Fast User Switching

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Fast User Switching

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12.8. Fast User Switching The account system described so far in this chapter has its charms. It keeps everyone's stuff separate

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  1. 12.8. Fast User Switching The account system described so far in this chapter has its charms. It keeps everyone's stuff separate, it keeps your files safe, and it lets you have the desktop picture of your choice. Unfortunately, it can go from handy to hassle in one split second. That's when you're logged in, and somebody else wants to duck in just for a second—to check email or a calendar, for example. What are you supposed to do—log out completely, closing all your documents and quitting all your programs, just so the interloper can look something up? Then afterward, you'd have to log back in and fire up all your stuff again, praying that your inspirational muse hasn't fled in the meantime. Fortunately, that's all over now. Fast User Switching—a feature modeled on a similar Windows feature, which itself was modeled on a Unix feature—lets Person B log in and use the Mac for a little while. All of your stuff, Person A, simply slides into the background, still open the way you had it; see Figure 12-14. When Person B is finished working, you can bring your whole work environment back to the screen without having to reopen anything. All your windows and programs are still open, just as you left them. To turn on this feature, open the Accounts panel of System Preferences (and click the , if necessary, to unlock the panel). Click Login Options, and turn on "Enable fast user switching." (You can see this dialog box in Figure 12-12.) The only change you notice immediately is the appearance of your own account name in the upper-right corner of the screen (Figure 12-14, top). You can change what this menu looks like by using the "View as" pop-up menu, also shown in Figure 12-12. That's all there is to it. Next time you need a fellow account holder to relinquish control so that you can duck in to do a little work, just choose your name from the Accounts menu. Type your password, if one is required, and feel guiltless about the interruption. And now, the finer points of Fast User Switching: • Depending on how many programs are open and how much memory the Mac has, switching accounts may entail a delay and a good deal of hard drive activity. That's Mac OS X's virtual memory scheme "setting down" what was in memory in your account to make room for the incoming account's stuff.
  2. • To exit an open account, choose Log Out as usual. Or just choose Login Window from the Accounts menu. It ensures that you can get to your own account no matter whose is running at the moment. • Weirdly enough, a bunch of account holders can be using the same program simultaneously in their own parallel universes. Even if Microsoft Word was open in your account, Chris, Casey, and Robin can each open the same copy of the same program simultaneously when they fast-switch into their own accounts. (Word, in that case, uses up four times as much memory, of course.) Figure 12-14. Top: The appearance of the Accounts menu lets you know that Fast User Switching is turned on. The circled checkmark indicates people who are already logged in, including those who have been "fast user switched" into the background. The dimmed name shows who's logged in right now. Bottom: When the screen changes from your account to somebody else's, your entire world slides visibly offscreen as though it's mounted on the side of a rotating cube—a spectacular animation made possible by Mac OS X's Quartz Extreme graphics software. • You can't make changes to accounts (in System Preferences) that are still logged in. Nor, as you'd expect, can you turn off Fast User Switching while other people are logged in. Can't turn on FileVault, either. • If you try to shut the Mac down or rest art it while other people are logged in, a dialog box tells you, "There are currently logged in users who may lose unsaved changes if you shut down this computer." And you're asked to type in an administrator's name and password to establish that you know what the heck you're doing. Here's a moral dilemma for the modern age. If you proceed by typing the password and clicking Shut Down, you shut down all accounts that were open in the background and any open documents—and if those documents hadn't been saved, any changes are gone forever. If you click Cancel, you can't shut down the Mac until you hunt down the account holders whose stuff is still open in the background so they can log out. Tip: You can avoid this awkward situation in either of two ways: (1) Trust each other completely, or (2) save all your documents before you let anyone else cut in and send your account to the background.
  3. • Remember the Shared folder (in the Users folder on the hard drive)? It's still the wormhole connecting all accounts. If you want to share a file with another account holder, put it there. • Your account isn't anesthetized completely when it's switched into the background. In fact, it keeps on doing whatever you set it to doing. If you were downloading some big file, for example, it keeps right on downloading when the next guy logs in.  
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