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Ask TUAW: Open With, AFP, iTunes with cell phone, escaping iPhoto, and more

This week in Ask TUAW we'll be considering questions about the "Open With..." menu option, mounting drives over a local network, using iTunes with a cell phone, getting all your original photos out of iPhoto, and syncing files between a notebook and a desktop Mac. Remember new Mac users and Switchers who are enjoying our Mac 101 series should feel very welcome to post questions for Ask TUAW; we're happy to have them. As always, please submit your questions by commenting to this post or using our tip form.

Jon asks

How can I get more applications listed in the contextual menu item "Open With"? I find that pretty often it doesn't have the application I want to use.

Mike asks

I have no Idea why My Open With Dialogue has so many programs in it. Especially with image Files I dont always want to load them into photoshop to view them quickly, and so Ive gotta use Open With Preview. Except somehow my list of programs keeps expanding to useless stuff. How do I fix that? Also, There never seems to be any consistency for this menu. I've changed the "Always Open With" Preview and applied to "all files of this kind" several times, but it seems to change back and forth. I can have 2 jpgs on the desktop, and both will have different defaults. Also, similarily with ZIP files, Ive changed my default application to be UnArchiver except, it never updates the icons. Anytime I download a new zip file to the desktop, it appears as a blank icon like an unknown filetype would.

Of course, you can do Open With Other as above, but I don't think that's quite what is being asked. Both questions involve editing the "Open With" contextual menu item. It turns out that this menu is automatically generated by the Finder based on the applications you have, and therefore you cannot edit it manually to add or remove programs. However, I did discover that you can prevent applications from appearing on the "Open With" menu by editing a plist inside of each application. Just follow this hint at MacOSXhints.com. I have not done this personally so I cannot confirm it, but this looks like exactly what you want. In principle, I suppose you could also add file types in this way to force applications to appear in the "Open With" menu,

As far as the questions go about getting preferred applications to stick, your best best is probably to try RCDefaultApp (free, donations requested). This is a nice little Preference Pane that allows you to define default applications in a variety of ways.


Gene asks

I have easily set up my iMac to share all of my User Name files across my home network, via the Sharing preferences. What I still can't figure out is how to share my iMac connected external drives. Typically I store all of my Movies, Music and media files there and at times, I want access to those files, from other computers on my network. Searched under those same preferences sharing but those drives, even while mounted, don't show there. Thank you

You need to mount those drives specifically in the Finder. Assuming you have Personal File Sharing on in the Services tab of the Sharing Preference Pane, just use the "Connect to Server..." option (cmd + K) in the Finder. Log onto the computer you want using afp (e.g. afp://192.168.1.3) as a registered user, and it will give you a dialog like the following:

In my case, "Backup" is a FireWire hard drive connected to the remote computer (Theresa). Just select the drive you want and it will be mounted on your local computer.


Tony asks

As an experienced software developer (Windows for 15+ years) now a confirmed "switcher" one thing oft bugs me... Is there any way to get to the "system" menu with a keyboard shortcut (a la Ctrl-Escape on windows)?

There is no built-in way to do this, but this cries out for Quicksilver (free). Just create a Quicksilver trigger to bring up the System Preference and give it whatever keyboard shortcut you like. As you can see below, I've created a trigger that sets the System Preferences to the same Cntl-Esc shortcut you mention. You can of course use other keyboard shortcut programs to do this, but as a switcher I highly suggest that you get to know Quicksilver. It will make your Mac life much easier.


Ricky asks

I am using a P990i on my Mac to listen to podcasts and my music library (replacement for an ipod) but I am trying to find an application that will transfer my playlist m3u lists as well as my actual playlist. I have tried SyncTunes but that seems to be hit and miss and very buggy. Any other suggestions?

I have not used it personally, but iTuneMyWalkman (free) would seem to be exactly what you want. It needs for your phone's storage Memory Stick to be mounted on your Mac as a standard Mass storage device and it will do the rest with some AppleScripts.


Allister asks

I switched to an iMac from PC earlier this year and fell into the trap of using iPhoto for my photos. Now I want out!...My problem is that iPhoto is "managing" my files for me. By which it clearly means it should obfuscate the location of every photo so it takes an age to find....What I want to do now is easily and accurately get all of my original JPEGs out of iPhoto and into a folder somewhere. Is there a robust way of doing this? I know I can in theory export from iPhoto, but it will surely export any edited images in their edited form and at this stage I don't necessarily know which images are the edited ones.

Okay, this shouldn't be too difficult. First of all, I highly recommend making a complete backup of your iPhoto library before you do anything else. Once that's done, just select all of your photos (select one photo and hit: ⌘ + A), next go to the Photos menu and select "Revert to Original." It will warn you that you're going to lose all of your edits, but that's what you want to do, so just confirm it. Now your library will contain only to the original images and you should be able to export them as normally.


James asks

I am considering purchasing a MacBook (Pro?) in the near future and would like for it to exactly replicate my desktop machine in both applications and documents. Is there a program that will allow these machines to sync in case one fails or is lost?

First you should note that there are some potential problems in doing this, especially with the applications. It's possible that the same application on two machines might have different support and preference files. I would probably recommend against doing automated syncing of applications. However, syncing documents is relatively easy and there are a variety of ways to do it, including rolling your own using the powerful rsync command line tool. However, I've noticed that ChronoSync ($30) tends to be the most often recommended way for doing this. They have a Home-to-Home Sync tip that covers exactly this. There are some other applications that do this like Martian Slingshot, but my sense is that ChronoSync is the most mature solution out there.

Okay that's all folks for this week. Keep those questions and comments coming!


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