|Mac Notes |
By Jeffrey Allen
Virtually everyone who writes about the Mac is working on or has published something about Mac OS X v. 10.4, commonly known as Tiger. While I don’t like to be another voice in a crowd, nothing in the world of Mac has happened in the last few months that has more significance than Apple’s release of the Tiger version of its OS X. The prerelease chatter about Tiger had Mac aficionados sitting on the edge of their seats anticipating this release. Often, such anticipation results in disappointment. Not this time. I have worked with Tiger for the last several weeks and overall have found myself very favorably impressed with the upgraded system. From a Mac attorney’s perspective, this upgrade brings special features that will facilitate your practice in many ways and which will assist you in converting your office to a primarily electronic storage and filing model from a primarily paper storage and filing model.
Oddly, my copy of Tiger arrived on a DVD that self-tested at the beginning of the installation process and reported itself as defective. A replacement DVD did the same thing. The installation process allows you to ignore that issue and proceed with the installation. I backed up my system (just in case) and had the process continue through the installation, despite the glitch in self-testing the DVD. The process completed without any further issues and, as far as I can tell fully and properly installed the system. I have had no problems with it since installation on any of the computers on which I installed Tiger.
All of my installations went over 10.3.8 or 10.3.9. The installations (upgrades) went smoothly and without problems (except as noted above with the DVD). As a precaution, I ran Disk Utility prior to installing the system on each of my computers. I also ran Disk Warrior on some, but not all, and saw no difference in the installation process as a result. As both Disk Utility (included free with every computer and operating system Apple sells) and Disk Warrior ( www.Alsop.com) have long established records as good, reliable and useful utilities to keep your hard drive and computer running smoothly, you should consider using both regularly. Such maintenance always seems particularly prudent prior to a system upgrade.
Once I installed the system I started exploring the new features. Apple reports in excess of 200 new features and modifications in the new system, including better interaction with the Windows world, enhanced communications, better security, the introduction of the dashboard, improved task automation, the ability to run 64-bit software and 32-bit software without emulation modes, synchronization of multiple computers, and much more. The system remains Unix-based and, as a result, highly stable.
For a summary of the new features, see Apple’s article “200+ New Features – Explore Mac OS X Tiger” ( www.apple.com/macosx/newfeatures/over200.html). As Apple has done a nice job summarizing the new features for you, I will simply refer you to their summary and not re-invent that wheel here. I will admit that I have not found all of them. Some of them are not readily apparent. What I have found, however, makes it clear that this is an absolute must have upgrade for a Mac used in a law practice. In fact, some of the features built into the new operating are slick enough to induce attorneys considering switching to the Mac to make that move now.
Some Mac attorneys have had Document Control Envy as a result of the fact that there have not been document management or control programs for the Mac such as exist on the Windows platform. Yes, you could always create a “do-it-yourself” database in FileMaker or another information management program; however, no solid document management programs exist on the Mac Platform.
Tiger includes as a part of the system, features that can operate collectively to provide you with excellent document control. From an attorney’s perspective, Spotlight weighs in as the heavyweight new feature in Tiger, closely followed by the “smart” mailboxes and folders. Once you do your upgrade and the mandatory restart, you will notice that a blue circle appears in the upper right corner of your screen. Inside that circle is a white outline of a hand magnifier.
That icon represents access to Tiger’s Spotlight. If you click on that icon, it opens a slot for you to enter a character string or word. As you start typing, the computer starts sorting through its files to find files containing that character string. Spotlight searches files, folders and documents email messages in Mail, contacts in Address Book, iCal calendars, System Preferences and applications. It looks for the character string in the name of the file in the case of applications, pictures and music. In the case of email, searchable PDF files and word processing files, it also searches the text. While Spotlight does not search through mail held in Entourage (or possibly other email clients than Mail), you can include email through those clients by saving a copy of the email to your hard disk as a searchable PDF file since Spotlight does include all PDF files in its search.
I found Spotlight quite fast in its search and report functions. By the time you type a five- or six-letter word, files start appearing in the program’s report window. Spotlight will continue listing files until it has completed searching your hard disk and listed all files containing the character string. If you have external media attached, Spotlight searches the external media as well. If you click on the icon as soon as you reach the desktop after installing Tiger, you will get a message informing you that Spotlight is indexing the computer and will be available to you once it has completed that process. Spotlight indexes your drive when first installed and maintains the index thereafter. As a result, it can search your drive very quickly and locate all instances of the character string on your drive for you.
Because Spotlight searches your entire drive, including your contacts in its Address Book program and calendar events in iCal you can even use Spotlight to find an event or a person’s contact information. Because it only does calendar events and contacts in the Apple programs and not in Entourage, if you use Entourage, you will need to remember to regularly transfer data into Address Book and iCal to keep them current if you intend to use Spotlight in this way. I have started doing that for several reasons (not the least of which is the ability to synchronize this information on several computers through built-in features of the system) and found that it imposes only a minor inconvenience; far outweighed by the advantages it confers. As Apple has opened Spotlight technology to developers, I expect that upgrades to Microsoft’s Office program will eventually incorporate the Spotlight technology to ensure that your searches will pick up email information, contacts and calendar information stored in Entourage. Likely other programs will make similar adjustments as well.
To make things even easier for you, Spotlight classifies the files as to their basic nature, grouping emails, applications, music, pictures, documents, folders, etc. You have control over the order in which the groups appear and can change that to suit your own preferences. You can also expand and condense each of the categories. The image above shows all of the visible categories expanded except for “Images.” Note the direction of the arrow at the left side of each of the darkened bars identifying the category. Arrows pointed to the right indicate unexpanded classifications. Arrows pointed down identify expanded classifications.
To make things even easier in terms of document management and control, Tiger includes smart folders that will sort your files and documents for you and create a report for later use. To create a smart folder, go to the File pull down menu and choose “New Smart Folder.” A screen will appear allowing you to make several choices to define your smart folder. You can limit the included items to a specific type or types of document and/or to a specific date or dates. Since the feature uses the Spotlight technology, you can, of course, identify included items through the use of a character string. You can also use multiple search conditions to expand or restrict the scope of your search to increase the likelihood that you quickly locate what you seek.
Actually the smart folder does not move the document/file/folder from its present location. Instead, it creates an alias of the item and includes the alias in the smart folder. Clicking once on the alias gives you its exact location on the drive, displaying the path to reach it. Double-clicking opens the document.
When you first open a smart folder, it will appear empty for a few seconds. That time allows the program to update indexing and search the hard drive for new entries to include in the folder since the last time you opened it.
Tiger also includes an upgraded and improved Mail program. This version of mail gives you a built-in full-featured email client. One of the new features of this version of Mail is that it allows you to create smart mailboxes that will sort your emails during processing them on receipt.
To set up a smart mailbox, with the program open, go to the Mailbox pull down menu and select “New Smart Mailbox.” When you do, a window opens to let you setup the parameters for the smart mailbox. Once you have made your selections, click “OK” and the program sets up a new smart mailbox.
Once you set the mailbox up, it functions similarly to the smart folder, creating a record of what email you receive meeting the criteria you establish.
Tiger brings many other features and advantages to the Mac that I do not have space to talk about in this issue. Check Apple’s website for more information, a list of the new features and One of the most apparent of the new features, the Dashboard, gives you easy access to many utilities and features and finally answers the one question that generations of law students have asked: “What the hell is a “widget” anyway? Seriously, this is an update you want. There is no reason to delay getting it.
Jeffrey Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a general practice in Oakland, California. His firm, Graves & Allen, emphasizes real estate and business transactions and litigation. He is a frequent speaker and author on technology topics and the Editor-in-Chief of the GPSolo Technology & Practice Guide and the Technology eReport.