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Want to make your own Dashboard widgets? It’s easy. (Vol #21)

Inside: Web pages on your Dashboard, Big Quicken/Lion news, New shortcuts

I’m not really sure where the last four weeks went. Like my Grandma does, many readers wrote to ask why I wasn’t writing more. Well, as with my Grandma, I feel guilty I haven’t. I promise I’ll do better in the New Year.

But, with Christmas tomorrow and Hanukkah half over, I figured it was better to send this little stocking stuffer now than to wait until I had even more new videos to tell you about.

Plus, I heard some big news that means many people will soon have one less reason not to upgrade to Lion. More on that below. But, first, how to…

Make your own Dashboard “Web Clip” widgets

The Mac Dashboard is a handy place to check frequently updated information like weather forecasts, stock prices, a calendar, and many other things. But did you know you could make your own Dashboard widget by simply “clipping” a section of a web page?

Thursday I was talking with my friend Thom over at spidertrax.com about things you can use the Dashboard for. Thom’s a tech-savvy guy and definitely knows his way around a Mac, but when I told him about Web Clips, he said (and I quote) “Not gonna lie, that’s pretty slick!” You can see how slick and how easy they are to make here:

How to make a Dashboard “Web Clip” widget

This news might Quicken your heart!

When Apple released the Lion operating system back in July, many people immediately upgraded. But many others were disappointed to learn that some of their applications would no longer run under Lion. You might remember my article and video about how to check if you used any of these applications:

How to check if your software can run on OS X Lion

One of the most common complaints was that the Quicken financial application wouldn’t work. (Although the less capable Quicken Essentials would.)

Well, if you didn’t upgrade to Mac OS X Lion because you use Quicken, Intuit has announced recently that they are re-engineering Quicken for Mac 2007 so it will work on Lion. You can read more here:

Lion Compatible Quicken for Mac 2007

They unfortunately only say it will be “available soon”. But if this is important to you, note that they have a link on that page that lets you sign up to be notified when they have more information.

Speaking of “news”…

Word of the Week

The word is “New”.

While Mac computers are often associated with creative people and tasks, one of the things that makes them so easy to use is boring consistency. Take keyboard shortcuts for example.

In almost every application, there’s the concept of creating something “new”. And, if you think of the most common thing that might be created in an application, chances are good that you can make a new one using the Command-N (⌘N) keyboard shortcut. That’s why the “N” on my keyboard looks like this!

N worn off

Command-N keyboard shortcuts are so common and useful, my N key is completely unreadable.

In most applications that allow multiple windows, Command-N opens a new window. This is true in the Finder, web browsers like Safari and Google Chrome, and document editing applications like TextEdit, Page, and Word.

Some applications only have one window, so they use Command-N to create whatever the most (hopefully) obvious object might be. In iPhoto, that’s a new album. In iTunes, that’s a new playlist.

If you’re unsure what Command-N does in an application, just check out the File menu. Here’s the top of iPhoto’s File menu.

iPhoto File menu

The iPhoto File menu, with various "New" commands

There you’ll see that Command-N (⌘N) will create a new album. But, wait, what are those other ⌘N thingies? Well, like many applications, iPhoto has a few different objects that you might want to create, so it gives you a few keyboard shortcuts that include ⌘N. Add the “option” (⌥) key to ⌘N (making it ⌥⌘N) and you’ll get a new “smart album”. Get another finger involved and add the shift (⇧) key (making it ⌥⇧⌘N) and iPhoto will create a new folder.

But, in the Finder, it only takes a Shift-Command-N (⇧⌘N) to create a new folder. So be careful not to guess what a certain key combination might do. If you’re unsure, check the File menu. Once you’re sure, you’ll be creating new windows, documents, folders, playlists, and all sorts of things with a handy keyboard shortcut.

Finally, since the next newsletter will be in January, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year! See you in 2012!

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