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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:

  • When you work with files in an application, you'll see that every Open and Save panel has a text field for Spotlight searches built right in.

  • You've probably heard that you can use Spotlight to save a search as an ever-updating Smart Folder. When you save a search, the Finder asks if you want to put the folder in the Sidebar. If you say yes, the Smart Folder appears in Open and Save panels alongside your regular folders.

  • There's a Spotlight field in System Preferences that makes it a lot easier to find stuff. Just type text into the search field and System Preferences lists possible topic matches and literally puts a (virtual) Spotlight on your choices while dimming the background. Apple cleverly loaded up the list of search terms with Windows words as well as Mac terminology: try searching for "wallpaper."

  • A Spotlight field on the Collections screen in Safari lets you search all of your Bookmarks and History, with all relevant matches showing up at once.

  • The next time you need to type a slightly funky character, such as a schwa, rupee sign, or interrobang, you can use the Spotlight field in the Character Palette (available in most applications by choosing Edit -> Special Characters) to find it by name.

  • If you've ever used Keychain Access to search for a forgotten password, you know you can go nuts trying to find the one you want: websites and services use all kinds of formats for naming their passwords. Spotlight in Keychain Access fixes that. Just type and you'll see the passwords and other items whose names contain the text you typed.

  • When you Ctrl-click on selected text in Safari, TextEdit, Stickies, or other texty apps, the contextual menu now includes a Search in Spotlight item, along with the also-useful Search in Google and Look Up in Dictionary (which uses Tiger's new Dictionary application).

2. Dashboard

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

  • Want to move a widget to the main window layer? Of course you do. Here's how: go to Terminal and type the command defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES. Still in Terminal, type killall Dock to restart Dashboard (and the Dock). Activate Dashboard (by default, you do that by pressing F12). Find the widget you want to put on the main layer and drag it a bit, but don't let go of the mouse button. While you're still holding the mouse button down, press the Dashboard keystroke again and release it, then release the mouse button. Your widget should now be floating above the Desktop and windows.

  • Dashboard is filled with semi-hidden eye candy. Click a widget and type Command-R to watch it reload. See visual effects, such as dragging out a new widget or closing one, in slow motion by holding down the Shift key (an old OS X trick).

  • If you would rather not have the ubiquitous Dashboard icon in the Dock, you can get rid of it easily. Just drag the icon out of the Dock and drop it to make it go poof.

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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