Add a Keyboard Shortcut to Mail’s Load Images Button

The Load Images button in Apple Mail on Mac OS X doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut, and there’s no easy way to add one. This is very annoying. This article shows how to add one, using AppleScript and FastScripts.

I like Apple Mail for Mac OS X, but one thing that irritates me to no end is that the Load Images button (Load Remote Content in Mac OS X 10.10), which loads the images in a message on-demand, doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut. Because it’s not a menu item, there’s no easy way to add one. I looked for a way to add a keystroke to Load Images for more than five years before I finally found a way to do it.

The hard part is triggering the Load Images button itself, by anything besides a mouse click. What finally did it was using the GUI Scripting feature of AppleScript to tell the button to click itself. Once I had an AppleScript that worked, it was simple to use FastScripts to trigger the script with a keyboard shortcut.

Why don’t I let Mail load images automatically? Spammers use image loading to confirm the validity of an email address. See this Apple Support Forum post for some details, and how to turn it off.

AppleScript to Load Images in Apple Mail

Download the Load Images script v1.6, 2014-12-31

The work of the script can be done by a single line that might look like this:

click button "Load Images" of 
    UI element 1 of row 1 of table 1 of scroll area 1 of front window

(Because Mail.app’s user interface has changed across various versions, and with different preference settings, the actual code is more complex. See the AppleScript for the full, ugly details.)

This user interface elements path, or specifier, tells the GUI Scripting system how to reach a specific user interface element, in this case a button, and what to do with it. It’s far from obvious how to determine one of these UI specifiers just by looking at a Mail window; I used the very interesting developer tool UI Browser to figure it out.

It’s also specific enough to be brittle; it has changed from prior versions of Apple Mail, and will probably change in the future. When it does this script will stop working and start beeping. I’ve written the script to adapt to a few different version and configuration possibilities, and I’ll try to update it if it ever breaks. The current version (v1.6) is compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 (“Tiger”) through Mac OS X 10.10 (“Yosemite”).

The rest of the script is error handling and AppleScript ceremony. It should make sense if you’re familiar with AppleScript, and there are plenty of comments, so I won’t describe it here.

Add a Keyboard Shortcut for Running the AppleScript

Adding a keyboard shortcut for an already-existing menu item is easily done using the Keyboard preference pane. Adding a keyboard shortcut for an AppleScript requires a third-party utility. You might already have a favorite–there are lots to choose from–and so do I. FastScripts from Red Sweater Software does a great job handling application-specific AppleScripts, and it’s free if you don’t need more than 10 keyboard shortcuts. (It’s also a good value at $14.95 for the unlimited version.)

Create the shortcut for the AppleScript

  1. Install and run FastScripts, and then switch to Mail.app.
  2. From the FastScripts menu, choose Open Mail Scripts folder.
    email hidden; JavaScript is required">Open Mail Scripts folder menu item
  3. Move or copy the Load Images script into the Mail Scripts folder.
  4. From the FastScripts menu, choose Preferences…, click the Script Shortcuts tab, and add your preferred keyboard shortcut.
    email hidden; JavaScript is required">Keyboard shortcut for Load Images AppleScript

Note: If you use the same keyboard shortcut I did, Command-Shift-L, you’ll need to change the keyboard shortcut for the existing menu command that uses it, by adding a new one to that command, using the technique at the Mactuts+ article linked above.

Well, That Was Interesting…

I’m sorry for the extended outage, my hosting provider basically pulled the plug on the server this site was on, with no notice to customers. I was not the only one knocked offline. The site is back now, and I believe in better hands.

And by “interesting” I mean horrible.

Sorry for the extended outage, my hosting provider basically pulled the plug on the server this site was on, with no notice to customers. I was not the only one knocked offline. (It was not about paying my bills!)

At any rate, I’m back, and I believe in better hands.

Very Quick Hardware Reviews

Since the last time I updated my hardware recommendations I’ve purchased:

  • An iPhone 5
  • An iPod Touch, 5th generation (first with Lightening connector)
  • An iPod Nano, 7th generation (first with Lightening connector)
  • A Nexus 4 (yes, I’m giving Android a serious look)

I’m going to be updating my hardware recommendations soon, but in the meantime, here’s some quick thoughts.

  1. I don’t get the new Nano. It’s very nice, and it would have been a great way to go before the tiny square 5-6th generation Nano, but it’s…I dunno. I don’t get it. The tiny square Nano was perfect for clipping on for workouts, very capable. The new one is a little more functionality, but also bigger. If you’re going bigger, why not go all the way and get an iPhone or iPod Touch, and have a real touch device, that can run apps and everything that comes with that?

  2. In fact, I don’t get the entire iPod line. I would have dropped the Shuffle, made the square Nano (upgraded to Lightening) cheaper to fill that spot in the line, and upgraded the iPod Touch to the new version, but keeping the old screen size. Make the taller screen an iPhone 5 exclusive, while keeping the iPod line more affordable.

  3. I definitely would have discontinued the old iPod Touch product. Leaving that on the market is just confusing.

  4. All that said, the new Nano and Touch are really nice devices. And the old iPod Touch is now a bargain way to get onto iOS. Just because the product line is confusing doesn’t mean the hardware isn’t nice.

  5. Still, I recommend the iPhone 5, because it is freakin’ awesome. Truly the best piece of computing hardware I’ve ever owned.

  6. The Nexus 4 is very nice, seems to run the Audible app pretty well (if not quite as smoothly as on the iPhone), and has a pretty broad range of other spoken word apps available. My favorite podcast app, Pocket Casts, is available for Android, and is even “Android first” (h/t Daring Fireball). My survey is far from complete, but it’s clear that as far as spoken word entertainment goes, Android is at least very good, and has no gaps.

Notes on Importing Audiobook CDs into iTunes 11

To read Apple’s marketing copy for iTunes 11, you’d think that the new app was a massive rewrite, or maybe even All! New! Fortunately for my instructions for importing audiobook CDs, while there’s some nice changes, lurking right below the surface is much the same user interface. Importing audiobook CDs using iTunes remains much the same task as before, with a few changes for some rearranged user interface elements. Here are some quick hints, while you wait for me to fully update the article. Continue reading “Notes on Importing Audiobook CDs into iTunes 11”

Writing Again

It’s been a while since I published much here (visibly), but to answer a popular question, yes, I’m still here. I’m taking this three-day weekend to restart some efforts, including writing here on the blog, and also answering mail that has piled up. It’s going to take a while, but I’m slogging through it.

What’s unfortunate, and ironic, about my break from writing is that I never published a post explaining that I’d updated every single page in Aldo on Audiobooks, bringing it up to date, both with the (then) current version of iTunes and with a few new tricks I’d learned. It also includes a greatly expanded selection of audiobook recommendations.

Of course, a month or two after I finished all those updates, Apple announced all new hardware, both iPhones and iPods, and previewed iTunes 11. I “took a pause” to wait for iTunes 11 before updating everything, and then Apple took a while to actually ship it.

Anyway, the goal is to sweep through everything this weekend, and if it’s not completely revised, to at least add a blog post explaining differences.

Memorial Day Weekend Sale on Elvis & Sookie at Audible

Audible.com’s Memorial Day sale is celebrating the three day weekend (in the US) with three different series on sale. Every book in each series is available, and priced at $7.95, a serious savings. Get a book for the price of a decent six pack, or a Summer’s worth of listening for half what you spent on that new Weber grill.

The Three Series Sale at Audible.com

Two of the three series are terrific, with Elvis Cole being one of my favorites.
Continue reading “Memorial Day Weekend Sale on Elvis & Sookie at Audible”

Getting the British Harry Potter eBooks and Audiobooks

With the launch of the store at Pottermore.com, it’s now possible to get digital versions of all seven Harry Potter novels.

Pottermore Shop

I own all of the audiobooks twice over, and several of the printed books, but the eBooks represent something new: the chance to read the British version of the novels. Alas, due to insanely complicated–and stupid–international publication rights and restrictions, and my credit card’s USA billing address, the Pottermore.com store did not want to allow me to buy the UK version of the books.

Here’s how I bought them anyway. (You can do the same for the audiobooks, too.)
Continue reading “Getting the British Harry Potter eBooks and Audiobooks”

iPads 1, 2, 3

So I bought a first-generation iPad, Rochelle got an iPad 2 as a “spousal patience” present, and we both got “the new iPad (3rd generation)” when it came out in March.

Obviously if we’re still buying them, we must like them. But, how about some details? What do we use them for? Why is the iPad useful, or cool? Here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:

  • The retina display is amazing. Truly spectacular. Once you’ve used it, you will find it hard to go back to any other screen. Indeed, I used my original iPad less and less as I got more used to the retina display on my iPhone 4. I am already reading far more than I have in months, due to the crisp perfection of text on the screen. Both Apple’s iBooks and Amazon.com’s Kindle app are great for reading. When I can’t get DRM-free ebooks I tend to shop at Amazon.com first, simply for the selection, even though I probably prefer the UI for iBooks, marginally.

    It’s not just text that’s spectacular on the screen, either. I’ve…uh, checked out some of the comic book apps on the new screen, and it’s pretty much as good as holding a printed book. Spectacular. I’ve only used the Comics app from comiXology and the Dark Horse Comics app, but both have really delivered incredible on-screen quality.

  • The original iPad was really heavy, for a device you’re going to hold in a reading or viewing position for long stretches of time. Reading a book, watching a movie, browsing the web–all great “lean back” activities on the iPad, but the weight, it was a killer. The new iPad is a little heavier than the iPad 2, but quite a bit less weight than the original. It’s still not light enough, but it’s an improvement.

  • The new iPad does not get hot. No matter what you’ve read. It does get slightly warmer in a particular spot than the earlier models, but barely. You have to want to feel it to notice it.

  • The new iPad does indeed take almost twice as long to charge. On the one hand, the battery has almost twice the capacity, so this is not a surprise. On the other hand, it’s a genuine limitation, in that it becomes much more important to remember to plug it in to charge overnight if you’re planning on using it heavily the next day.

  • I used two iPads during March Madness, using the March Madness On Demand app to watch three games at once. Watching March Madness in my living room on the TV and two iPads The quality of the video, if not as good as my HDTV, was as good as my old standard definition TV set. Kind of amazing.

  • The Netflix app is even better than that. Damn near HDTV quality. The combination of Netflix streaming for under $10/month and an iPad may let you kiss a $100+/month cable bill goodbye. (We haven’t subscribed to cable in 4+ years.) That’ll pay for an iPad right there, in less than a year.

  • Rochelle is the master of replacing cable with iPad apps to watch her shows. Here’s a list to the apps she uses regularly:

    When we want to watch something that’s not available from those services (Justified, The Walking Dead), it’s not hard to justify renting or purchasing in the iTunes Store, given that we don’t spend anything on cable. Not available there, either? Patience is a virtue…we wait for it to be on Netflix’s regular old disc service.

So, nutshell, worth it? As an upgrade from the original iPad, absolutely. The first generation iPad was interesting, even compelling as a vision of the future of computing, but for most people, I think it was easy to say “I’m going to wait for the version where they work out the bugs”.

That wait is over. I don’t know what will come in future generations of the iPad, beyond more processing power and more storage, but this third-generation hardware is “fully baked”. The high definition screen delivers an experience that you do have to see and touch to fully appreciate, but once you do, you’ll want it, too.

Aldoblog Redesign In-Progress

After a very long run with a customized Kubrick WordPress theme, I’ve finally gotten around to upgrading to a more modern theme, built on the Thesis Theme for WordPress. The visual design is currently pretty Spartan, I hope to dramatically improve that in the not-too-distant future. For now, the new theme improves the foundation of the site, and makes ongoing changes easier.

I plan to follow the visual refresh up with a refresh of most of the content in Aldo on Audiobooks. Look for the first updates over the weekend.

Hopefully with these monkeys off my back, I’ll get back to more frequent blog posts. We’ll see!

Three Reasons to Not Change the Behavior of the iPhone Ring/Silent Switch

Been a bit of a brouhaha recently about the behavior of the iPhone’s ring/silent switch, kicked off by an article in the New York Times. John Gruber, Andy Ihnatko, and Marco Arment have weighed in, and covered most of the ground for and against, but here’s three specific thoughts I haven’t read elsewhere:

  1. The iPhone’s silent switch has behaved the way it does for 4½ years, and we’re only now having this conversation? Because some guy got a brand new iPhone and embarrassed himself at the symphony the same day? And people want to change the behavior because of one (well-publicized) incident of user error? Seriously?

    There’s no better indication that the behavior should remain the same than the fact that we’re only now discussing it.

  2. Flipping the ring/silent switch is a casual act. You can do it without looking at your phone. You can do it without even taking it out of your pocket. You can do it unintentionally, digging something out of that same pocket.

    Setting an alarm is a deliberate act. I defy anyone to do it while their iPhone is still in their pocket. I defy anyone to do it accidentally. If you forget you have an alarm set after going through the process of setting it, and get embarrassed at the symphony, shame on you.

  3. If you think the ring/silent switch should override an alarm you have set, causing it to not make sound, there’s an easy way to do that: don’t use the built-in Clock app. Many third-party alarm apps respect the ring/silent switch. I like Night Stand. It’s pretty, and when silent mode is enabled, it vibrates but doesn’t ring. Solve your problem for 99¢ and move on.