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Problems with OS X Files: Open, Copy, Delete, and Beyond

This chapter covers what are likely to be the most common problems confronting a Mac OS X user: opening and saving files, copying and moving files, and deleting files. When these operations work the way they should, they are quite easy to accomplish. Due to the nature of Mac OS X, however, sooner or later (more likely sooner), you will have a problem with at least one of these operations. When you do, this chapter is the place to turn.
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In This Chapter

Opening and Saving: Opening Files

From the Finder
From the Recent Items menu
From the Dock
From the Contextual Menu
From third-party utilities
From within an application: the Open command

Opening and Saving: Saving

Losing track of saved files
Export instead of Save
TextEdit can't save files in SimpleText format

Opening and Saving: Problems Opening Files

"Item {name of item} is used by Mac OS X and cannot be opened"
"There is no application to open the document"
Document opens in the wrong application
File is corrupted
File is compressed or encoded
Problems with .app files
Permissions/privileges problems with opening files

Copying and Moving: Copying vs. Moving vs. Duplicating Files

The basics
Beyond the basics

Copying and Moving: Problems Copying and Moving Files

Insufficient space
File is corrupted
File does not appear after being moved
Permissions/privileges problems with copying/moving files
Accessing other users' folders
Sticky bits and the Drop Box
SetUID and "Items could not be copied" error
Copying to back up

Aliases and Symbolic Links

How to recognize an alias
How to locate an original via its alias
How to create an alias
Fixing a broken alias link
Aliases vs. symbolic links: What's difference?
Determine whether a file is a symbolic link or an alias
Create a symbolic link
"Desktop (Mac OS 9)" file is a symbolic link
Symbolic links and hierarchical menus in the Dock
Fixing a broken symbolic link

Deleting: Using the Trash

Place items in Trash
Empty the Trash
Show warning
Eject/Disconnect and Burn icons

Deleting: Problems Deleting Files

Locked files
Too many aliases
Unlocked item cannot be placed in Trash or Trash cannot be emptied
Use Unix to delete files
Can't eject/unmount disks

Invisible Files: What Files Are Invisible?

Files that begin with a dot (.)
Files in the .hidden list
Files with the Invisible (Hidden) bit set

Invisible Files: Making Invisible Files Visible (and Vice Versa)

Toggle a file's Invisible bit
Add or remove a dot at the start of a file name
Use TinkerTool or PropertyList Editor to make invisible files visible
Use the Finder's Go to Folder command
Use an application that lists invisible files in its Open dialog box

Invisible Files: Working with Invisible Files

Saving movie trailers that have the Save option disabled.
Saving the Stickies database file
Modifying Unix files

Maximizing Performance

Not enough memory
Too slow a processor
Not enough free space on the drive (especially for the swap file)
Too slow an Internet connection
Miscellaneous other tips

Quick Fixes

Files do not open in Mac OS 9
Can't copy and paste from Classic to Mac OS X
Date & Time settings
Can't select window

Opening and Saving: Opening Files

If you are familiar with opening files in Mac OS 9, the basics of doing so in Mac OS X are very similar. Here's how the process works.

From the Finder

To open any file, be it an application or a document, locate its icon (or name, if you are in List view) in a Finder window. Double-click the icon/name, and the file will open.

Applications. If you choose to open an application, it simply launches. Its icon appears in the Dock (if it is not already there as a permanent member of the Dock) and starts to bounce until the application is done opening. Thanks to Mac OS X's preemptive multitasking, if an application is taking a long time to launch, you needn't wait for it before doing something else; you can still work with other applications.

Open the application needed to work with the document (assuming that the application is not already open). Thus, if you double-click an AppleWorks document, this action will force AppleWorks to launch and the document to open within AppleWorks. If the Finder is uncertain what application goes with your document, you may have some trouble. One way to resolve this problem is to drag the document icon to the application icon.

From the Recent Items menu

You can choose applications or documents from the Apple menu's Recent Items submenu and launch them from there.

From the Dock

You can single-click any application icon in the Dock, or any application or document in a Dock menu, and the application will launch.

If an application has an icon in the Dock—either a permanent icon or one that appeared when you launched the application—you should be able to open a document with that application by dragging the document icon to the application icon in the Dock.

Figure 6.1Figure 6.1 Applications listed in (left) Recent Items and (right) a Dock menu.

From the Contextual Menu

Control-click an item in the Finder, and its contextual menu will appear. One of the items in the contextual menu will be Open. Select it, and the item will launch.

From third-party utilities

An assortment of third-party (non-Apple) launcher utilities is available. DragThing and Drop Drawers are two popular choices. You can access and open any file from these utilities, just as you can from the Finder. A utility called SNAX even acts as a complete replacement for the Finder, offering some enhanced features that are not available in the standard Mac OS X issue.

If you have several applications open, you can also use third-party utilities to navigate among them, rather than the Dock. My favorite is ASM, a utility that brings back the Mac OS 9 Application menu, which lists each open application in a menu at the right end of the menu bar.

From within an application: the Open command

For documents, a final option is to open a document via the Open command in the File menu of an application. This command can be used only to open documents that the application believes it is able to open. Otherwise, the documents will not be listed or will be dimmed and unselectable.

The exact style of, and options available for, the Open dialog box will vary a bit among applications, but all versions of the dialog box have basic elements in common. I'll use the Open dialog box in Microsoft Word as an example.

File list. The middle of the dialog box contains a list of files in the column-view format of the Finder. You can use the horizontal slider along the bottom to navigate to any place on the drive. Click a folder, and its contents appear in the column to the right. Click a file that the application can open, and the Open button is enabled. Click the Open button (or simply double-click the file name), and the file opens.

A shortcut tip: Type Command-D when the Open dialog box is frontmost and the column listing instantly shifts to highlight the Mac OS X Desktop.

From pop-up menu. You can also navigate to a particular location by choosing a folder from the From pop-up menu above the file listing. This menu contains some basic locations (such as Home and Desktop) as well as recently visited folders and folders you have added to your Favorites list (such as via the Add to Favorites button in the bottom-left corner of the Open dialog box).

Go To text box. You can also use the Go To text box to navigate to a particular location. To do so, enter the file's Unix path name. Typing ~/Documents, for example, will take you to the Documents folder in your Home directory.


Chapter 10 for more information on Unix path names.

Drag and drop. Another option is to drag the icon of a file from its Finder location to the Open window. As a result of this action, the listing will shift to the location of the file, with the Open button enabled. Just click Open, and the document opens. Why do this instead of simply double-clicking the file in the Finder? Some documents can be opened in several applications. If you want the file to open in an application other than the one in which it normally opens when you double-click it in the Finder, this method is one way to do so.

Figure 6.2Figure 6.2 The Open dialog box in Microsoft Word, with the From pop-up menu visible.

Show pop-up menu. Finally, if the document you want to open is not visible in the window, or is dimmed and cannot be selected, you may be able to open it by changing the selection in the Show pop-up menu. For Word, you could shift from the default choice of All Word Documents to a more-inclusive choice, such as All Documents. Just be aware that trying to open a document that is not intended for an application can have unpredictable results. The document window may be blank, for example, even though the file contains data. Or the file may be an almost-nonsensical string of characters (as might happen if you try to open some graphics files as text in a word processor).

Figure 6.3Figure 6.3 The Open dialog box in Microsoft Word, with the Show pop-up menu visible.

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