OSX hacks, tweaks and cleaners.
October 25, 2012 4:14 PM   Subscribe

Lay on me your OS X hacks, tweaks and cleaners.

I am the guy who has been editing config.sys and autoexec.bat since he was 12. In Windows, I'm used to msconfig, Process Monitor, and a number of tweaking utilities that made sure everything looked the way I wanted and acted the way I wanted. Nothing loads on boot without my explicit permission, I can see everything that's running and just in general I have a really good hang on what's going on with the computer. I also run CCleaner, et. al., regularly to maintain good hygiene.

Now I want to do the same with my MacBook. Except with this OS, I no longer have an inherent feel for what is a useful trick and what is system-breaking crapware. Help me out here. I'm using Lion right now because they seem to think I'm ineligible for the Mountain Lion update, but I figure I will eventually break through that nonsense and update.

Now I know that OS X is Unix-based, but I'd like more GUI-based programs (am I supposed to call them "apps" now?) and less command line wizardry. Although I am completely capable of using the command line, so if there's anything particularly cool, let me know.

If it matters, I'm using an SSD, so a) stuff specifically for SSDs would be useful and b) stuff that does a lot of reading/writing to disk would not.

Oh and something to let me snap windows to half-screen like Window Key+Left or +Right in Windows 7 would be awesome. I miss that feature.
posted by griphus to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure how to answer your question since I'm not sure which sorts of hacks or tweaks would interest you. But right now I'm using Quicksilver to launch programs with a simple keyboard shortcut+type a few letters to search, and it's pretty damn awesome.
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 4:30 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

• If you put your own SSD in, consider looking at Trim Enabler.

• There's Quicksilver, but for quickly launching apps, click Command-Space to open up the Spotlight menu, type in the first few letters of the app's name, and press Return.

• Take a look at OS X Secrets. Just don't tell anyone about them.

• I love the window-snapping in Windows 7, so kudos to Microsoft for that. If you want it in OS X, take a look at Cinch or Flexiglass. I use Flexiglass and it works well.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:31 PM on October 25, 2012

Moom will do your window trick for $10, plus let you set up a bunch of custom window configurations. Great program or app or whatever.
posted by griseus at 4:32 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can find CCleaner in the Mac App Store. For window management, there is Divvy.
posted by arhammer at 4:33 PM on October 25, 2012

DiskWarrior is great for disk directory health or recovery .

SuperDuper is good for bootable backups.

Sequel Pro is very cool for mySQL management.

Edge is a fun Mac game.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:37 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

For window moving/resizing, if you're keyboard-oriented, and it sounds like you might be, look at SizeUp. $13. I think Moom might have leapfrogged it, but I'm pretty happy with it.
posted by fermata at 4:38 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

• If you want to view process logs, open up the Console utility. 

• To view a graphical display of running processes, open up the Activity Monitor utility. This is similar to a Ctrl-Alt-Delete to view the Windows task manager.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:42 PM on October 25, 2012

TinkerTool and its paid companion, TinkerTool System are absolutely indispensable to my OS X tweaking desires.

Lion Tweaks is also a good little app for enabling/disabling all the annoying UI "features" that Apple put in to Lion.

SideEffects is a godsend for restoring the colored Finder sidebar icons that went away in Lion. The monochrome sidebar icons is quite possibly the worst UI "enhancement" Apple has ever done to OS X, and SideEffects automates the process of undo'ing it.
posted by melorama at 4:44 PM on October 25, 2012

Mac OSX Hints
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 4:51 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Secrets App

I use Divvy for my window manipulation.

I imagine this 60 tips book would still be useful for Lion.

Here's 20 Awesome Reader Submitted Tips & Tricks at Mac.Tutsplus
posted by backwards guitar at 5:11 PM on October 25, 2012

How do people feel about MacKeeper? I downloaded the demo but am not sure if I want to spend the money to activate the full version.
posted by starvingartist at 5:39 PM on October 25, 2012

• I replaced the OS X clock menu extra with Day-O, a free clock menu extra that shows a month-at-a-glance calendar.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:39 PM on October 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Keyboard Maestro is a fantastic macro program.

I use TextExpander snippets every time I am at my Macs for quickly expanding text that I type repeatedly. In fact, I copied all of the links in this post using it.

For window management, Moom is extremely useful. If you want something more simple, try BetterSnapTool.

I love Alfred App, especially with the Power Pack. Quicksilver is okay, but I switched to Alfred when QS had some development issues. I have never looked back.

Geektool allows you to customize your desktop.

1Password is one of the most useful pieces of software I own. I don't know how I managed usernames and passwords before it. Even my non-geeky wife loves it. Really, spend the money on this.

If you want to play around with alternative finders, Path Finder has many additional features. TotalFinder does a few small things, if you don't want all of PathFinder's features.

Hazel is a tool for sorting files automatically. That really only scratches the surface.

Caffeine is a small little app that prevents your Mac from going to sleep or the screensaver kicking in. I use it for temporarily disabling sleep mode when I am watching movies.

The built in Apple Automator can do some neat things.

Depending on how much you want to dive in, Applescript is built in.

Little Snitch is an extremely popular network monitoring tool.

CheatSheet is a great little app for learning keyboard shortcuts.

The previously mentioned 60 Tips book is quite good. The authors Brett Terpstra and David Sparks are worth following if you are interested in this type of thing. Sparks does a good podcast that reviews a lot of what I have recommended so far and a whole lot more.

MacHeist is about finished. You can get a lot of apps for not much money.
posted by Silvertree at 5:41 PM on October 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh yeah, I love Fantastical for quickly creating appointments.

Bartender keeps your Menu Bar looking clean.

I pipe Growl through the Mountain Lion Notification center.
posted by Silvertree at 5:44 PM on October 25, 2012

Transmit is a great FTP/SFTP/SCP/S3 app — if you do any file sharing, it can be used as a straight-up client for those services, or you can add volumes to the Finder, so that you can drag and drop directly within your Finder session.

Perian is a package of codecs for OS X that provide "Swiss Army knife"-like access to video and audio formats more often encountered in Windows environments (AVIs, etc.). It isn't in development any longer, but it still seems to work okay — even in Mountain Lion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:48 PM on October 25, 2012

Zooom2 lets you move the window under the mouse (even if it's not in front) by holding down the "fn" key, and resize it by holding down "fn" + "control" (or whatever you configure). Sounds trivial, but it totally changes the way you use the Mac OS UI.
posted by nicwolff at 6:21 PM on October 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, good Apple Mail trick: if you ⌘-click multiple mailboxes and turn on "View > Organize by Conversation", then all their messages will be threaded together. Very handy to select both "Inbox" and "Sent" to see both sides of your correspondences.
posted by nicwolff at 6:24 PM on October 25, 2012

BetterTouchTool (free) allows custom trackpad or mouse gestures, programmable keyboard shortcuts, and Windows 7 style snapping. It is awesome in general.
posted by JMOZ at 6:59 PM on October 25, 2012

I like this simple floating clock. I think something like it used to be standard and is no longer.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:29 PM on October 25, 2012

Mondo Mouse is a $14.95 shareware program that implements "focus-follows mouse," which causes windows to come to the front by simply hovering the mouse over them. Unix users may appreciate this feature; others may find it counter-intuitive and irritating. You can take advantage of a 30-day trial to find out which category you fall into.
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:10 AM on October 26, 2012

I use better touch tool with two really really handy shortcuts. One is to move around the window in focus without clicking by holding down control, the second is to resize the window in focus without clicking by holding down alt-control. Once you set that up, you'll be shocked by how much time you aren't spending resizing and moving windows. Also, your hands will totally love you for it.

I got the idea from Ubuntu, where a similar shortcut exists, but unfortunately requires clicking.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:58 AM on October 26, 2012

- I know you prefer GUI stuff, but check out this script, which includes everything the author customizes when they set up a new Mac. Reading through will at least give you a bunch of ideas. If you like the sound of something, many of the settings can be found somewhere in the GUI, or you can just cut and paste the command line version.

- I can't get by anymore without a clipboard manager like ClipMenu (link to MacUpdate; the developer's site seems to be down at the moment). If you use a computer to manipulate text (rather than only using the mouse, I guess?) it's insanely useful. As a random example, I didn't have to flip back and forth between tabs while drafting this comment, because I had both URLs stored in my clipboard.
posted by jhc at 7:43 AM on October 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

iStat Menus is one of the first things I install on a new Mac. Being able to see realtime CPU load, memory usage, and network throughput is super helpful in terms of getting, as you say, "a really good hang on what's going on with the computer."

Also, if you're using a laptop with a discrete graphics card, gfxCardStatus can help you to maximize battery life.
posted by caaaaaam at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2012

Seconding the above mentioned perian/sequel pro/istat (try the widget)/handbrake recommendations. Also, use bash/automator/applescript to automate things!

Not yet mentioned is Plex. I've got a mini hooked up to a 32" 1080p TV which feeds from my 8 TB linux box. I can watch any show or movie either on the TV or on any laptop or iOS device in the apartment with a super slick interface and the basic Apple remote. It keeps notes what I've watched, what I haven't, what's new and how far into something I am so I can seamlessly move from one to another.

As for things that cost money ... 1Password is absolutely fantastic, 450+ passwords in sync between my macbook, ipad and iphone. Transmit is used several times a day. iBank has every financial transaction of the past four years of my life. DevonThink Pro Office basically contains my life.
posted by Brian Puccio at 11:48 AM on October 26, 2012

PathFinder blows away the native Finder app and saves me at least 15 minutes a day. It's proprietary, but totally worth it (and one of only two non-free applications I ever endorse).
posted by solipsophistocracy at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2012

The Hackintosh community provides expertise and specialized utility programs for making OS X do stuff it might not normally want to do.



posted by conrad53 at 4:03 PM on October 26, 2012

Oh and something to let me snap windows to half-screen like Window Key+Left or +Right in Windows 7 would be awesome. I miss that feature.
I really like Spectacle for this. It's invisible (if you want), does the job perfectly well and it's free.
posted by Memo at 8:57 AM on October 27, 2012

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