to your document, and you can use the Oval Annotation tool to draw big red marks on the page.

13. TextEdit Rich Text Tools

New in Tiger: TextEdit comes with tools for creating hyperlinks, lists, and tables. You can now save documents in HTML format, and TextEdit knows how to open web archive documents created by the new version of Safari.

14. TextEdit Author Properties

Spotlight will seek and find any text buried in TextEdit documents, but the new TextEdit makes documents even more Spotlight-friendly. TextEdit documents (rich text only) now have a Properties panel that lets you specify the author, title, subject, keywords, and comments for every document, and all that info is findable by Spotlight.

15. Fast Dictionary Lookups

Apple's new Dictionary is available as an application and a Dashboard widget. You can also summon the Dictionary by highlighting text, Ctrl-clicking, and choosing Look Up in Dictionary. For super-power users, there's an even quicker shortcut: hover over text and press Ctrl-Command-D to see the Dictionary panel, a tiny box that defines the word and includes buttons to switch between dictionary and thesaurus and to start the full Dictionary application. (You can use Keyboard & Mouse Preferences to change Ctrl-Command-D to something else if you want.)

16. iChat and iTunes

In Tiger, iChat and iTunes are now on speaking terms. You can set your iChat status to reflect the name of the track you're currently listening to in iTunes, a feature that has long been available as a third-party addition. If anyone in your buddy list is using this status setting, you'll see a little right-arrow next to the song name. Click the arrow and iTunes takes you to that song in the iTunes Music Store.

17. iChat Fast Switch

Do you have more than one iChat account--maybe .Mac and AIM? If so, you can use the handy iChat -> Switch To menu to swiftly log out of one account and into another.

18. Subtly Smarter Find Panel

In Mac OS X, applications share a system-wide memory of the last Find term. If you're in TextEdit and you do a Find for "fish," then switch to Safari and bring up the Find panel again, you'll see that "fish" is still in there. And if you type text into the Google search field in Safari, that text appears the next time you use a Find panel.

This feature is a little smarter in Tiger in two ways. First, if you use Spotlight, the search term you entered in Spotlight appears the next time you bring up a Find panel. Second, the Find panel is now clever enough to use only the first term following a Google search. So, for example, if you're looking for song lyrics and you click the Google search field in Safari and type "Ranking Full Stop" "The Beat", click one of the search results, then choose Edit -> Find, the Find panel will contain Ranking Full Stop, which is just what you want for searching on the page.

19. Scalable Cursor

The newly expanded Universal Access preference panel has added a setting that will please folks with aging eyes or a big screen. You can use the Mouse & Trackpad settings to make your pointer bigger--anywhere from standard size to really ginormous.

20. Migration Assistant

When Apple started shipping Mac OS X 10.3.5 last year, it included a nifty upgrade to the setup process that automatically moved your stuff from an old Mac to a new one. In Tiger, this feature has become a standalone application, called Migration Assistant, in /Applications/Utilities. Now you can run Migration Assistant any time you want.

Migration Assistant will copy your data, applications, and settings from one Mac (or external disk, or partition) to another. You can also choose to migrate entire Home directories. It's a very cool program, and it certainly beats copying all that stuff over manually and reinstalling all your applications. Apple loves to make it easier for you to buy a new Mac.

Final Thoughts

So there you go: a list of cool Tiger things to start you out. Kids, try this at home.

Scott Knaster is a technical writer on the Mac team at Google.


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