Make Leopard leap: Time-saving tips for OS X 10.5

More than 20 ways to get things done faster with Leopard

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Save time with saved Spotlight searches

Quick Look's natural companion, Spotlight search, is another technology that offers Leopard users a productivity boost. Its basic search capabilities make it a powerful tool for locating anything from documents to e-mails; just build simple searches for phrases using the Spotlight icon in the menu bar or by pressing command-space bar.

You can also get much more granular by using Leopard's canned searches (including the saved search options in the Finder's sidebar, or as saved searches of your own design (sometimes also referred to as Smart Folders because they appear as a special type of folder in the Finder). Either approach lets you search for documents that meet any combination of over a dozen different possible criteria with a single click if you opt to save a search to the Finder sidebar, or a double-click if you choose to save a search as a Smart Folder.

You can create Smart Folders on the fly from a Spotlight search results window by using the Save button in the upper-right-hand corner of the window, or you can create one at any time choosing New Smart Folder from the Finder's File menu or clicking option-command-N.

Creating a Smart Folder

Creating a Smart Folder.

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The concept of smart search items actually pervades much of Leopard beyond Spotlight and the Finder. You can use the same technique to create Smart Albums in iPhoto, Smart Playlists in iTunes and even Smart Mailboxes in Mail. Once you get started with the concept of smart search items, you'll likely come up with ever more creative and helpful ways to use the technology.

Find menu items and commands

Another helpful piece of Spotlight technology can be found in the Help menu of any Leopard-aware application. Not only can you search for information included in an application's help documentation, but the Help menu lists available menu commands as you type, making it quick and easy to find commands without searching through every menu and submenu (which can be quite a chore in many applications).

Also, don't forget that right-clicking (or control-clicking) on virtually any item in any application will reveal a context menu with both application-specific and more general Leopard commands that apply to that item.

Make the Finder work your way

Many users leave the Finder environment largely as Apple designed it. While there's nothing wrong with this, there are a few things you can do to make the Finder more helpful and intuitive. First and foremost is to customize both the toolbar and sidebar.

Customize the Finder toolbar. The Finder toolbar, which displays at the top of each Finder window, contains a handful of buttons, including a trio for adjusting the view of the window, one for activating Quick Look without using the space bar, a gear menu (which offers access to features also found in context menus and the menu bar) and a Spotlight search box.

customizing the Finder toolbar

Customizing the Finder toolbar.

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You can customize this to include a wide range of additional (or fewer) buttons using the Customize Toolbar option from the View menu in the menu bar.

Although there are a number of commands included in the Customize Toolbar dialog (Eject Disk, Burn Disk, Delete and New Folder, to name a few), most people don't realize that when this dialog is displayed, you can actually drag any application, file, Automator workflow or script to the toolbar, turning it into a launching pad for any manner of individual items or automated tasks.

Use the path bar. Another option in the Finder that makes overall navigation of your system easier is the optional path bar (choose View Path Bar from the View menu). The path bar displays the file path to your current location along the bottom of the Finder window. To go up one level (or five levels) in a folder structure is as easy as clicking the appropriate point in the path bar.

Go directly to the folder you want. For users already familiar with navigating based on a file path, there's also the Go To Folder command (command-shift-G from the keyboard or under the Go menu in the menu bar), which allows you to enter a file path to any point on your Mac's hard drive. Although this is fairly common knowledge, most people don't know that it also works from inside Open and Save dialogs, providing an excellent way of quickly changing your open or save location without having to navigate the entire file system.

Go beyond the Finder. If you really want quick navigation and access to certain commands and features, there are some great third-party alternatives to the Finder. The very popular Quicksilver, for example, provides a completely different menu-driven method to access Finder-related features and to browse the contents of your Mac. Other similar options worth checking out include Butler and LaunchBar.

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