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“Tinker, v.: attempt to repair or improve something in a casual or desultory way, often to no useful effect.”

If I could get back just some of the time that I have spent tinkering with computers over the years, I think I might be able to extend my lifetime quite significantly. One of the great things about OS X is that it actually requires little tinkering (and yes, some systems do require quite a lot of it!).

If you simply hand over control to the operating system, things will generally run quite smoothly. This does, though, also mean giving up on some choice, and so some freedom.

There are many apps available that help you to change various aspects of your Mac’s appearance and the way it generally runs. One of the best, and widest known, is Marcel Bresink’s TinkerTool. Join us after the jump as we explore what this app can do for you.

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Apple made a controversial change in Snow Leopard. It’s a fairly system-level one, though, so perhaps the majority of users will not have had any issues with it – but it’s made some experienced Mac users pretty unhappy. What’s changed is the way in which files open when double-clicked.

It used to be that OS X embedded what’s known as a Creator Code in new files, so that the system knew to open files within the applications that made them. Rob Griffiths published a discussion of this behaviour, and the changes in Snow Leopard, in Macworld back in September last year. Have a read of that piece, and the lengthy comments that accompany it, if you want to understand the issue better.

I haven’t been impacted by this change to a great degree, but one of the applications that comes up in discussion of ways of fixing the change, and giving back more control over what applications open files, caught my eye. Michel Fortin’s Magic Launch is a Preference Pane that lets you manipulate file-opening in ways that allow you a great deal of flexibility.

It solves the problem of Creator Codes being removed, but it also adds some excellent functionality, and that means it’s well worth a look even if you’re untroubled by the main issue it addresses.

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Despite Apple having done a great job of streamlining the process of app switching on OS X, it’s easy to reach a point where having many applications open can become a jumbled mess. Making sense of a maddening scene full of application windows, open folders and several documents can make it difficult to get anything done.

Spaces was Apple’s answer to the chaos, but for those that don’t find it deep or intuitive enough, Many Tricks’ Witch may provide a way out. This is an app that promises to do a better job than Spaces, Expose and Command-Tab ever could in making switching through any open window elegantly easy.

And since Witch installs into System Preferences, the level of customization is pretty high, which can be a bonus for those looking to have maximum control of what’s open and where. Let’s take a look at how it works!

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Keeping applications up-to-date on my Macbook is definitely one of my weaker areas. I tend to delay installing the Apple updates for as long as possible, especially if it requires a restart of the computer, and will then do a bulk install every couple of weeks.

Updating my applications, plugins and widgets often doesn’t even figure in my mind, unless prompted on launching said piece of software. But the problem with that is that a lot of OS X software doesn’t include an update checker.

From a security point of view this could possibly leave my Mac open to being infected or hacked through a loophole in one of the programs, which would have been fixed had I installed the update that I didn’t even know about.

AppFresh from MetaQuark aims to help solve that problem by providing a one-stop-shop for updating applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins without having to even go looking for the updates yourself.

If the software is listed on osx.iusethis.com, then AppFresh will be able to look for an update, download and install it to your Mac and remove any old version if necessary….all with just the click of a couple of buttons. It can even grab official Apple updates. Keeping your software up-to-date needn’t be a hassle anymore!

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Okay, I just had that file open! Where did I save it? Where did it go? Damn. I’m sure this hasn’t just happened to me. If that’s so, I guess Apparent Software built Blast just for me!

Put simply, Blast is a menu bar applet that tracks what files you have recently opened, modified or touched. So if you opened up an image file in Preview, or an iWork document, Blast will keep track of it.

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You don’t need this app. There are good guides available on the Apple website to help you get the best performance and extend the life of your Mac laptop’s battery. You can even download from that page an iCal file that will add periodic reminders to your calendar, so that you’re more likely to remember to calibrate your battery. Follow that advice, and respond to the reminders, and you and your computer’s battery will be fine.

I’m on the second battery in my MacBook (which is coming up to its fourth birthday this week). Apparently it’s in quite good health at the moment, though it’s lost 18% of its capacity. You see, I’m not so good at remembering to calibrate it, and because I tend to use it all over the house, it’s constantly being plugged and unplugged, and is drained completely on most days. I’m not so hot on looking after batteries…

And so, though I know I don’t need it, I think Watts is well worth having. Read on for an introduction to this little app that could make it easier for you to look after your laptop’s battery.

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Window management in OS X has come a long way in recent years. Exposé gave us the ability to quickly view or hide our windows, Spaces gave us multiple environments to store and organize our windows, and most recently Dock Exposé has given us even more flexibility.

However, aside from a little AppleScripting, there is still no easy way to manage window sizes with the default OS X tools. Fortunately, a couple of third party options have popped up recently that handle this task with ease. Below we’ll take at look at both SizeUp and Divvy to see who reigns supreme as the window management king.
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Kaleidoscope is an excellent little app from Made By Sofa that facilitates identifying changes that have been made in documents and images. It’s really pretty to boot.

The interface is remarkably innovative and the app works beautifully. Today we’ll go over specifically what Kaleidoscope does, how to use it, and how it performed during the review process. If you’ve ever needed to compare two files, this is a review not to be missed!

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If you like to know what’s happening behind the scenes on your Mac, Bjango’s iStat Menus 3 (currently on sale for $10) is one of the very best apps available to you. I’ve heard people recommending it for years, but though I’ve tried it several times, it’s never really stuck for me – until recently.

Bjango recently released version 3 and, although there are some significant changes in this version, there’s not much new except for the addition of battery monitoring.

I’ll walk you through the app’s main features, and conclude with a few comments on what I’d like to see added in the future, as well as suggesting a couple of alternative options.

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Time Machine is one of Apple’s greatest inventions – instead of dreading backups and regretting not having one when your disk fails, you can now just switch to your backup disk and restore it.

But as comfortable as the backing up itself is, it can still be tricky to find the one file you are needing. That’s where Back-In-Time comes in. This handy little tool allows you to dive into your (and not just your own) backups and quickly get what you need.

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