Default Mail Accounts and Mountain Lion 10.8

Defining the default mail account in Apple’s for Mountain Lion (10.8) is not intuitively obvious. Where you used to be able to sort the order of accounts within the accounts pane of the preferences, that is no longer possible. This can be particularly annoying if your default account should be your work account, but your personal account is first in the list.

Fortunately, it’s not that hard, just different.

If, like me, you keep the list of folders on the left hidden, go ahead and reveal them. Then, expand out the Inbox to show all of your various inboxes.

Now, simply click, and drag any of the inboxes into whatever order you want, making sure that the account you wish to be your default is on top.

From now on, if you do not have a specific message open, or are not looking inside of one specific mail folder, all new messages will be – by default – from the account at the top of that list.

Replies will still be from the account that received the original message, and if you’re looking at a folder that is only tied to one account, that account will also be the “from” account when creating a new email.


Switching iPhoto Libraries

It used to be that if you had lots and LOT of pictures, iPhoto would slow down, and you’d be told by some well-meaning soul to start a new iPhoto library.  The problem being that to switch from one library to another required you to either dig up an app like iPhoto Buddy, or to learn the timing of holding down the “option” key as you started up iPhoto, so that you could select an alternate library.

In short – while less of a pain than dealing with iPhoto taking forever to do anything, it was still painful to do it manually.

It turns out hte latest updates to iPhoto 11 now allow you to switch to another library from within iPhoto.


 While I still use iPhoto Buddy, it’s nice to be able to switch on the fly without restarting iPhoto.

Lion: Smooth Sailing With a Few Waves

I’d been putting together some thoughts on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. when Lion was released. Obvioulsy, I immediately installed it – I can afford to. I have backups. Lots of backups.

So what is there to say that hasn’t already been said?

First, some high points. In case you’ve never been bitten by this, never, ever, ever upgrade a business-critical computer until the software you need is updated to work with it. Ever. That especially applies to niche software like architectural CAD software, or if you make a living as a graphic designer.

Also, “rosetta” – the technology that allows Macs to run older programs depending on “PowerPC” chips, is no longer available, at all. This especially hurts those who use products like Quicken for the Mac  (Intuit, along with Adobe, is another company that seems to think that adapting to long-announced changes and providing current product updates is just passe). Also, Mac versions of MS Office before Office 2008 will not be usable without an update or switching to iWork or Open Office/Libre Office.

Please note – if you are using Quicken for the Mac, please export your file as a backup before upgrading OS X.

So now what?

Well, I’m not every user. I make my living helping other users. That said, many of the programs I use are the ones I recommend to others.

 The Install

Straightforward. Buy the app, let it download, let the installer run. Wait 30 minutes or so after that, and a new splash page appears with your login.

The first thing I checked, as with every major update since 10.5 completely reset the printer settings, was to verify my printers were still there. Yes they were, and yes they worked. Also, the 10.7 update didn’t scrub my custom keyboard shortcut for  printing PDF’s (originally at OSX hints).

 Personal Information and Mail

I started up the new Mail app, and ended up waiting quite a while for it to update the mail database to the new format. In the meantime, I opened up my google account in Safari, and discovered a new wrinkle. When logging in to at least several services that Lion recognizes using Safari (I can verify this for Gmail and MobileMe), Safari helpfully asks of you wish to add the account to your mail and calendars. Since those accounts were already in (which was updating) I simply said no thanks, but it’s a nice touch that goes hand-in-hand with automatically opening up the login sheets at many public WiFi hotspots.

Once the mail had finally updated, I looked in the system preferences. Oddly, even though the soon-to-be-obsolete MobileMe control panel listed that I was syncing my contacts, the (new) unified “Mail, Contacts, & Calendars” account panel showed my Mobileme account as only synchronizing calendar items, mail , and chat items.

Yes, chat items. I’m not sure where that will lead just yet.

Either way, my contacts do sync.

Looking into my address book, I discovered that Address book was no longer syncing with Gmail. I fixed that, and after a few rounds of discrepancy reviews, had my contacts under control again.


I’m still torn on the scroll direction reversal. I will say that it’s actually fairly natural when scrolling via a trackpad.

That said, the hiding scrollbars were driving me nuts. I need to know where I am in the document, and the default setting to hide them when not scrolling can make it difficult to tell if there is anything further to scroll to.


Despite the dire warnings at the beginning of this post, very little broke.  The following third-party apps worked without any apparent hitches:


  • Hazel – an automated folder cleanup tool.
  • Both of my password programs – 1Password and Little Secrets – worked fine.
  • DropBox
  • BBEdit – text editor
  • Candybar – custom icons.
  • Chrome
  • iStumbler seems to work
  • LibreOffice
  • Kindle
  • MailPluginManager seems to work
  • Notational Velocity a text note taker that works with simplenote
  • Google music manager
  • Picasa picture manager
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection 2
  • Steam seems to work – but I havent tried to play any games yet
  • VLC – video player for flash and WMV videos
The following programs needed or had a Lion specific update that hadn’t yet been installed:
  • Xcode – New copy currently free
  • Homebrew – a system for installing linux utilities. Installed apps actually work, but you need to isntall the updated Xcode to add anything else.
  • Firefox 5 had an update when I opened it, but didn’t like my 1Password plugin.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – excellent bootable disk backup system.
  • iStumbler – for finding WiFi networks
  • I updated Silverlight just in case
  • Scrivener has an update for Lion specific features
  • VMWare Fusion – this virtual PC emulator installed updates
  • Mail Act-On – a mail management plugin for the Apple Mail app, needed a reinstall.
Then a had a few issues that needed more work:
  • Pixelmator (a lightweight, awesome, and cheap image editor) had an issue – but an App Store update is coming soon to resolve it, and there are workarounds to get it running.
  • All of my Emacs (another text editor that works on different platforms) customizations and add-ons will have to be rebuilt, but the version I installed through Brew, as well as my GUI-based copy, both work fine at the default settings.
Lastly were the programs that flat out didn’t work:
  • Pocket Tanks – an “artillery” game knockoff.

All’s well that ends well.

Overall, it was a very smooth update. While there are a few things that are known to break, very little broke unexpectedly, and I’ve now had enough exposure to this to start getting really comfortable. Many apps did not need updates at all, though a number of the ones that didn’t need post-upgrade updates had already been updated in the recent past to be compatible with Lion.

Acorn Update Available.

The guys at Flying Meat Software have released an update to their excellent, inexpensive image editor, Acorn, which is now up to version 3. One of the better reviews is here at Mac App Storm. Like many Mac apps these days, you can also get it via the Mac app store, allowing you to install it on all of your family computers.

While I personally won’t be switching to it from Pixelmator, what I’ve said before holds true – they’r both excellent programs and it’s more a matter of which suits your style. Check it out.

Note: Updated to dix a typo in mispelling “Mac”

In All Fairness to Adobe

Adobe did get around to testing CS3 compatibility.

Now – if they had even mentioned that compatibility testing was in the works up front (but that it may be delayed in prioritizing CS4 first – and that bug fixes would depend on the nature of the bug) – a lot of people would have been happy that Adobe wasn’t blowing them off on a product some had only bought a year ago.

iMovie ’08 and Finding Places to Put Your Stuff

I’ve been trying to figure out how to shift my default iMovie folder to another hard drive I have in my computer. Since iMovie ’08 doesn’t have a setting to change the default folder (unlike iTunes), it seemed that this was going to take a bit of unix wizardry. A small bit, to be sure, but still, it would involve lying to the computer about how the drives are organized.

Then I realized I was making it much too hard. The answer is actually quite simple. As long as you don’t mind having a folder called “iMovie events” at the root of whatever hard drive you move the video to.

There are two things to note in following these directions. You have to use the iMovie interface so it knows where to keep track of the files (and as noted, iMovie creates its own folder). Two, while the instructions keep saying “external firewire drive,” any physically separate drive mechanism should do. I haven’t tried it with USB, but I have used a separate internal drive on my G5.

Leopard and Spaces

I’ll be up front here.

Spaces is a feature I rarely use. One reason is that I’ve got some excellent programs for web development like Coda that keep me from having to keep five windows in five different applications open all the time. Secondly, when I park my laptop at my desk for serious coding, etc, I always hook up a second monitor, giving me a lot more real estate for keeping windows open to monitor progress, etc. without having to shuffle and find them. I also learned to get by without it before they made a couple large improvements to it.

That said, it definitely has it’s uses. To get the most out of it though, you need to be able to categorize or organize your computer usage in some meaningful way. If you can’t break up your usage into two or three different areas, it may end up being more trouble than it’s worth.

So here goes….

To get to Spaces, you can open up the System Preferences application which is in the dock by default, and select “Expose and Spaces,” then click on the “Spaces” tab if needed to hilight it. If you removed it from the dock, you can also get to it from the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your menu bar. Lastly, if you have already enabled spaces and checked the “Show Spaces in menu bar” option, you’ll get something similar to this:


The first option you see is to enable spaces. Check this. I also recommend you check the “Show Spaces” checkbox as well.

The black area underneath the checkboxes is where you set how many “spaces” are available. There always has to be at least one row and one column, and you cannot have partial rows and columns.


Underneath that is where you set application assignments. This is where “how do I want to organize my programs” becomes vitally important. Here is where you select which programs open in which space, for when it matters. For any program you add here, you have two choices: Either define which (one) space that program will exist in, or if it will exist in all of the spaces.

If you assign a program to exist in space 1 for example, then switching to that program, especially opening up a new window in it, will shift you over to the space that program is assigned to. If you assign it to all spaces, then the program follows you. Set Safari to be in all spaces, and switch to space 2. The existing Safari window will follow you to space 2.

The one major piece of inflexibility here is that it only allows you to be all or nothing. Either a program can be used for one type of work, or all of its windows follow you. Which is why Apple added the last checkbox. If it’s checked, opening up a program like Pages in space 2 “anchors” it in space 2. Switching to that program while in another space brings you back to space 2 as if it had been specified in the list. If it’s NOT checked, you lose the auto-switching, but now you can keep separate windows for Safari, Word, etc. in their own separate spaces, and they won’t follow you around.

Let’s say you might have a space you want to use for school work and research. You have another one you want to use for web programming or organizing family photos, and another space for web browsing or music or emailing or….. You can see the beginning of a problem. You may want to have Word, or Pages, or Safari open in two or more of these spaces without all of the windows following you.

So the solution is to uncheck the bottom checkbox, and NOT specify a space for any program that a) can have more than one window open (most of them), and b) you may use in more than one context. In short, programs like iPhoto which only ever have one window open you will usually specifically assign to one space. iTunes can have more than one window open, but is usually used single-window, so either assign it to one space, or have it  “follow you” if you keep it minimized. Then open up all the Word, Safari, etc. windows where you need them based on the kind of work done in that space instead of based on what program you are using. Of course, now YOU have to remember what space 3 is for, etc.

As long as you keep track of what space is used for what purpose, you’re golden.

Fusion vs. VMWare

There are three main options for people who wish to run Windows on the Mac. The first is “Boot Camp,” the second is “Fusion” from VMWare, and the last is “Parallels.”

Boot Camp is Apple’s method of partitioning (splitting up) the hard drive so that a separate section of the drive is used to run Windows. Pros? Runs as fast as any other Windows computer with similar hardware. Cons? It requires a total reboot into Windows, and another total restart to get back to your Mac.

Parallels and Fusion instead create a little sandbox that runs in a window while the rest of your Mac is running. This little sandbox pretends that it’s a whole separate computer. Cons? Not as fast as Boot camp, especially if trying to play games. Pros? More than fast enough to run Quickbooks, etc., much easier to switch in and out of (including copying, pasting and file transfers), And you can easily back up your entire virtual windows machine with all your settings intact by copying a disk image.

Which is best? Well, Parallels, from the newer kids on the virtualization block, tends to have the niftiest features first. It tends to run a bit faster. Fusion tends to be slower and more staid. When it catches up features-wise it tends to be implemented smoother and more mac-like. Finally, it tends to be more stable and deal better with any updates that Apple throws around.

I have at least one client actively switching over to Fusion with every computer they buy a copy for or as they update past version 3, because of two issues. One – a time where an Apple update kept them from printing to USB printers out of Paralells for three days. Worse, the fact that two sets of automatic updates have been corrupted and required workarounds to download a valid updater. We discovered the updating issue when trying to get a fix for video display problems within Parallels. I can understand the USB issue – it was in part a matter of timing as Apple had released an almost simultaneous update. The video issue is less forgivable, but also understandable. The problems where two sets of updates failed at different times because the downloaded updater was corrupt is just embarrassing.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

Q: When I get my Mac is do I really need MS Office to survive in PC land or will iWork suffice?

Yep, a friend asked me his question, and after I responded I realized that it made a pretty decent post topic.

I’ll get the first item out of the way right now. If you HAVE to work with an Exchange server directly for shared contacts, calendars, etc, you’re stuck with buying a full version of office 2008 for the Mac, as opposed to the student edition. Otherwise identical, exchange accounts are disabled in the version of Entourage that ships with Mac Office 2008.

If that’s not a problem, here are some alternatives:

  • NeoOffice
  • iWork

As the link notes, don’t bother with OpenOffice – it’s for geeks like me who’ve installed the programming tools that come with OSX, and doesn’t “fit” with the aesthetics.I haven’t heavily used NeoOffice in a while, before they made some major speed improvements and added MS Office 2007 compatibility (Office 2007 uses a new file format), but I can say it’s usually pretty transparent in handling word/excel/etc. files, and unlike Mac Office 2008 and iWork, it has an access-like database. If you need a database, you’ll know. It’s also free – though donations are appreciated.

As I mentioned earlier, Mac Office 2008 Teacher and Student edition won’t let you directly connect to an Exchange server (though IMAP, POP, and other standard methods of connecting will work), but is otherwise solid and complete. Many people are screaming Entourage fanatics but I much prefer the simplicity and integration with addresses and such that the OSX Mail app gives. This has been ameliorated somewhat by allowing entourage to sync calendars and contacts with the iCal and Address book.

iWork? Love it. Don’t write in it much because I usually do my writing in a project/data composition tool called Scrivener that helps you collect related info and snippets, but Pages is great for dumping pretty output, and doesn’t rearrange things in the weird ways that any version (including Windows) of Word does when you add pictures, mess with columns, etc. – especially if doing multicolumn newsletters and such.

Numbers is a killer spreadsheet with some truly nifty features when it comes to creating sums without typing, etc. and organizing and laying out tables. I use this for tracking my current household budget re: expected and forcast expenses and how much I have free for groceries/etc. No, it doesn’t have all the formulas and features, but covers 99% of what most home users will ever need. Like the rest of iWork, it’s lovely to look at.

I don’t use Keynote, but that’s because I haven’t done any presentations lately. I’m not using Powerpoint if I can help it. Having messed with it, it’s at least as easy to use and MUCH prettier.

A note on exporting/importing: Word documents go in and out pretty smoothly . You will see some things you need to clean up because nothing is PERFECTLY compatible (this is true to a much lesser extent with NeoOffice, and even a bit between windows and Mac versions of office due to fonts, etc.) , but is pretty solid. Your biggest headaches are going to be with Excel spreadsheets. With complicated spreadsheets, things can get rearranged and demand some cleanup time, while the completely different layout paradigm of Numbers can make for some strange spreadsheets when exporting. Powerpoint and Keynote actually get along very well but at times there are obviously going to be issues there as well….

UPDATE: Instead of NeoOffice, I’d go with the current version of Libre Office these days.