Thoughtful, detailed coverage of the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, plus the best-selling Take Control ebooks.



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Open Files with Finder's App Switcher

Say you're in the Finder looking at a file and you want to open it with an application that's already running but which doesn't own that particular document. How? Switch to that app and choose File > Open? Too many steps. Choose Open With from the file's contextual menu? Takes too long, and the app might not be listed. Drag the file to the Dock and drop it onto the app's icon? The icon might be hard to find; worse, you might miss.

In Leopard there's a new solution: use the Command-Tab switcher. Yes, the Command-Tab switcher accepts drag-and-drop! The gesture required is a bit tricky. Start dragging the file in the Finder: move the file, but don't let up on the mouse button. With your other hand, press Command-Tab to summon the switcher, and don't let up on the Command key. Drag the file onto the application's icon in the switcher and let go of the mouse. (Now you can let go of the Command key too.) Extra tip: If you switch to the app beforehand, its icon in the Command-Tab switcher will be easy to find; it will be first (or second).

Visit Take Control of Customizing Leopard


An Article for Morons

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I spend a fair amount of time in the computer sections of bookstores these days, and I've noticed a disturbing trend. The trendy titles all insult the reader. There's a whole slew of Books for Dummies, and there are almost as many of another line called something like the Complete Idiot's Guide to Whatever. These books obviously sell well, since publishers don't continue to release books in a line if the line sells badly, and in fact, I presume that many of the books are quite good despite the fact that they seem to target an audience of simpletons. David Pogue, author of "Macs for Dummies," qualifies as a talented and technically-savvy writer and I love his "Macworld Macintosh Secrets" book, which never implies its readers are blockheads.

But the titles make me cringe inside. I suspect these books sell because they feed the low self-esteem of the readers, and misery loves not only company, but confirmation. Implying the reader is a half-wit may make money, but is it a good thing? For the publisher sure, but for the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of readers, most of whom certainly aren't numskulls? Not a chance. It's a bit like putting a big sign on the wall above your computer saying "Have I mentioned how abysmally imbecilic I am today?" That's what a line of these titles on a bookshelf says to me, and I suspect that it may speak similarly to others. I can't imagine it would be a good thing to have your boss, for instance, subscribing an opinion of you based on your collection of Books for Boneheads.

I don't know the details of how my car's engine works either, but I don't fret over that or go looking for a book called "Cars for Cretins." There's no shame in consulting a manual or a book (although I'd argue that if the programmers couldn't write it well enough that you can use most features without consulting the manual, they should be ashamed). Consulting a book is like talking to a teacher, but few teachers start conversations with, "You're an idiot, what do you want to know?"

Why don't we see books whose titles, as General Magic's design axiom states, "do nothing to lower the self-esteem of the user?" A friend suggested "I'm OK, Click OK" or "Conversations with Your Mac's Inner Child." I'm being flip, of course, but there's nothing wrong with clearly targeting a book toward novices without insulting them.

The rationale behind these titles is that the programs make the user feel like a dumbbell, and although that may be true, I don't buy it as a justification. I'd argue that the titles should focus on the program, not the user, as in "Beating GinsuWrite 6.0 Into Submission" or "Dominating DTPMaker."


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