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Ask TUAW: Making contact sheets, adjusting multiple files' properties, using network locations, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about making photo contact sheets, adjusting properties for multiple files at the same time in the Finder, automatically managing settings based on location, changing the spell check language in iWork and more.

As always, your suggestions and questions are welcome. Questions for next week should be left in the comments. When asking a question please include which machine you're running and which version of Mac OS X (we'll assume you're running Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). And now, on to the questions.

johnny asks

I plan to archive photos more than 2 years old onto DVD, and place them in a 3-ring binder along with sheets of thumbnails for each DVD. How would I print these thumbnail sheets in Leopard or Snow Leopard?

Check out the open source ContactSheetMaker. If you're more of a do it yourself type, check out this Create Contact Sheets Automator action, which will allow you to roll your own and take advantage of Automator's other features as well.


matt asks

Can I hide file extensions en masse with Snow Leopard? In Leopard, if you selected >10 files at once and hit apple-i, a single "information" window for all the files you open and you only needed to tick "hide file extensions" once. Now, however many files you select, that's the number of Info windows that open up. Makes for a lot of wasted mouse motion and clicking. Is there a workaround?

What you want is the file Inspector rather than the Get Info window. All you have to do is select the files you want and hit ⌘ + Option + I (versus ⌘-I for the normal Get Info). This will allow you to make change to multiple items, including showing or hiding the file extensions.

huth.sebastian asks

I recently got a new MBP and I'll use it mostly for college, but I have some troubles setting up a convenient way for the network settings. I basically have 3 different environments, dorm, campus and home. The dorm has some restrictions, doesn't allow wireless and has rules for your IP configuration, so automatic doesn't work, or it has to be disabled. Is there any way in OS X where I can just select somewhere where I am right now (maybe even automatically with location service?) and it automatically sets up everything? Like when I'm at campus, it enables Airport, when I'm at the dorm it disables it and when I'm at home it automatically selects the right wireless network?

There's a limit to how automated you can make this, but there are some things you can do. First, you'll need to create separate locations within the Network System Preference Pane for the three different environments. This should allow you to put in the specific IP settings, etc. as appropriate. Once these are set up you can manually select them from the Apple menu in the menubar.

However, you can now take it to the next level with the location manager Marco Polo. It allows you set up different actions that can be triggered based on different criteria. Among the actions that can be triggered is changing the network locations, though you will need something to actually do the triggering, for instance, plugging in an Ethernet cable or coming into range of a specific Wi-Fi network SSID. The Marco Polo site notes some issues with Wi-Fi in Snow Leopard, but there is also apparently a work-around.


Steve asks

I was wondering if it's possible to have my mac automatically toggle Bluetooth based on my power cord. As we all know, Bluetooth is quite a power hog, so it would be really cool if it would automatically turn back on when my Macbook Pro is attached to a power source, but shut off once my power cord is disconnected, or at least prompt me with a choice to turn it off or leave it on.

You can also use Marco Polo. Among its triggers is the specific power source and among its actions is toggling Bluetooth on and off. All you have to do is setup a rule to this effect. One proviso is that there are apparently some issues with Marco Polo and Bluetooth in Snow Leopard.


Dan asks

When using Leopard, I was able to set-up my iMac to function as a Wi-Fi transmitter via Sharing so I could use my iPod touch on the internet around the house. This doesn't seem to be working for me with Snow Leopard. Any suggestions?

Frankly, it should work more or less the same way. You turn on Internet Sharing within the Sharing Preference pane with Ethernet as the source and AirPort as the service. What I would suggest is this: 1) check to make sure that your Firewall settings in the Security Preference Pane are not preventing it from working. You can test it by temporarily turning the Firewall off altogether. If it starts working then you need to adjust those settings. 2) If it's not the Firewall, I'd then try resetting all of your settings on both the iMac and the iPod touch.


cian asks

I was wondering if you could walk me through getting non-standard spellchecks up and running on iWork. For instance, I am trying to get an Irish spellcheck working. My mac (10.6.1) has the option to have the finder in "Gaeilge" (the Irish name for the language) but I can't seem to find a way to make spellcheck work in it.

You have to set the language of the document using the inspector. So, in Pages for instance, open the inspector in the view menu. Go to the Text section (under the capital T), then the more tab. Down at the bottom you'll see a language drop down which should allow you to select any of the languages that you have installed and active on your Mac. This document level setting governs which spell checker is used on that document.



Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got questions about making photo contact sheets,...