How-To: ‘Gray out’ Files in Finder

When copying files in Finder, you might have noticed that the newly created, still-being-written-to files are ‘grayed out’, conveniently informing the user that the file is not ready yet.

Greyed out files in Finder

I wanted to replicate that for an upcoming upgrade of Transloader (along with a progress indicator, as you can see in the screenshot above, but that’s another topic), and after trying a couple of things, I found out how to do it.

I tested this on macOS High Sierra only, since it’s the OS version I’m targeting right now, but I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work on earlier versions of macOS.

It’s All in the Date

After digging around on the internet, I found that all that needs to be done is to change the file’s creation- and modification dates to one specific date, namely:
January 24th, 1984, 09:00:00 AM

Setting the creation and modification dates of the file to be greyed out

And it works great – the created file appears ‘grayed out’ in Finder.

There’s a downside, however:
When copying a file in Finder, and trying to move that still-being-written-to file, Finder will display a convenient message that tells the user the file is in use and moving it might cause problems.
This doesn’t happen when using this date-setting approach.

So I kept digging.

The Solution

What I did, then, was use Terminal and the ‘mdls’ command to list the meta data of the still-being-written-to file:

mdls in Terminal on a copying file

At first, coming from the date-approach, I noticed the kMDItemFSCreationDate item, stating
1904-01-01 00:00:00 +0000

However, setting that as the creation date does nothing at all.

Then, I noticed the kMDItemFSCreatorCode and kMDItemFSTypeCode fields (red arrows in the screenshot of Terminal above).

Setting those like this…

Setting creator and type codes in Objective-C

…does exactly what I wanted – it ‘grays out’ the file in Finder, and displays the convenient Finder error message when trying to move it:

Finder error message when trying to move a still being written to file

Mission accomplished – we’re done!

Please keep in mind, though, that the user may still choose “Continue” to move the file, so you should definitely use an NSFileCoordinator to take care of that.

How To: Animate a determinate NSProgressIndicator (Open Source)

I’m not sure if I’m imagining things, but I believe at some point before OS X Yosemite, a determinate NSProgressIndicator was able to animate to its new doubleValue, not just “jump” to it.

In an effort to have that animation again, I wrote a little category on NSProgressIndicator that does exactly that, using NSAnimation.

Progress bar animation using ESSProgressIndicatorCategory

NSProgressIndicator and Animation

NSProgressIndicator has a method called -startAnimation:. However, as the documentation states, this has no effect on determinate progress indicators.
Calling progressIndicator.animator.doubleValue = 5.0; doesn’t animate either. So with options that come with the class, we’re stuck.

As I try not to reinvent the wheel for something that’s already solved, I did some googling around, but that didn’t yield any results, either.
What became clear, though, was that there’s a lot of confusion about what -startAnimation: actually does.


Not finding a solution on the internet, I decided to write my own, as I figured it wouldn’t take a lot of time (it didn’t).

I definitely didn’t want to subclass NSProgressIndicator and override any drawing methods.
That would have a) taken an unjustified amount of time and b) been a huge pain in the neck for sure.

The solution to me then was to use NSAnimation.

The goal was to have one method to call that sets the new doubleValue and animates to it nicely:

New method to animate a progress indicator's doubleValueThe category’s – (void)animateToDoubleValue: method

It calls a subclass of NSAnimation named ESSProgressBarAnimation with the new value and starts the animation.

initialization of the NSAnimation subclassInitializing the NSAnimation subclass ESSProgressBarAnimation

We save the original doubleValue of the progressindicator, set the duration and animationCurve and set the animation’s animationBlockingMode to NSAnimationNonBlockingThreaded so that when there’s a mouse event, for example, the animation doesn’t stop.

NSAnimation's setCurrentProgress method

When an NSAnimation object’s -startAnimation method is called, it automatically calls -setCurrentProgress: on itself until currentProgress is 1.0, meaning the animation has ended (currentProgress ranges from 0.0 to 1.0). The value is based on the duration and the animationCurve.
In this overridden method, we calculate the delta between the new and the initial doubleValue of the progressIndicator, multiply it by currentProgress and send it to the progressIndicator. That’s it.

How To Use NSProgressIndicator+ESSProgressIndicatorCategory

Add the category’s .h and .m files to your project, import it where you need it and update your progress indicator’s doubleValue by calling -animateToDoubleValue: with the doubleValue you desire to animate to.

The Source Code

The repository (a sample OS X app) is available on Github.

It was developed (and tested) on OS X Yosemite 10.10.3 using Xcode 6.3.1 but should work on earlier versions of the operating system.

More source code is available here (or directly on my github profile page) if you’re interested. If you have any questions or feedback regarding my open source projects, please be sure to mail or tweet me – I’m looking forward to your feedback!


iOS 8 Safari Action Extension; UIWebView Zoom, Scale, Scroll Position and JavaScript

For the upcoming action extension in Transloader, I’m using a UIWebView to show the webpage the user is currently browsing, so they can tap on a link they’d like to download:

UIWebView without zoomTransloader’s Action Extension, displaying a UIWebView

It’s nice, but I wanted to go an extra step. A user might zoom and scroll in Safari before launching the action extension and when they do, the web page would be shown from the top, not zoomed. Here’s how I changed that.

Context and Flow

One of the main purposes of an action extension is to allow a user access to functionality from a different app without a) leaving the current app and b) without leaving the current context (which is more or less the same, but context is the point I’d like to drive home with this post).

In that vain, I thought it would be neat to present the website a user was viewing in Safari the same way in the action extension – meaning the zoom level and scroll position.

I figured, a user browses a site, perhaps zooms in on stuff and when they find a link they’d like to download to their Mac, they press the Share button in Safari and select Transloader’s action extension.

The thing is, the UIWebView of the extension loads the website for itself again and hence starts from the top, not zoomed in. So the user is ripped out of the context, they’d have to scroll and zoom again to get to the same position they had in the Safari web view. I wanted to change that:
A user should see the same part of the website in Transloader’s action extension as the part they were viewing in Safari before tapping the Share button.

Luckily, Apple implemented a way that allows us to do just that.

Java Script Preprocessing

In an Action extension for webpages (action extensions that are displayed in the action sheet if the NSExtensionActivationSupportsWebPageWithMaxCount criteria is met), you can supply a JavaScript preprocessing file that will let you examine the contents of the webpage before your native code is called.

This way, we can extract the current page scale and the scroll position. Here’s how we do that. In the Action.js, we call our native code with these parameters:


– pageXOffset is the horizontal scroll value
– pageYOffset is the vertical scroll value
– pageScale is how far the user has zoomed into the page
– baseURI is the current URL displayed in Safari

With these parameters, we can do what we set out to do – display the web page in the Action extension the same way as the user left it in Safari.

In our implementation file, in the WebView’s delegate method “-webViewDidFinishLoad:”, all we basically need to do is apply these parameters to our own web view:

[self.webView.scrollView setZoomScale:self._pageScale

[self.webView stringByEvaluatingJavaScriptFromString:[NSString stringWithFormat:@”window.scrollTo(%ld,%ld)”,self._pageXOffset,self._pageYOffset]];

For a complete project of how this exactly works, please scroll down where you’ll find a Xcode Project on Github.

And this is what it looks like in action – notice that after the Action extension is tapped, the website appears the same way as it was in Safari:

UIWebView Zoom and Scroll in Action

Example Project

TL;DR – I uploaded a demo project here on Github.

I hope you can make good use of this code – and if you do, please be sure to let me know! 🙂

My name is Matt, I’m the developer of Eternal Storms Software. If you’d like to comment, you can catch me on twitter here: [twitter-follow screen_name=’eternalstorms’ show_count=’yes’] or by eMail.