In an icon view, every file, folder, and disk is represented by a small picture—an icon. This humble image, a visual representation of electronic bits and bytes, is the cornerstone of the entire Macintosh religion. (Maybe that's why it's called an icon.)
In Mac OS X Leopard, it's easy—almost scarily easy—to set up your preferred look for all folder windows on your entire system. With one click on the "Use as Defaults" button (described below), you can change the window view of 20,000 folders at once—to icon view, list view, or whatever you like.
The "Always open in icon view" option lets you override that master setting, just for this window.
For example, you might generally prefer a neat list view with large text. But for your Pictures folder, it probably makes more sense to set up icon view, so you can see a thumbnail of each photo without having to open it.
That's the idea here. Open Pictures, change it to icon view, and then turn on "Always open in icon view." Now every folder on your Mac is in list view except Pictures.
The wording of this item in the View Options dialog box changes according to the view you're in at the moment. In a list-view window, for example, it says "Always open in list view." In a Cover Flow–view window, it says "Always open in Cover Flow." And so on. But the function is the same: to override the default (master) setting.
Mac OS X draws the little pictures that represent your icons using sophisticated graphics software. As a result, you (or the Mac) can scale them to almost any size without losing any quality or clarity.
In the View Options window (Figure 1-13), drag the Icon Size slider back and forth until you find a size you like. (For added fun, make little cartoon sounds with your mouth.)
Listen up, you young whippersnappers! When I was your age, back when computers used Mac OS 9, you could control how closely spaced icons were in a window. Why, if I wanted to see a lot of them without making the window bigger, I could pack'em in like sardines!
That feature disappeared—for seven years. But it's finally returned to Mac OS X. Figure 1-14 shows all.
Your choices range only from 10 to 16 points, and you still can't choose a different font for your icons' names. But using this slider, you can adjust the type size. And for people with especially big or especially small screens—or people with aging retinas—this feature is much better than nothing.
Figure 1-14. Drag the "Grid spacing" slider to specify how tightly packed you want your icons to be. At the minimum setting (top), they're so crammed that it's almost ridiculous; you can't even see their names. But sometimes, you don't really need to. At more spacious settings (bottom), you get a lot more "white space."
In fact,you can actually specify a different type size for every window on your machine. (Why would you want to adjust the point size independently in different windows? Well, because you might want smaller type to fit more into a crammed list view without scrolling, while you can afford larger type in less densely populated windows.)
In its own quiet way, this tiny, unheralded feature represents one of the most radical changes to the Finder since the invention of the Mac. As shown in Figure 1-15, it lets you create, in effect, a multiple-column list view in a single window.
While you've got the View Options palette open, try turning on "Show item info." Suddenly you get a new line of information (in tiny blue type) for certain icons, saving you the effort of opening up the folder or file to find out what's in it. For example:
Folders.The info line lets you know how many icons are inside each without having to open it up. Now you can spot empties at a glance.
Graphics files.Certain other kinds of files may show a helpful info line, too. For example, graphics files display their dimensions in pixels.
Sounds and QuickTime movies.The light-blue bonus line tells you how long the sound or movie takes to play. For example, an MP3 file might say "03' 08," which means three minutes, eight seconds.
.zip files.On compressed archives like .zip files (Installing Mac OS X Programs), you get to see the archive's total size on disk (like "48.9 MB").
You can see some of these effects illustrated in Figure 1-15.
Figure 1-15. The View Options dialog box for an icon view window offers the chance to create colored backgrounds for certain windows or even to use photos as window wallpaper (bottom). Using a photo may have a soothing, annoying, or comic effect—like making the icon names completely unreadable. (Note, by the way, how the icon's names have been set to appear beside the icons, rather than underneath. You now have all the handy, freely draggable convenience of an icon view, along with the more compact spacing of a list view.)
This option pertains primarily to graphics, which Mac OS X often displays only with a generic icon (stamped with the file type, like JPEG, TIFF, or PDF). But if you turn on "Show icon preview," Mac OS X turns each icon into a miniature display of the image itself, as shown in Figure 1-15. It's ideal for working with folders full of digital photos.
A small but delicious point: You can tell just by looking at a PDF file's icon whether it's longer than one page. The icon for a one-page PDF has a curled upper-right corner. But on a multi-page PDF, only the first page's corner curls down. And in the gap it reveals, you can see a tiny bit of the actual What's New in Leopard showing!
Color-coordinating or "wallpapering" certain windows is more than just a gimmick. In fact, it can serve as a timesaving psychological cue. Once you've gotten used to the fact that your main Documents folder has a sky-blue background, you can pick it out like a sharpshooter from a screen filled with open windows. Color-coded Finder windows are also especially easy to distinguish at a glance when you've minimized them to the Dock.
Once a window is open,choose View→View Options (⌘-J). The bottom of the resulting dialog box offers three choices, whose results are shown in Figure 1-15.
White. This is the standard option (not shown).
Color.When you click this button, you see a small rectangular button beside the word Color. Click it to open the Color Picker (Dashboard), which you can use to choose a new background color for the window. (Unless it's April Fool's Day, pick a light color. If you choose a dark one—like black—you won't be able to make out the lettering of the icons' names.)
Picture.If you choose this option, a Select button appears. Click it to open the Select a Picture dialog box, already open to your Library → Desktop Pictures folder. Now choose a graphics file—one of Apple's in the Desktop Pictures folder, or one of your own. When you click Select, you see that Mac OS X has superimposed the window's icons on the photo. As you can see in Figure 1-15, low-contrast or light-background photos work best for legibility.
Incidentally,the Mac has no idea what sizes and shapes your window may assume in its lifetime. Therefore, Mac OS X makes no attempt to scale down a selected photo to fit neatly into the window. If you have a high-res digital camera, therefore, you see only the upper-left corner of a photo in the window. Use a graphics program to scale the picture down to something smaller than your screen resolution for better results.
This harmless-looking button can actually wreak havoc—or restore order to your kingdom—with a single click. It applies the changes you've just made in the View Options dialog box to all windows on your Mac (instead of only the frontmost window).
If you set up the frontmost window with a colored background, big icons, small text, and a tight grid, and then you click Use as Defaults, you'll see that look in every disk or folder window you open.
You've been warned.
Fortunately, there are two auxiliary controls that can give you a break from all the sameness.
Second, you can remove any departures from the default window view—after a round of disappointing experimentation on a particular window, for example—using a secret button. To do so, choose View→Show View Options to open the View Options dialog box. Now hold down the Option key. The Use as Defaults button magically changes to say "Restore to Defaults," which means "Abandon all the changes I've foolishly made to the look of this window."
If you'd like Mac OS X to impose a little discipline on you, however, it's easy enough to request a visit from an electronic housekeeper who tidies up your icons by aligning them neatly to an invisible grid. In Leopard, you can even specify how tight or loose that grid is.
Mac OS X offers an enormous number of variations on the "snap icons to the underlying rows-and-columns grid" theme:
Aligning individual icons to the grid.Press the ⌘ key while dragging an icon or several highlighted icons. (Don't press the key until after you begin to drag.) When you release the mouse, the icons you've moved all jump into neatly aligned positions.
Aligning all icons to the grid.Choose View→Clean Up (if nothing is selected) or View→Clean Up Selection (if some icons are highlighted). Now all icons in the window, or those you've selected, jump to the closest positions on the invisible underlying grid.
If you press Option, you swap the wording of the command. Clean Up changes to read Clean Up Selection, and vice versa.
Note, by the way, that the grid alignment is only temporary. As soon as you drag icons around, or add more icons to the window, the newly moved icons wind up just as sloppily positioned as before you tidied up.
If you want the Mac to lock all icons to the closest spot on the grid whenever you move them,choose View→Show View Options (⌘-J);from the "Arrange by"pop-up menu, choose Snap to Grid.
Even then, though, you'll soon discover that none of these grid-snapping techniques move icons into the most compact possible arrangement. If one or two icons have wandered off from the herd to a far corner of the window, they're merely nudged to the grid points closest to their current locations. They aren't moved all the way back to the group of icons elsewhere in the window.
To solve that problem, use one of the sorting options described next.
If you'd rather have icons sorted and bunched together on the underlying grid — no strays allowed — make a selection from the View menu:
Sorting all icons for the moment.If you choose View → Arrange By → Name, all icons in the window snap to the invisible grid and sort themselves alphabetically. Use this method to place the icons as close as possible to each other within the window, rounding up any strays.
The other subcommands in the View → Arrange By menu work similarly(Size,Date Modified, Label, and so on), but sort the icons according to different criteria.
As with the Clean Up command, View → Arrange By serves only to reorganize the icons in the window at this moment. If you move or add icons to the window, they won't be sorted properly. If you'd rather have all icons remain sorted and clustered, try this:
Sorting all icons permanently.You can also tell your Mac to maintain the sorting and alignment of all icons in the window, present and future. Now if you add more icons to the window, they jump into correct alphabetical position; if you remove icons, the remaining ones slide over to fill in the resulting gap. This setup is perfect for neat freaks.
To make it happen, open the View menu, hold down the Option key, and choose fromthe "Keep Arranged By" submenu(choose Name,Date Modified,orwhatever sorting criterion you like). As shown at left in Figure 1-16, your icons are now locked into sorted position, as compactly as the grid permits.
(This Option-key trick, new in Leopard, is a shortcut for choosing View→Show View Options, and then, in the resulting dialog box, choosing from the "Arrange by" submenu.)
The Option key is up to its usual tricks here; as happens so often in the Finder, it means, "reverse the usual logic."
For example, when you open the View menu, you see either "Arrange By" (which temporarily sorts the current batch of icons) or "Keep Arranged By" (which locks present and future icons into a sorted grid). The wording depends on whether or not you've already turned on permanent sorting.
But the point here is that pressing the Option key once the View menu is open changes the command — from "Arrange By" to "Keep Arranged By," or vice versa.
Figure 1-16. Use either the View menu (left) or the View Options dialog box (right) to turn on permanent cleanliness mode. From now on, you're not allowed to drag these icons freely. You've told the Mac to keep them on the invisible grid, sorted the way you requested, so don't get frustrated when you try to drag an icon into a new position and then discover that it won't budge.
Although it doesn't occur to most Mac fans, you can also apply any of the commands described in this section—Clean Up, Arrange, Keep Arranged—to icons lying loose on your desktop. Even though they don't seem to be in any window at all, you can specify small or large icons, automatic alphabetical arrangement, and so on. Just click the desktop before using the View menu or the View Options dialog box.
There's only one View Options dialog box. Once it's open, you can adjust the icon sizes or arrangement options of other windows just by clicking them. Each time you click inside a window, the View Options dialog box remains in front, changing to reflect the settings of the window you just clicked.
Incidentally, you can get rid of the View Options box the same way you summoned it: by pressing ⌘-J.