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Take Control of Exploring & Customizing Snow Leopard

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Aug 26, 2009
The Author

Matt Neuburg is a TidBITS contributing editor and the author of several books about Apple software, including Programming iOS 4. He has been programming computers for 45 years, and has written popular Mac and iOS freeware such as MemoryStick and the TidBITS News app.

Take Control of Exploring & Customizing Snow Leopard

Explore Snow Leopard’s native habitat with an expert guide!

Read along as Mac expert Matt Neuburg takes you on a Snow Leopard safari. With dry wit and infectious enthusiasm, Matt shines a light on the major and minor changes in Snow Leopard, with an emphasis on how to customize your Mac’s interface, navigate quickly among apps and around your disk, and use special features like a pro. Along the way, you’ll learn useful Mac OS X skills, such as how to:

  • Make your default Finder window look the way you want.
  • Set up your Dock for your needs and screen.
  • Get around using the keyboard.
  • Use any special features built into your laptop’s trackpad.
  • Zoom your screen and use tricks to help tired or weak eyes.
  • Type special characters, and type in multiple languages.
  • Find windows with Exposé and organize them with Spaces.
  • Set up Time Machine backups the smart way.
  • Set up Software Update to match your personal style.
  • Search for stuff on your Mac.
More Info

You’ll also gain confidence to explore Snow Leopard’s features further. These include new capabilities like automatic fixing of misspelled words and text substitution as you type, totally revamped Services, better control over Time Machine backups, whizzy new Exposé options, and the new keyboard switcher for multi-lingual Mac users. Matt also reminds you about how best to to customize the sidebar in your Finder windows, configure Open and Save dialogs, and arrange items on your toolbar for quick access, and he covers the Path Bar, Dashboard, status menus, login items, zooming controls, sleep vs. hibernation for laptops, and double-headed scroll arrows.

Matt even explains how Leopard’s contextual menu plug-ins and QuickTime Pro disappear in Snow Leopard. He also covers a handful of important third-party utilities, and he provides easy-as-can-be steps for a script that even beginners can run to place a new Finder window in exactly the right spot.

Specific questions answered in this ebook include:

Making things look right:

  • Where is the elusive checkbox for making my menu bar look solid?
  • Where’d the flag icon on my menu bar come from?
  • How do I best position and configure my Dock?
  • How do I add an item to “Search For” in my Finder window sidebar?
  • What folders should I put in “Places” in the Finder window sidebar?
  • How do I change which categories appear on my search results menu?
  • How do I customize my Desktop with a special color or photo?

Using a keyboard, trackpad, or mouse:

  • How do I turn off or reassign the Caps Lock key?
  • How do I start Exposé with my mouse?
  • How can I move the mouse very precisely?
  • How do I change the size of my mouse pointer icon?
  • What’s the purpose of the “Ignore accidental trackpad input” checkbox?
  • What is the keyboard shortcut for choosing a menu item without the mouse?
  • What if I don’t want my function keys to do hardware-related things like muting and screen dimming?

Getting things done:

  • How do I stop all the disk activity when I first boot Snow Leopard?
  • Where’s the interface for “tagging” files with Spotlight comments?
  • How do I limit who my child can exchange email with?
  • How can I set up my fonts so they are easier to work with?
  • How can I keep certain windows in specific Spaces?
  • How do I identify—and delete—huge files in my Time Machine backup?
  • How can I easily make my laptop sleep more quickly?
Update Plans

July 4, 2012 – We do not plan to update this book for 10.6 Snow Leopard. However, Matt has written a 10.7 Lion edition of this ebook, called Take Control of Using Lion. It explains how to handle Lion’s key new features—Auto Save, Versions, Mission Control, Launchpad, gestures, full-screen mode, and more—and customize Lion to suit your needs. And, now there’s also Take Control of Using Mountain Lion!

Posted by Adam Engst

  1. Command-Drag to Remove Items from Sidebar in 10.6.7

    With the release of Mac OS X 10.6.7, Apple changed the way you remove items from the Finder sidebar. Previously, you just dragged them out, but presumably because of too many accidental removals, the action now requires that you hold down the Command key while dragging the item out. You can also Control-click an item and choose Remove from Sidebar. For details, see Mac OS X 10.6.7 Changes Finder Sidebar Behavior in TidBITS.

    Posted by Adam Engst (Permalink)

  2. Mac OS X 10.6.2 Fixes More Bugs

    The bug bashers at Apple have been busy enhancing Snow Leopard and many of its related applications (especially Mail and Safari), as well as MobileMe, and Mac OS X 10.6.2 is now available with many improvements. If you haven’t already, I recommend that you run Software Update and install it. For more information about what’s new in 10.6.2, read Apple’s description of the update—About the Mac OS X v10.6.2 Update or the TidBITS write-up—Mac OS X 10.6.2 Addresses Myriad Bugs and Security Issues. The TidBITS article also has comments at the end where various people have written in about their 10.6.2 update experience.

    Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)

  3. Snow Leopard Data Loss Bug

    Apple has publicly acknowledged a rare but nasty data-destroying bug related to using the Guest account in Snow Leopard. The bug appears to be associated with having a Guest account already set up before you upgrade to Snow Leopard. While there is currently no fix available, we hope to see one in 10.6.2. To learn more, check out my TidBITS article, Apple Acknowledges Guest Account Data Loss Bug. [This bug was fixed in 10.6.2.]

    Posted by Doug McLean (Permalink)

  4. Mac OS X 10.6.1 Fixes Minor Bugs

    Even Snow Leopard’s updates are faster and sleeker. Mac OS X 10.6.1 is out with minor fixes for Apple Mail, Flash security, and printer drivers. A few unacknowledged errors seem to have disappeared, too, although other problems remain. Read more in the (somewhat silly) TidBITS article Tiny Mac OS X 10.6.1 Update Fixes Some Bugs.

    Posted by Doug McLean (Permalink)

  5. MacJury on Getting Started with Snow Leopard

    On the MacJury podcast for September 1, 2009, two out of five “jurors” are Take Control authors —Joe Kissell and Matt Neuburg. Find out how everyone’s Snow Leopard installation experience went. And hear a vociferous argument about whether Apple’s Intel-only policy for Snow Leopard is fair on users.

    Posted by Matt Neuburg (Permalink)

  6. More Exposé Keyboard Shortcuts

    Check out this great TidBITS article listing some “hidden refinements” in Snow Leopard. In particular, scroll down to the Exposé Shortcuts section. In addition to the features I list in the book, you can press Command-1 within an Exposé window display to sort the windows by name, and Command-2 to sort them by application. Plus, you can hover the mouse over a window and then press Space to get a larger (Quick Look) view of the window! Exposé is so much more useful in Snow Leopard than it has ever been before…

    Posted by Matt Neuburg (Permalink)