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Chapter 4. Programs and Documents > The Cocoa Difference

4.7. The Cocoa Difference

Here are some of the advantages offered by Cocoa programs. It's worth reading—not to make you drool about a future when all Mac programs will fall into this category, but to help clear up any confusion you may have about why certain features seem to be only occasionally present.


The following features appear in almost all Cocoa programs. That's not to say that you'll never see these features in Carbonized programs; the occasional Carbon program may offer one of these features or another. That's because programmers have to do quite a bit of work to bring them into Carbon applications—and almost none to include them in Cocoa ones.

4.7.1. The Fonts Panel

The Mac has always been the designer's preferred computer, and Mac OS X only strengthens its position. For one thing, Mac OS X comes with about 100 absolutely beautiful fonts that Apple licensed from commercial type companies—about $1,000 worth, according to Apple.

When you use a Carbon program, you usually access these fonts the same way as always: using a Font menu. But when you use a Cocoa program, you get the Fonts panel, which makes it far easier to organize, search, and use your font collection (see Figure 4-14).

Figure 4-14. You'll find the Fonts panel only in Cocoa programs. As you adjust your font selections, you see the highlighted text in your program updated instantly.

See Chapter 13 for much more on fonts—and using the Fonts panel.

4.7.2. Title Bar Tricks

You may remember from Chapter 1 that the title bar of every Finder window harbors a secret pop-up menu. When you -click it, you're shown a little folder ladder that delineates your current position in your folder hierarchy. You may also remember that the tiny icon just to the left of the window's name is actually a handle that you can drag to move a folder into a different window.

In Cocoa programs, you get the same features in document windows, as shown in Figure 4-15. (This feature is available in some Carbonized programs, but it isn't a sure thing.) By dragging the tiny document icon next to the document's name, you can perform these two interesting stunts:

  • Drag to the desktop. By dragging this icon to the desktop, or onto a folder or disk icon, you create an instant alias of the document you're working on. This is a useful feature when, for example, you're about to knock off for the night, and you want easy access to whatever you've been working on when you return the next day.

  • Drag to the Dock. By dragging this title-bar icon onto the Dock icon of an appropriate program, you open your document in that other program. For example, if you're in TextEdit working on a memo, and you decide that you'll need the full strength of Microsoft Word to dress it up, you can drag its title-bar icon directly onto the Word icon in the Dock. Word then launches and opens up the TextEdit document, ready for editing.

Unfortunately, you can't drag an open document directly into the Trash—a technique that could come in handy for writers who struggle with first drafts.

Figure 4-15. Top: By dragging the document-window proxy icon, you can create an alias of your document on the desktop or anywhere else. Bottom: If you -click the name of the document in its title bar, you get to see exactly where this document sits on your hard drive. (Choosing the name of one of these folders opens that folder and switches you to the Finder.)

4.7.3. Services

Apple has always dreamed of a software architecture that would let you mix and match features from different programs—using the AppleWorks spelling checker in Microsoft Word, the drawing tools of PowerPoint in your email program, and so on. (Remember Apple's OpenDoc software project? Neither does anybody else.)

In Mac OS X, Apple's dream has finally become a reality. Nestled in the Application menu of every Mac OS X program is a command called Services. Its submenu lists several functions that technically belong to other programs, as described below.

Unfortunately, these commands are dimmed when you use most Carbonized programs (like AppleWorks, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer). They become available only when you use Cocoa programs like iChat, TextEdit, Mail, OmniWeb—and, in Mac OS X 10.2, the Finder. (Yes, the Finder was a Carbon program up through 10.1.5. But remember that programmers can add Cocoa features to their older, Carbonized programs; it just takes a lot of work.)

Here's a rundown of what they do.


Not all of these Services work in all programs—even Cocoa programs. Implementing them is left to programmers' discretion. In these early days of Mac OS X, a little unpredictability along these lines is par for the course. Finder

The three commands listed in this submenu work only in one situation: When you've highlighted some text that precisely matches the name and folder path of any icon, such as ~/Documents/Marge.jpg). (Details on path notation in The Go to Folder Command.)

At that point, you can choose any of these commands from the Services→Finder submenu:

  • Open. Opens the icon. This is a mind-blowing possibility—in effect, it lets you open any file on your hard drive, from within any Cocoa program, without having to switch to the Finder. If you work in Microsoft Word all day, for example, you could keep a list of your favorite files and programs in a Word document, ready for opening without having to leave the program.

  • Reveal. Takes you to the Finder, where the specified icon is highlighted and its enclosing folder opened into a window.

  • Show Info. Switches to the Finder, where the Get Info window for the specified file opens, for your inspection pleasure.

If what you've highlighted isn't the name and path of a document, you'll get only an error message. Grab

Grab is a screen-capture program in your Applications→Utilities folder. You use it to turn what you see onscreen into graphics files. This is especially handy when writing computer books or training manuals.

The point here is that you can take your software snapshot from within any Cocoa application, without having to go find and launch Grab separately. You'll find details on its submenu commands (Screen, Selection, Timed Screen) in Section 9.2.15. Mail

This handy command springs to life only after you've highlighted some text in a Cocoa program—or a file in the Finder.

  • Send File. This option appears only if you've highlighted an icon in the Finder. It's a spectacular convenience: In one swift step this command opens the Mac OS X Mail program (Chapter 19), creates a new outgoing message, and attaches your highlighted file. All you have to do is address the message, send it, and exult in the tedium you've been spared.

  • Send Selection. In one step, the Mail Text command launches the Mail program and pastes the highlighted text into the body of a new, outgoing email message. You're saved the trouble of copying, launching Mail, creating a new message, and pasting. You might use this feature when, for example, you find something interesting on a Web page, and you'd like to email it to someone.

  • Send To. This command is useful only if you've highlighted an email address in a text document. This command, too, switches to Mail and creates a new, outgoing message—but this time, Mac OS X pastes the text you've highlighted into the "To" field. Make New Sticky Note

This command copies whatever text you've got highlighted, switches to your Stickies program (Section 9.1.19), creates a new sticky note, and pastes your selected material in it. If you're the kind of person who keeps your life—lists, passwords, favorite URLs, to do list, notes, and so on—in Stickies, this one can save you considerable hassle. No wonder Apple endowed it with its own keyboard shortcut: Shift--Y. Speech

As detailed in Chapter 14, Mac OS X doesn't just display text onscreen—it can actually read it out loud.

  • Start Speaking Text. Start by highlighting some text in a Cocoa program. Then choose this command, and presto: The Mac actually reads the text out loud, using the character voice you've chosen in System Preferences (Section 14.5).

  • Stop Speaking. This command makes the Mac shut up.


    If you highlight an icon in the Finder, the Start Speaking Text command reads its path to you. For example, for a Flowers.tif file in your Home→Pictures folder, whose path is Users/chris/Pictures/Flowers.tiff, the Mac says, "Users, Chris, Pictures, Flowers dot TIFF." Summarize

Talk about intriguing: When you choose this command after highlighting some text, the Mac analyzes the sentences you've highlighted and, after a moment, launches Summary Service. This little program, which you probably never even knew you had, displays a greatly shortened version of the original text. Bear in mind that Summary Service doesn't actually do any creative rewriting; instead, it chooses the most statistically significant sentences to include in the summary. Figure 4-16 offers details.


To save the summarized document as a TextEdit document, choose File→Save As.

Figure 4-16. Use the Summarize command to create a one-paragraph summary (right) of a longer passage (left). Once the summary appears in the Summary Service program, you can make the summary more or less concise by dragging the Summary Size slider. You can also ask it to display the most statistically relevant paragraphs instead of sentences, just by clicking the appropriate radio button at the lower left. (Note: Even Summary Services can't come up with something coherent if the original wasn't.) TextEdit

This pair of commands also requires you to first highlight some text in the Cocoa application.

  • Open File. This command works only if you've highlighted some text that matches the name and folder path of a TextEdit document (including its folder path, like ~/Documents/essay.txt). If so, you can choose Services→TextEdit→Open File to find and open that document in TextEdit. (If what you've highlighted isn't the name of a document, you'll get only an error message.)

  • Open Selection. If you've highlighted any other blob of text, this command automatically launches TextEdit, creates a new untitled document, and pastes the highlighted text.

Although these are the commands that come built into a fresh installation of Mac OS X, that's not the end of the versatility. The real beauty of Services is that, as new, clever applications come along, they can add their own commands to this menu for your data-manipulation pleasure.


InstantLinks, a piece of $5 shareware from Subsume Technologies, offers a useful look ahead to the future of Services. It adds to your Services menu commands that send your highlighted text to various services on the Web.

For example, you can choose Dictionary Lookup (looks up the selected text in an online dictionary), Map Location (looks up the selected address at MapQuest.com—great when somebody emails you an invitation), Open URL, Search Web, and Thesaurus Lookup. You can download it from www.missingmanuals.com.

4.7.4. Toolbar Tricks

The toolbar is an increasingly common sight at the top of modern application windows. In any thoughtfully written program, the Preferences command lets you determine how you want this toolbar to show up—with icons, icons with text labels beneath them, with text labels alone to save window space, and so on.

But in many Cocoa programs—including OmniWeb, Mail, Address Book, and Project Builder—there's a much faster way to switch among these three toolbar styles: Just -click the white button shown in Figure 4-17.

Figure 4-17. By -clicking this button repeatedly, you can cycle among the various toolbar styles shown here. This technique works in most toolbar-equipped Cocoa programs (but not the Finder, since it's actually a Carbonized program). In Mail, you can actually cycle between six different toolbar styles: with icons and labels (large and small); with icons only (large and small); and with text labels only (large and small—small version not shown).

4.7.5. Secret Keyboard Shortcuts

For the most part, it's possible to ignore the Unix that beats within the heart of Mac OS X. But every now and then, a refreshing reminder pokes its head up through the waves of Aqua—and here's one of them.

Although you'll never see it mentioned in the user manuals for Cocoa applications (if there even were such thing as user manuals anymore), all of them respond to certain keystrokes left over from the NeXT operating system (Mac OS X's ancestor). If you're a card-carrying number of KIAFTMA (the Keyboard Is Always Faster Than the Mouse Association), you'll love these additional keyboard navigation strokes:

  • Control-A. Moves your insertion point to the beginning of the paragraph. (Mnemonic: A = beginning of the alphabet.)

  • Control-E. Deposits your insertion point at the end of the paragraph. (Mnemonic: E = end.)

  • Control-D. Forward delete (deletes the letter to the right of the insertion point).

  • Control-K. Instantly deletes all text from the insertion point to the right end of the line. (Mnemonic: K = kills the rest of the line.)

  • Control-O. Inserts a paragraph break, much like Return, but leaves the insertion point where it was, above the break. This is the ideal trick for breaking a paragraph in half when you've just thought of a better ending for the first part.

  • Control-T. Moves the insertion point one letter to the right—and along with it, drags whichever letter was to its left. (Mnemonic: T = transpose letters.)

  • Option-Delete. Deletes the entire word to the left of the insertion point. When you're typing along in a hurry, and you discover that you've just made a typo, this is the keystroke you want. It's much faster to nuke the previous word and retype it than to fiddle around with the mouse and the insertion point just to fix one letter.

Four additional keystrokes duplicate the functions of the arrow keys. Still, as long as you've got your pinky on that Control key...

  • Control-B, Control-F. Moves the insertion point one character to the left or right, just like the left and right arrow keys. (Mnemonic: Back, Forward).

  • Control-N, Control-P. Moves the insertion point one row down or up, like the down and up arrow keys. (Mnemonic: Next, Previous).

4.7.6. Background Window Control

As hinted in Chapter 1, the key unlocks a slick trick in Cocoa programs: It lets you operate the buttons and controls of an inactive, background window without bringing it to the front. You can operate a background window's resize box, buttons, pop-up menus, and scroll bars, all while another window is in front of it. In fact, you can even drag through text in a background window—and then drag-and-drop it into the foreground window. (Freaky!)

In every case, the secret is simply to keep pressed as you click or drag.

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