iThings Considered

Customize Mac OS X

Jake Sargent - 2001.04.06

When brainstorming ideas for this article, I was trying to come up with topics that did not relate to Mac OS X. Alas, even two weeks after OS X's introduction, it is still the hot thing in the Mac community. This tutorial digs deep into the innards of Mac OS X and teaches you how to customize it to fit your needs and preferences.

Customize Those Icons!

A number of good resources have popped up that provide quality Mac OS X icons. The most popular are the now well-known Xicons.Com, and Icon Factory. Changing icons in Mac OS X is slightly different from OS 9, but it's still quite similar. For starters, Mac OS X marks the demise of the "Get Info" panel and introduces the "Inspector" window. The Inspector changes according to the application or folder selected. This reduces the likeliness of multiple "Get Info" windows and over-cluttered screens. You can launch the Inspector by pressing Command-I. Once you are in the Inspector, click on the icon image and copy it (Command-C). Click on the application or folder where you want the icon to reside and simply paste it back in the Inspector by pressing Command-V.

The majority of icons can be changed using this method. However, there are a number of icons, such as the hard drive, trash, applications folder, and other system icons that cannot be changed. To change these icons, use a slightly more complex method described by X Icons.

Customize The Toolbar

Although a program for creating and swapping toolbars has not been published (one was created but quickly disappeared), it can still be easily done. As one Mac OS X Hints reader notes, you can easily add any folder or application to the toolbar by going to View > Customize Toolbar, and then simply dragging it on from another open window. This simple trick will quickly let you launch any app (look mom, no dock!), or change the default icons of the toolbar.

Customize The Dock

You may have heard some hacks about changing the orientation of the dock. When I first read how to do this, it seemed way over my head. But after digging around a bit, I found that using the Terminal is much less intimidating than it looks. First, launch the terminal, an application located in the utilities folder. Type in the following and restart your Mac:

defaults write com.apple.dock orientation right defaults write com.apple.dock pinning end

Change the "right" at the end of the first line to wherever you want the dock to be located on your screen.

Speed Up Mac OS X

After playing around with Mac OS X for a few weeks, I've found that the claim that Mac OS X is faster than OS 9 is an overstatement. To me, Mac OS X seems very sluggish. However, there have been a number of ways that Mac OS X users have found to speed it up. The most popular is simply installing the Developer Tools CD that came with Mac OS X. Supposedly, this initializes the system in a way that the regular Mac OS X Installer does not. Reports have varied, but many users have noticed a large increase in speed.

New tips, tricks, and hacks are popping up all over the place. Be sure to keep an eye out for new software that helps you customize your Mac OS X experience. Remember that Mac OS X is new, and developers are still finding ways to dig deep down into its preferences and play around a bit.

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