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Official website for iCreate - the creative magazine for Mac users


Aug 3, 2011

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac

by Stephen Ashby

Edit your Dock, play with Widgets on the Desktop, add new gestures and more with this Top 5

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac
One of the best things about OS X is that the interface looks and feels great.
The clean lines, drop-shadows on windows and beautiful graphical interface are some of the primary reasons that we love the Mac so much. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to have a little change.
Sadly, and unlike other operating systems, Apple don’t allow users to customs OS X; in fact, the only option we have is to make the computer’s buttons colourful or grey. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top five ways to personalise your machine. Whether it’s a simple way to change your icons, to a more radical change that affects everything in your UI, we’ve got you covered, so let’s jump straight into the first one…

1. img2icns (Free)

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacHave you ever looked a whole selection of folders and been frustrated by how difficult it is to find the one you want? With every folder sporting a blue icon, it can be really hard to find exactly what you want without scanning the names; if each folder had a specific icon, things would be a lot faster.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac

You can use any image as an icon, and if you search online there are thousands of custom made images that you can use

That’s where img2icns comes in – if you have an image somewhere on your computer, or if you find a picture online that you like, all you need to do is drag and drop it into this little app and convert it to an icns file. Then you can choose the item you want to change and choose Get Info from the File menu (or press ⌘+I). Do the same for the icon you just created and you will see the icon in the top left of the window. Click it, press ⌘+C to copy it, then click the folder icon in the other window and click ⌘+V to paste, and voila! You have a new icon for that folder.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac

You’ll see a blue glow around the icon when you click it, and this is when you can copy or paste the icon

img2icns is a free, quick and simple way to convert any image into an icon, and it’s well worth a try to add a little colour to your otherwise dull and lifeless folders. There is even a Pro version in the Mac App Store (which costs £8.99/$12.99) with more features for you to try if you want them. I’ve used this a lot on my own Mac and it works brilliantly; however, before you change any icons of more important items (like your Hard Drive, for example) it’s well worth pasting the icon you’re replacing into Preview and saving it as a .png file to ensure you can go back to it if you don’t like that change you made!

2. BetterTouchTool (Free)

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac

Lion managed to add a lot of multi-touch gestures to the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, but ultimately the support for gestures in OS X is still sadly lacking. Luckily, BetterTouchTool has solved that problem brilliantly.

The application from Andreas Hegenberg is incredibly discreet but ridiculously useful. When you open up the Preferences pane through the Menubar icon that sits happily in the corner of your screen you can choose to add a gesture. This can apply to every application on your Mac, but you have the option to choose individual applications as well if you want to be more specific.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac

A clean interface really helps BetterTouchTool feel useful, and the Live View is incredibly impressive

From here you can choose the type of gesture you want to add, using whichever device you have. The application can detect more than ten inputs on a multi-touch device, and you can choose whether your gesture, tap or click carries out either a preset function such as opening Launchpad or showing the desktop, or assign it a specific keystroke combination. It’s flexible and incredibly well-designed, and if you’ve been longing for a few more ways to use your mouse, trackpad or keyboard, this is certainly the first app you should turn to.

3. 2Dornot2D (Free)

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacThis simple app solves one of our biggest gripes with the recent releases of OS X – the Dock. We don’t have a problem with the Dock itself, but the way Apple controls its appearance is incredibly frustrating.

With normal settings, Apple’s famous application launcher either sits at the bottom of the screen with a 3D, reflective appearance, or at the side of the screen with a black, minimalistic look. There is no option to change this, and while there are a few Haxies (applications that ‘hack’ OS X to change its appearance) to edit the look and feel of the Dock completely, there is no simple way to change its appearance quickly.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your Mac
It’s as easy as clicking a button and your Dock will be changed. We love the black dock.

2Dornot2D changes this; with the click of a button you can change the dock from it’s 3D reflective surface to the black matte look. It’s a small, simple change that totally alters the look of your Mac without having to go through the Terminal or use any other workaround.

4. Amnesty (Free 30-day Trial, $19.95 license)

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacIt’s fair to say the the Dashboard is a little under-appreciated in some Mac circles, with many users never really using it, or even knowing that it’s there. It takes time to load up Widgets, you don’t have access to them while you work on your Desktop, and their functionality is mostly in apps in OS X anyway.

To those people we say this: you need Amnesty.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacFor each Widget you can add individual settings to make sure everything behaves exactly as you want it to

This app gives you the chance to add your Widgets to your desktop workflow by simply choosing which one you want to use. Using the drop down menu that appears when the Amnesty Menubar icon is clicked you can select a Widget that you want to see and it will instantly pop up on your Desktop.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacYour Widgets can act however you want, so if you like almost-invisible, angled Calendars that always stick to the desktop, you can have that

From there you can right click each Widget you’ve added to completely customise the way they behave. You can make Widgets always sit at the front of the screen, stick to the Desktop, or act a like a window, as well as set their opacity and rotation. Soon, you’ll have all your favourite Widgets sitting at jaunty angles on your screen, well within reach whenever you require them, without ever needing to open up a large application like Dictionary or iCal.

5. Candybar (Free Trial, $29 license)

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacThis is one for those who really want to play around with their machines. Candybar lets you change the look of every icon on your machine, from the simple ones like folders to the incredibly difficult, like Trash and Finder. It’s been around for a while now, but is now on it’s 3rd iteration, which includes a selection of improvements.

The interface is a clean and simple as ever, with an easy drag and drop mechanic that allows you to alter your icons quickly and easily. There are tons of icon packs that you can download online that work with Candybar, and when you have a selection you like you can import them as a folder and easily add them to your library. Dragging and dropping them into the upper window then applies them instantly.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacThe Float icon pack is included with Candybar to get you started, but there are lots more available

What’s even better, though, is the option to alter the way your Dock looks completely. Again, thanks to a simple drag and drop system, changing the look of your dock is no longer a mission that sees you delving into the System folders of OS X and replacing files. Instead, you just need to find an image you want to use (which again, are available online if you don’t want to make your own) before dragging and dropping them into Candybar to see them applied.

Top 5 Apps to Personalise Your MacEditing the look of the Dock is simple thanks to the way Candybar works

It’s a simple way to edit all kinds of aspects of your machine, and if you’re serious about personalising your Mac and don’t mind spending a little cash doing it, Candybar is a great choice. It also makes it easy to change everything back – you just have to drag the icon you want to remove out of the Candybar window and the original look will be returned.

These are just a few of our favourite personalisation applications, but there are plenty more. Some apps like Shapeshifter no longer work with new versions of OS X, but Lion is still in its formative months and we may see a lot more apps and haxies being updated in the next few months to include support for the new system. For now, have fun personalising your Mac – share your thoughts below and maybe even post a picture of your personalised set-up when you’re done.

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    • Hanii Puppy

      You don’t need img2icns for that, you can follow the same process to make an image file the icon for a folder or file as you can an icns file. You’ve been able to do this as long as I remember, certainly since Mac OS 7.