Customising Your Mac Experience with Refinery

Out of the box, your Mac will work absolutely perfectly—better than most other operating systems, in fact. It will also look wonderful, with teams of designers working hard to make sure your Mac experience looks just right.

And yet, there is even more to be got from OS X – whether it’s tweaking the design, or adjusting countless preferences, the Mac power user will always try to squeeze every last bit out of his computer. Developers know this, and there are a number of apps that make this an easy experience.

Refinery is one of these apps, developed by EZASoft. It focuses primarily on tweaking the appearance of your Mac, whether it’s the dock, Sidebar icons, your Login Window or your Dashboard, it tries to make everything look and work the way you want. Read on to see how it fares.

Getting Started

GettingStarted

The Refinery Welcome Screen

Installing Refinery is simple – Just download the app in a ZIP file (nice and small at 6.5MB), and drag the file into your Applications folder, as you would with any other app.

Upon first opening it, you will be greeted with a friendly welcome screen, allowing you to open up the app, go to a start guide, and/or donate some money to aid the development of Refinery. Refinery is free, but donationware, so you are actively encourages to donate money. This however, is not done in a forceful manner, and if you are getting something for free, it’s no harm to donate just a little, if it’s an app you feel deserves it.

Interface

Interface

The Refinery Interface

Following the welcome screen, you are brought to the interface itself, which, quite frankly, looks excellent. It is instantly obvious that a lot of time has been put into the interface, and it’s worth it. The app blends in to its OS X environment effortlessly, with shiny buttons, subtle shadows and highlights, and some beautiful big icons.

Refinery is not only aesthetically pleasing, in that it looks shiny and nice to look at, but it is designed in a way that you instantly know where everything is. A sidebar on the left is reminiscent of Finder, iTunes, and numerous other apps, and a hierarchical colour scheme directs your attention to where you need to look. If there’s one part of the app I can’t fault, it’s the design.

Functionality

Refinery is split up into a variety of sections, each with separate functions and areas of customisation. Here, we’ll have a look at each of them in turn.

Dock

Dock

Dock Panel

The headline feature of this app is that you can easily change the appearance of your Dock. This is a feature which will appeal to many users, but so few customisation apps have.

On the Dock section, there are two panels – Appearance, and Options. Under Options, you can tweak a few features, such as how windows minimize, whether you have a 2D or a 3D dock, and where on the screen the dock is positioned, amongst others. These are quite useful, but nothing that is going to completely change the look of your Mac.

It is in the Appearance panel where the magic really happens. Here, you can completely change the look and feel of your dock. You can create your own images, or download them from the internet (The best place I found is LeopardDocks).

Refinery boasts its own Dock format, .rfdock, which you can use to import complete dock styles. I assumed that somewhere out there, there would be a community out there which provided some Refinery Docks to make your life easier. I was wrong.

Unfortunately, due to Refinery’s lack of market dominance, I couldn’t find a single site with a single Refinery Dock. At the moment, .rfdocks are only good for exporting styles if you want to try out another style and quickly import the old style back in.

Dock2

A dock, with a black finish

Nevertheless, it’s very easy to change the look of your dock. You can change the background, the indicators, the dividers, and the “frontline” (The line at the front which provides an extra 3D look). If you change a feature, you can see the results in the preview Dock, but to see it in your real dock, you will have to apply the changes and refresh the dock, a process made simple by Refinery.

You can also, in theory, change the Finder, Dashboard and Trash icons. However, when I tried to do this, it would not work in my actual dock. Unfortunately, from here on in, that is a recurring theme.

Finder

Finder

Finder Panel

The Finder section, like the Dock section, has two panels – Appearance and Options. in Appearance, you can change icons in your sidebar (which are already very easy to change), and icons in the Finder toolbar. Like the Dock icons, these did not work whatsoever. Perhaps it has something to do with my computer, but considering that I have a perfectly normal, 1-year-old, Snow Leopard-based iMac, it could happen on numerous computers.

The options panel provides you with a few options for altering your Finder experience, such as a Quit Finder option, and showing the directory path in the title bar, both of which work perfectly well. It also allows you to change the size of icons and fonts on your desktop.

System

System

System Panel

This is yet another section with two panels, and once again, they are Appearance and Options. The Appearance panel allows you to change the Login Window background. Surprise, surprise, that doesn’t work either.

The Options panel deals with how your Mac handles screenshots, allowing you to choose the format, the location, and whether or not there are shadows on screenshots of entire windows. Thankfully, these features actually work, and would be quite useful for anybody who had not yet tweaked their screenshots (I already had).

Apps

Apps

Apps Panel

Considering the vast number of apps we have on our computers, this section is quite sparse. It contains 4 panels – Dashboard, Safari, Mail, and other.

The Dashboard panel is very useful, allowing you to enable Developer mode (having widgets on your desktop), or even completely disable the Dashboard altogether. You can also change the background of the Widget Well, a feature which I have not seen in any other customisation app. Considering the relative failure of the other few sections, this is a nice return to full-functionality.

The other three panels under Apps offer a grand total of 9 customisation options, which, considering the vast number of areas that you can tweak, is a little bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, they work, which is more than can be said for some of the features in Refinery.

Restore

Restore

Restore Panel

One handy feature of Refinery is that at any moment, you can instantly restore everything back to normal with a couple of clicks. It’s always nice to know that whatever you do when customising your experience, you can get back to normal instantly.

Conclusion

Refinery looks great, and it would be great, but for a couple of unforgivable errors. Firstly, it  is seriously lacking in options. Considering that it’s a customisation app, it limits your customisation quite drastically, certainly compared to other apps in the market.

Secondly, a large number of the options it does have simply don’t work. If you’re going to limit the number of options, you should really make sure that options that do exist work perfectly.

That said, if you want to customise your dock, or your Dashboard, then it’s well worth trying. If you want to do any serious customisation, however, you’d be better sticking with something else.


Summary

Refinery is a utility to help you customise the behaviors and appearance of Mac OS X. Customise the appearance of the Leopard Dock, change toolbar icons in the Finder and much, much more.

5
  • http://www.superdeluxe.ch Milos

    What would be a good alternative? Thanks!

  • http://wooconcept.com/ Thibaut Ninove

    The French translation really needs a revision.
    The descriptions of the options simply mean nothing. :-)

  • http://azadcreative.com Saddam Azad

    Played around with it for a few minutes.

    The interface looks clean and polished but the severe lack of useful options puts me off. Hence, the app is in the Trash.

    I’ll keep an eye on this. Some more customisation options and a collection of good themes will definitely get this app back in the Applications folder.

    • http://www.ezasoft.com EZASoft

      We are planning to add a collection of Dock themes to the Refinery website. Hopefully, this will be up and running by the end of the year. We will post on our blog (www.ezasoft.com/blog) when it is launched.

  • http://www.ezasoft.com EZASoft

    Hi, we’re the developer of Refinery. We believe the icons not changing for you were due to a issue with Mac OS X. The system can’t recognize new icons until you log out and back in, or restart. This is a problem that is impossible to avoid, and hopefully it will be resolved in a future version of OS X.

    • http://dogearedpages.org Marc

      Passing a “killall Dock” or “killall Finder” shell command do the job though, right? Can’t that be a function added to the action so that it automatically does that when you save the changes you want? Or a button even saying Restart Finder/Dock?

      Just a thought.

      • http://www.ezasoft.com EZASoft

        Actually, Refinery sends that shell command already.

        The difficulty is that the different icons are cached in memory and on the disk in various places when OS X starts, so OS X has to be completely restarted for changes to take effect. Simply restarting the Finder and/or the Dock is not enough in most cases.

  • Keith Smiley

    That’s the lowest rating I’ve ever seen you guys give an app. Impressive.

  • Patrick

    What’s that newspaper app between Pages and Mail in the black dock picture?

    • http://inspirationoverload.org/ Conor O’Driscoll

      Well, it’s actually NetNewsWire, the RSS Reader (http://netnewswireapp.com/). However, I decided to replace its icons with the icons of another RSS Reader, Pulp (Previously known as Times) – http://www.acrylicapps.com/pulp/mac/

      • Patrick

        Thanks! I didn’t know Times had changed name…

  • http://www.psdstyle.net Chuckles

    This thing looks pretty awesome. But unfortunately reading all the negative comments scares me off – too bad.

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