Exposing Leopard's Secrets: Nine Tools that Enable Hidden Features: Page 2

Posted December 9, 2008

Ryan Faas

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5) Visage

Visage by Sanity Software is aimed at personalizing the Mac OS X interface. The $9.95 software installs as a pane in System Preferences and allows you to customize the text, icons and background of the login window; configure screen savers to display as desktop effects (replacing a static desktop picture with an animated display); and allows you to personalize system alert messages.

Although not as broadly focused as some of the other tools in this list, Visage does lend itself to customizing and personalizing the Mac user experience. Its ability to generate desktop effects and personalize error messages in particular set it apart from capabilities in other hidden feature enablers.

6) Leopard Docks and Dockulicious

Continuing the discussion of more focused customization tools brings us to Leopard Docks and Dockulicious, both of which allow you to radically alter the look of the Dock on Macs running Leopard.

Unlike other tools (including MacPilot, TinkerTool, and xMod) that allow you to simply restore the pre-Leopard two dimensional Dock, these tools give you the power to completely change the Dock’s appearance by downloading one of hundreds of alternate Dock templates. These templates range from as simple as differently colored Docks to Docks that look like parchment paper, wood paneling, clouds, pirate maps, and more. If you really want to personalize the look of your Mac, these tools are a great place to start.

7) Quartz Composer

Quartz Composer is a component of Apple’s developers tools that allows the creation of a variety of imaging effects using the Quartz imaging layer in Mac OS X. Quartz Compositions can be implemented in a variety of ways in Mac OS X including as screen savers and visual effects for iChat and Photo Booth.

Although developing your own compositions can be complex and requires a fair amount of skill, you can download compositions developed by others at QuartzFX.

There’s also the More iChat Effects package includes dozens of compositions that are designed to enhance the visual effects available in iChat and Photo Booth and which are easy to install. While not the most practical of hidden features, these can be a lot of fun to play with (especially if you’ve gotten bored with some of the built-in visual effects).

8) Time Machine Scheduler

Apple did a great job in designing Time Machine, Leopard’s easy-to-use backup solution. In some situations, particularly for portable Macs, you may not always want Time Machine scanning for changes and backing up files every hour on the hour. Time Machine Scheduler is a great tool for adjusting the hidden preferences that determine how frequently Time Machine backups actually occur.

9) QuickLook Plug-ins

Another really helpful feature in Leopard is QuickLook, which allows you to view full previews of any document without launching an application. By default, QuickLook works with most file types. QuickLook Plug-ins extend the technology for file types that QuickLook doesn’t know about automatically. Most applications that use unique document types install the appropriate plug-ins during installation or when the are launched for the first time.

However, for some obscure document formats, particularly ones associated with multiple applications, QuickLook support may not be available even if you’ve installed an application that can open those files.

Thankfully, you can extend QuickLook on your own by downloading additional plug-ins. There’s even the QuickLook Plug-ins List, a site devoted to providing an archive of available third-party plug-ins.

Two free plug-ins that may be particularly helpful for many users are Folder QuickLook Plug-in and Zip QuickLook Plug-in, which extend QuickLook to display information about the contents of a folder when selected in the Finder and details about the contents of .zip archives respectively. Both of these are invaluable additions to any Mac (and quite frankly provide functionality that Apple should have built into Leopard).

That does it for my list of tools that allow you to harness the potential of hidden features hiding inside your Mac. Enjoy checking them out, but remember that because these tools do modify system configurations, it’s always a good idea to make sure your Mac is backed up before running them (just to be on the safe side).

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Tags: browsers, Windows, OS X, Leopard, Storage

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