100 more things every Mac user should know: Applications

Macworld Staff
4 June, 2013
View more articles fromthe author

Last month, we introduced the first part of this feature, giving you 37 more things every Mac user should know. This covered the Finder, the Desktop & Dock and the System.

This month, we complete the 100 tips and tricks by looking at a bunch of titbits to do with Applications, Security, Terminal, Search, Automator, Preview and Messages. And numbers 38 to 48 all cover Applications.

As we said last month, this feature is a follow-up to one we did two years ago, in our July 2011 issue. The idea was to compile a bunch of titbits – keyboard shortcuts, Finder techniques and the like – that we thought every savvy Mac user should understand and feel confident when using.

We’re sure you know a lot of the things we’ve listed here. But we bet that very, very few of you, if you’re really being honest, can say you know them all.

Nine things to do when an application crashes

You just launched an application, one that you have used many times before. But this time, it crashes. Or it freezes, and you have to Force Quit it. Now what?

38 Launch it again

If an application is going to crash, it will typically do so as soon as you launch it. Occasionally, if you simply relaunch the application, it will start working again. So, click the Reopen button in the dialogue box that appears after a crash.

39 Restart your Mac

Sometimes a combination of events on your system can cause an app to crash with each relaunch. Restarting the Mac clears the slate and puts the app back in business.

40 Check for updates

Are you using the latest version of the app? If not, update it, especially if it’s a third-party app and you have recently updated OS X.

41 Eliminate suspects

Maybe the app crashes only when another specific program is also open. Close all your apps, and then reopen the one that crashes. If it survives the launch, open your other apps one by one to see if you can replicate the crash conditions.

42 Work around it

Sometimes an app crashes when you perform a certain action, such as selecting a particular menu item or pressing a keyboard shortcut. Try to find a work- around that bypasses the cause of the crash.

38. When an app crashes, first try to reopen it from this dialogue box.

43 Find out what other people did

Search the web for nameofapplication crash. Other users may have encountered the same problem, and some may have found a solution.

44 Check the crash report

A crash dialogue box typically has a Report button. Click it and select the Problem Details tab. While the resulting text will make no sense to most Mac users, it may contain some titbit that indicates the source of the problem, such as the name of a second app that may be contributing to the crash.

45 Contact the developer

Go to the developer’s website and look for the Support section. You may find something that didn’t show up in your web search. If you can’t find anything, ask the developer.

46 Reinstall the app

If the app offers an uninstaller, use it and then reinstall. If no uninstaller exists, drag the app to the Trash and replace it with a new copy. This method is less preferable than an uninstaller because many apps have important files that are located in Library folders, and one of those may be the culprit. By only replacing the main app, you don’t deal with those other files.

Two ways to change hidden settings

47. Editing a .plist file in Xcode gives you a graphical view of the data.

47 Preference files

To adjust settings that you can’t change in an app’s preferences panel, try editing its preference files directly. Normally you’ll find them stored as property list (.plist) documents – plain-text files in XML format, which you can open and edit in any text editor. If you have Apple’s free Xcode developer software (developer.apple.com/xcode), double-clicking a .plist file opens it in Xcode, which offers a convenient, database-style view of it. You’re most likely to find preference files in either /Library/Preferences or username/Library/Preferences. To see the latter location, hold down the Option key while choosing Library from the Finder’s Go menu and then, within that folder, navigate to Library/ Preferences.

Preference files use a reverse-domain naming scheme; for example, the preference file for the Finder is com.apple.finder.plist. Before editing one of these files, quit the application that created it and Option-drag the .plist file to your Desktop to make a copy (in case something goes wrong).

Then open the original file in the text editor of your choice, make any desired changes, save and close the file, and reopen the app. (How do you know what changes you can make? Web searches and guessing are the most common techniques.)

48. For some hidden settings, you can use the 'defaults write' command in Terminal.

48 Defaults write

The other way to edit .plist files is to open Terminal and use the defaults write command followed by the name of a preference file and a specially formatted value. You’ll often find directions online that explain this procedure, including the complete text of a command to alter a particular preference.

By Dan Frakes, Joe Kissell, Lex Friedman, Ted Landau, Steve McCabe, Rich Mogull, Ben Waldie and Dan Miller, Macworld

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us