30 Must-Have Tweaks For Your Mac


In one of the recent posts1, we looked at some reasons why some developers switch to the Mac. If you’ve decided to make the switch yourself, you can do a lot to make the transition smoother. We will take a look at some must-have software, configurations and hacks that can make your life easier as you switch and that can get you up to full productivity (and maybe beyond) in no time at all.

We have tried to find as many free solutions as possible, but you have to pay for some applications to get their full functionality. If we have missed a configuration, hack or piece of software that you found helpful when switching, please post it in the comments.



One of the most visible differences between Macs and other computers is the former’s lack of a second button on the mouse. The Mac mouse harkens back to the original mouse invented at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, which also had only one button. Eventually, Windows grew to ubiquity, touting its two-button mouse, and the world became comfortable with that configuration. As a switcher, you’re used to that handy right-click, and lucky for you, the habit doesn’t have to end.

Picture 1

All Macs support right-clicking, and it works just as it does on a Windows system, popping up menus and extras. Without messing with your settings, you can always hold “Control” and click to active a right-click on a Mac, but this gets tedious pretty quickly. To make the experience more seamless, go into your preferences and activate “Tap to click” and “Secondary click,” which will allow you to tap the trackpad with two fingers simultaneously to trigger a right click. It may sound odd, but it takes only a few minutes to get used to. You can also just hold two fingers down on the trackpad and click the physical mouse button to get the same effect. Of course, plugging a two-button mouse into a Mac is another way to get your right-click back.

Tweak Mouse-Tracking Speed

The mouse tracking on a Mac feels quite different from that of Windows because it does not accelerate. This can be partly alleviated by turning the tracking speed all the way up. But if you really pine for that Windows feel, you can try SteerMouse2, albeit for $20.

Turn Off Screen-Dimming

Picture 2

While some people want their screen to dim after a period of inactivity, it can quickly become annoying for others. This feature can be turned off in the preferences under the options for “Energy saver.”

Turn on the Firewall

Picture 3

Macs include two firewalls: a packet-filtering firewall called IPFW3 that filters traffic based on type, port number, origin and destination, and a socket-filter firewall (new in Leopard) that filters based on the application making the request. While the socket-filter firewall in OS X is disabled by default, you can go into “Preferences > Security > Firewall” to enable it. IPFW is short on configuration options, but that can be remedied by downloading either NoobProof4 or WaterRoof5, which give you more security options.

Log-In Items

Picture 4

Setting applications to start upon logging in is actually quite simple on a Mac. If the application you want to start at log-in is on your dock, simply right-click its icon and choose “Open at log-in.” You can also go into “Preferences > Accounts > [your account] > Log-in items” and add applications manually there. Keep in mind that the more applications you set to open at log-in, the longer your systems will take to boot.

You can also change the background for the main log-in screen on your Mac. This handy little piece of freeware takes whatever your desktop background is and mirrors it onto your log-in screen. Or you can use the following command in your terminal to change it to any image you want:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow DesktopPicture “/Library/path_to_your_pic/your_pic.jpg”

Hot Corners

Picture 5

Hot corners allow you to set up each corner of your screen to be a hot spot that triggers an event whenever you mouse over it, such as shuffling active windows to off screen to show the desktop or displaying widgets. This gets interesting when combined with the “Expose” and “Spaces” features.

Expose spreads your windows out on the screen so that you can focus on a new one. Once you get used to it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. To make it really useful, set up a hot corner to activate it. Additionally, Spaces allows you to display multiple desktops from a bird’s-eye view. Add this to another corner and you’ve got something really special. You’ll be able to show the desktop, drag a file, switch to a different space, find a window that’s hidden behind several others and drop the file into that window, all with one mouse click. Check it out in the video below:

Play around with different hot corner configurations to find the one that best suits you. I recommend using three of the four for the “Expose All Windows” and “Show Desktop” functions and Spaces. If you have a laptop, setting one of the corners to put the display to sleep is handy because no button or key does that otherwise.

Configure Spaces

Picture 6

Having multiple desktops to work from can be a boon to productivity. Spaces allows you to create up to 16 different desktops, enough to satisfy even the most spastic multi-tasker. Along with these desktops, you can specify that certain applications only open in certain spaces, as well as specify that some apps display no matter which desktop you’re working in. Here are a few applications we suggest displaying in all spaces: Chat applications (Adium, iChat, IRC), movie players (VLC, QuickTime, DVD player), Twitter clients and any application useful in more than one context. I have a space for general Web browsing, iTunes and iPhoto, email and communications, Photoshop and design, coding and development, Windows virtualization, notes and reminders and one that I keep clean just in case.

Add Activity Monitor to the Dock

Picture 7

Activity monitor is the equivalent of the task manager in Windows. Certain items, when added to the Dock, take on a few extra behaviors. In the case of the activity monitor, those items can display helpful information instead of their icons while sitting in the dock: such as a pie chart showing how much memory is being used, a live graph of processor activity and more. While you can always pop up a window and hit Command + Option + Esc (your new Ctrl + Alt + Delete) to force quit an application, you don’t get any information about programs that are running. Clicking on the activity monitor gives you the force quit option and a wealth of information about your processes.

A Smarter Finder

Picture 9

Finder is a file explorer that people either love or loath. You can do a few things to make it more useful, though. Right-click on the top part of the finder window, much like you would to edit a toolbar in the browser, and you’ll see that you can configure the buttons in the finder window. Choose “Customize Toobar” and add the “Path,” “Delete,” and “New Folder” buttons, along with any others you desire.

In the left sidebar of the finder, you’ll see a list of favorites, including your home folder, main disk drives, any attached drives and the most used folders (photos, music, sites, etc.). You can customize this list by dragging folders and other items onto the sidebar. You can also add “smart folders” (File > New smart folder) that filter files based on a set of rules. For instance, one smart folder I keep in my sidebar is a list of all files over 100 MB, in case I need to free up some hard drive space. If you want to add separators to the sidebar, there’s a neat little guide on how to do that here6.

You can download toolbar scripts for even more functionality. For instance, you can add a button that opens the terminal in whatever folder you are currently browsing. Check them out here7. Of course, if you end up hating the finder, you can try an alternative, like Cocoatech’s Path Finder8


Widgets on Your Desktop

Picture 10

Widgets are Apple’s version of Konfabulator (now Yahoo! Widgets), but unlike Konfabulator, they are doomed to exile in the dashboard (a “second desktop” that pops up when you hit the right keys or hot corner). The problem with Dashboard is that the more widgets you have running, the longer they all take to pop up the first time you activate it after a restart. If you prefer to have your widgets available on demand on the desktop, enter the following command into your Mac terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

To place a widget on the desktop, open up Dashboard, start dragging the widget and close the dashboard. Unfortunately, widgets will stay on top of all your windows. Frustratingly, the only way to override this behavior is to get a paid application called Amnesty Widgets9, which makes OS X’s widgets more like Yahoo Widgets. Of course, you could just use Yahoo! Widgets and forget OS X’s widgets altogether.

Change Command to Control

This is an adequate configuration for most, but an absolute lifesaver for some. It took me a while to get used to using Command instead of Control, but I eventually broke the old habit. Some people have been known to give up on the platform because of this issue. For those of you who have a hard time adjusting, simply map the Command key to Control. doublecommand10 and fKeys11 are popular utilities that let you do all sorts of custom mapping to make your switch easier.

Maximize Your Zoom

One of the weirdest quirks to get used to when switching to the Mac is the behavior of the “Zoom” button on windows (the green button in the top-left corner of all windows). Instead of sticking the four sides of the window to the very edges of the screen, Zoom will simply expand the size of the window to fit the screen but the window will remain draggable. Often it doesn’t even do this and instead changes the size of the window in unexpected and frustrating ways. Luckily you can download a handy little plug-in12 to force Zoom to use the window’s maximize function. Other than using this plug-in, you’ll have to get used to dragging the bottom-right corner of the window to force it.

Hidden Applications, Hidden Files

If you ever need to find files that are hidden by default, type this into the terminal:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

You can hide windows by hitting Command + h, but you get no indication that a window is hidden once it’s gone. To make the application icon more transparent in the dock when it is hidden, type this into the terminal:

defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -bool YES
killall Dock

Quick Look Expanded

Picture 11

Quick Look can save you precious seconds by showing you a preview of a file before opening it in its default program. Simply hit the space bar on a file to activate it. This is limited to certain files, but a few handy plug-ins out there give you Quick Look functionality for folders, Zip files and more. theAppleBlog.com has compiled a great list of fours such plug-ins13.

Safari Debugger

Picture 12

Safari offers a great browsing experience, despite what you may have heard. It’s quick, clean and powerful, although not that easy to customize. You can apply a few neat hacks to make it a little more useful though. To enable the surprisingly rich Web development debugger tool, type this into your terminal:

defaults write com.apple.Safari IncludeDebugMenu YES

For a wealth of Safari hacks and plug-ins, check out Safari Hacks14 and Pimp My Safari15. SAFT16 is a great extension for Safari that provides a lot of great functionality for $12.

Customize Your Dock

Picture 13

Apple has very definite feelings about how the Dock should look because it does not give you many means of customization. To mess with the look and feel of the Dock, you can try Mirage17, which removes all styling, Candybar18, which gives you a variety of styling options, and Leopard Docks19, a website dedicated to custom Dock stylings.

When the Dock is on the left or right side of your screen, it goes from a 3-D look to 2-D. If you prefer the 2-D and bottom-screen configuration, type this into your terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock no-glass -boolean YES
killall Dock

As far as the Dock’s behavior goes, here’s a must-have hack you can apply. Add a “Recent files” stack to the Dock by entering the following in your terminal:

defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add ‘{ “tile-data” = { “list-type” = 1; }; “tile-type” = “recents-tile”; }’
killall Dock

Open-With Defaults

Picture 14

If you want a certain file to open in a certain program, right-click on a file of that file type and select “Get info,” which will bring up a box with all sorts of information about the file. We’re interested here in the “Open with” section, where you can choose its default program. Once you’ve selected the proper program, click the “Change All” button to make it the default program for all files of that file type. One suggestion: make TextEdit your default program for .doc and .docx files: it opens them much faster than Word or OpenOffice.


While the software library on the Mac pales in comparison to the one on Windows in terms of sheer volume, it does have quite a bit of polish. This polish, however, often doesn’t come without a price. Free software for the Mac does exist out there, but it’s not nearly as widely available as you’re probably used to with Windows. That being said, there are quite a few apps, both free and paid, that you should install on your Mac to make the experience much more enjoyable and productive. Here are a few to get you started:


  • Flip4Mac20
    Install the free version to play WMV with QuickTime.
  • Perian21
    Every codec you’ll ever need for QuickTime.
  • VLC22
    The de facto media player for the Mac. Not only does it eliminate the need for the two pieces of software mentioned above, it provides more features than you’ll probably ever care to use. Use VLC instead of the built-in DVD player as well. VLC integrates nicely with OS X, and you can even use your Apple remote with it. Just download it.
  • Connect36023
    If you want to stream movies, pictures and music to your Xbox 360, this is a great solution for the Mac; some claim it works better than Microsoft’s implementation.
  • Transmission24
    A very lightweight and solid bit torrent client for the Mac. It fits in very well with OS X, style-wise.
  • Songbird25
    Not everyone wants to use iTunes to manage their music collection. Many prefer Songbird, the much-loved open-source alternative.

System and General Purpose

Picture 19

  • Growl26
    If having uniform system-wide notifications for all your applications sounds intriguing, you’ll want to check out Growl. It works with a vast array of software and is extremely customizable. Some notifications you’ll receive let you know when new email, instant messages or Twitter messages arrive, when your downloads are complete, when your computer has been unplugged and when a new song is playing on Last.fm (complete with artist and details). Growl has a myriad of useful plug-ins and uses. Take, for instance, the growl notification that tells you when your tests have passed in your Web application: a must for any Mac user.
  • Unplugged27
    http://unplugged.en.softonic.com/mac/download (unplugged)
  • Quicksilver28
    While OS X does have the “Spotlight” feature, which allows you to quickly find files and launch applications, it pales in comparison to the snappiness and customizability of the application-launcher Quicksilver, which is very similar to Firefox’s Ubiquity. Much like Growl, you can install tons of useful plugins to tailor the experience to your needs. When you start using Quicksilver regularly, you’ll find yourself going to the Dock less and less to launch and interact with your applications. It’s lightening fast and quite powerful. Imagine hitting a keyboard shortcut, typing “email,” “tab,” “compose,” , and “enter” to send a quick email to somebody. Another must have.
  • Fluid29
    If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of your computer time interacting with Web applications rather than client-side applications. You may miss the neatness of applications existing independently of your Web browser, too. If you do, then Fluid is the solution. It takes any Web page you specify and contains it within its own Mac application, complete with icon and windowing preferences. Imagine having a dedicated app for your Google documents, Facebook, your favorite Twitter client, your Web analytics and more. It draws on the same idea that Adobe is pushing with Air. Fluid is as extensible and customizable as Growl and Quicksilver.
  • The Unarchiver30
    You’re going to want a program that can handle StuffIt, RAR, ZIP and other compression file types with ease, and the Unarchiver is it. Free and straightforward.
  • smcFanControl31
    Macs tend to be a bit more of a walled garden than other computers, but that doesn’t mean they have to be. With the right amount of research, you can usually find a piece of software or terminal hack that bends the Mac to your will. smcFanControl is one such application, made for those who want to control just how hot their laptops get.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner32
    If you ever need to transfer your hard drive to another machine, and you will, Carbon Copy Cloner is truly the best solution to the problem. It’s rock solid, simple to use and makes the whole process extremely pain free.


  • Adium33
    Adium is the de facto chat client for the majority of high-end Mac users out there. It covers more networks than are worth listing here. This is another must-have app.
  • Colloquy34
    Probably the best IRC client for the Mac. Well designed and extremely extensible.
  • Thunderbird35
    A great alternative to the default Mail application.


  • Gimp36
    Because the Mac doesn’t come with built-in image editing software of any kind, Gimp, the open-source alternative to Photoshop, is a handy install.
  • Textmate37
    Probably the most popular text editor for the Mac. It’s a hefty $50 but worth every penny.
  • Sketchbox38
    An improvement to OS X’s Stickies.


So, there you have it, some configurations, hacks and applications that will make your transition easier. As you make your way on your journey switching over, remember to seek out other Mac users, specifically other switchers, when you have questions or need advice. And as always, check Smashing Magazine regularly for more helfpul Mac guides, articles and resources.



  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/04/26/five-reasons-why-designers-are-switching-to-mac/
  2. 2 http://plentycom.jp/en/steermouse/
  3. 3 http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2005/03/15/firewall.html
  4. 4 http://www.hanynet.com/noobproof/index.html
  5. 5 http://www.hanynet.com/waterroof/index.html
  6. 6 http://www.typoet.com/separators/index.html
  7. 7 http://mac.softpedia.com/get/System-Utilities/Finder-Toolbar-Scripts.shtml
  8. 8 http://www.cocoatech.com/
  9. 9 http://www.amnestywidgets.com/WidgetBrowser.html
  10. 10 http://doublecommand.sourceforge.net/
  11. 11 http://www.kodachi.com/software/fKeys/
  12. 12 http://www.switchingtomac.com/tutorials/make-the-os-x-maximize-button-work-like-windows
  13. 13 http://theappleblog.com/2009/05/06/four-useful-quicklook-plugins/
  14. 14 http://www.safarihacks.com/
  15. 15 http://pimpmysafari.com
  16. 16 http://pimpmysafari.com/plugins/saft
  17. 17 http://dockulicious.com/docks/view/mirage
  18. 18 http://www.panic.com/candybar/
  19. 19 http://leoparddocks.net/
  20. 20 http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=915D874D-D747-4180-A400-5F06B1B5E559&displaylang=en
  21. 21 http://perian.org/
  22. 22 http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
  23. 23 http://www.nullriver.com/products/connect360
  24. 24 http://www.transmissionbt.com/
  25. 25 http://getsongbird.com/
  26. 26 http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fgrowl.info%2F&ei=KHQISuvDGuSwtgeYrJifBw&usg=AFQjCNEGpuLHxoMiqgCdTaBHx0SxrNZZ1w&sig2=xyruG-JWH2P7Zv3rOF4YyQ
  27. 27 http://www.versiontracker.com/dyn/moreinfo/macosx/29478
  28. 28 http://www.blacktree.com/
  29. 29 http://fluidapp.com/
  30. 30 http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/unarchiver.html
  31. 31 http://www.eidac.de/
  32. 32 http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bombich.com%2Fsoftware%2Fccc.html&ei=unQIStvFG5CmM-Tz-aID&usg=AFQjCNHZS043mX7M2C_I6f35FVLXI2DpQA&sig2=ybpvvch0vEJInTTgWreSng
  33. 33 http://www.google.com/url?q=http://adiumx.com/&ei=zXQISqSBB5fItgeu_MWXBw&sa=X&oi=spellmeleon_result&resnum=1&ct=result&usg=AFQjCNE3QA6eEmics5LwT3b_yw3hLGt_sg
  34. 34 http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcolloquy.info%2F&ei=5nQISqzZMMOEtwfgrKmBBw&usg=AFQjCNFhJnLCkdL_kAI7SOHXRi7OKnklXw&sig2=5yZbsQyVD6-BK7DlhRaYkg
  35. 35 http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/
  36. 36 http://%20www.gimp.org/
  37. 37 http://macromates.com/
  38. 38 http://www.omz-software.de/sketchbox/

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Mark Nutter runs a web development shop in Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter where he occasionally says something worthwhile.

  1. 1

    Hmm great post…Very useful indeed.. just try the software called Voila it has many features.
    Using this you can capture a screen in different ways,annotate it and Share the images…its 30day trial version.
    @Michael Scofield:
    Hey you can change your system shortcut keys in the System Preference’ to capture a fullscreen default system keys are Cmd+Shift+3 and for Selection capture its Cmd+Shift+4..to select a active window hit Space key after pressing Cmd+Shift+4. it captures the current window..

  2. 52

    Preview.app and iPhoto (comes with every modern Mac) can do image editing, cropping, adjustments just fine… at least they’re better than Paint.

    @ Michael Scofield; If you hate it so much then don’t use it.
    1. It may look like a single button mouse but the Mighty Mouse does do “right clicks” by default.
    2. Windows doesn’t resize windows “intelligently”, and i doubt if you’d like to expand your windows to the full 24″ space of your display.
    3. command drag
    4. Windows only gives you the screenshot for the whole screen, not like a Mac where you can select certain areas using keyboard shortcuts without having to open a stupid “Snipping Tool” in Vista. Oh yeah, powerusers adapt, they dont whine.
    5. haven’t you heard of SpringLoaded folders? Geez.
    6. Are you absolutely sure?

  3. 103

    Christopher Poulsen

    June 4, 2009 8:52 pm

    Thanks for all the useful tips. I love my Macbook Pro but know there are many things I still haven’t discovered on it! This will help greatly! I appreciate it! Thank you!

  4. 154

    Michael Scofield.. great points i totally agree, imo all this Macs usability is way overrated and windows, especially from vista provides way better experience. I tried windows 7rc and loving it already. Macfanatics will cry, almost feel sorry for them ;) all those improvements from MS seem to bother them so much, pathetic

  5. 205

    without getting in details of each OS (obviously both got good pros/cons)… i wonder why so many people are actually using windows instead of Mac’s if windows is so bad?

  6. 256

    Michael Scofield

    June 4, 2009 11:07 pm

    @Spirytus: It’s just had for some people to admit that the money they spent on Macs were not worth it, therefore clear usability disadvantages in Macs become “differences” for them, like “just have to get used to it”.

    Apple an image of interface experts after it’s released iPhones and iPods, and so people thinking they make the same user-friendly computers, but it’s not quite right. Mostly it’s a great marketing campaign that Apple has succeeded in.

    Again, there are pros and cons, the build quality that Apple has is awesome, as some of their software. I’m just surprised how they didn’t get it right with such small but important points like “cut files”, window resize, mouse and etc..

  7. 307

    at last i have to test quicksilver, i’m not sure if it will improve my productivity… spotlight does his work very well for my opinion!

  8. 358

    Thanks for this great list!
    I have to admit that I already knew most of the tips and software.

    I’m a enthusiastic user of the Hot-Corners. The seamless and perfect integration into the desktop of Mac OS X is just awesome. I use it every day.

    Some time ago I had to conduct a presentation in our client’s premises.
    The basis was a PC, driven by Windows XP. Within the time of the presentation I accidentally tried nearly 100 times to find a hot corner with the mouse’s cursor. Afterwards the technical manager asked me to unplug the mouse, it was an optical one, and wanted to replace it. He thought the mouse was broken and in a row the mouse cursor jumped autonomous from one corner to another.

  9. 409

    @ Michael Scofield and Spirytus:

    1- Agree, i use a Logitech mouse myself, but still, mouse-acceleration? There’s no need for that if you use a pen-tablet!
    2- In the top-left corner there are three coloured circles, try the yellow and green one just for the sake of it… you’ll be surprised!
    3- try control-command-drag, that should help you. And if you try alt-command-drag you can create a shortcut and command-drag you can duplicate! Wow, what a miracle! Just try before you cry please!
    4- There’s more to that than you think: command-shift-3 is the printscreen, not your silly combination! If you hit command-shift-4 there’s another option, try it because you might like it! But wait, there’s more: if you hit command-shift-4 and then hit the spacebar… wow! Instant magic!!! Jeez… is that so hard to figure out?
    5- Indeed: spring-loaded folders! Just wait a second and voila, you target-folder magically opens up! Try before you cry!
    6- Hahaha!!! I Bet you never even tried those apps because you are soooooo wrong! Hahahahahaha, can’t stop laughing at you!

    Well, there you have it, i bet you’re a young boy, still wet behind the ears playing around with daddy’s Mac… i’ll forgive you for now but please: don’t buy something when you know you don’t like it and stop complaining. Do your research!

  10. 460

    Customizing toolbar in your way is not a good idea. I think you will loose a lot in aesthetic and usability. You only need the default set. If you need Path button functionality you can always right-click (or command-click or control-click) on folder name in title bar or select View/Show Path Bar in the menu. All other actions are available in action menu.

  11. 511

    Instead of using the system preferences to turn off Screen-Dimming I recommend a tiny program called “Caffeine” http://lightheadsw.com/caffeine/
    It puts a little button in your task bar next the clock. This way you can easily turn off screen-dimming when you are reading a long article or watching a video, but still have the benefits of powersaving, without having to go to system prefs all the time.

  12. 562

    Nice article. Extra tip for Zoom: you can alt drag and/or resize your window in every application and the green + circle (top left) will switch between the sizes you’ve made. Handy.

  13. 613

    Great in the end there was still 1 app I didn’t have but is useful for me.. sketchbox! nice and simple!

    But I have a QUESTION: Is there a way to send you screenshots to a different map than your desktop??


  14. 664

    To keep the screen for dimming there is an excellent tool called Caffeine that allows you to enable/disable the dimming of the screen with one click.

  15. 715

    To be honest… this is not the kind of article I would like to see on SM.

  16. 766

    When I try and put the code for the ‘Recent Files folder in the toolbar’ into the Terminal I get the following message: -bash: syntax error near unexpected token `}’

    I am not that familiar with terminal so I might be doing something wrong… any ideas?

  17. 817

    @62. Bram

    I totally agree.
    I just know there’s gonna be a flame war everytime I see one of these mac-loving posts.

    SM: just stick to what you do best.

  18. 868

    @Shine fn+delete erases to the right of the character.

  19. 919

    I can’t believe how easy setting apps to open on login was.. and why i never realized that. duuuh!

  20. 970

    I was wondering if anyone knows an application for Mac to edit XML files (like XML notepad in Windows). I’ve been searching without any luck :S.

    PS: Good post! It is really useful for me as I’ve been working most of my time on Windows and I switched to Mac recently.

  21. 1021

    Don’t gforget dock spaces! http://digg.com/u14uJi

  22. 1072

    I’m really thankful for this article, even though it’s “not the norm” for SM… as a longtime PC/*nix developer jumping on the iPhone bandwagon with everyone else :) the functionality of the Home and End keys makes me just INSANE. I know that it used to go to the top and bottom of the document and as for key names, that makes sense, but I’ve gotten used to them going to the beginning and end of a line and it’s insanely frustrating to want to go the front/end of a line and instead go to the front/end of a document. The maximize things also makes me crazy. And I use a PC keyboard for the macbook and the PC (with a kvm switch) so I’m really, really thankful to find a way to make all those shortcuts work again by programming the option key back to the control key (instead of the windows keys on the pc keyboard, which is what it is now).

    And all that stuff is fixed having read this article. Again, I’m very appreciative for it.

  23. 1123


    June 5, 2009 8:00 am

    I recently got a job that required me to use a Mac for the first time in my life, and at first I was skeptical, being a PC user for years. After a little while of using it, I was adjusting quite well and even started to prefer Mac over PC. In fact, I probably would have instantly been sold if it wasn’t for the Mighty Mouse, it took a while to get used to the way it moved vs. my Logitech mouse on my PC at home. I then discovered something that pretty much made me want to go out and buy a Mac right then and there:

    Exposé and hot corners are the best features I have ever seen

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a window stuck behind another on my PC, or I was leaving my house (but leaving my computer on) and wanted to turn on my screen saver, or wanted to see what the temperature was, or use the calculator, and instantly went to the corners of my screen before realizing “oh yeah, Windows doesn’t do that”

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Mac Fanboy. I realize Macs are not immune to viruses (being the minority in a Windows world doesn’t make you immune, just makes you under the radar). I have witnessed a Mac crash on multiple occasions. Does this make me not want one? Not at all, I’ve got a 17″ MacBook Pro on my to-buy list. Am I going to completely switch from PC to Mac? No way. I still like PCs for certain things (like gaming especially) and I don’t see why people think they can only be a PC user or a Mac user.

    Plus, putting the usability of the programs aside, Mac programs look so much better than most PC programs. If I’m going to be using a program a lot, why can’t it look good *and* be useful?

  24. 1174

    don’t forget the much better equivalent of Thunderbird, POSTBOX!

    incredibly fast!

  25. 1225

    Love the fullscreen function!!!! Finally. Now, what about the need to constantly expand my file content bar to fit the contents? So annoying with longer named files!

  26. 1276

    Jennifer Meller

    June 5, 2009 9:35 am

    Love SM and love this article.

    Loath is an adjective meaning “unwilling.” It ends with a hard th and rhymes with growth or both.

    Loathe is a verb meaning “to hate intensely.” It ends with a soft th like the sound in smooth or breathe.

  27. 1327

    Amazing post…. I use 70% of these all of them are awesome… I will surely check the remaining….

  28. 1378

    i’m tired of reading about how macs don’t have the right click function. now, the above mentioned solution for the right click is true for laptops if you are solely using the track pad, but if you are using a tower and monitor or decide to buy a mouse you can choose to buy a mac mighty mouse which has a right click (it just doesn’t look like it because there are no visible buttons on the mouse) or you can use any mouse that has a right click button on it. that’s right, plugging in any mouse on a mac works. at least it has for me every time.

  29. 1429

    This is a great post for anyone switching to a Mac! Took me forever to figure out the “right click”, and am so glad to have it now.

    Also exposé – I still use a PC occasionally and I’m really not a PC hater, but I find myself going to a screen corner all the time and I totally miss exposé!

    As for software, I would also recommend Neo Office as a free office suite.

  30. 1480

    i’m tired of reading about how macs don’t have the right click function.
    Same for me, it just drives me mad.
    when you tell some PCist that after 13 years of Windows you finally discovered something that suits you much better, you can hear “yeah but mac mice only have one button”

    yeah… 10 YEARS AGO, WAKE UP !

    I remember the round mouse with one button and this was just a stupidity but it was years and years ago an people still remember it, it’s just incredible.

  31. 1531

    I cannot understand how it is possible, that someone who switched from Windows to Mac has anything to whine about. The only thing that works better on Windows next to viruses and spyware are video games, which I rather play on a PS3.

    I switched last year, and will never go back.

  32. 1582

    If you guys wanted an alternative to VMWare or Parallels, try VirtualBox by Sun, http://www.virtualbox.org

    Just installed it for browser testing, i could scrub the bootcamp partition now.

  33. 1633

    Callum Chapman

    June 6, 2009 1:44 am

    Great post, I’ve almost got enough for a maxed out macbook now, but i’m still wondering whether I should save a a few more hundred to get a macbook pro… Screen size doesn’t matter to me, the smaller the better because it’s lighter to carry around, when I’m designing I’ll be using a 24″ apple cinema display!

  34. 1684

    Great! some I allready used, but a few I didnt know about. Thanx!

  35. 1735

    The mouse does accelerate on the Mac.

    Try moving your mouse really slow a certain distance. The pointer will move only a little.
    Moving the mouse faster the exact same distance will make the pointer travel a much longer distance. More than 5x as much (in my own experiment I just did).

  36. 1786

    I definitely think that Little Snitch and iStat menus should have been mentioned in this article. They are much better alternatives for the Firewall and Activity Monitor apps that comes with Leopard.

  37. 1837

    A few of my favorite utilities:

    Textexpander – auto-replaces any key combination with text or graphics of your choosing, or auto execute Apple and Shells scripts – (unfortunately, no longer free, but worth the investment)

    Butler – incredibly powerful app launcher and all round cool utility, I use it a lot to access to a history of clipboards contents, but haven’t even scratched the surface of what it can do. If you do a lot of repetitive tasks, it can be life saver. (Free)

    Sidenote – handy notepad that hides away at the edge of your screen when you don’t need it (free)

    Scribblet – another handy notepad that comes and goes at the touch of a hot key (free)

    Busysync – keep your calendars synced between different Macs and Google Calendar (not free)

    Interesting to hear that people go nuts for Expose. I never use it.

    Also, one config you shouldn’t miss is Time Machine. Just hook up an external disk drive and let Mac OS X take care of all of your backups. Great for peace of mind.

  38. 1888

    Don’t forget MenuMeters, you can have your CPU, network and memory meter right in your tool-bar.


    – Dax Hansen

  39. 1939

    Great article! Just got myself lots of tabs open here, ready to check them all :)


  40. 1990

    Thank you for nice tips!

  41. 2041


    it doesn’t work cause if copied and pasted it used the wrong type of tick marks/quotations. go here to the link below and copy/paste it


  42. 2092

    thanks a billion. i knew about most of these, but a few came in handy for sure!

  43. 2143

    Just thought I’d post my favourite widget here, if you’re a web or graphic designer this is a must to replace the stabdard Lorem Ipsum dummy text


    Some clients haven’t even noticed that when you read it, it makes no sense!

  44. 2194

    leandro araujo

    June 8, 2009 6:56 am

    the SMCFanControl is no more necessary, since Apple launched an update that makes proper management of fans velocity. http://support.apple.com/downloads/MacBook_Pro_SMC_Firmware_Update_1_3

  45. 2245

    I do love the VLC on many platforms but for osx I’ve found it very buggy, I’d suggest mac osx extended.


  46. 2296

    wow, thank you! this made my day.

  47. 2347

    Dear god people!! This is basics – Mac 101.

    If you own a Mac and DIDN’T know these already then you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  48. 2398

    enrique r grullon

    June 14, 2009 2:48 am

    I’ve written a toolbar script for the mac that shows & hides hidden files for those who sometimes need access to hidden files (like .htaccess for web developers).

    Its called showHidden and you can download it at http://co8.com

  49. 2449

    THis is a great compilation. Even if I do not agree with you with all your suggestions, the list of apps, and tweaks speaks for itself. It cost me several hours of research to find these over the 2 years since I’ve been a mac user now. :) Again, for someone new to the mac this list is gorgeous (and they will spend a *lot* of time trying all these out… hehe)

  50. 2500

    Thanks a bunch SM! Liked the quicklook addons.

    Leigh…Dear god people!! … If you own a Mac and DIDN’T know these already then you should be ashamed of yourselves.

    @Leigh; Go annoy your ‘toy’ girlfriend with your super mac skills. Maybe she will be impressed. Doubt it…


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