oreilly.comSafari Books Online.Conferences.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button Mac Hacks

Mac Hacks: The Launch


Welcome to the debut of a new O'Reilly Network feature: Mac Hacks. Before I get to the content itself, I'd like to take a moment to explain how this ongoing endeavor will work.

Comment on this articleWhat kinds of hacks do you want to see? Tell us. And while you're at it, if you have a clever tip, spring that on us too.

A couple times a month, I'll introduce a new hack that's fun, useful, time-saving -- or all three! Sometimes the hacks will be associated with an application; other times they will address the operating system itself. The launch of Mac OS X will provide us with a cornucopia of hacking opportunities, so of course we'll focus a lot of attention there. But I'd say it's an open field, and all good ideas will be considered.

Readers can submit hacks to by mailing them to Then we'll test the hack and reply to the author. If we decide to use it, the author will be credited and allowed to list a URL with the credit. We do reserve the right, however, to reject the URL. (Not that anyone would list porn sites or other nefarious addresses.)

The hacks will be cataloged in a library that will always be accessible from the Mac DevCenter homepage so you can go back and refer to them at will.

But there's more! When we publish a new Mac Hack feature, it will have "Talk Back" functionality so others can comment on the hack or add their own variations. The Talk Back comments will stay associated with the original hack in our library, so you will always be able to see the entire thread.

Then, once a year in celebration of the Machack Conference (no association with this column or O'Reilly, although we are sponsoring one of the keynote addresses at this year's gathering), we'll publish the best of our reader-contributed Mac Hacks along with the conference coverage. This year's conference will be June 21-23 in Dearborn, MI, so it's time to get on the stick.

Just to review, here's the Reader's Digest version of what we're up to:

  • A new Mac Hacks feature will be published a couple times a month on the Mac DevCenter.
  • The feature will introduce a new hack and will be followed by a Talk Back feature that allows readers to add their 2 cents.
  • If a reader originates the featured hack by sending it to O'Reilly, he or she will be credited and allowed to list a URL as long as it's deemed acceptable by the editors.
  • The hacks will be cataloged chronologically and always available via the homepage of the Mac DevCenter.
  • Once a year in celebration of the Machack Conference, we will publish the best of our reader contributions with the conference coverage.

Chum the waters

I can't just write an article about having fun hacking the Mac without a sample or two. After all, the whole point of this feature is have fun!

To start, here's a simple but slightly mischievous maneuver from our "Seven Mac Hacks" booklet that we distributed at Macworld SF this year. Eric Meyer wrote this one.

Our only request: If you try this on someone else's Mac, make sure you hang around to disable it too. Most tech support types won't be able to figure it out.

Practical Joke: Make Their Links Go "Poof!"

Here's a fun way to drive someone completely crazy without actually risking permanent damage to their machine, software, or anything else besides their state of mind. All you need is a text file that contains this line:

A:hover {display: none !important;}

Call the file something innocuous and sensible, like webdisplay.css. Now, sneak that file onto the hard drive of someone you'd like to torture -- your boss, an ex-lover, Rush Limbaugh, whomever -- and set up their web browser to use your file as a user stylesheet. (You might want to research how to do this ahead of time because some browsers make it difficult -- they may require you to change the name of the stylesheet, for example, or put it in a specific directory.)

Now, whenever your victim moves the mouse pointer over a hyperlink, it will disappear. In certain situations, it will even flicker in and out of existence. Either way, though, they won't be able to actually select the link, so unless they figure out what's wrong and fix it, the only way for them to navigate the Web is to type in URLs directly!

Note that this hack only works in Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 and 5, and Netscape Navigator 6. Navigator 4.x can't handle this one, but if your intended victim is still browsing with Navigator 4.x, don't you think they're already suffering enough?

Want more great CSS tricks? Take a look at The CSS Anarchist's Cookbook right here on the O'Reilly Network.

Emergency FTP for Any OS 9 Mac

This next gem is for System 9 users who find themselves in a pinch -- without an FTP client. Thanks to O'Reilly's own Chris Stone for this handy tip.

Need to FTP a file from a Mac without an FTP client installed? Fear not.

OS 9 includes a built-in FTP client by way of the Network Browser, which is usually located under the Apple menu. To FTP a file, open the Network Browser. From the network menu (the far-left button with the pointing hand), select "Connect to Server."

In the network address field that now appears, enter the full URL of the FTP server that you're trying to reach (such as You'll be prompted to log on as "anonymous" or with your account info. The server's directories will then appear in a Finder-like window in the Network Browser.

Simply drag items in and out of the window to and from your desktop to transfer them.

Call to action

I sure hope I've whetted your appetite by now. So what's next?

If you're the hacker type and have something to contribute, then send it along to me at We'll review it and let you know if we can use it. If you just want to sit back and enjoy, that's fine too. We'll run our first column next week. See ya then.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

Comment on this articleWhat kinds of hacks do you want to see? Tell us. And while you're at it, if you have a clever tip, spring that on us too.