Apple’s System Preferences are fairly extensive, and certainly allow you to quickly alter the most common settings related to your Mac. Though this is perfect for most users, occasionally it becomes necessary to dig a little deeper into your system configuration.
This is where Cocktail comes in. It’s a standalone application that provides all manner of advanced options for you to configure – everything from how the interface of various apps behaves, to adjusting Spotlight, Time Machine, and emptying caches.
We’ll be taking a look at just how powerful this little utility is!
When launching Cocktail for the first time, you’ll be asked to enter your administrator password. This is due to the fact that Cocktail needs the ability to read and edit fairly low-level settings on your Mac – those that wouldn’t normally be available to you.
Providing you’re sensible and don’t change anything you do not understand, Cocktail shouldn’t cause any problems. As ever, it’s always advisable to have a fully working backup before dabbling with your system settings and preferences!
Cocktail is broken down into six main areas: Disks, System, Files, Network, Interface and Pilot. We’ll approach each of these individually and take a look at what the app is capable of:
The first panel to consider is disks, providing options for Journaling, Permissions, Sleep, and various other Misc settings.
Particularly useful is the ability to specify how long your computer will wait before putting the disk(s) to sleep, adjusting “lid” settings for laptops, and quickly repairing permissions.
The second panel – System – covers Scripts, Spotlight, Time Machine, Databases, and Startup options.
You can manually run a handful of OS X scripts that would normally only execute each week or month – particularly useful if you’re wanting to clean up your system. Spotlight can be enabled/disabled for specific disks, and you can erase an index if you’d like.
The Time Machine backup interval can be changed to any value you specify, and you can prevent OS X from indexing system files. Another interesting option – “Kiosk Mode” – will disable the Restart/Shut Down/Log Out commands.
Options for Files relate to Caches, Preferences, Logs, DS Store Files, Locking, and Links:
Caches can be cleared individually – either for everyone, or just for the current user. Cocktail will also search for corrupt preference files, manage logs, and delete DS Store files which are clogging your directories.
Much of the Network panel focuses on optimising your connection – all manner of detailed network settings can be viewed and changed, and Cocktail will ensure that network settings remain after a restart of your machine.
If changes cause any problems, you can revert to the default system network settings by removing /Library/StartupItems/Cocktail and restarting your Mac.
This is undoubtedly my favourite part of Cocktail, as it provides a set of visual options for some of the most common apps you’ll use on a day-to-day basis:
- General: Adjust the “Open Recent” menu, scroll arrow placement, how crashing apps are handled, and the format/location in which screenshots are saved.
- Finder: Show invisible items, hide the desktop, and enable/disable various animations.
- Dock: You can adjust the style of the Dock, add spacers/stacks, and various other more common settings.
- Safari: All manner of options, including always showing the tab bar, disabling native PDF support, preventing the saving of webpage previews, and showing the Debug menu.
- Mail: You can hide attachments, elect to view all messages in plain text, and adjust exactly what is logged.
- QuickTime X: For adjusting autoplay settings, subtitles, allowing multiple recordings, and determining how playback controls are shown.
- Login: Settings for adjusting what’s displayed in the login window, whether you’d like to hide restart/sleep buttons, and after how many attempts the “Password Hint” should be displayed.
According to Cocktail, “running the Pilot is the easiest way to clean, repair, optimize and maintain your system”. It’s an automated process that will run through the safest and most common operations that Cocktail is capable of performing.
The developer recommends that you run the script each week and, if you’d like to automate the process, the “Scheduler” tab will let you quickly set up an automatic system for running the process each week.
Cocktail is an excellent utility, designed simply to provide a graphical interface for many of OS X’s system settings. These are already available via Terminal but, for many users, Cocktail is a far more appealing option. If you consider yourself a “power user” of OS X, it’s a handy app to have at your fingertips.
If you’re only planning to use one or two of the functions, I’d recommend Googling how to change the setting through OS X’s Terminal. Equally, I would not go so far as to say that Cocktail is a “must have” app for all Mac users – the maintenance tasks recommended to be performed weekly are useful, but by no means necessary for everyone.
We’ll be running a competition to win a few Cocktail licenses next week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can download a trial that will let you launch the application 10 times to experiment. Have fun!