Also interested in installing Mac OS X on a PC? Hackintosh.com has links to everything you need to get Mac OS X Mountain Lion, Lion, Snow Leopard, or Leopard up-and-running on an unsupported computer.
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Mac Hacks, Tweaks & Themes
A collection of Mac hacks, tweaks, and themes follow. Please note that software to "hack" or "tweak" Mac OS X may cause problems and absolutely should not be used on "mission critical" computers where data is important. Even for Macs without important data, it still is vital to backup before using third-party software to "mess with" anything.
Although it is not widely known, there are hundreds of hidden Mac OS X settings as well as hidden application settings available via the operating system's UNIX underpinnings.
Applications that provide an easy-to-use interface to access these settings include Cocktail, Deeper and OnyX, iTweaX, MacPilot, and TinkerTool. Among these, Deeper, OnyX, iTweaX, and TinkerTool are free, whereas Cocktail and MacPilot are available at a modest price (and generally have slicker interfaces as well). Each has its enthusiasts and is well worth evaluating yourself.
Of course, a proper hacker likely wouldn't want to be caught using a GUI and would instead tinker directly with the command line. To learn Mac OS X terminal commands, or just strengthen security, CLIX may be quite helpful.
For hacks and tweaks via the Terminal in Mountain Lion, MacLife, MacTuts, Cult of Mac, and Ask Different all have shared a selection of favorite commands. Alternately, for an extensive list, you may also find this posting on Github helpful, although documentation is limited.
No doubt some Apple enthusiasts -- or fanboys, if you prefer -- would argue that Mac OS X needs no interface tweaks. They could be right, but even a six-colored Apple loyalist would be highly tempted to consider some of these excellent applications.
TotalFinder - Adds tabs to Finder windows, display two Finder windows side-by-side, shortcuts to move files, and more. Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and higher. The same company also sells the useful TotalSpaces to "bring back grid Spaces" to OS X 10.7 "Lion" and OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion".
DockView - Adds window previews to each application when hovering over the dock or switching via Command-Tab. The same author also is behind Switché, which makes it easier to switch between applications or individual windows, ordered by last use, and moveAddict, which makes it easy to move files using the keyboard.
FinderPop - Adds customized contextual menu capability, file handling within contextual menus, and much more. Compatible with Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" and "almost everything works" on Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard", OS X 10.7 "Lion", and OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" as well.
Alfred - Launch apps, files, and actions via key command, instant web search and more for significantly enhanced productivity.
HyperDock - Makes it possible to "select individual application windows and tabs just by moving the mouse on a dock item, use mouse clicks to quickly open new windows" and more. Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" and newer.
Dock Spaces - Have up to 10 docks and switch between them using the menu bar or via key commands. Individual docks can be assigned to a space as well for further convenience. Compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard", and OS X 10.7 "Lion".
XMenu - Adds "adds one or more global menus to the right side of the menu bar" for you to customize with apps, folders, documents and more. Works with Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" and Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard".
Hyperspaces - Customize each Mac OS X space with its own desktop image and name, add hotkeys, and more. Compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" and Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" only.
Although Mac OS X does not have as many options for themes or "skins" as Windows and Linux, at least partially as Apple has not embraced the community in recent years, hardworking enthusiasts have churned out a number of quality "hacks" like these nevertheless.
MaxThemes - Attractive themes for many versions of Mac OS X, as well as jailbroken iOS devices, from excellent designer Max Rudberg. Themes range from the industrial "Aluminum Alloy Toxic" for Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar" to the sleek black "Obsidian Menu Bar" for OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion", with many others in between.
CrystalClear Interface - A "gorgeous user interface for those who think completely different" from the talented Leland Scott. The current version supports recent versions of OS X 10.7 "Lion" and OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" whereas older versions are compatible with Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" and Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard".
White Mountain Lion - A sleek and subtle light colored theme with custom fonts for OS X 10.8.2 "Mountain Lion" and higher from digital art student KillaAaron. He also has created a dark Nocturne theme that may be of interest. Both are Retina Display compatible.
Grain of OS X - A soft, yet contrasting, theme for OS X 10.8.2 "Mountain Lion" and higher from Japanese designer Gpopper. It is Retina Display compatible.
Mountain Lion Pulse - A bold theme with dramatic selection colors for OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" and higher from Turkish artist neodesktop. The same artist also offers a similar BlackPurple theme for OS X 10.7.3 "Lion".
Nuala Black - A monochromatic theme for Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" from Canadian artist nardoxic.
CandyBar - It doesn't offer full-fledged "themes," but makes it easy to change system icons via drag-and-drop, make simple dock tweaks, organize icons by set, and more. It's integrated with the legendary Iconfactory, too.
iCondubber 2 - Designed to be "the definitive Mac OS X icon/theme manager" with extensive support for customizing any icon in your system, dock, trash can, and more.
ThemePark - A graphical application for Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" through Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard" that makes it easy to draw your own interface elements for the operating system via direct integration with Photoshop and Illustrator.
Kaleidoscope - Old school Mac users likely remember this fantastic application from Greg Landweber and Arlo Rose to easily change the interface of vintage Macs running System 7.5 through Mac OS 9.2. Thousands of themes (or schemes as they were called), are archived. Other vintage interface mods from Landweber include Aaron Light for Mac OS 8, Aaron for System 7, and BeView (a BeOS interface mod for the classic Mac OS).
To reiterate, absolutely do not use software to "hack" or "tweak" Mac OS X on "mission critical" computers. Even on non-mission critical computers, backup everything and proceed with caution at your own risk.
Mac Hacking Communities
There are a number of forums across the web that focus on Mac OS X and Mac software hacking, tweaking and theming as well as Mac hardware hacking and Mac case mods. A selection of active communities include the following:
Before joining any of these online communities, be sure to confirm whether or not your particular interest is covered. Some of the above forums focus more on Mac OS X hacks and tweaks whereas others focus more on Mac hardware hacking and case mods. Be sure to also review the community rules prior to posting as well.
Macintosh Case Mods
Since the dawn of Apple history, creative hackers have been coming up with ways to customize the appearance of their systems -- from paint and lighting to transplanting modern Mac components in vintage Macs or entirely new cases. A selection of quality Macintosh "case mods" follow.
Millennium Falcon Mac mini - Perfect for Star Wars fans, a modified Mac mini installed in a toy Millennium Falcon ship complete with an integrated iSight camera in the cockpit and a front-facing USB port intended for an iPod shuffle.
iMac G4 Mods Collection - Great iMac G4 mods including installing a larger display and adding a custom black paint job, installing a touch screen, and several more, all with detailed instructions and photos from Dremel Junkie.
PyraMac - A "Graphite" Power Mac G4 rehoused in an attractive custom steel and plexiglass pyramid case. The same user also has performed a simpler, but nevertheless cool, "BlueIce" Power Mac G4 case mod with a translucent shell, blue internal lighting and a front-mounted 5-inch LCD.
Steampunk Mac mini - No details on fabrication, unfortunately, but pictures of a Mac mini and display beautifully transformed in the Victorian-inspired "Steampunk" style by Dave Veloz.
1942 Philco Radio Mac mini - Few construction details, but perhaps one of the most well disguised Mac case mods of all time. As first spotted by TUAW, Sandy Winkelman cleverly housed a Mac mini and a 17-inch touchscreen display in a gutted vintage radio to create a modern digital media center. To see it in action, this video may also be of interest:
For official and unofficial instructions to upgrade components in a G3 or later Mac -- the RAM, hard drive, optical drive and more -- whether case modding a Mac or otherwise, be sure to also see EveryMac.com'sMac Upgrades section.
Hackintosh Case Mods
The following Hackintosh case mods have standard PC innards, but have been hacked to run Mac OS X. Some use custom case designs and others use an older system shell with updated internal components. The following cover hardware modification and construction rather than software hacks.
Hackintosh, Jr. - An extremely cool miniature Mac Pro-inspired Hackintosh with some great details on components and fabrication.
OS Xbox Pro - A custom Mac Pro-caliber system custom built inside the case of a Xbox. Details and videos of the hardware modification process.
Clearbox - As first spotted by the great Hack A Day site, this slickly produced video shows the hardware fabrication process for a custom acrylic Hackintosh design and may be useful for construction technique or inspiration alone:
If you would like to try your hand at building your own Hackintosh, Hackintosh.com has links to everything you need including step-by-step "how to" guides, databases of compatible components, and communities for support.
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Please note that Apple does not support software or hardware hacks, tweaks, themes or mods. Unofficial software should not be used on any "mission critical" system and doing so may violate the warranty. Naturally, case mods violate the warranty as well. MacHacks.com, and the author thereof, shall not be held responsible or liable, under any circumstances, for any damages resulting from the use or inability to use the linked information. MacHacks.com is not approved by or affiliated with Apple, Inc.