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Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Column View

The goal of column view is simple: to let you burrow down through nested folders without leaving a trail of messy, overlapping windows in your wake.

The solution is shown in Figure 1-21. It's a list view that's divided into several vertical panes. The first pane (not counting the Sidebar) shows whatever disk or folder you first opened.

When you click a disk or folder in this list (once), the second pane shows a list of everything in it. Each time you click a folder in one pane, the pane to its right shows what's inside. The other panes slide to the left, sometimes out of view. (Use the horizontal scroll bar to bring them back.) You can keep clicking until you're actually looking at the file icons inside the most deeply nested folder.

If the rightmost folder contains pictures, sounds, Office documents, or movies, you can look at them or play them, right there in the Finder. You can drag this jumbo preview icon anywhere—into another folder or the Trash, for example.

Figure 1-21. If the rightmost folder contains pictures, sounds, Office documents, or movies, you can look at them or play them, right there in the Finder. You can drag this jumbo preview icon anywhere—into another folder or the Trash, for example.

If you discover that your hunt for a particular file has taken you down a blind alley, it's not a big deal to backtrack, since the trail of folders you've followed to get here is still sitting before you on the screen. As soon as you click a different folder in one of the earlier panes, the panes to its right suddenly change, so that you can burrow down a different rabbit hole.

Furthermore, the Sidebar is always at the ready to help you jump to a new track; just click any disk or folder icon there to select a new first-column listing for column view.

The beauty of column view is, first of all, that it keeps your screen tidy. It effectively shows you several simultaneous folder levels, but contains them within a single window. With a quick ⌘-W, you can close the entire window, panes and all. Second, column view provides an excellent sense of where you are. Because your trail is visible at all times, it's much harder to get lost—wondering what folder you're in and how you got there—than in any other window view.

Note

In Leopard, for the first time, you can change how Column view is sorted; it doesn't have to be alphabetical. Press ⌘-J to open the View Options dialog box, and then choose the sorting criterion you want from the "Arrange by" pop-up menu (like Size, Date Created, or Label).

Column View by Keyboard

Efficiency fans can operate this entire process by keyboard alone. For example:

  • You can jump from one column to the next by pressing the right or leftar row keys.

    Each press highlights the first icon in the next or previous column.

  • You can use any ofthe commands in the Go menu,or their keyboard equivalents,or the icons in the Sidebar, to fill your columns with the contents of the corresponding folder—Home, Favorites, Applications, and so on.

  • The Back command(clicking the button on the toolbar,pressing ⌘-[,or choosing Go→Back) works as it does in a Web browser:It retraces your steps backward.You can repeat this command until you return to the column setup that first appeared when you switched to column view. Once you've gone back, in fact, you can then go forward again; choose Go→Forward, or press ⌘-].

  • With in a highlighted column,press the up or down arrow keys to highlight successive icons in the list. Or type the first couple of letters of an icon's name to jump directly to it.

  • When you finally highlight the icon you've been looking for, press ⌘ -O or ⌘ -down arrow to open it (or double-click it,of course).You can open anything in any column; you don't have to wait until you've reached the rightmost column.

Manipulating the Columns

The number of columns you can see without scrolling depends on the width of the window. In no other view are the zoom and resize controls as important as they are here.

That's not to say, however, that you're limited to four columns (or whatever fits on your monitor). You can make the columns wider or narrower—either individually or all at once—to suit the situation, according to this scheme:

To make a single column wider or narrower, drag its right-side handle (circled in Figure 1-22).

To make all the columns wider or narrower simultaneously, hold down the Option key as you drag that right-side handle.

And here's the tip of the week: Double-click one of the right-side handles to make the column precisely as wide as necessary to reveal all the names of its contents.

Best of all, you can Option-double-click any column's right-side handle to make all columns just as wide as necessary.

What you want to do most of the time is adjust one column. Adding the Option key as you drag the handle lets you adjust all columns at once.

Figure 1-22. What you want to do most of the time is adjust one column. Adding the Option key as you drag the handle lets you adjust all columns at once.

View Options

Just as in icon and list view, you can choose View → Show View Options to open a dialog box—a Spartan one, in this case—offering additional control over your column views.

  • Always open in column view.Once again,this option lets you override your systemwide preference setting for all windows. See "Always open in icon view" on Icon View for details.

  • Text size.Whatever point size you choose here affects the type used for icons in allcolumn views.

  • Show icons.For maximum speed, turn off this option. Now you see only file names—not the tiny icons next to them—in all column views.

  • Show icon preview. In Leopard, for the first time, you can request that the tiny icons in column view display their actual contents—photos show their images, Word and PDF documents show the first page, and so on. Of course, this feature isn't always terrifically useful, since the icons are the size of a hydrogen atom; but now and then, you can get the general gist of what's in a file just by its overall shape and color.

  • Show preview column.The far-right Preview column can be handy when you're browsing graphics, sounds, or movie files. Feel free to enlarge this final column when you want a better view of the picture or movie; you can make it really big. Almost Quick Look big.

The rest of the time, though, the Preview column can get in the way, slightly slowing down the works and pushing other, more useful columns off to the left side of the window. If you turn off this checkbox, the Preview column doesn't appear.

Tip

No matter what view you're in, remember this if you ever start dragging an icon and then change your mind: Press the Esc key or ⌘-period, even while the mouse button is still down. The icon flies back to its precise starting place. (Too bad real life doesn't have a similar feature.)

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