How to Customize Your Mac: Useful Tips

It’s perfectly possible to customize your Mac, and there are a few ways to perform this action (by changing the Dock and Finder windows, for example). There are also other tweaks which will allow you to customize how your Mac looks and works. You can just pick a new desktop image or go and install complex techie tools, which will alter almost every aspect of your computer (but be warned, you can damage your Mac and violate all sorts of warranties by bypassing the safety rules and hacking your hardware).

How to Customize Your Mac

How to Customize the Desktop

The most common customization and the first one to apply is to substitute the default desktop scene with something of your own choosing. This can be done very easily: just open Desktop & Screen Saver from System Preference or alternatively right click the desktop and then select Change Desktop Background… You’ll find there a bunch of Apple-supplied pics, as well as direct access to your iPhoto Library and your albums. You can also go to a Choose Folder…, which is an option allowing you to pick an image from anywhere on your computer. You can cycle through a folder of images at a frequency of your choosing, put a wallsaver, “tatoo” the desktop with battery meter, iCal, etc. or even scribble and type onto your desktop.

You can tinker with your desktop icons by clicking on the desktop and clicking Command Key + J next, to open View Options, where you can pick the icon size and sort the icons. You can also choose what will appear on the desktop, such elements, for example, as hard drive icon, discs available and so on. All these modifications can be made by opening Finder Preferences via the Finder menu or by using the shortcut Command key+,).

Note that you can add all manner of useful on-screen alerts and notifications by downloading Growl which allows you to view the new panel that appears in System Preferences.

How to Customize Windows

You can change the View Options and Sidebar in Finder windows. You can make other modifications to how your windows will look on your Mac. Right-click the toolbar to see a few options, including Customize Toolbar. This option will reveal a palette of buttons that you can drag onto the top of your windows. The same procedure works in many applications.

A few other modifications, including the color of highlighted text labels, scroll button layout and other can be performed under Appearance in System Preferences.

Menu Bar

The menu bar can quickly fill up with notification icons and other symbols and menus. Each one can be switched on and off in a preferences panel. The easiest way is however to hold down the Command key and drag them off. You can also reorder them as you like while holding down the Command key.

If you want to add something to your menu bar, you can look in the relevant pane of System Preferences, or the preferences panel of the application the item relates to, for a check box to reinstate it.

You can enhance the menu bar with certain downloadable customization apps.

Screen Savers

These are animated displays that kick into action after your Mac has sat unused for a set period – were first developed as a practical means of stopping static images “burning” into old-style screens. Today the screen savers are used mainly for fun, though they also be used as a security tool, as you can set OS X to request a password when awaking the machine after displaying a screen saver.

To choose from the various screen savers that come from the new Mac, open System Preferences, then click Desktop & Screen Saver. There are amazing screen savers, including RSS Visualizer, which displays headlines from any website newsfeed you’ve subscribed to using Safari.

You can find hundreds of screen savers online, free or pay-to-use, and ranging in concept and style from the sublime to the ridiculous. As a rule, you can install a screen saver only for yourself or for all user accounts on the machine. Depending on your choice, OS X will drop the screen saver in either the Library – Screen Savers folder of your home folder, or the Library – Screen Savers folder of Macintosh HD. To uninstall a screen saver, you should go to one of these two folders, find the screen saver you want to uninstall and drag to the Trash.

Serious Customization

To make more serious customization, you’ll need to download extra tools. In fact, there are all kinds of customization utilities out there in the net. If you want something to look different, there probably is a way. A word of warning though: some customization tools may let you make deep system changes that should be handled with much care.

How to Customize Icons

High-resolution and scalable icons may make your OS X a very nice-looking system. All the icons are completely customizable, and you can replace any icon with one that you prefer, or even one that you’ve made yourself. Thousands of icon sets can be downloaded for free, making it very easy to either subtly change the style of your set-up or to fully convert this set-up into a shrine to anything from retro-design to power-tools.

How to Change Icons

  • To replace an icon with a new one, select the file or folder whose icon you want to be changed.
  • Click the Command key + I to bring up the Info panel.
  • Click the icon at the top of the panel.
  • Press the Command key + C to copy the icon.
  • Select the file or folder where you want to use the copied icon and press the Command key + I.
  • Click the icon at the top of the info panel.
  • Press the Command key+V to paste the copied icon into place.

Note however that this approach will work on all icons other than so-called System icons, such as the Trash and new folders. You can also edit those icons, but some in-depth technical know-how will be needed, otherwise you’ll have to ask for help certain available tools, such as Candybar, which let you change not only icons but toolbar buttons in Finder, Mail and other apps. Icon managers also exist, which help you manage icons you if end up with a huge archive of downloaded icons. These icon managers can help you browse the collection of icons, create custom icon sets, save iContainers (packages of icons that can be installed with just a double-click) and perform other operations.

Anyway, if you change your mind, there’s a one-click restore switch to put everything back again.

How to Make Your Own Icons

It’s rather easy to make a basic icon: you can create a 128 x 128 pixel image with any decent graphic app, draw your icon and save it as a JPEG, PNG or TIFF file. The resulting file will have an icon bearing the picture you drew. Now you can copy and paste it to any other file.

But creating a slick-looking icon with a transparent background is more fiddly. You can add an alpha-channel mask to your icon in Photoshop, then import the result into Icon Composer (part of Xcode, which can be installed from Applications – Installers). You can use an icon-creation tool which can be found anywhere in the net along with more icon software.

Tips for Customizing Your Mac

To quickly remove an item from your Finder windows toolbar, press Command key while dragging.

To customize many OS X keyboard shortcuts in various System Preferences panels you can use Menu Master, but it’s a paid app hat you can download.

To drag Apple’s items (not third-party items) around on the menu bar, hold down the Command key. The same works on Finder window toolbars and elsewhere on OS X.

If you want your screen saver appear, but your Mac goes to sleep before time, you should adjust the Put the computer to sleep… setting within the Energy Saver preferences pane.

The Screen Savers list also holds options for using pics from your iPhoto Library as slide-show-style screen savers and for subscribing to some screen savers from other sources.

If you want to instantly activate the screen saver by moving the mouse pointer to a corner of the screen, click the Hot Corners… button within the Screen Saver preferences pane. In fact, this option is more useful when your screen saver serves some functions beyond looking pretty (news feed, clock with different time zones, etc.).

Generally screen savers let you make various tweaks to how they look and work. To adjust the screen saver, select the screen saver, click Options… in the Screen Savers System Preferences.


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Five Easy Ways to Customize Your Mac’s Dock. Video published by Warenotice, on December 31, 2015. The Dock, a fundamental part of the Mac operating system, provides a very simple way to access your most frequently used apps, files, and folders. By default it is already extremely convenient to use, but you can make it even more helpful by customizing it.


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