Category Archives: Mac Tips

Mac Tip: Cycle Through Open Application Windows

If you’re like me then you love keyboard shortcuts. If you’ve come to OS X from a Windows background then most of the shortcuts are very similar in function.

In a PC world when you use the familiar Alt-Tab keystroke it cycles through all open windows. The OS X equivalent, Command-Tab, switches from one app to another, however—not all windows in all apps.

This can be frustrating if you’re trying to navigate between multiple open Finder windows for example …

Lots of Finders

… or if you’re using an app with a multi-window user interface like MarsEdit.

MarsEdit Windows

To quickly switch from one window to another in the same application use the keyboard combo Command and ` (the key just above Tab on the left side of your Mac’s keyboard).

Cycle Through Application Windows

This little shortcut should save you some frustration. I wish I’d known about it much earlier.

What are your favorite OS X shortcuts? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.


Awesome AutoCorrect Prank for April Fools Day

Warning, this post contains immature language.

Don’t let April Fools Day catch you off guard this year—be prepared! I’ve got the perfect prank for you to play on your family, friends, and co-workers. - I plan to spend April Fool's Day remembering all of the pranks I thought of last year but completely forgot to execute this year.

Chances are really good that everyone you know has at least one of the following: an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or PC. I’ve got a prank for you that you can use on all of those devices.

The AutoCorrect or text substitution feature built into OS X, iOS, and Microsoft Office can be an amazing productivity boost. But, it can also be used to freak out your unsuspecting family, friends and co-workers this April Fools Day.

On a Mac

In this example I’m using a Mac running OS X 10.7.3 (Lion), but it should also work on 10.6 (Snow Leopard). First, open the System Preferences app.

Mac OS X System Preferences

Launch the Language & Text Preference Pane.

Select Language and Text Preference Pane

Click on the plus sign (+) to create a new symbol or text substitution.

Text Tab

If I were your victim, you’d want to think of something I type all the time, My Name (where My Name is the persons name or whatever text you want to have AutoCorrect change), for example. Enter that in the Replace column.

Replace "My Name"

Now, here’s the best part—in the With column enter the text you want to be replaced when your prankee types My Name. Because I’m so cool and sophisticated I would go with something like Poop.

Replace with Poop

Be sure to close the System Preferences app to cover your tracks. After you’ve added your entry to AutoCorrect it will be available in most of the apps on the Mac: Mail, iCal, TextEdit, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, etc.

Now, imagine the following scenario. I, your hapless target am completing a moving letter in TextEdit and have just typed My Name.

Entering "My Name" in TextEdit

Bang, I’ve just been pranked!

TextEdit Poop

Now, let’s see how to do this on a PC.

In Microsoft Office 2010

For this example I used a PC running Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. To my knowledge it should also work on Windows XP or Vista using Office 2003 or greater.

Go to the File menu in an Office 2010 application, like Excel in this example. Click on Options.

Microsoft Office File Menu

Click on Proofing.

Microsoft Office Options

Then, click on the AutoCorrect Options button.

Microsoft Office Options - Proofing

Similar to what you did on a Mac above, enter the text you want to change in the Replace column and what you want the substitution in the With column.

Microsoft Office Options - AutoCorrect

To keep things consistent we’ll go with My Name and Poop again. Click on OK to save your changes and then close out of the Options window.

AutoCorrect Adding an Entry

Even though you added the AutoCorrect in Excel, it will be accessible on all Office 2010 programs including Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

So, when My Name is typed …

Typing My Name in Word

You get Poop.

AutoCorrect Poop in Word

On an iPad or iPhone

Lastly, let’s see how to add AutoCorrect entries to an iOS device—an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

Open the Settings app and tap on General

iOS Settings App

Tap on Keyboard.


Then, tap on Shortcuts.


To add an entry tap on the plus sign (+) in the upper right hand corner.

Add a Shortcut

Entering AutoCorrect shortcuts is a little different in iOS. First, type in the Phrase or word you want to substitute. Again, we’ll go with our old standby, Poop.

Next, type in the Shortcut you want substituted. Please note that it must be one word only. So instead of My Name you’ll have to just use Name in this example.

Tap Save and close out of the Settings app.

Enter Phrase and Shortcut Text

The next time the recipient of your pranking prowess prepares a message in and enters their Name they’ll get, you guessed it, Poop.

Poop Strikes Again

One quirk with iOS devices is that before the AutoCorrect occurs they may actually see a little popup before the text substitution happens. This would give them the option of tapping the little ‘x’ next to the substitution to cancel it. Given the proliferation of humorous AutoCorrect sites on the Internet, it’s a safe bet that your target will fall victim to your prank.

Now you’re all set for April Fools Day. Go forth and prank merrily.

What pranks do you plan on pulling this year? Or what are the best pranks you’ve pulled on April Fools Days past? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Eliminate Duplicate Address Book Contacts

Is your Mac’s Address Book teaming with duplicate contacts? Do you have multiple cards for the same people—one with the home number, one with the work number, and one with the mobile number?

Have no fear! OS X has a built in shortcut to help you tame your Address Book contacts in no time.

Simply select two or more duplicate contacts and hold the shortcut combo key Shift, Command, and I.

Merge Duplicate Contacts

If you can’t remember the shortcut, go to the Card menu and select Merge Selected Cards (or you can search for it using the Help Menu).

Merge Selected Contacts OS X AddressBook

The only downside of this approach is that you’ll have to go through your contacts, one-by-one. However, the granular level of control you have over your contacts more than outweighs this.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Free iPad User Guide from Apple

Screenshot of iPad User Guide for iOS 5 in iTunes

Last month Apple released iOS 5, the latest operating system upgrade for the their iPad and iPhone lines. With this release they added over 200 features in addition to the usual flurry of bug fixes and ever popular “performance enhancements”.

While they’ve done an excellent job improving the platform with the release of iOS5, what Apple hasn’t done very well is articulate how to take advantage out of all that’s new and improved.

Thankfully, Apple has released a free eBook explaining all the ins and outs of their latest and greatest. Want to know what’s in book?

“Here’s everything you need to know about iPad, in a handy eBook format. Get to know iPad and discover all the amazing things it can do, and how to do them. It’s the definitive guide for getting the most from your new iPad, straight from Apple. The iPad User Guide is an essential part of any iPad library.”

You can download the iPad User Guide for free from the iBookstore in iTunes. An iPhone User Guide is also available in iTunes.

With your iOS 5 user guide loaded on your iPad and/or iPhone you’ll be setting yourself Reminders, iMessaging friends and family, and configuring Notification Center with the best of them.

Apple Quietly Fixes iTunes Search Aggravation

A recent update to iTunes finally fixed a long-standing annoyance. For years if you wanted to search in the iTunes Music and AppStore (or your iTunes library itself) you had to hold the shortcut key combo of Option, Command, and F.

Old iTunes Search

This is a total break in UI consistency in how most apps on the Mac platform implement search. When Apple released the Mac AppStore earlier this year they got search right by using the same shortcut every other Mac app uses.

Mac AppStore Search

And now, finally, I can use the same shortcut to search iTunes that I use to search the Mac AppStore, a Web page in Chrome, a spreadsheet in Numbers, or even the draft of a blog post in MarsEdit. Simply hold the Command and F keys to go to the search field.

New iTunes Search

One of the first things I noticed after upgrading to the iCloud compatible iTunes was this fix in functionality. Although it may have appeared earlier, I’ve just noticed it with the recent upgrade to iTunes 10.5.

iTunes Music Store Search

This works whether you’re searching the iTunes Music Store …

iTunes AppStore Search

… the iTunes AppStore …

iTunes Search

… and in your iTunes Music Library, Videos, Apps, Books, etc.

Fixing the iTunes search shortcut may seem like a small change, but it’s so much more convenient to have a uniform shortcut across all apps on the OS.

Have you noticed any other recent changes for the better (or worse) in Lion, the latest version of the Mac OS X operating system? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

It’s OK to Ask (Your Mac) For Help

Yes, I have a degree in IT. No, that doesn’t mean I automatically know how to use every single feature of every single computer program ever written (I wish!).

Even though this might violate the unofficial “guy code” and the “geek protocol” I’m going to come out and admit to something.

It’s OK to ask for help.

Whoa, you have no idea how much better I feel now! That was really liberating.

Finding help on for Mac apps couldn’t be easier. You can use Google and pray that you type in something that gives you back something relevant or you can the Help Search function built in to every new Mac since late 2007.

If you don’t know how to use Google you’re probably also running Windows and I can’t help you (no one can). Sorry.

If you’re on a Mac, you’re in luck—I’ve got a great little shortcut to share with you.

Show Help

Let’s suppose I’m writing a message in Sparrow and want to copy some text from a Web page in Chrome, but also want it to have the same formatting as the rest of the email.

To find out how to do that hold the Shift, Command, and Forward Slash keys and then — BAM!!!!

Help Menu Search 1

The Help Menu Search comes up for Sparrow (or whatever the active application is). As soon as I start typing, suggested menu items start to appear.

Help Menu Search 2

The more text I type, the more refined the search results appear. I can use the keyboard arrows to select the desired result; how to paste text and match document formatting in this example.

Help Menu Search 3

The popular Webcomic XKCD has perfectly summed up how I go about helping when I’m asked how to do something on a computer with this handy, dandy flowchart.

XKCD Tech Support Flowchart
Image via XKCD

Where do you go for IT help when you don’t know what to do? Sound off in the comments below.

All images are from my flickr, unless otherwise noted.

Quick and Easy April Fool’s Day Prank for Macs

Ah, April 1st, the day on which, as Mark Twain said, “we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four”.

What better way to have some fun today than to mess with someone you love by messing with something they love. If they own a Mac, here’s a simple trick.

Mac OS X - Invert Colors Shortcut
Photo via my flickr

When they’re not looking quickly enter the following shortcut on the keyboard.

Control + Option + Command + 8

This key combo causes Mac OS X to invert all your display colors.

Inverted Mac Color Scheme - OS X 10.6
Photo via my flickr

In most cases this will induce panic on the unsuspecting user who returns to find their beloved Mac looking all wonky. Because this is a relatively obscure feature of Mac OS X it should take them a while to figure out how to return their Mac to normal.

If you’re quick you can even do it right in front of them. As long as the person you’re pranking has their eyes on the screen and not the keyboard, they’ll have no idea what you did or how to fix it!

For some reason, Apple thought this was a useful feature to include in their OS. Apparently, it’s supposed to help provide relief when your eyes get tired (via Silvermac).

Before and After
Photo via Apple

My time as an IT auditor left me paranoid, so I never leave my MacBook without locking the Desktop. If you fear reprisal for your April Fool’s Day activities (or if have any common sense) you would do well to do the same.

Do you know any other great ways to prank a Mac user? Sound off in the comments below. If you’re still using a PC, the joke is already on you.