AMITIAE - Wednesday 21 August 2013

Cassandra: File Transfers and Application Options on a Mac

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By Graham K. Rogers


My main computer is the MacBookPro that, these days, I tend to keep at home. I only take it to the office for special reasons, such as when I need to use Aperture or transfer large numbers of files. An example of this might be next when the students submit a movie project: the groups each need to give me a file (MP4 or MOV) and I like to check that the file will work before I go home.

I do have a Mac at the office: an older 20" iMac that I used at home for a while. With a smaller apartment now, this is redundant and I have kept it in my office as a backup.

A couple of days ago I was sent a .DOCX file that was needed for administration purposes at work. I was asked to add information to the template and then print it out. I have no Microsoft applications (apart from Skype and that doesn't really count).

I was able to open the file on the MacBook Pro with Pages. Apart from a few font problems - most characters were too large - I had no problems with the data. I added the necessary information and saved the document. I took the file into the office on a USB drive. I had adjusted the font size down to a more reasonable size.

When I asked the secretary to open the file on her PC, I saw I had made a mistake. I had not checked when saving. Instead of DOCX, I now had a Pages document. She would never be able to open that; but I was also going to have a problem as I had never bothered to install Pages on the iMac. I bought iWork before the App Store existed (like Aperture) and I would need to buy an extra copy to install it at work. With iWork for iCloud in beta testing, that should be ready soon and probably a version for the Mac as well, so I will catch up then.

Most of the time, TextEdit will suffice for the work I need to do with the iMac. I copied the file from the USB drive to the desktop. I saw that the icon for the file displayed an image of the file, with arrows so I could access each page of the document in that icon: detailed stuff here. I highlighted the file and pressed Command + i to bring up information about the file. The panel showed the applications I could use to open the file. One of these was Preview - installed on every Mac.

I used the Option key and a trackpad click to bring up a menu that included "Open With" and selected Preview. I was able to view the file, and with the Export function was offered the options of the Pages document (which was what I already had), and the option to save as a PDF.

I was able to access the original DOCX document. I had a copy in an email account on the iPhone. I sent it to my iCloud account and downloaded it to the iMac.

  • I was able to open it in TextEdit, where I would have been able to edit had I wished. As in Pages, font size was affected; and I also had to use Wrap to Page (Shift + Command + W) in the Format menu.

  • The DOCX file also opened in Preview but could not be edited although Export options were PDF and the Office Open XML Word Processing format.

  • I also opened the file in WriteRoom. I could edit the file but the pages were not shown as being separate. WriteRoom does however have a useful Toolbar that allows adjustments to be made quickly.

The Mac with OS X gives a number of alternatives for users who may have to access several file types these days, some of which may be proprietary. There may be ways to get round a missing application.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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