Talking tech since 2003

One of the first things that Apple critics told me when I purchased my MacBook Pro in March of this year was that Mac OS X, the flagship operating system that Apple develops and runs on all of their computers, was very limited in terms of customization options.  Personally, though, the thought of being locked into a simple user interface didn’t bother me in the least; even if the rumors were true.  But when I actually received my notebook later that same month and actually began using OS X I came to realize that the OS is indeed very customizable.

The built-in “System Preferences” menu lets the end-user adjust just about every aspect of their user experience, going beyond just appearance but into functionality and usability as well.  What I also soon came to find out was that OS X can be even further customized with the use of terminal commands that allow you to change “hidden” settings for which options were not built into the settings panel.  Secrets is a popular database that indexes these hidden settings for Mac OS X as well as third-party applications.  However, tweaking these settings has traditionally required the use of the Terminal and can often be  tad confusing for non-advanced users.

The other night I was looking to change the directory where OS X’s built-in screen capture utility saved screenshots to.  Having seen it before, I knew that there was a hidden setting in OS X to adjust this to my liking.  But for the life of me I didn’t know what the setting or command was.  A quick Google search gave me the information that I needed, but in my search results there was something that caught my eye.  TinkerTool, a freely available utility that “gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X” that ultimately allows you to “activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications delivered with the system.”

Intrigued, I went ahead and downloaded the free application.  Upon opening it for the first time I was instantly impressed with the simple interface.  Not only were all of these otherwise “hidden” settings made available for me to tweak to my liking, but they were organized into a handful of different panels so that one could find what they were looking to tweak without having to shift through everything.  Moreover, the sheer number of tweaks that were made available in the application was simply outstanding.  In all honesty, I think I spent about twenty minutes going through the list of settings that were available, and I ultimately ended up tweaking aspects of the operating system that I wouldn’t have known existed had it not been for the extent of TinkerTool’s offerings.

Now, I’m not a huge fan of “hacks” and “jailbreaks” or any tweaks that add onto the operating system.  I’ve seen people implement “hacks” too many times only to have them – or the entire operating system, in one case – break after a system update.  But as the developer of TinkerTool points out on the applications site, the utility “will never change any component of the operating system, so the integrity of your system is not put at risk, and there will be no negative effect on system updates.”  Instead, the application simply implements and tweaks user defined settings that were built into the operating system by Apple but were not built into the native System Preferences utility.

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