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Fix ’Em Yourself
If you’re bothered by a few of the user-interface tweaks Apple used to gussy up Leopard, you don’t have to just grit your teeth and live with them. Third-party developers have written some handy apps that let you make some changes. After all, while Apple’s design sense is one of the reasons we use Macs to begin with, you’re the one who’s got to look at your screen day in and day out. So you might as well put your personal stamp on things.
The problem: We’ve gotten dozens of emails from Mac lifers who hated the new 3D glass Dock in Leopard, mainly because the open-application indicator, which in Tiger was a unmistakable black triangle, has morphed into a light blue, translucent dot beneath each open app’s Dock icon. If your background image is a similar color, the indicator can be easy to miss.
CandyBar lets you easily change Docks, icons, and other elements. Check out
iconfactory.com for themes and icon sets.
The fix: Two downloadable apps make customizing your Dock quick and easy. CandyBar 3 ($29, www.panic.com) does for icons and Docks what a program like Extensis Suitcase does for your fonts: keeps them all organized in one spot and lets you activate them across your system with just a few clicks. Even if you don’t want a flashy new Dock, you can use CandyBar to display the 2D “simple” version of Leopard’s standard Dock (which appears by default when you position the Dock on the left or right of your screen) along the bottom of the screen as well—this makes the indicators much easier to see. CandyBar also organizes collections of downloadable icons and Docks; you just download new sets as handy iContainer files for free at iconfactory.com/freeware, then drag the iContainer file into CandyBar’s Organize sidebar. Buttons in the Change section of the sidebar make it easy to change some or all of Leopard’s default icons with minimal clicks and no need to open the Terminal
Dock Library sticks to the basics, organizing and applying new Docks.
If you don’t care about icons, just Docks, you can forgo CandyBar and grab the freeware app Dock Library (www.dativestudios.com). Then go grab some free Docks from www.leoparddocks.com or www.leoparddocks.net, and you can import them into Dock Library without even unzipping them first. When you’ve got a list of Docks in Dock Library, you just click the one you like, click Activate, and type in your administrator password. Our favorites are Wave Dock by Scott Korfhagen (from leoparddocks.com), which uses the familiar black-triangle indicators, and Jet Black by Bryan Clodfelter & Mike Yaroshinsky (from leoparddocks.net). But whether you want your Mac to look sophisticated or silly (like with a Dock based on Super Mario Bros.), there’s something out there for everyone.
What should come next? We’d love to see Apple offer some limited Dock customization built into the System Preferences, which currently only lets you tweak its size, magnification, position, and choose whether it should be hidden when not in use. Being able to select the Dock’s background color, amount of reflection, and open-application indicators would be enough to make us happy.
MoreIchatEffects adds more video backdrops for fun while chatting.
The problem: iChat 4 packed a lot of amazing new additions—screen sharing is a godsend, for example, as is the ability to easily record your audio and video chats. But some of the additions are just silly eye candy: Take the video backdrops, which looked so great in the Apple demos but in real life don’t work well enough to wow.
But bells and whistles aside, iChat is missing some features we wished Apple had added: a single buddy list for all your chat accounts, built-in Growl notifications, and a way to keep our chat windows on top of other windows. Support for USB webcams is also lacking (unless the webcam is among the handful of certified UVC-for-USB video units), which is a shame for owners of Macs without built-in iSights—Apple discontinued the standalone FireWire iSight some time ago.
The fix: Install some add-ons. Chax (free, www.ksuther.com/chax) will give you a unified buddy list for all your contacts, customizable Growl pop-ups, an always-on-top option for contact windows or chat windows (cleverly hidden in the Window menu), and more. If you’re used to using Adium but you can’t resist the siren song of iChat’s screen sharing, Chax can add some of Adium’s features. And iChat Pro (free, infinisedesign.net) mods your contact list to look more like Adium’s, eschewing the Text, Audio, Video, and Screen Sharing buttons at the bottom of the iChat contact lists.
Voilà! Once Chax is in the house, all our buddies (AIM, .Mac, and Google Talk) are now under one roof.
If you’ve got a monochromatic background behind your computer chair to allow the video backdrops to work well, why not give yourself more to choose from? Download the aptly named MoreIchatEffects (free, ismileys.free.fr). The same page also offers additional smileys for free in (wait for it) MoreIchatSmileys. Finally, Ecamm’s iUSBcam ($9.95, www.ecamm.com), formerly known as iChatUSBCam, will let Leopard’s iChat 4 recognize your USB camcorder, a lifesaver if you don’t want to shell out $100 or so for an iSight on eBay
iChat Pro makes the contact list resemble Adium’s by streamlining the window and ditching the four buttons along the bottom.
What should come next? Cinema Displays with iSights built in, baby! If Apple can cram one into the MacBook Air, we think it can get one into a display. As far as the software side, chat apps have such a personal feel to them that the more customization features one can offer, the better. And it’d be nice to have an option for USB cameras without paying an extra $10.
Hey, Apple: A Little Help?
No matter how much a new OS is beta tested before it’s released, the sheer amount of code that goes into one means that bugs are inevitable. At press time, Leopard had been updated to version 10.5.2, which means that it should be ready for prime time. But we’re still waiting for a few issues to be resolved—and resolutions that only Apple can provide via future updates. Here’s the short list of what we’d like fixed . . . yesterday.
Not recommended if you use your notebook in lid-closed mode. There’s a workaround, but we’d prefer a true fix.
February’s (post-10.5.2) Leopard Graphics Update 1.0 messed up notebooks’ ability to operate in lid-closed mode. You should be able to run in lid-closed mode by attaching an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, closing the notebook’s lid, and then waking it up again with the keyboard or Apple Remote. Now, that same procedure doesn’t work. A workaround: Attach the external monitor while your Mac is off, then press the Mac’s power button and immediately close the lid—before the startup chime—forcing the Mac to use the external display
Our AirPort connection is working fine now, but seems to drop out more often in Mac OS 10.5.2 than it did before.
Although we’ve only experienced this issue sporadically, we’ve seen widespread complaints about it online, even in our own MacLife.com Forums. Users report that after upgrading to Mac OS 10.5.2, their AirPort connections consistently drop out, either after the Mac wakes up, or just randomly while Web surfing. This is especially infuriating for MacBook Air users, since that machine can’t connect to a network via Ethernet without the $29 USB-to-Ethernet adapter.
We have Auto Quit selected in the contextual menu, but it has no effect on our networked printer.
It isn’t that we mind seeing the printer icon in our Dock—it’s nice to have a visual confirmation that all is well and that the Mac did indeed send the job out to be printed. But in Tiger, the Dock icon would vanish after the job finished printing. Leopard gives you an option to Auto Quit when you right-click the Dock icon, but that option doesn’t work, and the printer icon quickly wears out its welcome.