Ask the Mac.AppStorm Editor #2

It’s time for another “Ask the Editor” post today. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their questions – it’s great to have the chance to help you out with your Mac-related queries and quibbles.

Some of the topics covered this week include cleaning your Mac, handy keyboard shortcuts for save dialogs, and where to find great free Mac software. Read on to find out what my responses are (and how you can submit your own questions for the next article!)

Do you know of a Mac MP3 player that lets me use keyboard shortcuts (preferably directional arrows) to rewind a track, say 5 seconds at a time?

- Pedro Homero

Although you mentioned in your full question that VLC doesn’t seem to have this functionality, I’m happy to tell you that it actually does!

The default keyboard shortcut to jump forward/backward is Shift+Command+Right Arrow, or Shift+Command+Left Arrow. These are completely configurable, and you can also set a shorter/longer delay if you’d like to. Just head into Preferences > Hotkeys and scroll down right to the bottom of the list.

Hope that helps!

VLC's Keyboard Shortcuts

VLC's Keyboard Shortcuts

I’m a young professional; meaning I don’t have a huge software budget. Can you highlight a package of freeware items that will help me be more efficient and differentiate myself from others?

- Austin Farmer

Absolutely. I suppose that much of what you’ll need depends on the type of work you do. There’s a huge range of fantastic, free software available for the Mac, in all manner of different niches.

A good place to start would be a post we published called Mac Freeware All-Stars: Our 10 Best in Category Picks. This highlights various free apps in categories such as task management, clipboard apps, launchers, Twitter clients, Mail alternatives – you name it!

If that doesn’t satisfy your freeware needs, delve into another post entitled 100 Incredibly Useful & Free Mac Apps. There’s lots more to choose from here, and hopefully you’ll be able to find plenty of software that helps you do your job better!

How should I physically clean my Mac’s interior and exterior without damaging any parts? (I’m worried about the possibility of dust clogging up the insides)

- Gregory C

Cleaning the outside of your Mac is easy, and one product that I recommend to everyone is iKlear for Mac. Most of these packs come bundled with a spray and a micro-fibre cloth that’s perfect for cleaning your monitor and the rest of your Mac (whatever model it is).

For the most part, you don’t really need to worry about your Mac’s internals being clogged up with dust (particularly if you’re using a tightly enclosed model such as a MacBook or iMac).

This might be more of a problem on a machine such as a Mac Pro, and the best solution would be to clean it either by simply blowing away the dust, or by using compressed air (check that it doesn’t contain any other chemicals that might damage your hardware first).

When I want to close a file, I often have the choice between “Save”, “Don’t save” and sometimes even more options. How can I navigate these buttons with the keyboard without having to pick up the mouse?

- Julia Altermann

This is always a pain – fortunately the answer is really straight forward. There are a few different keyboard shortcuts available to use when this dialog pops up:

esc – Cancel
enter/return – Default button (usually “Save”)
cmd-d – “Don’t Save”
cmd-r – “Replace”

In other dialogs such as this one, you can often try hitting the letter on the keyboard that corresponds to the word you want to pick. So in the sleep/restart dialog window, for instance, hitting “s” will select Sleep, or hitting “r” will select Restart.

I’m looking for an online backup solution. One that gives you the option to manually backup (and that does not have to run in the background all the time).

- David Omoyele

Good question! Most cloud backup solutions do, at least by default, run all the time and maintain a constant duplicate of various files. Dropbox is a classic example of this and, while many people see this as a positive, it can be frustrating if it negatively impacts your computer performance.

One solution you could try would be CrashPlan. The free version of this solution will back up your computer daily, rather than in real-time (which is a feature available for paying customers).

Another handy feature of CrashPlan is that you can backup not only to their cloud storage, but also to an external drive, or to free hard drive space on other computers belonging to family and friends (if they let you, of course!).

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to answer every question that’s sent in – I received quite a few over the past week!

If you’d like to submit another question for next time around, you can do so here:

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you agree or disagree with anything I mentioned today!


  • Jerome

    “When I want to close a file, I often have the choice between “Save”, “Don’t save” and sometimes even more options. How can I navigate these buttons with the keyboard without having to pick up the mouse?”

    [Tab] to select the button (not fully selected, just light colored border) and then [space].
    Instead of [enter] which will valid the default option, [space] will valid the selected option.

    Example for “save” / “don’t save” / “cancel”
    [Tab] [Tab] [space] will cancel.

    • Soyek

      Your solution is true only if one has a “Full Keyboard Access” in Keyboard Shortcuts Preferences set to “All controls” while Mac.AppStorm’s is valid no matter the settings.
      Could be mentioned tho’.

      • Jerome

        Yep, sorry, I forgot about this preference, thanks for your correction.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Hey Jerome – Thanks for the tip. I didn’t have “Full Keyboard Access” turned on, so this didn’t work for me at the outset. A handy trick to though know!

      • http://www.appforthat.de Julia Altermann

        Hi David,

        thanks for picking up my question and thanks for the solution! I had learned about what Jerome suggested a couple of days ago but it’s great to know a couple of solutions to this issue. It was really driving me nuts :)

  • George

    In iTunes, if you hold down either the back or forward button (instead of just clicking it), it skips back or forward a few seconds. This works with the buttons on the keyboard, too.

  • George

    To elaborate on my previous response: Since the ff/rw buttons on the keyboard do this, it means you can do this even when iTunes isn’t the current application.

  • http://pjkh.com Philip Hallstrom

    Worth checking out Arq for cloud (Amazon S3) based backups as well. It doesn’t have to run all the time, but it can, and you can set the schedule for it’s backups. Encrypts before uploading, etc…

    Just a happy user.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      I was going to mention Arq actually, but wasn’t aware that it had the option of scheduled backups. Good to know!

  • dixhuit

    BackBlaze for remote backups. Set and forget…

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow