Blog Archives

Ten ‘Easter Eggs’ to Find in Your Mac OS and Applications

While this week many people are searching for Easter Eggs or the Afikoman, here are 10 hidden settings you can find in your Mac apps and OS X. These are all small changes you can make that make using the applications and the system slightly better.

First off, you’ll need to open up the Terminal application (/Applications > Utilities > Terminal), since these ‘Easter Eggs’ have to be run from the command line. Once you’ve got that open, you can copy and paste the commands below. Each command is one line only, and you should press Return after pasting in each command. To turn these off after, replace YES with NO (or vice-versa) and repeat the command.

Allow Dashboard Widgets to be Dragged Onto the Desktop

Sometimes it’s useful to keep one of you Dashboard widgets around after you close Dashboard, so paste the following into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES && killall Dock

To use this ability, click and hold a widget and then close Dashboard using your keyboard hotkey (usually F4 on newer Macs).

Stop Twitter’s Compose Window Floating

The compose window in Twitter for Mac floats above all other windows at all times, which can get annoying. To stop it floating, paste this into Terminal, then restart Twitter for Mac.

defaults write com.twitter.twitter-mac NormalComposeWindowLevel -bool NO

Allow Escape to Close Twitter Compose Window

Another one for Twitter for Mac, this allows you to press Esc to close the new tweet window. Once again, paste and then restart Twitter for Mac.

defaults write com.twitter.twitter-mac ESCClosesComposeWindow -bool YES

Show Hidden Files in the Finder

There are some files which the Finder keeps hidden, but you might want to be able to see them sometimes, such as .htaccess files for web developers. To show hidden files, paste this into Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool YES && killall Finder

Your hidden files should now show up.

Disable the ‘Unexpectedly Quit’ Dialog

When an application crashes, you’ll see a dialog telling you the application quit unexpectedly. This can get annoying if it happens often, so you can disable that dialog using

defaults write com.apple.CrashReporter DialogType none

You may need to restart your computer for changes to take effect. To turn this back on again, replace ‘none’ with ‘prompt’.

Enable ‘X-Ray Folders’ in QuickLook

The QuickLook feature of Finder is great, but if you use it on a folder, you won’t see anything except a folder icon. Using this hidden setting, you’ll be able to see the contents of the folder when you use QuickLook.

defaults write com.apple.finder QLEnableXRayFolders 1 && killall Finder

To turn off, replace the ’1? with a ’0?.

Show the File Path in the Finder Window Title

It’s easy to get lost in your file system, so enable this to show the path of the current folder in the title bar of your Finder window. That should make it easier to remember where you are.

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES && killall Finder

Disable iTunes Arrow Links

You’ll often see tips on how to change the arrow links in iTunes’ list view to go to your library instead of the store, but what about turning them off altogether? Paste this command and restart iTunes.

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

Stop the Help Window From Floating

Another troublesome floating window is the Help window which appears when you click Help in most applications. To stop it floating, use

defaults write com.apple.helpviewer NormalWindow -boolean yes

Change the Desktop Picture on the Login Screen

If you don’t like the default image shown behind the login screen, you can change it to any other image using the following command. Just add the path of the image after the word ‘path’.

defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow DesktopPicture -path

Bonus: Control Even More Hidden Settings Using Secrets

Secrets is a preference pane which allows you to control even more hidden settings in Mac applications using a friendly interface, rather than having to use Terminal. You can download it here, and once installed you’ll find it at the bottom of System Preferences.

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iOS 101: Migrating to a New iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch

When you get a new iOS device, like maybe a new iPad 2, you’ll probably want to transfer data, settings and content from an old device to the new one. For many users, this may be the first time they’re moving from one iOS device to another. Luckily, it’s not difficult to do. Here’s how.

Step 1: Sync and Back Up the Old Device

First off, you need to create a backup of the old device using iTunes. This should happen automatically when you plug the device in, but if not, or if you just want to make sure, right-click the device’s name in the sidebar and choose “Back Up.” Note the name of the device, because that’s what the backup will be named in step 2.

Step 2A: Sync the New Device (Brand-New Devices)

If you’re transferring to a brand-new device that’s never been synced before, plug it in with the USB cable to begin the activation process in iTunes. Since you backed up your old device, you’ll be presented with a choice: set up as a new device or restore from a backup. Check “Restore from the backup of” and select the correct device from the dropdown list. Then hit the “Continue” button and your device will be set up exactly the same as the old one.

Step 2B: Sync the New Device (Previously-Synced Devices)

If, instead of a new device straight from the box, you’re setting up a device that has been synced with another iTunes library before, this step is slightly different. If you bought the device second-hand, hopefully the previous owner restored it, but if not, follow the instructions below.

Again, connect the device to iTunes. If it hasn’t been restored since its last sync, iTunes will warn you of this and ask if you want to erase it and sync. Click “Erase and Sync,” and wait for the process to finish. Then, right-click the device name in iTunes and select “Restore From Backup.” A popup window will appear asking which device backup to use. Select the correct one and click “Restore.” Your device will be restored to factory settings, then synced with all the content and information from your backup.

Once the restore has been completed, your new device is ready to use, and should be set up just how the old device was. All of your email accounts should be synced, your apps should be how you left them and the settings should be the same as before. Did I miss anything? Add your own tips or advice in the comments.

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iOS 101: How to Use Multitasking on Your iPhone or iPad

Since the release of iOS 2.0, users were annoyed that Apple hadn’t yet implemented multitasking — the ability to run more than one application at a time — on the iPhone. Fast forward two years to the release of iOS 4.0, when Apple finally introduced the feature. Some users may not yet have a good grasp on how to use iOS multitasking, yet, though. For those users, here’s multitasking explained.

Activating Multitasking

When you’re running an application that supports multitasking (all of Apple’s apps do, as well as many from the App Store), all you have to do is exit the application like you normally would, using the Home button. The application is automatically suspended and is waiting in the background for you to open it back up again. Not all apps are actually suspended though; there are some applications which will continue running even when they’re closed, such as music players and navigation apps. There’s no need to treat these applications differently, though. If the developers of the app have included support for running in the background, it will happen automatically.

The same thing happens when you receive a call on your iPhone; the application is suspended and sent to the background, ready for when you finish talking.

Returning to an App

When you’re ready to go back to an app waiting in the background, simple press the Home button twice quickly. This opens the multitasking bar, which shows you all the applications which are currently open on your device.

Simply tap an app’s icon to open it back up. It will open as usual, but will resume from exactly how it was when you closed it (if it supports auto-resume). For instance, if you were using a to-do list application, and you were halfway through editing an item, the app will open at the editing screen again and you’ll be able to carry on from where you were. This also happens if you come back from a call. The app you had open when the call came in will return in the same place it was.

Close Running Applications

In some rare cases, you may want to stop an application which is waiting in the background. To do this, open up the multitasking bar with a double-tap of the Home button. Then, find the app you want to close, and press and hold its icon. The apps in the bar will wiggle, like when you organize the Home screen, and red minus icons will show up above each app. Just tap a minus icon, and the corresponding application will be closed. It won’t be in the background, so the next time you open it, it will start from the first screen again, not from where you were when you last had it open.

More Multitasking Bar Features

The multitasking bar also houses some other useful features. If you swipe your finger to the right, a set of controls appears which allow you to control any music playing on your device, as well as lock the orientation of the screen. The iPad also features two sliders, one for the volume and one for the screen brightness. The iPod controls work with your device’s iPod music as you’d expect, but they also work for a music application running in the background. For example, start listening to the Pandora app and the controls will work with Pandora.

To stop your screen rotating when you turn the device (useful for reading in bed), tap the grey icon on the left. That’s the orientation lock switch, which determines whether the screen will rotate or not.

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How to Do What the Mac App Store Doesn’t: Uninstall Apps

So you’ve just installed tons of apps from the Mac App Store, but now you realize you don’t really need that fifth Twitter client. How to uninstall it? Unlike Windows, OS X doesn’t have a “Remove Programs” tool, but the answer is actually simpler than that.

All you have to do is navigate to [Your User Name]/Applications, locate the app you want to remove, and drag it to the Trash icon on your dock. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Command+Delete. Since Mac applications are all packed into bundles (that’s the icon you drag to the Trash) just deleting the bundle removes the app.

However, there is one catch. A lot of apps leave behind external files, such as preference files, dotted around your system, which don’t get deleted when you send the application bundle to the Trash. You could hunt around and manually delete those files, but it would be very time-consuming and there’s no guarantee you’ll find every one. Luckily, there are some third-party apps that will handle this for you.

AppZapper is one of those apps. When you want to uninstall another app, fire up AppZapper. Instead of dragging the application to the Trash, drag it to the AppZapper window. AppZapper looks through your hard drives for any files related to the app you’re deleting. It presents you with a list, and you can uncheck any items you’re not sure you want to delete before finalizing the process. All files are sent to your Trash bin, too, so if you have second thoughts you can also recover them there.

Version 2.0 of AppZapper introduced a new feature called Hit List which lets you see all your installed apps, and filter them according to when you last used them and how much space they’re taking up on your drive. It’s a great addition for those who’ve neglected their Applications folder for a while and aren’t sure where to start cleaning up.

AppZapper isn’t the only ‘uninstaller’ for the Mac. There are others, such as AppDelete. Whichever you choose, it’s a good idea to use one to make sure your Mac is clear of potential ‘bloat’ left behind from apps you don’t even have any more.

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Mac 101: Setting Up Your Mouse or Trackpad

There’s a myriad of options when it comes to setting up your Mac’s mouse or trackpad. The Mouse and Trackpad sections in System Preferences have helpful videos showing you how to use different features, but here’s a guide to getting those settings just right.

One- or Two-Button?

One of the most confusing things about a Mac mouse is its lack of physical left and right buttons. Both the Magic Mouse and the Mighty Mouse which preceded it have only one click function, clicking anywhere on the mouse, but it’s possible to set up a secondary or right-click, too.

To enable a right-click, open up Mouse in System Preferences (?>System Preferences) and find the Secondary Click setting. On the Magic Mouse, you can set the secondary click to either be on the right, or the left, for left-handed users. To use the right-click function when it’s turned on, perform your click on the right-hand side (or left, if you set it to left) of the mouse.

You can enable two-finger tap secondary clicking in the System Preferences>Trackpad options. Trackpads also have the option of a one-finger secondary click, where you click in the corner of your choice on the trackpad to perform a secondary click instead of using a two-finger tap.

If you uncheck the option for Secondary Click, then to perform a right click, you will need to hold down Control on the keyboard and click with the mouse. Clicking on the left or right-hand side without holding the Control key will perform a left-click.

Scrolling With Inertia

Both the Magic Mouse and trackpads have the option to scroll with inertia. This is the effect you see on the iPhone, where flicking makes the scroll carry on after you let go. The option can be found alongside the checkbox for Scroll, which for mice is under the One Finger heading in the relevant Systems Preferences pane, and for trackpads is under Two Fingers.

You can also turn off scrolling altogether, but that would become tiresome after a while, because it means either using the cursor keys to scroll, or dragging the scrollbar on the right of a window. I imagine you’d be turning scrolling back on fairly soon after turning it off.

Getting a Closer Look

System Preferences (under either Trackpad or Mouse) also offers the option to turn on Screen Zoom for your input device. By holding one of either Control, Option or Command, depending on your choice in the settings, you can then scroll upwards on your device to zoom in on your screen, and scroll down to zoom back out again. This is great for the visually impaired. There are some other options for Screen Zoom which let you change how the screen moves in relation to the cursor, and turn image smoothing while zoomed on or off.

Navigating Using a Mouse or Trackpad

If you use a Magic Mouse or a trackpad, you can turn on swipe to navigate, which lets you go back and forward in your web history, jump between pages in a Preview document, and much more, depending on which application you’re using. On a mouse, you swipe either left or right with two fingers, and for a trackpad it’s three. There are no settings for swipe to navigate; it’s a simple on or off setting.

Trackpad Multitouch

If you own an iPhone or iPad, and you like being able to pinch to zoom, and rotate with two fingers, you’ll be happy to hear that the new glass trackpads on MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs, as well as the Magic Trackpad, support both these multitouch gestures, and a few more. Each gesture can be turned on and off individually, and additional gestures to choose from include swiping up and down with four fingers to access Exposé and the Application Switcher (??). These gestures are the best thing about Apple’s Magic Trackpad.

These are just the options which Apple has built-in to Macs by default. With an application like MagicPrefs, you can add even more functionality to your mouse or trackpad such as custom gestures other than the Apple specified ones. If you have any other input device-related tips or tricks, feel free to share in the comments.

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Mac 101: Keep Your Mac Running with Regular Maintenance

If your Mac is running slow or things don’t seem to be working as they should, it may just be that you need to give your computer a little bit of TLC in the form of regular maintenance. Here are a few ways to look after your Mac to make sure it doesn’t get too ill.

Before you start, it’s always a good idea to do a backup of your system, or at least your sensitive files. These are very basic steps that don’t incur much risk, but you’re always better off having a backup than not.

Do It Every Day: Empty the Trash

It might seem obvious, but emptying the Trash is a great way to claim back hard drive space, which can, in some cases, speed up your Mac. To do this, simply click and hold (or right-click) the Trash icon in the Dock. Then click Empty Trash in the pop-up menu which appears. You’d be surprised how often you might forget to do this for days or even weeks at a time.

Do It Once a Month: Give Your Battery a Break

If you’re like me, and you never completely shut down your MacBook, instead only closing the lid occasionally to put it to sleep, then your battery might be getting a bit worn out. It could even be losing the ability to charge completely. Once in a while, turn your laptop off completely to give the battery a rest. Apple even suggests regularly running the charge down until the notebook turns off, then waiting a while to let it run out completely before recharging.

You can check the condition of your battery if you’re running Snow Leopard (10.6.x) by holding Option and clicking the battery status icon in the Menu Bar. If it shows ‘Replace Soon’, your battery may be losing the ability to hold its charge. If “Replace Now” or “Service Battery” is displayed, you should contact Apple about getting the battery replaced, especially if you’re still covered under warranty or AppleCare.

Do It Once Every Couple Months: Verify and Repair Disks and Permissions

Repair Disk Permissions
Repairing disk permissions can sort out strange goings-on, particularly those related to starting up your Mac. Open up Disk Utility (Found in the Applications>Utilities folder) and click on the disk you’re interested in using the source menu on the left. Click the button on the left, Verify Disk Permissions. Disk Utility will automatically take care of the rest.

If you need to, you can click Repair Disk Permissions to iron out any errors that get picked up. I’d suggest doing this before restoring and erasing disks and so on. Oftentimes repairing permissions will sort out the problem, without having to resort to a disk repair.

Verify and Repair Disks
If something strange starts happening on your Mac, it’s a good idea to verify that your startup disk is okay. If the structure of the disk’s file system is changed in some way, then your Mac might start behaving strangely. In order to check that everything is as it should be, you can once again use Disk Utility. Select your startup disk from the list of drives on the left and hit Verify Disk. Disk Utility will go ahead and check the status of the disk you selected. Don’t worry if your computer is unresponsive during the test; that’s normal.

If Disk Utility finds an issue with a disk, you can use the Repair Disk button to have your Mac try to repair it automatically. Most of the time, a simple repair will sort out any issues you’re having with a disk.

Sometimes, though, you will have to boot your Mac from your OS X install disc in order for Repair Disk to work. To do that, make sure your OS X install disc is in your Mac’s drive, reboot your computer, and hold C. Don’t reinstall OS X, but instead choose Disk Utility from the Installer menu and try to verify and repair once again.

Getting It Done Automatically

It can be a pain to remember to carry out maintenance on your machine regularly. Luckily, there’s an application, OnyX, which can perform maintenance such as checking permissions and cleaning out temporary files automatically. OnyX can perform daily, weekly and monthly scripts which do all the boring things for you. Plus it’s free. OnyX can’t empty the Trash, but it can clear caches and temporary files. It also checks the status of your startup disk whenever you launch the application.

Got any maintenance tips of your own? Share them in the comments.

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How To: Restore iMovie’s Timeline Feature

Between iLife ’06 and ’08, the timeline view was removed from iMovie. Instead of being displayed in a timeline, the video wraps around like text on a page. If you have iMovie ’11, there’s a way to get back the original timeline view, where the video is in one scrollable line.

Fire up iMovie ’11 and open up a project. The first thing you’re going to want to do is swap the project view and the events view so that the video you’re editing is along the bottom of the screen. To do this, click the ‘Swap Events and Projects’ button on the middle toolbar — it’s the one that looks a bit like a refresh button.

Swap Events and Projects button

Once you’ve done that, there’s one more step. Just underneath the middle toolbar, on the right-hand side of the window, there’s a new button introduced in iMovie ’11 — it looks like a row of boxes. This is the ‘Single-Row View’ button. Click this and your project will rearrange itself into one long row which is scrollable to the left and right.

Single-Row View button

So there you have it, an emulation of the old timeline view in iMovie ’11. It seems Apple must listen to user requests after all, because iLife users have been complaining about the lack of a timeline view since it was removed two versions ago. It also suggests, along with the new audio editing features, that Apple is trying to make iMovie seem much more like its Final Cut products, which is great news for amateur videographers.

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Tips and Tricks: Finder

Welcome to another installment of Tips and Tricks. These articles aim to teach you some handy things you might not know about your Apple stuff. Let’s continue the series by looking at Finder.

Dropping Files Onto Applications

If you have a bunch of files you want to open simultaneously with the same application, this trick will save a bit of time. Any files you drag and drop onto the icon of an application in a Finder window will be opened with that program, provided it supports the file type you’re dragging. You can drag and drop more than file at the same time, to help save time. Applications which support the files you’re dragging will be highlighted as you hover over them, and applications which don’t will stay the same. This trick also works the same way with applications in the Dock.

Changing Folder Icons

As some point, you might want to change the icon of a folder. For example, if you have a folder called ‘Movies’ on an external drive, you might want to replace the default folder icon with the same one as Movies in your Home folder. To do this is really easy. First, find the folder with the icon you want to use (in this case it’s Movies). Right- or Control-click it and choose Get Info, or hit Command-I (?I). This brings up the Get Info window for the item you had selected.

The part we’re interested in is the small icon in the top left, next to the folder’s name (not the smallest one in the title bar, the larger one below the ‘traffic light’ controls). Click on that to select it and it’ll be highlighted. Now simply press Command-C (?C) to copy the icon.

Now go back to the regular Finder window and locate the folder you want to change the icon of. Once again, open up the Get Info window and select the icon at the top. Now press Command-V (?V) to paste the icon from the other folder. The icon should change instantly to show the new one you’ve pasted. You can also remove any icon you’ve pasted onto a folder simply by selecting it in the Get Info window and hitting Delete. This sets the icon back to the default plain folder icon.

This trick also works for changing the icons of applications and other files, but it’s not recommended that you do it for those things. If you want to do that, I’d suggest looking into an application such as CandyBar for a safer way to do it.

Finding an Item’s Location

Spotlight, the Finder’s search tool, also has a few tricks up its sleeve. To get started with Spotlight, access the menubar item by pressing Command-Space, or access Spotlight via a Finder window by pressing Option-Command-Space.

If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to use the menubar item, but for a more advanced search, use the Spotlight window.

One of my favorite tricks in Spotlight is showing exactly where a file or folder is on my system. To do this, invoke the menu item, then search for a file or folder. Usually what you’re looking for will come up as the Top Hit, but sometimes it won’t. You can use the arrow keys to navigate up and down the list until you have what you want highlighted.

Now, instead of hitting Return to open the item you have highlighted, which would simply open it, press Command-Return. This will open a new Finder window showing you where the item you chose lives on your system. This is great if you have forgotten where you saved something, for example.

Definitions and Calculations

Another useful tip for Spotlight is the way it can give you dictionary definitions and perform calculations. To get a definition, type the word into the menu item. Most of the time the definition will be the topmost item in the list. There’s very little chance that the whole definition will fit in the Spotlight list, but to see the whole thing, highlight the definition and press Return. Dictionary.app will open and show you the definition for the word. You can also hover your mouse over the list item and the definition will be displayed in the yellow tooltip which appears.

It’s the same with performing calculations; type in what you want Spotlight to do and it will show you the answer at the top of the list. It supports powers as well, so things like 3^2 and sqrt(100) will work, too.

I hope you’ve learned something new, and don’t forget to contribute your tips in the comments!

Quick Tip: Make iTunes 10 Window Controls Horizontal

iTunes 10 was released yesterday and brought with it a few UI overhauls. The loss of color in the sidebar for one, along with the change of orientation of the window controls at the top of the window. There currently isn’t a way to bring back the colored icons in the sidebar, but there sure is a way to get the window controls back to their former positions.

It’s simple enough, and requires just one line to be entered into Terminal. Quit iTunes, wait for it to close completely, then fire up Terminal, which can be found under Applications ? Utilities. Either type or paste the following code into the Terminal window and hit Return:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -1

Now when you reopen iTunes, the ‘traffic light’ controls should be back along the top of the window, side-by-side. It does a lot for keeping the look of OS X consistent across applications. Of course, perhaps this is Apple’s way of telling us that in the next version of the Mac operating system, all the windows are going to be laid out like this.

Should you ever want to restore iTunes 10?s default setting, and put the controls back down the side, enter this code into Terminal (again with iTunes closed):

defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -0

Now we have a fix for the window controls, all we need is a setting to bring back the color in the sidebar. If you know a way, shout out in the comments!




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Secrets of the Camera Connection Kit

While it may be intended as a tool for adding photos to your iPad, the Camera Connection Kit can do more than Apple tells you about. Having had one for the last week or so, I’ve tested what capabilities the kit has, and what secrets are hiding under the white casing.

Importing

It’s clear what the main purpose of the Kit is: importing and managing photos and videos from digital cameras. What Apple doesn’t tell you is that you aren’t limited to using an SD card or the USB cable for your camera.

Most of the time, when you buy a MicroSD card, it comes with an adapter that lets you use the MicroSD in an SD card reader. Since part of the Camera Connection Kit is an SD card reader, this means you can, perhaps unsurprisingly, use it to read a MicroSD card as well. This also works with Memory Stick Pro Duo, the card Sony uses in its cameras as well as the PSP. All you need is an adapter to change it into an SD card.

The Kit also works great if you have an all-in-one card reader. If you do, you can use it in a USB port to read CompactFlash, MMC, Memory Stick Pro Duo and other types of card as well. One half of the Camera Connection Kit is a USB port, so, although the functionality is undocumented, a USB card reader will work. Reading the card isn’t as fast as when using a card directly in the slot or a USB cable, but it works and doesn’t break the iPad or the memory card, which is always a good thing.

One last thing that Apple does mention, but doesn’t push much, is using the USB slot in the Kit to connect your iPhone to your iPad. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything fancy like transferring apps or tethering, but you can import photos from your iPhone camera roll to your iPad. You can even use the iPhone camera while the devices are connected, and any new photos you take show up directly in the list on your iPad.

Saving Space

If, unlike me, you’re running out of space since your iPad is host to thousands of songs, videos, photos and apps, you can use the Camera Connection Kit to your advantage. Memory cards are fairly cheap nowadays; you can pick up an 8GB SD card for around $20. You can save precious space on your iPad by storing videos, such as TV shows and movies, on an SD card instead of directly on your iPad. When you want to watch them, plug the SD card reader into your iPad, pop in the card, and import the video (you can’t watch directly from the card). When you’re done, delete the video to make room again. The downside is keeping enough space free on your iPad to import the video. However, keeping about 1.5GB free still gives you more free space than you’d have if you had 8GB worth of video on the iPad.

Other Accessories

Since the iPad was released, people have been upset that it didn’t have a built-in USB port. Apart from a camera cable, USB keyboard or a headset, what would you plug into it? Probably not much else.

There are some keyboards that don’t work with the iPad; the Apple wired keyboard for one. If you try to use it, an error message will be displayed saying the accessory uses too much power, probably because of the keyboard’s two USB ports. However, a cheap Windows keyboard works just fine.

Headsets have the same issue. Some models work; others don’t. While I haven’t been able to test any personally, some users have been able to get them to work and say they work well.

To my knowledge, those are the only accessories that work with the iPad, but let us know in the comments if you’ve found any others that work using the Connection Kit.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: The Case For Removable Media on the iPad




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