- Tip: You can even drag icons onto disks or folders whose icons appear in the Sidebar
(Chapter 1). When you do so, the main part of the window flashes to reveal the contents
of the disk or folder you've dragged onto. When you let go of the mouse, the main
window changes back to reveal the contents of the disk or folder where you started
dragging.In short, Sidebar combined with spring-loaded folders make a terrific drag-and-
drop way to file a desktop icon from anywhere to anywhere–without having to open or
close any windows at all.
When you finally release the mouse, you're left facing the final window. All the previous
windows closed on the way. You've neatly placed the icon into the core of the nested
2.4.5. Making Spring-Loaded Folders Work
That spring-loaded folder technique sounds good in theory, but can be disconcerting in
practice. For most people, the long wait before the first folder opens is almost enough
wasted time to negate the value of the feature altogether. Furthermore, when the first
window finally does open, you're often caught by surprise. Suddenly your cursor—mouse
button still down—is inside a window, sometimes directly on top of another folder you
never intended to open. But before you can react, its window, too, has opened, and you
find yourself out of control.
POWER USERS' CLINIC
Designing Your Own Icons
You don't have to be content with the icons provided by Microsoft, Apple, or
whoever else wrote your software. You can paste new icons onto your file, disk,
and folder icons to help you pick them out at a glance.
The easiest way to replace an icon is to copy it from another icon. To do so,
highlight the icon, hold down the Option key and choose File Show
Inspector (see Section 2.7.1). In the resulting window, click the existing icon,
and then choose Edit Copy.
Next, click the icon to which you want to transfer the copied picture. Its icon
now appears in the Info dialog box that's still open on the screen. Click the icon
in the dialog box, and this time choose Edit Paste.
- If you'd rather introduce all-new icons, you're welcome to steal some of the
beautifully designed ones waiting atwww.iconfactory.comand the icon sites
linked to it.
Once you've downloaded these special icon files, you can copy their images
from the Get Info window as you would any icon.
To design a Mac OS X icon from scratch, use a graphics program like
Photoshop or the shareware favorite Graphic-Converter.
Once you've saved your icon file, select it, and then copy and paste its icon
using the Show Inspector method described above.
Note that you can't change certain folder icons that Mac OS X considers
important, such as Applications or System.
You can, however, change the special Mac OS X folder icons in your Home
folder—Pictures, Documents, and so on, and your hard drive icon. You're also
not allowed to change icons that belong to other people who share your Mac and
sign in under a different name (Chapter 12).
Fortunately, you can regain control of spring-loaded folders using these tricks:
• Choose Finder Preferences. On the General pane, adjust the "Spring-loaded
folders and windows" Delay slider to a setting that drives you less crazy. For
example, if you find yourself waiting too long before the first folder opens, drag
the slider toward the Short setting.
• You can turn off this feature entirely by choosing Finder Preferences and
turning off the "Spring-loaded folders and windows" checkbox.
• Tap the Space bar to make the folder spring open at your command. That is, even
with the Finder Preferences slider set to the Long delay setting, you can force
each folder to spring open when you are ready by tapping the Space bar as you
hold down the mouse button. True, you need two hands to master this one, but the
control you regain is immeasurable.
- Tip: The Space bar trick works even when "Spring-loaded folders and windows"
checkbox (in Finder Preferences) is turned off. That's a handy arrangement,
because it means that folder windows never pop open accidentally.
• Whenever a folder springs open into a window, twitch your mouse up to the newly
opened window's title bar or down to its information strip. Doing so ensures that
your cursor won't wind up hovering on, and accidentally opening up, an inner
folder. With the cursor parked on the gradient gray, you can take your time to
survey the newly opened window's contents, and plunge into an inner folder only
after gaining your bearings.
Tip: Email programs like Entourage and Mail have spring-loaded folders, too.
You can drag a message out of the list and into one of your filing folders, wait for
the folder to spring open and reveal its subfolders, and then drag it directly into
one of them.
2.4.6. Aliases: Icons in Two Places at Once
Highlighting an icon and then choosing File Make Alias (or pressing -L),
generates an alias, a specially branded duplicate of the original icon (Figure 2-7). It's not
a duplicate of the file—just of the icon; therefore it requires negligible storage space.
When you double-click the alias, the original file opens. (A Macintosh alias is essentially
the same as a Windows shortcut.)
Because you can create as many aliases as you want of a single file, aliases let you, in
effect, stash that file in many different folder locations simultaneously. Double-click any
one of them, and you open the original icon, wherever it may be on your system.
Tip: You can also create an alias of an icon by Option- -dragging it out of its
window. (Aliases you create this way lack the word alias on the file name—a distinct
delight to those who find the suffix redundant and annoying.) You can also create an alias
by Control-clicking (or right-clicking) a normal icon and choosing Make Alias from the
- shortcut menu that appears, or by highlighting an icon and then choosing Make Alias
from the menu.
2.4.7. What's Good about Aliases
An alias takes up almost no disk space, even if the original file is enormous. Aliases are
smart, too: even if you rename the alias, rename the original file, move the alias, and
move the original around on the disk, double-clicking the alias still opens the original
And that's just the beginning of alias intelligence. Suppose you make an alias of a file
that's on a removable disc, like a CD. When you double-click the alias on your hard
drive, the Mac requests that particular disc by name. And if you double-click the alias of
a file on a different machine on the network, your Mac attempts to connect to the
appropriate machine, prompting you for a password (see Chapter 13)—even if the other
machine is thousands of miles away and your Mac must dial the modem to connect.
Here are a few ways you can put aliases to work:
• You may want to file a document you're working on in several different folders, or
place a particular folder in several different locations.
Hey! Where the heck are my Favorites?
Skipped a couple versions of Mac OS X, did you?
A few versions back, the File Add to Favorites command placed the names
of icons you've highlighted into a submenu of the Go Favorites command.
The Favorites scheme, in other words, was yet another mechanism of listing
your favorite files, folders, programs, disks, and even network-accessible folders
for quick access.
Trouble was, Mac OS X already had a number of different methods for stashing
favorite icons for convenient access, like the Dock, the Finder toolbar, and the
Sidebar. So Apple decided that enough was enough; it hid the Add to Favorites
- command. It's now in your File menu only if you press the Shift key.
There is, however, still a Favorites folder. It's sitting right there in your Home
If you miss this feature—maybe you upgraded from Mac OS X 10.2 and you've
got a bunch of stuff already listed in your Favorites—you'll find the new scheme
to be much simpler.
First drag the Favorites folder into your Sidebar.
From now on, whenever you want to designate an icon as a Favorite, drag it
onto the Favorites folder icon in your Sidebar. (Or Option- -drag it to create
an alias, or use the hidden File Add to Favorites command, or press Shift-
Thereafter, to view your collection of faves, just click the Favorites icon.
This new system is both simpler and easier to understand than the previous
mechanism. In fact, this feature may become one of your…favorites.
• You can use the alias feature to save you some of the steps required to access
another hard drive on the network. (Details on this trick in Chapter 13.)
Tip: Mac OS X makes it easy to find the file to which an alias "points" without actually
having to open it. Just highlight the alias and then choose File Show Original ( -
R), or choose Show Original from the menu. Mac OS X immediately displays the
actual, original file, sitting patiently in its folder, wherever that may be.
2.4.8. Broken Aliases
An alias doesn't contain any of the information you've typed or composed in the original.
Don't email an alias to the Tokyo office and then depart for the airport, hoping to give the
presentation upon your arrival in Japan. When you double-click the alias, now separated
from its original, you'll be shown the dialog box at bottom in Figure 2-7.
- If you're on a plane 3,000 miles away from the hard drive on which the original file
resides, click Delete Alias (to delete the orphan alias you just double-clicked) or OK (to
do nothing, leaving the orphaned alias where it is).
Figure 2-7. Top: You can identify an alias by the tiny arrow badge on the lower-left
corner. (Longtime Mac fans should note that the name no longer appears in italics.)
Bottom: If the alias can't find the original file, you're offered the chance to hook it
up to a different file.
In certain circumstances, however, the third button—Fix Alias—is the most useful. Click
it to summon the Fix Alias dialog box, which you can use to navigate your entire Mac.
When you click a new icon and then click Choose, you associate the orphaned alias with
a different original icon.
Such techniques become handy when, for example, you click your book manuscript's
alias on the desktop, forgetting that you recently saved it under a new name and deleted
the older draft. Instead of simply showing you an error message that says "'Enron
Corporate Ethics Handbook' can't be found," the Mac displays the box that contains the
Fix Alias button. By clicking it, thus reassociating it with the new document, you can
save yourself the trouble of creating a new alias. From now on, double-clicking your
manuscript's alias on the desktop opens the new draft.
Tip: You don't have to wait until the original file no longer exists before choosing a new
original for an alias. You can perform alias reassignment surgery any time you like. Just
highlight the alias icon and then choose File Get Info. In the Get Info dialog box,
click Select New Original. In the resulting window, find and double-click the file you'd
now like to open whenever you double-click the alias.