Long-holding shortcut keys in OS X (and other cool combos)

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I switched to Mac around 10 years ago and have picked up a variety of shortcuts over the years to streamline my workflow. But, something I only found out about this weekend was the “long-hold”.

What’s a long-hold?
Hit your Dashboard key. Your dashboard appears. Hit the key again and it disappears in an equally pleasing manner. Now try it this way: press your Dashboard key (and keep it held), your Dashboard will appear. To make it disappear simply let go of the key!

Where else does this awesome trick work?
Well, since I’ve only just found this out, I’ve not had a huge chance to uncover many goodies, but here’s what I’ve found so far. Leave a comment if you know of any others.

  • Dashboard
  • Exposé
  • Dictionary lookup (Ctrl+Cmd+D)

What other shortcut modifiers don’t I know about?
Clicking menu items, or shortcut keys whilst holding shift or option can do slightly different things, here’s a list of things I’ve discovered, some of which are useful, some not so much:

  • Hold Shift while changing volume to suppress the system click
  • Hold Option while clicking on the volume or wireless menu items changes the menu items
  • Hold Shift while opening Spaces, Dashboard or Exposé – I’ll let you try that out out (very cool)
  • Holding Command allows you to reorder icons on the menu bar by dragging them about
  • When using Command+Tab to switch windows, holding shift as well allows you to move right to left
  • For fine-grain control when dragging scrollbars, hold Option to scroll one pixel at a time
  • Want to drag a window in the background without activating it? Hold Cmd

Those were cool, are there any other shortcuts that need a place in my life?
Yep. Some of these are amazingly handy, some not so much!

  • I find windows users complain a lot about the lack of Home and End keys which on a PC keyboard are tucked away somewhere 3 feet to the right of the keyboard.  Life with a Mac is easier as these keys are under your fingers already: Ctrl+A and Ctrl+E (should be familiar to you unix peeps) and Cmd+Left and Cmd+Right for beginning and end of line.
  • Here’s a couple for Safari that I use a lot: Ctrl+L puts focus in the Location bar and Ctrl+Shift+L will open a new window having Googled for the highlighted word 🙂
  • I covered it earlier, but to bring up the dictionary definition of a word in a Coco app: highlight the word and press Ctrl+Cmd+D
  • Ever wanted to blank the screen? Ctrl+Shift+Eject will turn brightness down to nothing.  Moving the mouse or typing will bring it back.  This works with long-holding too.
  • I’ve also noticed Windows users are very familiar with pressing Enter or Delete when highlighting icons in Finder.  On a Mac, the keys you want are Cmd+O to Open the item and Cmd+Delete to move it to the trash.

Please leave a comment if there are any other hidden gems you want to share with the world.

Tracking down a stolen laptop

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This is a bit off-topic, but worthwhile sharing.

I recently, rather unfortunately had my laptop stolen and now I have a replacement; I remember hearing about software that could use the built in iSight to take photos of the thieves and mail them back to me.

After looking on the net and finding some rather good, but pay-ware applications, I came across the Prey Project offering an open source free alternative. I went about installing the software and after checking that it worked went about tweaking it to work with how I have my laptop set up.

I use file vault (thank God it was switched on the laptop that was stolen) and have a password on wake so my personal files are secure. However, even with crontab running Prey once a minute, I figured that if the thief couldn’t log into my laptop, it was a bit pointless. So I have used two tactics that will hopefully result in my getting some pictures if the unfortunate were to happen again:

  1. Enable logging in of the Guest account. This means if the thief reboots the laptop (to try and log in as a different user rather than get the password screen from wake), they can log into a sandboxed account with Prey happily snapshotting away.
  2. Put Prey in the crontab that runs for the login screens:

in /private/etc/crontab (this may not exist):

*/1 * * * * cd /usr/share/prey; ./prey.sh

Of course, there are no guarantees, but it’s better than nothing.