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Hidden Leopard Feature: Office Drudgery Made Easy

I run a lot of bad software in this job (including some that my employer makes me use!) and so I'll admit to getting jaded about what can seem to be a prevailing culture of mediocrity in the computer business. But then I discover the occasional new feature that makes a dull chore dramatically easier or eliminates it entirely.

Often, these additions are items that I didn't even even think to mention in my first review -- for example, the way Windows Vista allows you to type a program's name in the search field at the bottom of the Start menu instead of browsing to whatever sub-folder it was installed into.

My most recent discovery involved a couple of details in Apple's new Mac OS X Leopard operating system -- both hidden in the Preview application that Leopard uses to display photos and PDF files.

The chore in question was the monthly ritual in which I itemize the calls I made for work on my cell phone, so The Post can cover that part of the bill.

Traditionally, this has involved going through a printout of the bill with a highlighter in hand. When I don't recognize a number as a personal or a business call, I have to look it up in a few separate places: my address book, my e-mail and my calendar. In some cases, I also have to Google for it.

Between all the different programs I have to switch between to complete all these searches, the whole thing takes at least half an hour. You can imagine how thrilling it gets! One of my co-workers confessed on Friday that she's never bothered to expense her work calls because of all the hassle involved.

Then I realized that Leopard's Preview application can annotate and mark up PDF files. I also remembered that if you select any text in it, the first two items on its right-click menu are "Search in Spotlight" and "Search in Google."

So instead of downloading the bill to the Dell at work like usual, I saved it to a review machine running Leopard. There, I right-clicked each number and almost instantly searched for it throughout every document on my computer--my address book, my calendar, my e-mail and everything else. With another right-click, I Googled for the same number. To highlight the work calls, I selected Preview's "Mark Up" menu command. Finally, I saved the newly marked-up PDF to print out and send on to the accounting types here.

I had the November bill done in about 5 minutes.

What's your most pleasant surprise been among the software you've installed this year?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 10, 2007; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Pleasant surprises  
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Is the washingtonpost that cheap? Do they make you itemize the calls you make on your office phone too? Internet usage? :)

Posted by: Bart | December 10, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Itemize internet usage... I can imagine it now...

"That byte was DEFINITELY for pleasure" :)

Posted by: BR | December 10, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for a major time-saving tip. Works on system 10.4 also, as I just discovered.

Posted by: Al | December 10, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"the way Windows Vista allows you to type a program's name in the search field at the bottom of the Start menu instead of browsing to whatever sub-folder it was installed into."

Oh, you mean like you've been able to with Spotlight for, like, EVER?

Posted by: Bush -- not related | December 10, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Ok, snottiness aside, I realize I may need to upgrade to Leopard on my MacBook because I've become addicted to the Screen-Expanding possibilites presented by (work)Spaces. I've been using various Linux OSes (mostly virtualized but) including Xandros on my eeepc's 7" screen, where being able to flit from one desktop to another is a massive time-saver, greatly maximizing the limited realestate.

It's hardly a new feature, just new to Mac (at least in a decent implementation). What surprises me is that's it has me so excited I'm considering replacing a perfectly stable OS just to get it.

Posted by: Bush -- not related | December 10, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Bush - I would wait before switching to Leopard, as in my 22 years of Mac usage, Leopard is the worst, least polished Apple system upgrade. You will likely feel like a Beta software tester, than Apple user. I would wait a few more upgrades.

I have had a dreadful experiences with Leopard, and if I could I would remove it and go back to Tiger (10.4.11), which worked flawlessly.

I stopped using Spaces because of its annoying habit of switching to another Space's Finder window when I Command-Tab switched from the application to the Finder. Command-Tabbing back to the original application and ONCE AGAIN the Finder, got me to the 1st Space's Finder window I wanted to go to in the first place. Confused? Then wait until Apple has fixed this and Leopard's many other problems, including stability. Two days ago, I had 2 Finder crashes in one day!? Versus maybe 2 in the 6+ years of using Mac OS X! If I have iDisk synchronization on, I have to force shutdown my MacBook Pro every time. I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.

I think Leopard will ultimately be great software, but in its current state, only a Windows User would be impressed with its quality.

Posted by: Bush - you may want to wait | December 11, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

How anyone can consider you a serious tech writer after that article is beyond me. Are you kidding me?

Posted by: Nick Leiter | December 11, 2007 4:11 PM | Report abuse

You are too easily amused!

Posted by: steve ballmer | December 11, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Nick: Does a "serious" tech writer not care about getting boring tasks done as quickly and easily as possible? If so, then I guess I'm hopelessly "unserious" or "trivial" or whatever other adjective you were going to throw out next.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | December 11, 2007 10:52 PM | Report abuse

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