Friday, December 19, 2008

Super-Clean Screenshots

In Mac OS X Leopard, you can capture an image of your entire screen by typing Command-Shift-3. Typing Command-Shift-4 lets you choose a specific part of your screen to save as a screenshot: Click and hold to place the small cross-hair cursor at one edge of the area you want to capture, then drag horizontally and/or vertically to select. When you release the cursor, the screenshot is saved to your desktop.

But creating screenshots this way often means you need to crop or clean up the edges of the image later. That’s especially true if you’re planning to use it as a graphic element in a document or presentation. Fortunately, Mac OS X Leopard offers a way to save clean screenshots of individual elements on your desktop — such as Finder windows, menus, icons, or the visible portion of an open document — without capturing anything else in the background.

Hold down the Command, Shift, and 4 keys, then press the Spacebar. Instead of a cross-hair cursor, a small camera icon appears. When you move this camera icon over the element you’d like to capture, that element is highlighted. Click your mouse or trackpad, and you’ve captured a screenshot of just that element — no further cleanup required.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All About Audio Chats

iChat is a great way to communicate and share files in real time with friends and colleagues, whether they’re across the hall or around the globe. With iChat, you can conduct text chats with anyone who has a MobileMe, AIM, Jabber, or Google Talk account. And if your Mac is equipped with a built-in iSight camera (or an external iSight or other FireWire camera) you can conduct video chats with up to three buddies at once.

But there’s another way to chat: via audio. You can invite as many as nine buddies to an audio chat, which makes it great for group communication. As with video chats, you can record audio chats with permission from the participants. Audio chats are especially useful for interviews, long-distance business meetings, family conferences, and other situations when you’d like to communicate verbally with more than a few people at once, or save an audio record of your conversation.

Audio chats require a built-in microphone or an external mic connected to the audio input port of your computer. If a telephone or camera icon appears beside a name in your buddy list, it means they too have the software and hardware needed for an audio chat. (A “stacked” telephone or camera icon indicates that your buddy’s computer has enough power to participate in a multiple-person chat.)

Audio Chat

To start an audio chat, open iChat and select the buddy or buddies you want to chat with. To choose multiple buddies, hold down the Command key as you click on their names. Then click on the telephone icon at the bottom of your buddy list, or select Invite to Audio Chat under the Buddies menu.

When they receive your invitation, your buddies simply click the Accept button to join the audio chat. All audio chat participants are listed in the chat window along with their buddy pictures. Each participant also has an individual sound level meter, which makes it easier to tell who is talking.

Audio Chat3

To enable recording in an audio iChat, select Record Chat under the Video menu. A message is sent to all participants asking for their permission to record the chat. To grant audio recording rights for this chat, your buddies click on the Allow button. When participants want to leave the chat, they just close the chat window. Recording stops when the person who initiated the recording exits the chat.

Recorded audio chats are saved by default in the iChats folder in your user’s Documents folder. You can change this default location under the General tab of iChat Preferences, and search for saved chats by date or title using Spotlight. You can also play your saved audio (and video) iChats in iTunes.