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2,862 Tutorials

The 5-minute Lion configuration

Reader David Mitchell delves into the personal with this question about Lion. He writes:

I'm planning to buy Lion and was curious about what pros like you do when you install a new operating system like this.

Every Mac user--"pro" or otherwise--is different and we all develop certain work habits. I've had Lion for awhile thanks to pungling up the $99 necessary to become a developer and have installed it on a couple of different Macs. These are the things I generally do in the first several minutes:

Run Software Update. Apple often releases patches and updates with new OS versions. To make sure my OS and Apple applications are as up-to-date as possible, I run Software Update immediately (available from the Apple menu).

Kill the translucent menu bar. I've never grown fond of the thing. To restore the menu bar to its time-honored off-white hue, open the Desktop & Screen Saver system preference, select the Desktop tab, and disable the Translucent Menu Bar option.

Restore scrolling. Much as I love my iOS devices, I'm not ready to change my scrolling habits to Lion's "natural" scheme where scrolling down makes the contents of a window also move down. Over 20 years of doing it the other way will make this a hard habit to break. To change the way this is done, go to your Trackpad system preference, select the Scroll & Zoom tab, and disable the Scroll Direction: Natural option.

Make Dock folders useful. Another Apple design decision that I never cottoned to is the way folders (stacks) are displayed in the Dock. To me it makes no sense to take a pile of documents and either fan them out or expose them on a grid. I generally have a lot of files in these folders and these two Apple-preferred options make it hard for me to find what I'm after. Instead, I Control- (right) click on these stacks and ask them to be displayed as folders in List view.

Hide the Dock. I rely on utilities such as DragThing and LaunchBar to navigate to my files so I rarely need to see the Dock. I select Dock from the Apple menu and choose Turn Hiding On.

Search for System files. Under Lion, the Finder's Search window still won't search for files in the System folder and Library folders by default. I often muck around in these folders and want Search to as well. To make that happen I press Command-F in the Finder to bring up a Search window. From the Kind pop-up menu near the top of the window I select Other. In the sheet that appears I enter System in the Search field. I then tick the In Menu check box next to the System Files entry that appears in this window so that I have the option to easily search for files that appear in System and Library folders.

Tweak the sidebar. Apple's collection of sidebar items--Applications, Desktop, and Documents, for example--are a start, but they're hardly the end- and be-all of sidebar shortcuts. I always drag my user folder and the Drop Box folder within the Public folder into the sidebar.

Change the Desktop background. Apple makes some lovely Desktop backgrounds but I quickly tire of the default. If you do too, just Control- (right) click on the Desktop and choose Change Desktop Background. In the window that appears you can choose from a variety of new background pictures.

But that's just me. You're a smart and experienced bunch. What settings do you tweak within the first five minutes of installing a new OS?

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