Apple’s walled-garden approach to computing has some pretty far-reaching implications for an everyday user of OS X. Apple provides, on the whole, a smooth and pleasant experience while using your computer, partly because the options that will break something aren’t there. Conversely, this approach can be quite limiting – especially to those who are used to endless preferences on Windows or Linux.
The fact is that it’s not particularly easy to tweak Apple’s OS without some extra help (or expert knowledge). Assuming you’re not a Terminal wizard, then you’re probably going to need something like Mountain Tweaks (also known as Lion Tweaks), a handy and free little tool for changing certain aspects of your OS X experience without having to work out how to do it yourself.
For a quick look at what’s included and what Mountain Tweaks won’t fix then read on!
The app comes courtesy of Fredrik Wiker, a teenage developer from Norway who has been collecting a long list of things to mess around with since OS X Lion was the Apple zealot’s OS of choice. He’s not asking for any money for the app, which is both nice of him and somewhat expected – after all, these tweaks are easy enough to perform after a quick search. If you’d like to chuck Fredrik a bone for saving you time and effort then you can do so using the donate button on his website, or the heart icon in-app.
There are two versions of the project at present, one titled Lion Tweaks and the other Mountain Tweaks – I’m sure I don’t have to explain why they’re named that way. As far as I can tell (as a Mountain Lion user) they’re both largely identical in terms of tweaks, except the Mountain Lion version comes with a few tweaks that are specific to 10.8. That means if you’re still using Lion (10.7) you should have no trouble using Mountain Tweaks. Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6) users should get some limited mileage out of this app too.
The app is painfully simple to use, with four tabs to provide you quick access to the different features. They are:
- General Tweaks – for tweaks that are cross-compatible with both 10.7 and 10.8. According to Fredrik, these tweaks should also work on 10.5 and 10.6 (that’s Leopard and Snow Leopard if you’ve been following the feline release formula).
- Lion Tweaks – unsurprisingly, tweaks for those using Lion. These are cross-compatible with 10.8 on the whole.
- Mountain Lion Tweaks – restricted to use with 10.8, mainly because many of the target features do not exist in earlier versions of the OS.
- Restore – for reverting to the system default settings for all of the tweaks you have performed.
In order to activate a tweak, simply click Yes next to its name. In most instances you will need to provide your administrator password in order to action the change. To revert a tweak you’ve just applied, hit the big bold No in the same column – it’s really that simple.
One thing that Mountain/Lion Tweaks does not do is keep a tally of the tweaks you have enabled, so you might be able to tell if you’ve enabled Hide Spotlight Search but for other tweaks like Disable Autosave for all apps it might not be so obvious. In this instance it might be frugal to keep a count of what you have enabled. If you do lose track then you can always visit the Restore tab and click Restore to system default in order to undo your tweaking.
What’s useful depends on exactly what you wish OS X would let you change, or rather what you would change if you knew it could be done this easily. There’s a good chance that looking through these screenshots will decide whether or not you might find any of these useful, though I will add one point.
The reason I downloaded this app in the first place was due to an increase in UI lag after updating to Mountain Lion. I found out from an Apple Support Communities post that the 3D dock can be disabled easily using Mountain Tweaks’ Enable 2D-Dock option. The amount of lag when switching spaces and minimizing/maximizing windows is unhealthy with dock auto-hiding disabled, and I hoped that this would help. It didn’t. In fact, none of the tweaks here should impact performance all that much – only the user experience. Bare that in mind if you’re looking for a quick fix for Mountain Lion’s performance shortcomings – you won’t find any quick fixes here!
That said, I didn’t delete it when I found out what else it could help me do, which has to be a good thing. If you’re disillusioned with some of the new additions in Lion or OS X Mountain Lion, but love the new Messages app and Notification Centre, then you might find that this tool is exactly what you need to disable some annoyances. Keep your eyes peeled for an update, in which Fredrik might add something to the mysteriously blank Maintenance panel!
Mountain Tweaks is one of those small and handy little all-in-one apps that simply make life that little bit easier when it comes to changing certain aspects of your Mac desktop. Windows users have tools for tweaking their OS, and now Mountain Tweaks gives you a limited selection of things to toggle on Mac OS X too. If you need to change more, then don’t forget you can spice up your desktop, tweak the appearance and dig a little deeper with Tinkertool.