Emoji are the cute little smileys and emoticons that originated in Japan and have grown popular around the world since they became available on the iPhone. Here’s a neat trick for using Emoji on the Mac in OS X Mavericks.
Whenever you are in a text field in Mavericks, just press Command-Control-Space and an emoji panel will appear. Then click any of the Emoji icons to insert it at the current position in the text.
For those who find it quicker to use the keyboard than the mouse, you can navigate between the Emoji icons with the arrow keys, and shift left and right between the different sections using Tab and Shift-Tab respectively. If you know what you are looking for, just begin to type the name, and the Emoji will filter as you type. Give it a try with “dog” or “kiss” or “poo”.
By default, the Emoji panel will disappear once you choose an icon. However, if you find yourself using it a lot, just drag it away from the text field to “detach” it, and it will stay open until you click the close button in the top left. Also, the button in the top right expands the panel into the full size “Character Viewer” that was previously available in Mountain Lion.
The dictation feature introduced last year in OS X Mountain Lion left a lot to be desired. Just like Siri on iOS, it required you to speak in short bursts, then wait while the data was sent to Apple’s servers and the results were returned. As well as requiring a constant internet connection, it was almost unusable for dictating anything more than a couple of sentences.
Fortunately, with OS X Mavericks, there is now an option to enable “Enhanced Dictation”, which solves a lot of these problems. To do this, open up System Preferences and go to the Dictation and Speech section. Here you will find a checkbox, Use Enhanced Dictation, which “allows offline use and continuous dictation with live feedback”.
As you will probably notice, enabling this feature requires a fairly large download. For me this was 491 MB, but others have reported between 700 and 800 MB, so I suspect it depends on your chosen language.
Once the download has completed, you can dictate text just as before, using the shortcut specified in the Dictation and Speech preferences. Only now you will find the transcription happens locally on your Mac instead of on Apple’s servers. This allows the words to appear “live”, as you speak, resulting in a much more enjoyable and useful dictation process.
There are a number of dictation commands to help with formatting and punctuation. As far as I can tell, these are just the same as in Mountain Lion, however they become much more useful with this new enhanced dictation feature. Apple provides a full list, which contains things like “all caps”, “smiley face”, “new paragraph” and “next line”.
While this is a massive improvement over Mountain Lion’s dictation features, there are still a few further additions needed before the free built in OS X dictation will be a serious competitor to commercial alternatives such as Dragon Dictate. For example, there needs to be a quick and easy way to edit existing text and correct transcription errors, preferably without needing to use the keyboard or mouse. It would also be great if the system automatically learnt from your corrections over time, or allowed manual training through the addition of tricky words such as names and places to the dictionary. Maybe next year...
Here are a couple of tips for customising the delay and animation speed of your Dock if you have it set to automatically show and hide (in System Preferences).
Custom delay time
You may have noticed that there is a short delay before the Dock appears when your mouse hits the edge of the screen. There is a hidden setting that allows you to adjust the delay time using the Terminal.
Start by opening up the Terminal app (in Applications/Utilities). To remove the delay entirely, paste in the following line and press Return.
defaults write com.apple.Dock autohide-delay -float 0
The changes won’t take effect until you restart the Dock, which you can do by typing
killall Dock and pressing Return.
The number at the end of the command is the delay time in seconds, which you can customise to your liking. My preferred delay is 0.1, which is a bit quicker than the default. To return to the default, just use the following command:
defaults delete com.apple.Dock autohide-delay
Custom animation speed
There is a related hidden setting that allows you to customise the speed of the animation when the Dock slides onto the screen. As before, paste the following line into the Terminal and press Return.
defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier -float 0.5
Remember to restart the Dock with
killall Dock for the changes to take effect. Just like the delay, the number at the end is the length of the animation in seconds. 0 will make the Dock instantly appear with no animation. My preferred time is about 0.5, which makes things just a little snappier than the default.
To return to the default, just use the following command:
defaults delete com.apple.Dock autohide-time-modifier
Labels are a handy way to organise your files in the Finder by colour-coding their icons. Until OS X Mavericks is released later this year, they are a pretty good substitute for having a proper way to tag files in the Finder.
Adding a label to a file or folder is simple. Just right-click the icon and choose one of the coloured squares from the menu. Alternatively, you can select the icon by clicking on it, and choose the label from the File menu in the menubar.
If you want to use labels a bit more like tags, it is possible to choose a custom name for each label colour in the Finder Preferences (under Finder in the menubar). Once you have done this, the only limitation compared to a real tagging system is that you are restricted to only having 7 different tags.
Using labels as tags can work really well in conjunction with Saved Searches (also known as Smart Folders).
Most people will have their documents organised into separate folders for each project, and will have separate folders for work and home files. But sometimes, for example, you might want to see all your receipts from all your different projects together, or all the files that you need to print. Instead of duplicating all your receipts into a separate “receipts” folder, you can just use labels along with a Saved Search that displays all the files with that label.
To set up the saved search, start by switching over to the Finder and choosing Find from the File menu (or type Command-F). Choose Other from the left hand drop-down menu, and choose File label from the list. Then just choose the desired label, and click the Save button to add the Saved Search to your sidebar.
Power users can take this idea even further using a tool like Hazel. Firstly, Hazel can automatically add labels to your files based on your own criteria. For example, automatically adding a red label to files that have been in the Downloads folder for more than a week, or adding a purple label to files that were downloaded from your bank website.
Secondly, Hazel can automatically perform actions when you assign a specific label to a file. For example, it could import MP3 files into iTunes if they you label them purple, or resize images to 800x600px and upload them to a server if they are labelled green, or run any AppleScript or shell script you want.
Bonus tip: You can quickly change the label of a file by dragging it into the section for a different label in the folder, as show in the screenshot below. For this to work, you must have your folder in Icon View, and have the folder Arranged by Label.
As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve switched to using ReadKit for reading RSS feeds on the Mac.
ReadKit’s “smart folders” are a great feature that Reeder lacked, making me consider sticking with ReadKit even if Reeder introduces third party sync options in future.
One problem I had was figuring out to create smart folders with nested groups of rules where “any” or “all” must be true. One of the default smart folders has nested rules, so I knew it must be possible, and after a bit of trial and error I figured it out.
Simply hold down the Option (alt) key and you should see the plus (+) button will switch to an ellipsis (…). Clicking this will create a new nested section where you can require “any” or “all” of the nested rules to be true.
Using this technique, it’s worth adding a rule to your smart folders that excludes archived items, so articles you have already read don’t show up.