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Ask TUAW: Syncing, custom keyboards, sharing iPhone apps, and more

Welcome back to Ask TUAW, our weekly Mac troubleshooting Q&A column. This week we've got lots of questions about syncing, as well as customized keyboards, sharing iPhone apps, managing iTunes, 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

Jerry asks

Is there a way to make a key shortcut for words? like .com I always wonder why there is no .com key on the keyboards.

The first thing that comes to mind is to use a snippet manager like the one built into Snow Leopard, or TextExpander ($29.95), which allow you to define custom abbreviations that are expanded automatically as you type. However, if you really want to create something like a .com key, as opposed to an abbreviation, you'll need to use a Macro manager like Keyboard Maestro ($36) which will allow you to create a hotkey that will then automatically insert ".com" with a single stroke.


lo_fye asks

When then the 3GS came out, I bought one with the intention of giving my girlfriend the 3G to use as a Touch... I think I have it running now, but of course the apps she's used to are all on my iTunes (Mac) and her iTunes is empty (PC). Is there a way that she can have access to the apps (on my iTunes), which we co-paid for? Also, if the solution involves sharing an iTunes account between my Mac and her PC, is there a way to make it so that our genius recommendations remain distinct? Our music tastes are not similar, so I don't want to receive her music & app recommendations.

On the Mac your iPhone applications are located at ~/Music/iTunes/Mobile Applications/ as .ipa files. You should just be able to copy these over to the Windows machine like any other files. On the Mac you can simply drag and drop them into iTunes. I assume (but cannot confirm) that it will work the same way with the Windows version of iTunes. You will want to share the same iTunes accounts between the two computers. You shouldn't have to worry about the Genius recommendations, because I believe they are based just on what is actually on that computer.


LPTO asks

On the advice of my chiropractor, I'm looking for a wireless keyboard to use with my MacBook. Can anyone recommend one with a built-in trackpad? Because if I'm going to be using it on my lap while keeping the MacBook's display at eye level, there really won't be any room left for a mouse. Most of the ones I've seen so far are designed for Windows and I'd really prefer one that can do everything the Mac keyboard can do.

Keep in mind that you should be able to customize a Windows keyboard quite easily. So, for instance, you can easily make the Alt key function as the ⌘ key, and turn the "Windows" key into Option. Just go to the Keyboard Preference Pane and hit the "Modifier Keys..." button. That will bring up this sheet below allowing you to switch the keys around for a specific external keyboard. I do this with my own buckling spring keyboard that was made for Windows.

All of that said, another reader pointed to this Adesso model designed for the Mac.


Snookie asks

Is there a hot key such that when I delete a song from my library, like a duplicate, it deletes it from my drive? It only deletes it from my library and I always have to right click->show source->delete. Arghhhh!

Instead of hitting just the delete or backspace key, instead hit ⌘ + delete. That should then bring up this dialog and allow you to move the song file to the trash. Of course, this only works if you have iTunes automatically copying songs to ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/


bgodar asks

I switched over to Google Sync this week to get push e-mail, and included Calendar / Contact syncing, but now I've got separate calendars and contact lists for Google and iCal/Address Book. I want to be able to make changes in Address Book / iCal on my Mac or iPod Touch and have them sync everywhere, and trying to figure it out is making my brain hurt. Any help would be very appreciated.

You need to set up both iCal and Address Book to sync to Google as well. Google has Instructions for iCal and Address Book. Basically you just need to add your Google account information to the Accounts tab in the Address Book and iCal Preferences. Before you do anything else, be sure to make backups of all of your data.


Mike asks

Is there any fully bidirectional sync between iPhone and iCal that can happen over the internet. I've found many apps that sync over WiFi only, and many apps that will sync two-way between iPhone and various services like Toodledo and Remember the Milk. But I haven't found a single app that will combine the two and two-way sync iCal and Toodledo or anything else.

Of course MobileMe provides fully bi-directional syncing between an iPhone and iCal. Similarly, in Snow Leopard with Exchange support you can also get bi-directional syncing through an Exchange server. Finally, Google recently released Google Sync which will also provide bi-directional syncing if you also have iCal set up for the Google account as described above.

Now, if you also want to sync something like Toodledo with iCal todos and an iPhone I'd suggest having a look at Appigo's Todo for iPhone together with the accompanying Mac application Appigo Sync which provides the iCal syncing.

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