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Ask TUAW: Trash in the Sidebar, Mail problems, Books, and More

It's time yet again for Ask TUAW, our weekly questions and answers column. This week we'll be tackling questions from last week about putting the Trash in the Finder sidebar, problems with Mail, keeping track of Books, and more. As always, please leave your own comments, and ask more questions for next week either in the comments to this post or using the tip form. Now let's turn to this week's questions.


Santiago asks

I'd like to know if there is a way to add a Trash icon in the finder sidebar? It would be easy to drag-and-drop files directly to the sidebar and not to the dock.


There are a variety of ways to do this. In fact our own Dave Caolo posted a hint last year on doing this with a simple AppleScript. However, the easiest way to do this is probably just to add the hidden Trash folder itself to your sidebar. In the finder hit Cmd-Shift-G and in the dialog box type: ~/.Trash. Your Trash folder will now appear and you can drag it over to your sidebar like any other folder. You can now drag files over to trash them. Of course if you want to make it look nice you'll need to change the icon of the .Trash folder as I've done in the screenshot below. The downside to this method is that the Trash can won't animate (i.e. show when it's full), but if you can live with that this is the cheapest and easiest way to do this. If you want a more full-featured trashcan you can check out the free SideTrash as recommended by Macworld (though it is PPC only). There are some shareware trash managers available as well, just try this search on MacUpdate.


Aron asks

I have been using my mbp and for quite some time and mail.app for quite some time longer. Lately (the last couple weeks, or so) I have not been able to send e-mail. Ever. Ok, that was an exaggeration. Here is the situation: I have 5 e-mail addresses. At work, I can send e-mail with two of them. At school, I can only send using my school e-mail address. And at home, I can't send using ANY of them. Now I can understand the trouble at work and school would be related to some sort of network settings outside my control. However, at home, I am the network admin. So it makes no sense why given the same settings (with some of the same e-mail providers) The only differences is are my roommates are using Entourage. Now i'll die before i'll use a non-universal, microsoft application for ALL of my mail... but this is ridiculous! Are there any other e-mail applications that seem to perform better than mail.app? I would REALLY prefer to have an application on my computer rather than using a webmail app of some kind - but at this point i'm desperate.


In all likelihood this is an issue of your ISP blocking the standing SMTP sending port 25. ISPs do this because so many Windows computers have become infected with Trojans, etc. which turns them into zombies which the hackers then use to forward Spam. Since Microsoft can't be counted on to fix the problem at a desktop level, many ISP have simply turned off port 25, which is likely what has happened to you. I see from your email address that you're using Time Warner's Road Runner Service in Houston, so you should check out help.rr.com where you'll find listed Road Runner's Houston SMTP server address: smtp-server.houston.rr.com. If you type in that address to the Mail.app SMTP preference as below, you should be able to send mail without any problem.


The problem, however, is that once you're away from home again, you probably will not be able to send mail with this server (since you're not on Time Warner's network). In that case you might consider trying to find a commercial SMTP provider. In fact, I use fastmail.fm just for the SMTP services. If you sign up for their Member account ($14.95 one time) you can use their SMTP server from anywhere in the world. Best of all, they allow you to use non-standard ports (e.g. 26) for SMTP, allowing you to bypass those ISPs that block 25, as well as SSL encrypted SMTP servers. I've been using fastmail for SMTP for years; absolutely worth the 15 bucks. A free option would be to use Gmail's SMTP server (you'll need a Gmail account of course, and you'll need to change the default sending address in the Gmail settings if you don't want it to be your Gmail address).

Since you mention you're a student, your school may also offer authenticated SMTP access for free as well.


kr asks

I'm having trouble adding my aol account to my mail.app list. I have heard some say that aol won't work in mail.app. Is this true? If not, what should I type in in all of the fields? (i.e. outgoing, incoming server, etc.)


AOL has the answer to your question.

leeanna asks

I am a voracious reader and like to keep track of all the books I read. For the past several years I've used Notepad or TextEdit to keep track, but I would like something more elegant and nicer looking than a plain list. I figured there might be some sort of mac solution, but I haven't been able to find one.


Well the obviously suggestion is Delicious Library ($40, below) which will display cover images of your books on virtual bookshelves and allow you to input them either manually or by scanning barcodes with your iSight and downloading information from Amazon.com. Delicious Library focusses not only on books, but also DVDs, CDs, and games as you can see. Unfortunately, it's also rather notorious for bogging down with large libraries.


A free, open source option that's not quite as slick, but may in fact be a bit better for your purposes, is Books for MacOS X by Chris Karr (below). Like Delicious Library it can download bibliographical information from the net but it is not limited merely to Amazon.com and has plugins for a variety national libraries including the Library of Congress. Books' display options are not quite as nice as Delicious Library's, but it too can download cover images.




Phil asks

I rarely use Spotlight because I find the results display to be crippled. I'm often looking for a particular directory, based on knowing the name of a file in that directory. In the Spotlight results, it seems that only verb available for the found documents is Open. There doesn't seem to be a way to say "show this document in the Finder". Am I missing something?

Fellow reader Donny offers the solution to this one. Just hold down the Command key while clicking on the result and the folder in which it is located will open in the Finder. You might also like to check out the alternative Spotlight interface we mentioned last week called Spotlaser, which opens its results in a Smart Folder in the Finder.



This information is provided for your entertainment. Neither TUAW nor this author can be held responsible for any problems arising from the use of the information provided here.



It's time yet again for Ask TUAW, our weekly questions and answers column. This week we'll be tackling questions from last week about...