15 Snow Leopard Tricks You Have To Try

Snow Leopard is finally reaching the masses. As much as we like it, though, the interface feels awfully similar to its predecessor. Here are 15 tricks to check out that are undeniably new—and even a little exciting:

Sync Contacts with Gmail and Yahoo: No longer just for syncing with the iPhone and Mobile Me, the Contacts app can now talk to your Yahoo and Gmail address books, and pull down your contact info. It's as simple as going into Contacts preferences and hitting the Accounts tab.

Show Date In Menu Bar: If, like me, you're too lazy to click on the clock, or launch widgets, or just make use of your God-gifted memory, you can now set the clock to display full date in the Menu Bar, just go into Date and Time Preferences and adjust.

Smart Text Formatting and Correcting on the Fly: Snow Leopard has a number of text-based enhancement for apps like Text Edit, iChat and Mail including spelling auto-correct and text substitution, which lets you use shorter macros in place of longer words and phrases. The spell corrector is limited to commonly misspelled words, but the text substitution is yours to define. Just control-click in the text entry field for any of the aforementioned apps to toggle the features on or off, and visit the Text section of the Language & Text system pref for tweaking.

Password Log-In Delay: If you have password protection enabled for when your computer goes to sleep, you can now choose how long your computer snoozes before the password requirement actually kicks in. This means you can more easily have the privacy of a darkened monitor without the pain of having to key in your password every time you step away. These settings are under the Security preference pane.

Google and Yahoo Support in iCal: iCal is now much easier to add calendars from Google and Yahoo. No hacks or third-party software necessary. You just add a new account under preferences and select your service of choice. (Suit-wearers take note: Exchange support is here as well.)

Edit Videos in QuickTime X: QuickTime Pro users have long been able to edit and convert videos without launching the heavier movie apps. With QuickTime X, Apple has done away with that nasty fee. Yep, Pro is dead. Now everyone can trim and save, with a visual navigation timeline for easy edits, not to mention that other pro perk, viewing movies in full-screen.

Upload to YouTube From QuickTime X: Now you can upload directly to YouTube from QuickTime X. Just open any video file then go up to the menu bar and click Share. That same menu lets you upload movies directly to MobileMe, and convert movies to iProduct-friendly formats to send to iTunes.

QuickTime X Video Capture: How much do we love QuickTime X? It now also has video capture direct from the iSight camera, any FireWire video camera or any audio input. Better still, it can record the action happening on your screen, and save that as a movie too. A riveting one, to be sure.

Smarter Drive Eject: Half bug fix, half user enhancement, Snow Leopard now tells you exactly why it can't eject a drive that's in use. Instead of saying it's just busy, it tells you what app is using it. Apple also promises ejecting in general is just "more reliable."

Recover Trashed Files: If you accidentally sent an item to the trash that you want to replace, you don't have to go in and then drag it to wherever you had it before (if you even remember). Now you just control-click on the trashed item and select "Put Back." Problem solved.

Airport Signal Strength: Windows users have long been accustomed to this, but when you're looking for free wi-fi to steal and wanna get an idea of what's most reliable, you can now get an idea before you connect. It really took Apple this long to add this?

Automatic Time-Zone Detection: If you're jet setting around the world with regularity, you can allow Snow Leopard to detect your location using Wi-Fi hotspots, and adjust the time zone—and clock's time—accordingly.

Preview a File Inside Its Icon: If hitting the space bar for a "quick look" is too much for you, try the in-icon previews. Just roll your cursor over a video or audio file and a play button will appear. PDFs show arrows, letting you leaf through their pages. In most folders, there's a slider that lets you scale icons up to a massive 512 x 512 pixels, presumably to make this file preview seem in any way rational.

Annotate This!: The increasingly useful Preview now has a bar at the bottom of the window full of various annotation tools, such as shapes, highlighter, memos, underline, strikeout and hyperlink. Useful for the bookworms out there who are deal with texts in digital formats. Perhaps it also hints at the Apple Tablet's Preview app, because a device that goes up against a Kindle would need something like this (along with, you know, a five-day battery life).

Chinese Character Input: This isn't really a feature the majority of us will use, but rather a demo of what's possible with Apple input technology. You can use the trackpad to write Chinese characters and have them appear as computer text, just hit Ctrl-Shift-Space Bar. Pretty neat idea, and perhaps something else that might come in handy with a tablet.

There are, of course, even more tricks and new features. If you have any good ones you want to share, you know how to do it.

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