If your going to maximize productivity, you need to be able to enjoy your work environment. I work on a Mac all day, and I think that Apple has done a great job with their theme. Unfortunately, no matter how good a skin looks, its gets boring pretty quick when you sit in front of it all day, every day. Luckily, there are a few tricks to really making your computer yours, and Iâ€™m going to share some of mine. (These tips are for Leopard, the newest version of OS X, but most of them should work on earlier versions.)
The first and most obvious is the wallpaper. The internet is full of useful sources. Two places I like are http://digitalblasphemy.com/ which is a pay site, but has some pretty sweet free options, and http://www.deviantart.com/ which contains a wide range of art, but with a little cropping most images will fit. Also for all you proud Apple users out there, you can check out http://www.usingmac.com/2008/5/18/50-nice-apple-wallpapers.
The second biggest thing you can do to alter your experience is changing your icons. This is a two step process. First you have to find icons you like. They’re all over the Internet, but http://iconfactory.com has both free and pay icon sets available. Some of the themes are pretty ugly, but there are some real gems hidden away. Once you have icons you like there are two ways of customizing your computer. The first is by copying and pasting the icons into the folder’s Info screen, as explained at http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/how-to-change-mac-os-x-leopard-icons/. The second method is to purchase a tool called Candybar. It seems like a waste of money, but it is really addictive. It makes changing your default icons really fun and easy. It also allows for changing your dock, and entire themes from IconFactory can be applied with a single click. Plus it stores all your themes so mixing and matching icons from different sets is a breeze. It comes as a free demo, so I recommend giving it a try.
Once youâ€™ve chosen your background and set up your icons, youâ€™ll want to get the details to match your theme. In system preferences, you can choose the highlight colours for lists, and some dock features. I like browsing in column mode, but if you prefer the â€œIcon Viewâ€ you can set colours and background images for finder windows. There is an explanation of this trick at http://www.thinkmac.net/blog/archives/mac-tips-daily-218-folder-backgrounds.html. You can even modify your login screen with the tutorial found at http://osxdaily.com/2007/02/22/customize-the-mac-os-x-login-screen/. My point is that if there is something you want to change, you should perform a google search, because you would be amazed at your options.
Thatâ€™s about it for the OS theme. There are a few applications which I like because they really add to the experience and the look. Instead of using iChat for interoffice communication I like to use Adium. It is very flexible for the look and feel, but doesnâ€™t handle video as well. I also really like using CoverSutra to play my music. Iâ€™m one of those people who loves listening to music while I work, but flipping back and forth to iTunes is annoying and can slow me down. CoverSutra lets me hot-key all of my music, provides a SpotLight like quick search and most importantly, places the icon of the album on my screen. This is particularly good for a well organized music library. One thing to note is the bright pink icon that CoverSutra comes with. If you decide to purchase this application, you should use one of the tricks above to change the icon.
Iâ€™d love to hear what tricks you have for customizing you desktop experience.