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Learn How to Use the Command Line on OS X

You know when you see people typing text commands on computers in movies or TV shows? That’s the command line interface, which is available on most operating systems. On OS X, you can access the command line via Terminal, a utility in the /Applications/Utilities folder.

You can do many things from the command line that you can’t do from the GUI. The command line can be handy when it comes to troubleshooting your Mac, to turn on “hidden” settings, and to perform other advanced chores.

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I’ve got a series of articles on Macworld to introduce Mac users to the command line. The first is about navigating files and folders, the second about copying and moving files, and the third tells you how to delete files and folders from the command line. Stay tuned for more; there will be a few more posted in the coming days.

If you like this, and want to learn more, make sure to say so in the comments.

And, if you want to know more about the command line, and its history, read Neal Stephenson’s fascinating essay, In the Beginning was the Command Line.

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Tweak the Finder Window Sidebar in OS X

In my latest Macworld article, I look at the sidebar in Finder windows in OS X. There are many ways you can tweak this sidebar: adding or removing items, moving them around, and changing the font and icon size.

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Head over to Macworld to learn more.

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OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Save PDFs to iBooks

New to OS X 10.9 Mavericks is the iBooks app, which can manage and read books in EPUB format, as well as PDF files. You can sync these books to iOS devices via iTunes. I’ve written about some of the problems with iBooks here.

One interesting feature in iBooks is a new PDF service that allows you to create PDF files from any document in OS X and save it directly to your iBooks library. This is easy to invoke. Just press Command-P to print a file, then click on the PDF menu and choose Add PDF to iBooks.

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This will save the file in your iBooks library. If you have an iOS device set to sync all books (click on the device, then on the Books tab), this will also sync the PDF file automatically the next time you sync the device. So if you want to save PDFs of articles to read, you could use this to save them directly to iBooks, and sync them to your iPad.

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OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Sharing Your iBooks Library

Until the arrival of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, and the new iBooks app for Mac, you could use Home Sharing to share all of the content in your iTunes library, including books. Now that iBooks has sequestered your ebooks, you can no longer easily share them with family members.

Home Sharing is useful because it allows you to share the content of your entire media library, not just items you have bought from Apple. For the latter, you can always log in to your account on a second computer and download them from Apple’s stores, whether they are apps, music, videos or books. But for any content that you’ve added yourself – music you’ve ripped or purchased from other vendors, or ebooks that you’ve purchased without DRM and added to your library – Home Sharing made it easy to transfer.

So there’s no easy way to share your iBooks library any more. Why Apple didn’t include a Home Sharing setup in iBooks is surprising, but they also removed sharing from iPhoto libraries.

If you want to share books, one of the easiest ways is to use the new AirDrop feature.

1. On each computer, open a Finder window and choose Go > AirDrop, or press Command-Shift-R.

2. On the Mac you want to copy the books from, go to iBooks and select the books you want to send to the other Mac.

3. Next, drag these books to a Finder window (not the AirDrop window). Drag them to the AirDrop window, then on the icon for the Mac you want to send them to. You’ll see something like this:

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4. Click Send, then, on the other Mac, click Save in the dialog that displays in the AirDrop window. The files will be saved to the Downloads folder on that Mac.

5. Switch to the iBooks app and drag the files you’ve received into its window; the books will be added to your library.

Home Sharing certainly was a lot easier. It’s a shame it’s gone, because this method has many more steps. But this is the easiest way to share your ebooks from one Mac to another.

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OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Enhanced Dictation Is a Memory Hog, and Doesn’t Work Very Well

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion added a built-in speech recognition feature; you can talk to your Mac and it will type your words. It’s not great; it’s nowhere near as good as Dragon Dictate. I compared the two in a Macworld article last year.

Mavericks adds a new twist to this speech recognition feature. While the feature generally requires an internet connection – what you dictate is sent to Apple’s servers for transcription, then sent back to you, the same way Siri is on iOS devices – with Mavericks, you can use Enhanced Dictation. With this, you download a file (around 1 GB) which lets your Mac do the heavy lifting.

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Unfortunately, this turns out to be quite the memory hog. Even when I’m not using it, the speech recognition process takes up nearly 1 GB of RAM on my Mac mini, which has 16 GB. That’s a lot of RAM for a process that’s not being used.

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I was curious if this amount of RAM used was relative to the amount of RAM in my Mac. So I checked my MacBook Pro, which has 8 GB RAM. With Enhanced Dictation turned on, it uses just about the same amount of RAM: 980.6 MB vs 980.1 MB for the Mac mini.

If I turn off Enhanced Dictation, the standard speech recognition process only uses 17.8 MB.

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So, if you use speech recognition on your Mac, be aware of the memory usage. If you only occasionally use Enhanced Dictation, think of turning it off when you aren’t using it, especially if your Mac doesn’t have a lot of RAM.

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Ten Years of Take Control Books: A New Publishing Paradigm

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With all of the hullabaloo last week surrounding new Apple products and OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Adam and Tonya Engst were too busy to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Take Control Books. Adam set things right in an article today on TidBITS, recounting the history of Take Control Books, which began in 2003.

I’m proud to be a part of Take Control books since the beginning, and for me, and for other authors, it has represented a new publishing paradigm. Instead of the long process of writing, editing, proofreading and printing, we became able to produce books more quickly and more efficiently, and we also are able to provide updates to our readers as the software or hardware we write about changes.

For example, my Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ was updated last week to include new features that Apple added to iTunes 11 on September 18. The book was released on October 17, and would have been out a week earlier if not for other new Apple products that got in the way. The ability, in this case, to push out an update of a nearly 250 page book in three weeks is powerful, and can only be done with ebooks. In addition, my Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ is the first Take Control book to benefit from Apple’s new feature which allows us to push new updates to users, via the iBooks app. (Remember, we sell books in PDF, EPUB and MOBI formats, both directly, from the Take Control Books web site and through the iBookstore, Amazon and other digital book sellers.)

But the Take Control model is about more than just a lithe publishing machine. It was initially designed to offer authors better conditions than print publishers do. Not only do we make much higher royalties, we get monthly royalty statements. Print publishers generally give you royalty statements every six months, and some once a year.

I’m proud to have written (so far) nine titles for Take Control (this counts various editions), and I’m especially chuffed that my Take Control of Scrivener 2 holds the record for the best-selling single edition of a Take Control book, with over 13,000 copies sold.

With more than 375,000 copies sold, and 48,000 direct customers, Take Control books is going strong, and I’m looking forward to another few decades working with Adam, Tonya, and all the rest of the great Take Control people.

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OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Easily Get Copies of Books Stored in iBooks App

In a recent article, OS X 10.9 Mavericks: Where Did My Books Go?, I pointed out that iBooks moves your ebooks from your iTunes Media folder to a somewhat hidden folder in your user account’s Library folder. At the time, I thought that there was no easy way to get a copy of a book from the iBooks library, but I realized that I was mistaken.

Taking a clue from iTunes, I dragged a book from the iBooks app to a folder. Just as with iTunes, when you drag content from the app, it copies to the target location. So, if you want to get a copy of a book from your iBooks library, just drag it to your Desktop, or to a folder. It will look as though you’re removing the book from iBooks, but that’s not the case; the green + cursor shows that it is making a copy.

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Note that these books will have a generic iBooks icon, and will not show the cover that the book displays in iBooks. Also if you’ve chosen to organize your books manually, you’ll find that they jump around quite a bit when you drag a book like this.

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However, you can use this technique to make a backup of your iBooks library, with the files containing the names of your books. Just open the iBooks app, press Command-A to select all of the books, and drag them to a folder. All the files will copy, and will be named with the books’ titles.

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OS X 10.9 Mavericks and Ebooks: The Good, the Bad and the Confusing

With the arrival of the iBooks app on OS X 10.9 Mavericks, those who have large ebook libraries on their Macs face some conundrums. In a recent article, Where Did My Books Go?, I explained that your ebooks are no longer stored in your iTunes Media folder. They are now hidden in an obscure folder, and the file names are changed. If you want to back up a large ebook library, you need to make sure to back up this folder.

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But there’s another issue you need to know about. You can no longer add epub books to your iTunes library; but you can still add PDFs. This has two effects. First, you cannot change any metadata in the iBooks app. So if you get a book and the author’s name is wrong, or the genre (or “category”) is incorrect, you can’t alter these. Second, if you have any epubs that are digital booklets for albums – such as those provided with downloads purchased from Hyperion Records – you can no longer store them with your music.

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First, the metadata issue. Even if you buy all your ebooks from Apple, you’ll find that authors’ names are not consistent (some are Last Name, First Name, others are First Name Last Name), and you’ll likely want to change the categories of some books, if you sort books that way. There’s no native method for doing this any more, though there are a few third-party apps that claim to be able to edit metadata of epubs (I haven’t tried any yet). But once the books are in iBooks, it’s not simple to change the metadata. Since there’s no Reveal in Finder command for a book, you need to look in the folder I told you about in this article, but where the epub files won’t have recognizable names. You’ll have to root through the files to find the book you want.

Update: There’s an easy way to get copies of books in your iBooks library: just drag them to the Desktop or to a folder.

As for digital booklets, which you may want to store with your music, there’s no way around that, other than to only use PDF versions. Hyperion makes both; most labels only provide PDFs (if they provide digital booklets at all). This is a shame; Hyperion’s initiative is laudable, since epubs let you choose a font size, and the books are more readable on small-screen devices, such as an iPhone or iPod touch. You could put all your epub digital booklets in iBooks, sync them to an iOS device, and read them with the iBooks app – or read them on a Mac with iBooks – but they won’t be as accessible as when they’re stored with an album. But note that, in spite of the separation of books from iTunes, you still choose which ones you want to sync to your iOS device from the iTunes interface.

It’s good that Apple has (finally) released an iBooks app for Mac. This makes reading books on a Mac very easy. However, it’s not so good that they’ve sequestered these books in a hard-to-find folder, and eliminated the ability to edit metadata. Perhaps a developer will pick up the gauntlet, and create an app that can scan the books in that hidden folder, and let you edit their metadata. This would be a good thing, and make it easier to manage a library of ebooks on a Mac.

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