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What Happened to Read Me First: A Take Control Crash Course?

Thanks for your interest in my ebook, Read Me First: A Take Control Crash Course! Written in 2014, this title was available for free from the Take Control website until midway through 2017, when it was withdrawn because the screenshots were dated and the information wasn’t always accurate for new versions of macOS.

When I wrote this ebook, I was editor-in-chief of the Take Control series, and I wrote it largely so we didn’t have to repeat certain topics in other Take Control titles. Of these, the three biggies were figuring out what version of macOS or iOS you were running, launching the System Preferences app on the Mac, and understanding directory paths. Keep reading below for tips on these three tasks.

The 49-page ebook did cover a few other topics, and if you’re running 10.9 Mavericks, 10.10 Yosemite, or 10.11 El Capitan and really want a copy of the PDF, feel free to ask at support@tidbits.com. Some time after this title lived out its useful life, I used it as the starting point for another ebook, Take Control of Mac Basics. Weighing in at about three times the page count, Take Control of Mac Basics costs $15 and covers even more of the fundamentals of using a Mac while sharing oodles of tips for improving your everyday Mac experience.

Finding Your System Version

To complete this simple task on the Mac, move the pointer to the upper-left corner of the screen and click the Apple icon. Choose About This Mac from the menu. A window appears. Text in this window tells you the operating system version. Where, exactly, that text appears depends on which version. Look carefully and you’ll find it.

What about iOS? In iOS, open the Settings app and tap General. Then, tap About. Look on the About screen for the Version line, which will provide the version of iOS.

Launching System Preferences

Imagine this. You want to change the background image on your Mac’s Desktop. You search in Google for instructions and find an article that promises to tell you what to do. But, it tells you to open System Preferences. Okay, fine… but where is System Preferences? For that matter, what is System Preferences?

First, it’s an app that provides a home for “preference panes,” most of which come from Apple and let you configure various aspects of your Mac experience. Other preference panes are installed by third-party apps.

To open System Preferences, click the Apple icon at the upper-left corner of the Mac screen. Then, choose System Preferences. That’s the most obvious and reliable method, but there are lots of other methods, such as clicking its gear icon in the Dock, pressing Command-Space to invoke Spotlight, and then typing “sys,” and even clicking the round Siri icon on the menu bar and saying “open System Preferences” (assuming you’re running macOS 10.12 Sierra or later and have Siri enabled).

Understanding Paths

Any file or folder on a Mac can be found by navigating from a known starting point—usually the main level of a drive, through any intervening folders, to the item. Instead of writing out all that navigation with a lot of “Open this, then open that,” we use a path.

For example, if I want to tell someone where to find their Photos Library, I could say “open your home folder. Then open your Pictures folder. That’s where you’ll find a file called Photos Library.photoslibrary.” That’s a lot to write out and boring to read. So, instead, I could use a path and say, “You’ll find your Photos Library at /Users/homeFolder/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary.”

A Tilde ~ in a Path

Paths like the one above that tell you to go to a spot inside the home folder can be awkward, since the writer can’t know the name of your home folder. Fortunately, there’s a shortcut. To indicate more gracefully that a path includes the user’s home folder, a writer might begin the path with a tilde character, like this: ~/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary.

Typing or Pasting a Path

Instead of following a path by clicking from folder to folder in the Finder, you might wish to type the path—or copy and paste it. Pasting is handy when you want to follow a complex path that you see in an ebook or on the Web—you can copy the path using the Edit > Copy command and then paste it with Edit > Paste. Typing a path can also be a useful way to view a folder that is normally hidden. For example, if the instructions for some Unix task tell you to look in /var/log, this is your only method of navigating there—unless you want to work on the command line.

To follow a path by typing or pasting it, follow these steps:

  1. In the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder.
  2. Enter the path by typing or pasting it, if you’ve already copied it.
  3. Click the Go button.

A Finder window opens, showing the folder whose path you entered.

Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

Try This Quick Tip for Making Your Pointer Easier to See

Yesterday was the first webinar for Take Control of Mac Basics, and I had fun sharing my actual Mac screen with viewers as I demonstrated some of my favorite Mac features. One viewer commented, however, that he had trouble seeing the mouse pointer. “Drat!” I thought, “I’m sure there’s a way to enlarge the pointer, and I wish I’d thought of that before starting the webinar.” Sure enough, its easy to make this change: go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display, and drag the Cursor Size slider as desired. Saturday’s show will feature the pointer at nearly the largest size! (To access the webinars, make sure you have version 1.1 of the ebook and look in the chapter “The Mac Basics Webinar.”)

Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

Joe Discusses the New Editions of His “Mac Fitness” Books

I joined Chuck Joiner on MacVoices (audio and video) to discuss the new editions of Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac, Take Control of Troubleshooting Your Mac, and Take Control of Speeding Up Your Mac—including their transition from Joe On Tech books back to the Take Control world:

MacVoices #17227: Joe Kissell Releases Four Take Control Titles Updated for High Sierra

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

What’s Basic about Using the Mac?

You can now watch MacVoices #17219, “Tonya Engst Takes Control of Mac Basics.” In this video podcast, author Tonya Engst and MacVoices host Chuck Joiner consider what Mac features are basic enough to fit into the 140-page Take Control of Mac Basics ebook. Tonya also shares several interesting tips, and describes what happened behind the scenes as she created her book.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

How To Deal with a KRACK Attack

You may have seen the news about KRACK, a Wi-Fi exploit that can allow a determined invader to sniff traffic on your network encrypted with the latest and greatest WPA2 protection and decipher some or all of it. There’s a reason to be concerned: it affects every Wi-Fi radio ever made that uses WPA2, which is all of them since about 2003. However, in practice, someone has to be close to your network and use cracking software that doesn’t yet exist: the researcher who discovered the set of flaws exercised responsible disclosure, and thus malicious parties still have to figure out how to take advantage of these defects.

The flaws largely exist on the client side, so operating system and firmware updates on computers, phone, tablets, gaming devices, smarthome switches, and other equipment will take care of the problem. Base stations will be updated, too, preventing misuse of any device (even an unpatched piece of equipment) on updated networks.

What do you need to do? Apple already has updates in the latest betas for all its operating systems that will prevent these attacks from being used. iOS 10 and earlier users who can’t update or don’t want to will be in an awkward position, however, because their devices will remain vulnerable on networks that have unpatched or non-upgradable access points. Read more about this in my article at TidBITS, “Wi-Fi Security Flaw Not As Bad As It’s KRACKed Up To Be.”

Posted by Glenn Fleishman (Permalink)

Minor update to “Take Control of Upgrading to High Sierra”

Just hours after releasing version 1.1 of Take Control of Upgrading to High Sierra today, I learned about a few last-minute issues, not the least of which was that Apple had changed the minimum system requirements for installing High Sierra and I hadn’t noticed before version 1.1’s publication. (It was OS X 10.7.5, but now it’s 10.8.) A few other small things cropped up too, enough that I decided to push out a quick version 1.1.1 to address these small issues.

If you already downloaded version 1.1, you can grab version 1.1.1 from your Take Control Library.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

Apple Watch Series 3 Adds Cellular

The Apple Watch sits solitary on your wrist, but it’s never been entirely alone. Every model since the beginning has relied heavily on the wireless Bluetooth connection to an iPhone for most of its smarts: running apps, looking up weather, interacting with Siri, and more.

Starting with the just-announced Apple Watch Series 3, that invisible tether can be snipped—mostly. The new models incorporate a radio chip that enables the watch to communicate with LTE cellular networks on its own. You can go for a run and leave the phone behind without worrying that you’re incommunicado.

A cellular Apple Watch has a few advantages: Siri is apparently faster, according to Apple, because the request isn’t being routed through the phone first. You can place and receive phone calls directly (although doing so drains the battery significantly, to the tune of about one hour of talk time). If you have an Apple Music subscription, you can stream Apple’s entire catalog via the watch (presumably to a set of AirPods, although the speaker will work, too).

Personally, I’m geeking out at the fact that Apple is using the entire OLED screen as the cellular antenna, which means the watch remains the same size and design as previous models. There’s a lot of sophisticated circuitry under that water-sealed case.

The Series 3 watches (which are also available in non-cellular configurations) boast improved performance thanks to a faster dual-core processor and elevation sensing via a new barometric altimeter. For more details, see Apple Watch Series 3 Goes Cellular.

Of course, Apple also offers a bunch of new bands (although I’ve found perfectly good alternatives that cost decidedly less online), and if you’re looking for something different in terms of style, a new gray ceramic model is now available.

All of the Series 3 watches are available for pre-order now starting at $349. They start to ship Sep. 22.

This round also includes watchOS 4, which adds a few more faces, more fitness options, smarter heart rate monitoring, and more. See “watchOS 4 Focuses on Fun and Fundamentals” for a good rundown.

Posted by Jeff Carlson (Permalink)

MacVoices Interviews Joe about Second Edition of Mac Automation Book

Chuck Joiner of MacVoices interviewed Joe Kissell about the huge update to Take Control of Automating Your Mac. Watch Joe and Chuck discuss the latest in Mac automation topics and explore what readers will learn in this book.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

PDFpen 9.1 Adds Bookmarks and More

Versions 9.1 of both PDFpen and PDFpenPro, released on 26 July 2017, add several new conveniences in addition to the usual bug fixes and performance improvements.

Bookmarks have been added to PDFpen’s bag of tricks. You can set bookmarks on any page in your PDF so you can quickly go to the bookmarked page later. Choose Edit > Bookmarks > Add Bookmark. The bookmark is added to the first page that appears in the PDFpen window; that is, if the bottom of page 23 and the top of page 24 both appear in the window, the bookmark is associated with page 23.

To go to a bookmark, choose choose View > Table of Contents. The bookmarks appear at the top of the Table of Contents sidebar and are named for the page with which they are associated. Click a bookmark to go to its page. To delete a bookmark, select it in the sidebar and then choose Edit > Bookmarks > Remove Entry.

Although bookmarks by default are named for the page with which they are associated, owners of PDFpenPro can rename individual bookmarks in the Table of Contents to provide reminders of why those pages have been bookmarked.

The latest versions of PDFpen and PDFpenPro also remember the location of each PDF document window on the screen so it will appear in the same place when you open the document again. This is especially useful when you are working on multiple documents at a time and have carefully arranged your windows. You need do nothing to use this feature: it happens automatically.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

Latest Updates to Pages Bring Welcome Enhancements

Apple has released new versions of its Pages apps, which is good news for everyone except me and my publisher, because we now have to find time to revise the just-recently revised Second Edition and put an update into production. But it’s worth doing, because a lot of good stuff got added to Pages:

  • Remember linked text boxes? After having gone missing with the release of Pages 5.0, this powerful feature is finally back, and it is better than ever. See Add linked text boxes in Pages.

  • When you use comments in your documents as you collaborate with others, you’ll find you can now carry on comment conversations by using the new comment reply feature, as described in Add and reply to comments in iWork.

  • Apple has vastly expanded the library of shapes you can add to documents, including many shapes, such as the map of Europe, that can be broken apart into their constituent shapes. Get started with shapes provides details.

  • The Pages for Mac preferences have a new pane, Auto-Correction, in which you can set up text replacements, itemize words that you want spelling correction to ignore, and more. The support article Set up auto-correction and text replacement for Pages, Numbers, or Keynote spells it out for you.

  • If you use Pages to create EPUBs, you may be pleased to learn you now can export fixed layout ebooks as well as the usual flowable kind. Create ePub files in Pages, though still mis-capitalizing EPUB, tells you how it works.

For more details, see the update articles for Pages on the Mac, iOS, and iCloud.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)