Keeping your Mac fit, fast and cool

What, you say, the geniuses of Cupertino don’t do all the speeding up and fine-tuning of OS X automatically for me?

No, they don’t.

This is not a tech blog (much more interesting stuff here) and I am not a techie, but in the interests of keeping fellow suffering computer users sane, I make these suggestions.

This post was sparked by a friend sending me Pete Vardill’s excellent but three-year-old article from Imafish which I certainly can’t beat for detailed recommendations. It’s particularly worth noting the suggestion to keep one’s desktop as clear as possible.

I have a few points to add. Firstly, Pete recommends clearing out unused preference panes, applications and dashboard apps, and I recommend Trashme as an excellent app for quickly and cleanly deleting all three. (For deleting old or orphaned preferences, try sorting your preferences folder by date, and delete all those older than three months – this is a Use At Own Risk suggestion.)


Pete also recommends the system maintenance utility Onyx. Onyx is powerful, but I personally find I get extra mileage from IceClean. Run “All tasks” (under the IceClean Maintenance menu) once a month instead of shutting down (never interrupt it while running), and you’ll be amazed at the transformation of your hitherto surly, turgid Mac. If you do nothing else suggested in this post, don’t skip this one.

Pete recommends keeping your dock clear of unused apps as a means of keeping things fast. I don’t keep any apps at all in my dock, rather using Spotlight to launch them. IceClean has a menu option for speeding up Spotlight (under Utilities) which works rather well.

Speeding up Apple Mail

Sadly, VacuumMail, a tiny app that speeds up Mail quite considerably, no longer seems to be available, but watch MacUpdate in case it reappears.

Speeding up Safari

I’m not a Steve Jobs or Apple praise singer, but on the general subject of Adobe and the software abomination called Flash, I could not agree with him more. Given how Flash heats up my (three-year-old) Macbook and drains resources, it must have a huge carbon footprint. Practically every time I run a Adobe Air app, it tries to inflict micro-updates on me. Crazy stuff.

So I recommend John Gruber’s article on living without Flash (which boils down to deleting Flash from Safari, and in future opening your current page in Chrome – easily done via the Safari Develop menu – if you absolutely have to watch a video of a dog walking on two legs).

Apple recently introduced Extensions for Safari (like “Add-ons” for Firefox). My experience is that having Extensions enabled dramatically slows down Safari… Extensions is badly implemented, it seems. I suggest keeping them turned off, if you find Safari slowing.

Managing notes with Notational Velocity

This has nothing to do with speeding up your system, but it might speed you up (I’m using it to write this post). After years of trying various systems for keeping and organising notes on my Mac, I have settled on Brett Terpstra’s versiondownload it – of the wondrously simple and usable and sync’able Notational Velocity (read about NT on Lifehacker here).

Bear in mind, the Lifehacker post will point you to the original version of Notational Velocity – Brett’s version adds a left-side menu and, if it helps, MultiMarkdown support for quick and simple formatting on the fly – go to Gruber again, for the in-depth guide on Markdown.

(Lifehacker is a great source of hints and tips on all manner of things.)

Feel free to comment!

About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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