The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mac

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mac

by John Pivovarnick

Paperback(2nd ed)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781567615340
Publisher: Macmillan Publishing Company, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/15/1994
Edition description: 2nd ed
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 7.35(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.96(d)

First Chapter

Chapter 12

Your Mac's Goodies

In This Chapter
  • What everything is

  • What everything does

  • What you can do with it

  • Available replacements when you outgrow things
The future of your Macintosh is uncertain (not like the future glimpsed through one of those Magic Eight-Ball toys, "Future uncertain, ask again later") because what becomes of your Mac depends on what becomes of you. The junk that came with your System software (SimpleText, the Desk Accessories, and the rest) is just a place to begin. Some of it you'll outgrow quickly. Others may be useful for as long as you use a Mac. However, you can't outgrow them if you don't know what they are and how to use them, so let's get started.

Night of the Living DAs

You heard briefly about the Desk Accessories (DAs) when I talked about the [[apple]] menu in Chapter 6. DAs are available to you through the [[apple]] menu, no matter what application you're using. That makes them very handy indeed. Here they come, in alphabetical order.
AppleCD Audio Player
Everybody installing System 7.5 gets a copy of the AppleCD Audio Player. This handy little desk accessory (shown in the following figure) enables you to use your Apple CD-ROM drive as an audio CD player. However, it will only work with Apple-made CD-ROM drives, so if you have a drive by another manufacturer, you can throw it in the Trash. It won't help you.

The AppleCD Audio Player DA. If you own or have used an audio CD player, you know these controls already. If you've used a cassette player, you can probably figure them out. I won't belabor the obvious.

The Calculator
TheCalculator DA gives you a basic add, subtract, multiply, and divide calculator right on your Mac's screen. The Calculator DA. I'm also sure you know how to use a calculator. You can use your mouse to click on the Calculator's buttons if you want, but using the number keys on your keyboard is easier. If you have a keyboard with a numeric keypad, it's even easier. The only difference between the Calculator DA and any calculator you may have used is that some of the math symbols are different, because there isn't a symbol for them on your keyboard.

The keyboard equivalents are:

        +       Add     -       Subtract        *       Multiply        /       Divide 
You can copy any number shown in the Calculator's display with the Copy command (-C) and Paste it (-V) into any document. If you need to do anything beyond these four basic functions, you'll either need to use a real calculator or replace this DA with one of the many shareware, freeware, or commercial calculator programs available. There are calculator replacements that do all sorts of zippy scientific calculations--all the ones I refused to learn in high school.
Find File
The Finder's Find command used to live only in the File menu. System 7.5's new and improved Find File is also a desk accessory, so you can use it in applications that don't have a similar function of their own.

The Find File DA. To begin a search, first tell the DA where you want to look: on one disk or every disk and hard drive currently available to your Mac. Next, tell it what you're searching for. In the figure, we're looking for a fi word would be entered in the text box above the Find button). The pop-up menu in the center (showing the word "contains") is a logic string that tells your Mac how to look: look for something that has or doesn't have this word as part of its name. There are a number of ways to use this menu, depending on what you remember about the file you want to find.

By clicking on the More Choices button, you can narrow your search down by specifying as many as nine more things about the file, including file type, file label, and file size. Clicking on the Find button starts the search, and your Mac will get back to you as soon as it can with the search results: either a list of all the files that meet your search requirements, or a sad beep saying it couldn't find what you're looking for.

Jigsaw Puzzle
The Jigsaw Puzzle DA is great for wasting time. When you first launch the Puzzle, it's a puzzle version of the color world map that's included in your Scrapbook. You can, however, use any small PICT format graphic as a puzzle; just open it with the Open command (-O) in the File menu. When the picture is open, select Start New Puzzle from the Options menu (-N), and you'll be asked whether you want the puzzle pieces to be small, medium, or large. Choose whichever you like, just remember that smaller is tougher to solve.

A customized jigsaw puzzle. After that, the puzzle works like any jigsaw puzzle you've ever done. Click and hold on a puzzle piece, drag it to the spot where it belongs, and let go. If the piece really belongs there, it will click into place, and you won't be able to pick it up again.

Can't solve the puzzle? You can see what the original picture looked like (as a reminder) by using the Show Picture command on the Options menu, or you can have the puzzle solve itself with the Solve Puzzle command just below it. When you solve it, you get a little musical salute.

Key Caps
The Key Caps DA finally solves the mystery of where all those special characters (_, [[Omega]], [[yen]]) are hiding. The Key Caps keyboard will reproduce your keyboard, key for key. You select a font by pulling down the Key Caps menu. It works just like any other font menu. When you select a font, Key Caps shows that font's lowercase character set, like the one shown in the following figure.

The Key Caps DA.

If you hold down the Shift key, the display changes to the uppercase character set. Release the Shift key, and press the Option key, and the display shows you what special characters are made with the Option-character key combinations. Press the Shift key again, while still holding down the Option key, and the display shows you the characters made with the Option-Shift-Character key combination. Any key in the display that shows a box doesn't have a special character assigned to it. That's okay.

There are tons of other font utilities flying around that are variations on Key Caps, some are better, some are worse, and most of them are geared toward the special needs of designers and layout artists.

The Note Pad
The Note Pad is digital scratch paper (do people other than nuns say "scratch paper" any more?). When you launch it, the Note Pad looks like a blank pad of paper (there's that keen grasp of the obvious again). You can type short notes to yourself, lists of things to do, ideas for work, stuff to remember, and so on.

The Note Pad DA.

Everything you type in the Note Pad stays there until you delete it. Not only that, but you can also copy and paste from the Note Pad into any application. The System 7.5 Note Pad is greatly improved from earlier versions. It even sounds better. The Note Pad has only eight pages for notes, but (because the pages can be scrolled) you can write longer notes than fit on the visible page. The Note Pad is still limited in usefulness, but that's okay because Stickies pick up where the Note Pad leaves off--more about Stickies in a minute.

The Scrapbook
The Scrapbook DA is highly underrated and under-used in my opinion. Like a regular scrapbook or photo album, you can stick things in your Mac's Scrapbook for future use: pictures, logos, QuickTime movies, and just about anything else you can copy and paste (even System 7.5's new clipping files). As the following figure shows, I keep a scanned copy of my signature in the Scrapbook so I can slap it into documents I'm too lazy to sign.

The Scrapbook DA.

When you open the Scrapbook DA, you can skim through its contents by sliding the scroll box or clicking on either scroll arrow. Apple thoughtfully added some things you may like, but you can't use all of them: there's a sound you can only listen to, and if you have QuickTime, there are two little movies. You can copy and paste the QuickTime movies into an application if it can cope with them. If you'd like to use something in the Scrapbook, here's how:

  1. Scroll to it, and select Copy from the Edit menu.
  2. Close or Hide the Scrapbook.
  3. Open the document (or whatever) you want to paste into, and select Paste from the Edit menu. Voilà!
To paste something into the Scrapbook, reverse the process:
  1. Select the text or graphic you want to paste into the Scrapbook, and copy it to the Clipboard.
  2. Open the Scrapbook, and scroll to the item after which you want your new one to land.
  3. Select Paste from the Edit menu, and the Scrapbook adds a new page in frontof the current page to hold your new scrap.
The Scrapbook supports Macintosh drag and drop (discussed in Chapter 8) so you just drag and drop items from the Scrapbook into applications that also support drag and drop (and vice versa, of course). To permanently remove an item from the Scrapbook, scroll to it and select Cut (-X) from the Edit menu.

There are some more advanced Scrapbook replacements available if you find yourself outgrowing the original Scrapbook: SmartScrap and ClickPaste are both more flexible and more powerful.

If you, like myself, are memory-impaired (I have a mind like a steel trap. Unfortunately, it's rusted open), Stickies are a pleasure. Like those Post-It type notes you probably have stuck all over your desk area already, Stickies are notes you can stick all over your Mac's desktop to remind you of things you need to remember.

I am stuck on Stickies.

Stickies have all the functionality of a really small word processor: you create and edit Stickies pretty much the way you'd create and edit a file with SimpleText, but with these differences:

  • Instead of a Font and/or Style menu, each note's font information is defined with the Text Style command (-T) under the Note menu.
  • You can't mix fonts or styles in a Stickie, it's only one per note.
  • You specify what color each Stickie is by clicking on the Stickie (to make it active, just like you would a window) and selecting the color you want from the Color menu.
  • While each Stickie behaves like a normal Mac window, there is no scroll bar. If your text runs off the Stickie, you can use your arrow keys to see the rest of it, or resize the note so the text fits.
  • Closing a Stickie (by clicking on its Close Box) deletes the note unless you tell your Mac to save it.
  • Quitting Stickies with notes on your desktop automatically saves the notes. The next time you open Stickies, your notes will be right where you left them.
If you really need a lot of reminding, you can set Stickies to launch every time you start your Mac by clicking the appropriate box in the Stickies' preference window. You open the preferences window by choosing Preferences from the Edit menu.

Other Stuff

In addition to this abundant and nifty assortment of Desk Accessories, your Mac also came with a few basic applications. Along with SimpleText (Chapter 7), Disk Firs Chapter 10), you get some other important applications: the HyperCard Player, PowerTalk, PlainTalk, and others.
Hypercard Player
HyperCard is the software equivalent of an index card file. If you were using index cards for a research paper, you could write information about one topic on each card and refer to the information on other cards with little notes to yourself. HyperCard lets you do the same kind of thing, only with more flexibility. Its basic unit of information is a card. A collection of cards is called a stack. You can sort through these cards one at a time, or (if the stack is written that way) click on a word, phrase, or picture on one card, to automatically bring up a card of information related to that word, phrase, or picture. HyperCard is also a programming tool because its scripting language (way to write commands for it) lets you create stacks that are actual applications. The HyperCard Player is basically just something to play stacks. You can tinker with them a little, but not much, nor can you create your own stacks (to do that, you need to buy the full version of HyperCard). You can launch the Player in one of three ways: double-click on the HyperCard Player icon, the Home icon, or the icon of the stack you want to play.

Your Mac churns a little as it reads the information. If you clicked on the HyperCard Player, or Homeicons, you'll get the Player's Home Stackas shown in the following figure. If you clicked on a stack's icon, you'll see that stack, and it'll look like whatever it looks like (a Zen statement if I ever heard one).

You can use the right- and left-pointing arrows at the bottom of the card to flip through the rest of the Home stack. There isn't much to it. The last card of the stack is your Preferences Card. It lets you set the level of stuff you can do with the Player. Adjust the User Level by clicking on the level you want to set, or by sliding the white arrow to that level. From the Player's Home stack, you can launch another stack by selecting the Open Stack command from the File menu. It gives you a standard Open dialog box to navigate to the stack you want to open.

You don't really want to be reading about HyperCard; you want to be playing with it. That's okay. Learning by playing is much more fun than learning by reading. Launch the HyperCard Tour stack. Go play. I understand.

PC Exchange
Maybe you were suckered in by those commercials that said Macs will let you use DOS applications, documents, and disks. It wasn't a lie exactly, but it did stretch the truth a little. To run DOS and Windows applications on a Mac you need to buy additional software--something like Insignia Solutions' SoftPC or Soft Windows. However, System 7.5 does come with everything you need to format and work with DOS disks like they were Mac disks. Two control panels give you that power: EasyOpen and PC Exchange (both were covered briefly back in Chapter 11). If you ever have the need to be able to read DOS files and disks, leave them installed in your Control Panels folder. They'll make dealing with DOS files practically effortless.

The capability to read and format (initialize) DOS disks is built in, and you don't even have to think about it. However, to open DOS files, you need to do a little work.

The PC Exchange Control Panel.

The PC Exchange Control Panel (shown above) was mentioned only in the most general terms in Chapter 11. In order to make opening DOS documents as effortless as possible, you need to tell the PC Exchange what kind(s) of DOS files you'll be opening, and what Mac application you want to open them.

In the figure, you can see that I've associated .BMP (a DOS graphics format) with Color It!, and the PC Exchange will convert the .BMP (short for bit-mapped) into a Macintosh PNTG file (short for, you guessed it, painting).

To associate DOS formats with your Mac applications, click on the Add button. You'll get a dialog that asks you for the DOS file extension (like .BMP), the application you want to use to open it (which you can select from an Open-type dialog), and then click on the kind of Mac file you want the DOS file to become.

It isn't as difficult as it sounds--try it and see--but a knowledge of DOS files and their identifying extensions/suffixes (.BMP, .DOC, and so on) is very helpful. If you've worked with DOS before, you should already be familiar with them. If you're wading into uncharted waters, you may want to ask the person giving you the files what the suffixes mean, so you can assign an appropriate Mac application.

PowerTalk is software that makes working with others on a network simpler. It gives you two more desktop icons: one is a mailbox that consolidates all your received e-mail in one location. The other is a catalogof information and resources that your work group shares. PowerTalk will be of limited interest or use to folks who aren't part of a network. If you are part of a network, talk to your System Administrator to see if you can use PowerTalk. She'll be glad to walk you through installation and setup and show you how to use it.
PlainTalk is the speech recognition software that works only with AV Macs. PlainTalk lets you tell your Mac what to do through speech commands, and it responds with a voice of its own--when it works, it's very cool, very Star Trek. All in all, however (unless someone who uses your Mac is physically unable to maneuver a mouse, use the keyboard, or see the monitor), PlainTalk is a cranky memory hog that misinterprets what you say as often as it gets it right. In the following figure where my Mac (named Oscar) has interpreted my spoken commands as "Cut" and "Shut Down," I was actually just saying "Hello," to which the Mac is supposed to reply, "Hello. Welcome to Macintosh" in its scratchy electronic voice. Given practice, lots of RAM, and inhumanly clear pronunciation, PlainTalk can be put to good use. I suggest using the Introduction to Speech tutorial that comes with PlainTalk before you try it.

Talking to your Mac.

If your Mac can't handle speech recognition, you can get Text-to-speech software (available from your favorite authorized Apple dealer, and Apple's areas on eWorld and America Online) that will let SimpleText read text files aloud. You just can't boss your Mac around with it.

AppleScript is (sort of) a programming language that lets you customize features and functions of your Mac, and some of your applications. To make use of it, you use the Script Editor (it will be in your Apple Extras folder after you've installed System 7.5) to write and edit your own scripts. The squeamish (like myself) will probably be satisfied with the prewritten scripts available in the Automated Tasks folder in the [[apple]] menu and supplement those with more scripts from online services and user groups (like the one shown in the following figure). I don't feel like less of a man because I don't program or write scripts. Really. I don't. I don't.

The AppleScript Script Editor.

The script shown in the figure was written by Gregory T. Quinn, part of the ZiffNet Script-A-File utility package, that makes dealing with AppleScript much easier. It, along with other Ziff-ware, is only available in the ZiffNet areas of America Online, CompuServe, and eWorld.

If you're a braver soul than I (and God bless you if you are) you should really pick up a good book on AppleScript before you begin: check your library or favorite computer bookstore, or ask a Script-head from your local user group for a recommendation.

The Least You Need To KNow

Once you try all of the software accessories that came with your Mac, their use will quickly become second nature to you. Here are some things to keep in mind while you learn and explore:
  • Your use of the DAs and applications that came with your System software will vary depending on how you work and grow as a Mac user.

  • DAs all have really obvious names, so reminding you of what each does would insult your intelligence. Just remember you can use them from within any application.

  • HyperCard is like a digital and dynamic index card file. Way cool and fun.

  • PowerTalk, PlainTalk, and AppleScript will appeal to only certain Mac users or o certain Macs. You can live very full and satisfying lives without ever using any of them--but that doesn't mean you should be afraid to try them either.

  • Fear nothing. This is Macintosh, after all.

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