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Ask TUAW: iPad books, Android iTunes sync, printing without applications and more


After some time off, we're back with an all-new edition of your favorite Q & A column: Ask TUAW. As before, I will do my best to answer your Mac and iDevice-related questions with as much candor and accuracy as I can muster.

In case you've forgotten, here's how things work: each week this column will appear with questions and answers. If you have questions for the following week's column, drop them in the comments, and I will do my best to get to them. I won't be able to answer them all every time, so please, be patient.

When asking a question, please include which machine you're using and what version of Mac OS X is installed on it (we'll assume you're running Snow Leopard on an Intel Mac if you don't specify). If you're asking an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad question, be sure to note which model and version of iOS you have.

To kick things off this week we've got a new batch of questions about how to get books on your iPad, syncing music to an Android phone, changing the location of your iTunes library, printing without opening applications, and more.

Scott asks:

Just got an iPad. How do I get books on it to read other than by purchasing them through Apple's iBooks store?

That's a great question, and one I've had to figure out myself recently. Before I go on, I need to point out that I'm not advocating you download books or other things from torrent sites. However, there are plenty of eBook stores that offer paid or free downloads, some with formats foreign to the iPad's native ePub files. (If you do have books already in ePub format, iTunes will simply ingest them with a drag and drop, no conversion necessary.)

Wherever you get the book files, you will need them to be in ePub format in order to put them on the iPad and read them using iBooks. To accomplish this, I use an app that's become one of my favorites: Calibre, the open source eBook manager.

This app converts various other e-book formats into the format you need for the iPad. For example, if you have books in the PRC format, you can easily change them to ePub files, then sync them to your iPad in iTunes.

Just check the box to sync books in iTunes, then drag and drop the ones you want on the iPad into the main window. On your next sync, they will be transferred to your iPad and will be readable using iBooks.

iBooks also reads PDF files, so if you have books or documents in this format you're all set. Seth Godin, for example, offers some of his work in PDF form.

Stefan wonders:

How do I get Preview to want to save my images to JPG by default and not PNG?

I'm not sure I completely understand your question, but I wanted to include it in case others have some ideas. Preview saves images by default in the format you bring them in. For example, if you open a .jpg file in Preview and then save, it will save as a .jpg even if you crop or resize.

So, my advice is to use .jpg images for your work. Or, simply Save As and select .jpg when you want to save the file as such and it didn't originate in that format. Of course, if anyone else has another idea, feel free to drop it in the comments.

If you're referring to how OS X saves screen shots in a default .png format, check out this helpful how-to from Snow Leopard Tips. It'll show you how to change the default (although you'll have to use Terminal) plus a lot more. If you'd rather avoid the trip to the command line, check out the recently updated savescreenie preference pane.

Matt asks:

Just got an Android phone. What's a good way to get music and movies on it using my Mac?

I like syncing media to Android via doubleTwist. This freeware program, billed as "iTunes for Android," allows you to sync your iTunes music (except DRM-enabled tracks purchased directly from Apple before they went DRM-free) with your Android-powered phone. You can manage playlists, artists, albums and more via the program's interface.

Granted, it's not nearly as elegant as iTunes, but it does get the job done. The company also has doubleTwist for Android phones that will play music, videos and more. It makes a good companion to the desktop app.

Heather inquires:

I want to be able to print documents or pictures without having to open a particular application to do it. How can I print without having to open an app?

A good way to accomplish this is to open the System Preferences utility, then select Print & Fax. Once there, drag your printer from the left column to your desktop to make an alias of it. Then, to print a file or picture simply drag it to the printer alias on the desktop, and it will print -- although it launches the application momentarily to print the file, the app will close again when the job is done.

Sebastian asks:

I usually keep my iTunes library on an external drive because it's so large. Recently I had to start iTunes without the drive being attached and iTunes created a new library for me on my internal drive. How can I go back to my old library?

Quit iTunes if it's running. Then, open it while holding down the Option/alt key. This will bring up a dialog box asking you to either create a new iTunes library or choose an existing one. Simply direct iTunes to your library on the external drive, and you should be good to go.

Lani wants to know:

I need to use Outlook for work on my Mac at home. Do I need to install something like Windows to make it work?

If for some reason you couldn't use Entourage 2008, which was the official Exchange client in the previous version of Office -- and assuming you didn't feel like running Outlook 2001 in Classic mode -- you used to have to go through a lengthy process, installing a virtualization tool like Parallels, then installing Windows, then Outlook. Fortunately, that's no longer the case.

A few weeks ago the new version of Microsoft Office for the Mac was released; in addition to the usual Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, it also features a new version of Outlook for the Mac. This version offers most of the features of Outlook for Windows and is really a time and money saver, considering you don't need to purchase any other programs to run it.

Keep in mind you will have to shell out for the full "Home & Business" version of Office 2011 for the Mac to get Outlook, the Student and Teacher Edition doesn't include it. If your work requires you to have Outlook, check with your IT folk to see if there's a home licensing arrangement that allows you to use the corporate license (or a discount copy) on your machine. You can read our review of Outlook 2011 for the Mac here.

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