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What to Do:

  1. Quit the problem application (or close the problem control panel). If a problem is specific to a particular application that is currently open, quit the application before taking any further steps. Relaunch the application only after you have completed these changes.

  2. Before replacing/deleting preferences files for control panels, restart with extensions off. When deleting preferences files of control panels, first restart with extensions off. Otherwise, even though you delete the preferences file, the new preferences file may be created from the corrupted information still present and in use in RAM.

  3. Find and delete (or replace) suspected corrupted or incompatible preferences files. If you suspect a corrupted or incompatible preferences file, delete it. Remember, many control panels now use preferences files. So check for both application and control panel preference files, as relevant.

    If you are having trouble locating a specific preferences file, remember to check for it in both the System Folder (especially in the Preferences folder) and in the folder that contains the application. Also note that in some cases, preferences files may be contained in a special folder (created by the application) located within the System Folder. A well-known example of this is the preferences files in the Claris folder (a folder created and used by virtually all Claris applications).

    If you are still having trouble locating a preferences file for a particular program, use Sherlock to search for all files that include the name of the program.

    If even this fails to locate a specific preferences file (perhaps because it has an unusual name that you do not recognize as belonging to the application), do the following:

    1. Get a utility, such as Snitch, that can list a file's Creator code. Use it to learn the code for your problem application ("BOBO" is the creator for AppleWorks, for example). See Chapter 8 for more details on doing this.

    2. Next, use Sherlock (or Find File in older OS versions) to search for all files that have the desired Creator. To do this, from the Find File tab, select Creator from the "Name" pop-up menu. Type in the name of the Creator code exactly (including capitalization). Click to Find. In the Search Results that appear, check for the relevant Preferences file.

      With Sherlock 2, in Mac OS 9, you would do this by first clicking the Edit button to access the More Search Options window. Then select the Creator from Advanced Options.

      Figure F2-3. After determining the creater for AppleWorks is BOBO (top), do a search for all files with that creator (bottom); this should locate any AppleWorks-specific preferences files (although, in this case, you may miss some more general preferences that apply to all applications originally developed by Claris, such as XTND Translator List).

    3. Assuming you find the desired Preferences file, delete it. If you find two similar preferences files (such as Excel 4 Preferences and Excel 5 Preferences), delete just the older one (check the files "Created" date, in the Get Info window, to determine this). If this fails to fix the problem, delete both.

  4. Restart, launch the problem application and see if the problem has been fixed. Typically, a new preferences file will be created when you launch the application. This should have happened automatically at startup for some control panels. You may have to reset some custom preferences at this point. However, if a Preferences file was the source of the problem, it should now be fixed.

    TECHNICALLY SPEAKING — Problems Deciding What Preferences File to Delete

    Deciding what preferences files to delete can get more complicated than just a difficulty in locating a specific file. For example:

    • Some preferences files are used by several applications. For example, XTND Translator List is a quasi-preferences file shared by most Claris applications (including AppleWorks, which was originally called ClarisWorks) and is located in the Preferences folder. Deleting such files, in addition to or instead of any application-specific Preferences files, may solve certain Preferences file-related problems.


      Claris Corporation no longer exists. AppleWorks is now marketed directly by Apple, and uses an AppleWorks folder in the Application Support folder of the System Folder. However AppleWorks still may use files stored in the older Claris folder, so do not delete the Claris folder.

    • Sometimes a symptom may give no suggestion that a Preferences file for a particular program is the cause. This is particularly true for control panel preferences: in these cases, figuring out what to do may require getting advice from others who have been down the same road before and figured out the solution. Here are two examples:

      Apple Menu Options Prefs The most notorious example is the Preferences file for Apple Menu Options (Apple Menu Options Prefs). Problems with this file can lead to a loss of the hierarchical menus in the Apple menu (in which case, the link to the Prefs file would be obvious), but it can also cause a variety of apparently unrelated symptoms, including memory errors at startup and an overall slowdown in the speed of your Mac.

      Finder Preferences (and related files) The Finder has its own preferences file located in the Preferences folder. It stores settings that affect the Finder's display, especially the options set by selecting Preferences from the Finder's Edit menu (in older OS versions, you would select the Views control panel). If the Finder's desktop display seems askew in some way, deleting Finder Preferences is obviously worth trying. However, symptoms may not immediately suggest a link to this file. For example, Finder crashes at startup may be due to a corrupted Finder Preferences file.

      To delete the Finder Preferences file, drag the file out of the System Folder, and then restart the Macintosh. A new Finder preferences file is created. You can then delete the old file. This procedure is necessary because the Macintosh may not allow you to delete the Finder preferences file of the current startup disk. Actually, to make absolutely sure that the old (possibly corrupted) preferences data is not simply recreated, your best bet is to restart from an alternate startup disk and then delete the Finder Preferences file.

      If deleting the Finder Preferences has no effect, there are a few other related Mac OS software Preferences you can try deleting as well. These include: Mac OS Preferences, Display Preferences, and Sound Preferences.

    TAKE NOTE — Cleaning Up Unneeded Preferences Files

    One of the more common complaints among Mac users is that "uninstalling" an application is often not as easy as installing it (particularly when the application's Installer forgot to include a "Custom Remove" or "Uninstall" option). You delete the application but often leave behind a bunch of related files, such as Preferences files, that should also be deleted. Coming to the rescue here are several utilities that help you identify files linked to an application, and then help you decide whether or not to delete them. The two most well known of these utilities are Yank (and its commercial sibling, Yank Pro) and Aladdin's Spring Cleaning. PrefsCleaner and Clean Sweep are two other shareware alternatives. Spring Cleaning has many additional features beyond handling Preferences files; these include fixing orphaned alias files and checking your fonts.

    None of these utilities are perfect in their cleanup detection. For example, they will not typically spot third party extensions or fonts that may have been installed by a given application's Installer. For cases such as this, the Installer may include its own Uninstall option which may be more thorough. Of particular note, Microsoft Office 98 has several uninstall options of differing degrees of thoroughness. One reason for this flexibility is that some files may be used by more than one application. In such a case, you may want to retain a file installed by Office, because it is also needed for Internet Explorer (which you are not uninstalling).

    As a last resort, you will simply have to do an uninstall manually (search your drive for relevant files to delete). The only other alternative is to ignore this issue and let these files collect on your drive like junk in your attic. As long as you have the drive space, there is usually no harm in doing this.

    Figure F2-4. Spring Cleaning can help you clean up your unwanted (orphaned) Preferences files.

  5. Determine if you have missing or mislocated accessory files. If the symptom remains, regardless of whether or not you discover a problem with a Preferences file, you may have a missing, out-of-date, or wrongly located plug-in or other accessory file. To check for this, consider the following:

  6. When an Open dialog box appears. If an application cannot locate a needed accessory file needed for a feature you are trying to use, it may present you with an Open dialog box requesting that you locate the file. This could happen, for example, if you select an application's Help command and it cannot locate the needed Help file.

  7. When an alert message appears. If you get an alert message that says an accessory file is missing but you do not get an Open dialog box, this also means the application could not locate the needed file. This may happen, for example, when opening a Web page that requires a certain plug-in or when downloading a file that requires a certain helper application.

  8. When no dialog box or message appears. Missing or mislocated accessory files can cause problems even though no dialog box or alert message appears. For example, a given menu command or a dialog box option may be dimmed or missing. Similarly, if an application does not list as many file-translation formats as the manual says it should, it probably means that the needed translator files are not properly located or were never installed.

  9. Locate missing or mislocated accessory files. Try the following suggestions, in the order given, to locate the needed file(s):

    1. Use the Open dialog box. If you get an Open dialog box and the mislocated file is on your disk, use the dialog box to find the file, select it, and then click Open or Select. This usually solves the problem. If so, the Open dialog box should not reappear the next time you use the feature. If the Open dialog box does reappear, you may have to move the accessory file to a particular location where the program expects to find it (see Step 3). Simply showing the file's location to the program was apparently not good enough.

    2. Go to the expected location. Otherwise, to find a missing or mislocated acces-sory file, go to the file's expected location (typically the System Folder or the application folder) as described in the Why to Do It section of this Fix-It.

    3. Check other mounted disks with System Folders, if any. If you have two or more mounted hard disks, both with System Folders, be careful when installing an application onto your nonstartup disk. This is because some Installers automatically place accessory files in the System Folder of the same disk that contains the application, while others place accessory files in the startup disk's System Folder, regardless of where the application is placed. If accessory files wind up in the System Folder of the nonstartup disk, they are not accessed by the application when you launch it (since it looks only in the startup disk's System Folder). If you think this has happened, you have to either reinstall the application to your startup disk or locate the needed accessory files in the secondary disk's System Folder and move them to your startup disk's System Folder.

    4. Use Sherlock (Find File). Follow the same basic procedures as outlined for Preferences files in Step 3b.

  10. Relocate, replace or upgrade the plug-in or other accessory file, as needed.

  11. If you cannot locate the desired plug-in file: Reinstall the plug-in file from your back-ups or from the Installer of the software. If you use the Installer, check for a Custom Install option that lets you install just the plug-in and nothing else. Otherwise, consider using TomeViewer to access the needed file. If in doubt, reinstall the entire application software, as if you were installing it for the first time.

    • SEE Take Note: Use Tome Viewer, in Fix-It #4.

  12. If you can locate the desired plug-in file: If you suspect the file may be damaged, replace it from your back-ups or via the Installer of the software, as just described.

    If the file is in the wrong location, move it to the correct location. The documentation that came with the software should help you establish what the correct location should be.

    If neither of these procedures have any effect, make sure you are using the latest version of the software. If you don't have the latest version, get it and install it. (Of course, it is always possible that a newly introduced bug results in the latest version being the cause of the problem; in this case you may need to downgrade to an older version or wait for the next bug-fix upgrade).

    • SEE "Take Note: Staying Up to Date, in Fix-It #16, for more on checking for the latest versions.

  13. Try related solutions. If the previous steps do not solve the problem, the problem is not with the preferences file. The application itself or its accessory files may be damaged and need to be replaced. Damaged control panels or system software damage are also possible.


    Here's one unusual variation on an accessory file location problem — one that also involved a preferences file. An application would not list its plug-in modules in the appropriate menu, even though the modules were properly located according to the manual. It turned out that the application's preferences file needed to be placed in the same folder as the modules in order for the application to use the modules. When I moved the preferences file to the plug-in modules folder, the problem was solved.

    Here's another unusual case. Both Photoshop 5.0 and Microsoft Office 98 use a file called OLE Automation. However, as I write this in Spring 2000, each application required a different version of the file. In particular, installing Photoshop after installing Office 98 could cause problems for Office 98. Here was Microsoft's official advice on how to prevent such problems:

    If neither application is installed:

    1. Install Photoshop 5.0.

    2. Move the OLE Automation 2.06 library from the System Folder to the Photoshop program folder.

    3. Install Office 98 and run an app to execute the First Run Install.

    If Office 98 is already installed:

    1. Remove OLE Automation and OLE Library files from System Folder:Extensions.

    2. Install Photoshop.

    3. Move the OLE Automation 2.06 library from the System Folder to the Photoshop program folder.

    4. Run Word 98 to restore the proper OLE versions using First Run Install.

    TAKE NOTE — Mac OS 9 Multiple Users and Preferences problems

    Mac OS 9 includes a new feature called Multiple Users. It allows for different customized preferences for each person that uses a given Mac. Each user logs in to their own account at startup and then "sees" their selected preferences. This is achieved in part by the use of a new Users folder (at the root level of the startup drive). Inside this folder are subfolders for each user account (except for the "owner" account which uses the System Folder itself). And inside these subfolders, in turn, are Preferences and associated files for that user.

    The problem occurs with some older third party software that does not know to look in the Users folder and thus cannot correctly use these files. This, and related problems, are especially likely to occur with Limited or Panel access. You can work around this by creating an alias to the relevant file or folder in the System Folder and placing the alias in the User's account folder. This won't allow for a custom preference for each user, but it may get a feature to work that was failing altogether. For example, with some Hewlett-Packard printers, placing an alias of the PrintMonitor Documents folder in each user's folder is needed to enable background printing for those users.



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