Tip for Writers on Mac OS: A Stickies Style Guide

Maintain consistency in your writing with an easy-access style guide.

As I continue work on my 81st book (!), I thought I’d share a tip with other writers working on Macs. This one has to do with creating and maintaining a style guide for your work in progress.

Stickies IconToday, on my blog, An Eclectic Mind, I wrote quite a bit about what a style guide is and why it’s important. I also revealed my personal technique for maintaining a style guide for work in progress — I use Stickies — and explain why it’s a good solution for me.

In this piece I want to briefly discuss how to set up and use Stickies as a style guide. Keep in mind throughout this piece, however, that you can use Stickies to give you easy access to just about any information you might need to be reminded about as you work.

  1. In the Applications folder in in Launchpad (Mac OS X Lion and later only), open the Stickies icon.
  2. StickiesIf you’ve never opened stickies before, you’ll see some default notes with information on using Stickies. You can read these for more information. Then close them and do not save changes. You want to minimize the number of open windows on your Desktop, don’t you?
  3. Choose File > New Note to create a new sticky note window.
  4. My Style GuideResize it so it’s long and narrow, just wide enough to fit the words you’ll add to it.
  5. Reposition it so it’s on the far right (or left, if you prefer) side of your screen.
  6. As you work on your project, add difficult-to-remember words and phrases to it. Be sure to spell/capitalize the words/phrases exactly as you should be writing them. It’s also a good idea to list them in alphabetical order.
  7. If there’s a word or phrase you should never use, add it to the list but use the Fonts panel to format it with strikethrough formatting.
  8. When you are done writing for the day, quit Stickies. Do not close the note before quitting.
  9. When you start work the next day, open Stickies again. The note should reappear just as you left it, all ready to be consulted and updated as needed.

If you’re using Mac OS X Lion and you don’t quit Stickies, it’ll automatically reopen when you restart your computer. If you’re using an earlier version of Mac OS, you can set up Stickies as a Login item so it automatically opens when you start or log into your computer.

Again, you can use this tip for any kind of information you need to consult as you work at your computer. The one thing I wouldn’t put in Stickies is any kind of information that needs to be kept private. I recommend an application such as 1Password for that kind of data so it can be secured.

How do you use Stickies? Share your tips in the comments for this post.

Learn More!

Lion Book CoverWant to know more about Mac OS X Lion and Stickies? Check out my Mac OS X Lion: Visual QuickStart Guide. This 648-page, fully illustrated guide to Lion is available for a great price in print and Kindle versions from Amazon.com.

Ten Lion Tips for Snow Leopard Users: Introduction

What to expect when you step up to Snow Leopard.

Mac OS X Lion Visual QuickStart GuideI’ve just finished work on my latest book, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion: Visual QuickStart Guide, for Peachpit Press. This new edition of my best-selling OS X book is a complete ground-up revision that reorganizes and adds lots of material. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out and I hope you’ll check it out in print, as a Kindle book, or in Apple’s iBookstore.

To help spread the word about the book, Peachpit and I put together a video tentatively titled “Ten Lion Tips for Snow Leopard Users.” (The video will be online soon; when it is, I’ll link to it here.) The idea is to show Snow Leopard users some of the things that have changed from Snow Leopard to Lion. I’m not necessarily talking about new features — I cover the big new features like Mission Control, Launchpad, and Full-Screen Apps in individual videos available from Peachpit Press, where I can really dig in and show how they work. Instead, the “Ten Lion Tips” video concentrates on ten changes that Snow Leopard users may notice right away — the changes that might have them wondering what’s going on.

You can learn more about how Lion will rock Snow Leopard users’ worlds on Peachpit’s Web site in an article I wrote titled “Ten Lion Tips for Snow Leopard Users.” Of course, the ten things covered in the article (and video) aren’t everything you need to know about Lion. It’s just a start.

Lion is a great new version of Mac OS, one with plenty of new features and interface changes to help make you more productive. I dug deeply into Lion while working on my book and was very happy with what I found. I’m excited about Lion and thrilled to be using it on my Macs. I think you’ll feel the same way!

How to Install Raw Camera Update 3.5 without Buying iPhoto ’11 or Aperture

And why you might want to do that.

I recently purchased a Nikon D7000 camera as an upgrade from my nearly 4 year old Nikon D80. (What an upgrade!) It was part of my attempt to improve my photography by using better equipment. Another part of that was shooting in raw and using processing tools like those available in Photoshop to fine-tune my images.

NEF in FinderI shot my first bunch of images last week and was very surprised to find that the raw images, which have Nikon’s .NEF file extension, did not appear with preview images in the Finder (shown here). I also could not use Quick Look, or open the raw images in any application on my Mac.

The reason this surprised me is that I could see, preview, Quick Look, and open the .NEF images created by my Nikon D80.

I did some research and discovered that the raw format is camera specific — a fact I’d kind of known all along — and I set out to find the software update that would allow me to see them. I was rather surprised that I’d missed the update, since I use Software Update and generally install all updates, whether I need them or not. I assumed I’d somehow skipped this particular update.

Raw 3.5 UpdaterI found the Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.5, which included support for the D7000, on Apple’s Web site, downloaded it, opened the disk image (DMG) file, and started the installation. The splash screen clearly stated that the updater added raw camera compatibility for a handful of new cameras to Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’11. I didn’t have either one of these installed. I don’t own Aperture — I’ve been using Photoshop forever — and I hadn’t yet updated to iPhoto ’11 from iPhoto ’09. But I assumed that an Apple update would add support to Mac OS X 10.6.6, which was installed on my Mac, so at least I’d be able to see previews of NEF images in the Finder.

Can't InstallMy third surprise (if you’re keeping count) came when the installer told me it could not install the software. The message made it clear that I needed to have Aperture 3 or iPhoto 9 (confusingly, this is the version number for iPhoto ’11, not iPhoto ’09) installed to install the update.

I was stuck.

I did more research and discovered an alternative method for viewing previews and using those Nikon D7000 raw images. More on that in another post.

But then I discovered a workaround for the installation problem. Apple offered a free Aperture 3.1 trial on its Web site. Several Twitter friends had recommended Aperture and I was interested in giving it a try. So I downloaded the trial version and installed it.

You can probably guess what’s coming. Because I now had Aperture 3.1 installed, I could also install the Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 3.5 software. I ran the installer and it successfully installed on my hard disk.

Quick Look NEFAfter running Aperture once — just to make sure my Mac knew I had it installed — I went back to the Finder folder full of NEF images from my D7000. Still no icon previews, but I think that’s because my Mac expected to open them in Photoshop CS3, which did not support the D7000 NEFs either. But when I selected an image and used Mac OS X’s Quick Look feature (Command-Y), the NEF preview appeared in the Quick Look window.

Oddly, a preview icon also appeared for some (but not all?) of the NEF files in the photos folder on the SD card. I’m not sure why only some of them were affected, but they were the later ones. Maybe they’ll all show up as icons the next time I insert this disk? When I copied the folder to my hard disk, all the NEF files appeared with preview icons.

So I guess I can say that I set out to do what I wanted to do. I can only assume that the support for NEF file icon previews will continue even if I decide not to buy Aperture and remove it from my computer.

Did this help you? Can you add anything to help me or others? Use the comments link or form to speak up. Just don’t attempt to start a Nikon vs. Canon debate; I don’t think that would add any useful information to the discussion.

How to Search Your Mac’s Configuration Files

It’s easier than you might think.

As you work with your Mac, installing and using software, it creates a bunch of configuration files that it stores in various places throughout your computer. Most of these files can be found in the various Library folders, tucked inside their own folders. There are hundreds of these files and every time you install and use some software — even trial software that you later delete — these files are created and hidden away in your system.

These unused files bit me this week when, for some reason, my BlackBerrry refused to sync with iCal and Address Book. The week before, I’d downgraded from Mac OS X 10.6.3 to 10.6.2. (Long story why; I don’t recommend doing this.) To make another long story short, it turns out that the BlackBerry Desktop software had lost track of some of its components. Making the matter worse was that I’d used both the Missing Sync and Pocket Mac in the past and their configuration files and extensions were still lurking about in my system, causing BlackBerry Desktop to choke.

While you can use an application like AppZapper (which I recommend) to uninstall software you no longer use, I’ve discovered that even uninstallers leave files behind. The best way to make sure a software program is completely gone is to search for and manually delete any remaining configuration files.

The trouble is, when you use the Finder’s search box to search for a file, it automatically excludes system files. This is actually a good thing for two reasons (that I can think of):

  • It minimizes search results to match what you’re most likely trying to find (which isn’t usually system files).
  • It prevents novice users from stumbling upon and possibly deleting or modifying system files that are better left alone.

So what do you do? Easy. You tell Mac OS to search the library folder where you expect to find the files.

Here’s an example. I use the program Fission by Rogue Amoeba to edit audio files. I like it; it’s good. But suppose I decided I wanted to stop using it and remove every trace of it from my computer.

I could search my hard disk for files named Fission. The results might look like this:

Search for Fission

But is that all there is? I don’t think so. I’ll open the Library folder in my Home folder and do the same search, but with the Library folder selected. Here are the results:

Fission Search

See the difference? The second search displayed two configuration files and a folder likely containing more related data. (The fourth file in the list is a data file for Yojimbo which I’d likely not want to remove.)

If I were serious about removing all traces of this program from my computer, I’d search not only by the name of the program but all or part of the name of the developer. (Rogue Amoeba is a great example because either word is likely to find just files related to software by that developer.)

You might want to repeat this process for all Library folders — the one on your hard disk’s root directory, the one in the System folder on your hard disk, and the one in any user’s Home folder (if you have access to it).

Performing this exercise for Missing Sync and Pocket Mac files this morning uncovered literally dozens of configuration files scattered all over my hard disk. Deleting them freed up space and prevented the possibility of these files interfering with incompatible software that I currently use.

Need More Information?

Snow Leopard Book CoverYou can find more information about searching your Mac in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide. Chapter 5 covers the Spotlight search feature in a great deal of detail.

Photoshop CS3 and Mac OS 10.6.3 Potential Problems

Having a problem? This might help.

After updating my Mac to Mac OS 10.6.3, I found that I could not successfully open Photoshop CS3. Although the program would go through what seemed like the entire startup process, it would unexpectedly quit right before it opened a document. There was nothing I could do to prevent this.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

I started troubleshooting with a Google Search. Two pages were particularly helpful:

  • http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=2382232&tstart=0 This thread on the Apple discussions forum contains 167 answers (so far) to the problem experienced by a user. As with most forums, the posts go off-topic to suggest Photoshop alternatives and attempt to place blame on either Apple or Adobe. If you have the time and patience to wade through the posts, however, you’ll discover several potential fixes.
  • http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/834/cpsid_83499.html This TechNote on Adobe.com gets to the meat of the matter without having to wade through a bunch of off-topic nonsense.

Apparently, the problem concerns all Adobe CS3 products and possibly some other software. It did not affect my copy of InDesign CS4.

Adobe provides three possible solutions. I’ll present them here in the order I think you should tackle them.

Disable Opening with Rosetta

Adobe suggests that you turn off the “Open Using Rosetta” check box in the Info window for Photoshop CS3 (or any other program that might be experiencing the problem. In the Finder, select the application’s icon. Then choose File > Get Info or press Command-I. In the General area of the Info window, turn off the check box labeled Open using Rosetta. Close the Info window. This was not the source of my problem, so I can’t verify whether this will help.

Obtain a New Serial Number

Adobe claims that the problem might have something to do with an invalid serial number registered for the computer. This is most likely to happen if your computer was serviced by Apple, perhaps to replace the logic board or some other major component. Per Adobe:

When launching Adobe CS3 applications on Apple’s Mac OS 10.6.3, the applications crash, or quit unexpectedly. This only occurs on systems where the system serial number is a value with more than 12 characters. This appears to only be the case when the system serial number doesn’t have a valid number, but instead has a value such as “System Serial#”, or “SystemSerialNumb”.

About this MacHow do you find the serial number registered by your computer? The easiest way is to choose Apple > About This Mac to display the About this Mac window for your computer. Click the Version number info right under where it says Mac OS X twice. The Version number will change to the Build number and then to your serial number as it is registered inside the computer.

When I originally read this and checked it against my serial number, I did not think this was my problem. After all, Adobe says it happens with serial numbers “more than 12 characters” in length. Mine was 11 10. And that was my problem. When I had my logic board replaced about a year and a half ago, the Apple genius entered an invalid serial number for the new logic board. He basically left out one character. Something in the Mac OS X 10.6.3 update triggered a serial number validation routine in CS3 products. When it came up with an invalid serial number, it refused to run Photoshop CS3.

The solution is not one you’ll like if you don’t have an Apple store nearby. This morning, I’ll be driving 50 miles to get the correct serial number entered into my Mac by a “genius.”

Revert to Mac OS X 10.6.2 or Earlier

Adobe suggests this as the first alternative. Downgrading operating system software is never something I recommend as a first option. After all, eventually you’ll have to upgrade again. Why not try to fix the problem if you can?

But if you can’t fix the problem any other way, downgrading to Mac OS X 10.6.2 might be the way to go. You can find instructions for downgrading at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2597.

Are You Having This Problem?

If you’re having this problem, I’d like to hear from you. What software was affected? How did you resolve the problem? Add your comment to this post.

Please limit your comments to this topic. Rants against Apple or Adobe or suggestions on what software is better than Photoshop will not be approved.