updated 12:20 pm EST, Thu December 18, 2008
First Look: MacPilot
You can customize any good operating system, and Mac OS X is no exception. While the System Preferences window lets you tweak components like the desktop or audio output, many more customizable features of the OS are hidden away. To get at these buried settings the most immediate solution is to enter cryptic commands into Terminal, but if you'd rather modify a Mac using a familiar point-and-click interface, take a look at MacPilot.
The interface displays icons in a left-hand panel, which lets you select components to modify such as Dashboard, Finder or Time Machine. In addition to modifying common Mac OS X elements, the app also lets you adjust separate software including BBEdit, CyberDuck, Pages, Numbers and iPhoto.
To edit a setting, users click on an icon in the left-hand panel, and select an item to change in the main panel at right. Many of these can only be altered through an app like MacPilot, such as adding a Cut command when using the Finder, or disabling the translucent Menu Bar in Leopard.
Besides letting you customize various programs, the utility also provides a convenient list of startup items. Here you can see which programs are running in the background, gobbling up memory while slowing your computer down at the same time. The purpose of course is to turn a startup program off, or prevent it from starting up at all.
Another feature is the ability to extract Intel or PowerPC code from a Universal Binary file. This can trim down your apps without affecting functionality, although you do need to be aware that many programs can't update themselves in the future once you strip away a portion of the program.
Power users should find that MacPilot will help customize Macs to work exactly the way they want. Novices may also find the program handy for tweaking, perhaps in a way that makes using a standard Mac suddenly seem foreign and limiting. If you're looking for wizards or other tools to make the program easier, though, you won't find them. As a result, the sheer number of options available may overwhelm a beginner. When faced with a screen full of buttons, choosing the right option can be more difficult than necessary.
Still, if you like the idea of modifying your Mac without the pain of typing commands into Terminal, a 15-day trial of MacPilot is available. Once you see the hidden features the app can open up, you may find its $19.95 pricetag a good deal.