How many functions does your favorite software package perform? Most of the time, we’re happy to pay for an app that has one or two core functions, as long as it does those functions well. How about a freeware package that sports about three dozen different functions? Unbelievable, but it’s true in the form of TinkerTool.
TinkerTool pulls it off by simply being a front end to a Terminal command. The defaults command, which originated in NeXTstep and made its way to OS X, allows you to change application preferences, including stuff that’s not available from the app’s preferences window.
TinkerTool has been with us since at least Mac OS X version 10.0 (Cheetah, although Apple didn’t use the big cat names publicly then). I can remember using it back then to pin the Dock at the top of the screen and hide it under the menu bar – and also to add a Quit menu to the Finder.
As more defaults commands have been discovered and new apps that support the command (i.e., Safari) have been added to OS X, TinkerTool has grown into quite the little powerhouse.
Since all preferences are set at the user level and not the system level, there’s no risk of doing any damage to your OS. Preferences can be set back one at a time, or all preferences can be turned back to a pre-TinkerTool state with the click of a button.
One of the newer features is the ability to speed up the opening and closing animation of sheets. This makes open and save dialog boxes -and other informational sheets – roll up and down very quickly. Although it’s a placebo, this gives you the appearance of a much faster Mac.
I always make sure to install TinkerTool, even if just for this feature, even on the fastest Macs I use.
Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger brings back the ability to change the screen shot format, which you could do in 10.0 and 10.1, but not 10.2 Jaguar or 10.3 Panther. I like to set the format to JPEG, although there’s nothing wrong with the default PNG in 10.4. It’s just nice to have that extra control over your system.
From the TinkerTool site, here’s a complete list of features available with OS X 10.4 (other features available in earlier OS versions omitted):
- Prevent the Finder from using the Desktop background.
- Disable the animation effect when opening files in the Finder.
- Enable the Finder to show hidden and system files.
- Enable the Quit menu item of the Finder.
- Disable sound effects of the Finder.
- Disable display of the full user and group list in ownership settings of the Finder.
- Disable the animation effect when opening information panels or Desktop icons.
- Disable the animation effect when selecting information categories.
- Disable the display of arrows in the Finder’s column view.
- Set the maximum number of label lines in the Finder’s icon view.
- Disable the creation of hidden Finder .DS_Store files on network volumes.
- Use transparent Dock icons to show hidden applications.
- Display the Dock with a shadow.
- Put the Dock to the top screen position.
- Place the Dock at the beginning or end of any screen border.
- Set the Dock minimization effect to a “suck in” animation.
- Place both scroll arrow buttons of any scroll bar at both ends of the bar.
- Set the file format for the creation of Desktop screen shots.
- Enable extended options for conversion of disk images.
- Automatically skip checksum verification when opening disk images.
- Accelerate the animation of opening and closing sheets.
- Enable the diagnostic menu of the Address Book.
- Automatically activate Terminal windows by pointing at them with the mouse cursor.
- Control how Mac OS X handles application crashes.
- Enable the Mac OS X Menu Extra to open optical disk drives.
- Enable the diagnostic menu of Safari.
- Disable Dashboard.
- Enable the developer mode of Dashboard (allows you to put Widgets on your Desktop).
- Force an updated import of Internet Explorer favorites into Safari.
- Set the number of visible entries in the main history menu of Safari.
- Set the maximum number of entries stored in the history list of Safari.
- Reduce the delay time of Safari before page content is displayed.
- Disable native PDF display support in Safari.
- Set nine categories of default fonts used in Cocoa applications.
- Enable or disable restrictions for the permission settings of newly created files or folders.
- Set font-smoothing limits for all types of applications.
And all of this for free!
Update: In 2014, TinkerTool is available in four different versions, each with different capabilities:
- TinkerTool Classic version 3.9.5 for OS X 10.1 through 10.3.9
- TinkerTool Classic Generation 2 version 4.5 for OS X 10.4 through 10.5.8
- TinkerTool 4 version 4.9.6 for OS X 10.6 through 10.8.5
- TinkerTool version 5.x for OS X 10.9 Mavericks.
Short link: http://goo.gl/Nk88Qw