Mac Tips: Better OS 9 Settings

Apple designed the Mac OS to be customized. But the interface works so well that folks never bother changing Apple's default settings. Here are some simple changes to make your Mac work better. With these improvements, you'll be faster, happier, more attractive and a better dancer. All these apply to Mac OS 9 (and earlier), unless noted. (If you use Digidesign's Pro Tools, check their recommended settings.)

OS 9 Control Panel Settings

First, many of the Control Panels, in alphabetical order:

In Control Panels --> Appearance--> "sound" tab:

Disable most if not all sound effects. (They're cool at first, but quickly get old...)

In Control Panels --> Appearance --> "options" tab:

Check the box "Double-click title bar to collapse windows." This extra "windowshade" method is easier than the tiny "collapse box" in the upper right corner of every window. For an easy way to make an even "smarter" scrollbar, see this trick.

In Control Panels --> Date and Time:

Click "Clock Options." Check "Flash the time separators." (This is your at-a-glance system status indicator, to tell if the Mac is really frozen or just thinking...)

Also, use the Network Time Server to set your clock and to keep it accurate.

First, make sure you are connected to the Internet.

In Control Panels --> Date and Time:

Check "Use A Network Time Server".

Click "Server Options".

Then click "Set Time Now" to check your clock now. If you have an "always on" net connection, set it to automatically set your clock once a month. If not, select "Manually".

In Control Panels --> General Controls:

When the Mac OS is "force-restarted" after a crash, it will automatically run Disk First Aid (Apple's free utility) to check for damage, but only if BOTH of the following are true:

1) The Shut Down Warning must be turned ON, in the Apple Menu--> Control Panels--> General Controls ("Warn me if computer was shut down improperly" up to 9.1, in later systems it reads "Check disk if computer was shut down improperly".). This is the default setting.

2) Disk First Aid must be in the Utilities folder on your hard drive. It can't be in a subfolder. (If you are running OS 9.1 or later, the Utilities folder is in the Applications folder.)

Disk First Aid (DFA) is a very simple "first line of defense" utility that checks for damage to your directories, hard drive, etc. It is not a substitute for a fully-fledged maintenance program (such as TechTool Pro, Disk Warrior or Norton Utilities). And it does not check for viruses (get Mcafee's Virex for that). But it can cure simple problems before they snowball into major disasters. DFA comes free with every OS, or get the latest version at (8.6.1 as of 6/2002). If you are still using OS 8.x, you might need to keep an older version of DFA around for this feature to work.
The only (very minor) downside to this startup check is the pause it adds to your restart for you to hit "OK." If this really bugs you, check out DFA Doubler or this ResEdit hack. These patches remove the "OK Button" pause during restart.
And on a seperate note, turn off menu-blinking.

In Control Panels --> Internet:

Set your preferred "default e-mail application" (in the "Email" tab), "default web browser" ("Web" tab), and fill in the rest of this info for use by all applications.

In Control Panels --> Keyboard:

Repeat Rate = Fast, Delay = medium.

In Control Panels --> Memory:

Turn off virtual memory unless certain programs explicitly require it. Click "Use Defaults," and then turn OFF Virtual Memory. (Requires a restart.) If you don't have enough memory to run programs, buy RAM instead. It's cheap.
To access the hidden function that turns off the Startup Memory tests, see the Shortcut Guide.

In Control Panels --> Mouse:

Mouse Tracking = fastest. (You'll get used to it quickly, and you'll need less wrist movement.)

In Control Panels --> QuickTime Settings --> AutoPlay:

Uncheck both "Enable Audio CD AutoPlay" and "Enable CD-ROM AutoPlay". (This is annoying, and there was one rare virus that invaded via this.)

In Control Panels --> Software Update (OS 9 only):

Use this periodically. It's easy. (May require update of its own, from, before new updates will appear.)

In Control Panels --> Sound:

Pick a better alert sound, or create your own. I like "Submarine" or "Droplet." I edited my "Submarine" sound to be quieter so that I can leave all volume settings at maximum.

In Control Panels --> Speech --> Options --> Talking Alerts:

Uncheck "Speak the alert text." (Another cool Apple technology, but not necessary.)

OS 9 Finder Settings

Now, to fix a few Finder default settings.

(The Finder is your Mac's desktop, hard drive etc. Basically, when you are not in an application, you are in the Finder.)

Turn off "Calculate folder sizes."
This calculation slows everything down:

In Edit --> Preferences --> Views tab:

Select "List" from the pop-up menu. Uncheck "Calculate folder sizes". These settings are used for all windows, unless an individual window's settings are overridden in View --> View Options.

Use list views everywhere.

This offers the most efficient way to organize and access files, and allows you to view multiple nested folders in one window:

For each window: In View --> select "as List". Repeat for other windows.

Turn off "find by content" indexing.

Searching for things on your hard drive with Sherlock (command-F) can be done either by the name of the file or by the contents of the file. To search by content, the Mac needs to build an index of the contents of every file, which takes a lot of time. It also needs to update this index periodically. You might not ever need to search by content. Even if you do, you don't need the index updated very often. Once it has been done, you're fine for a while:

In the Finder, go to File --> Find or hit command-F. Sherlock will launch. Now go to Find --> Index Volumes. Next to the name of your hard drive, uncheck "Use Schedule." Or, at the bottom of the window, click "Schedule," and change it to only once a week, at a time that won't slow you down.

Turn off the "are you sure you want to..." warning when you empty the trash:

"Get Info" on the trash by control-clicking on the trashcan and selecting "Get Info". (Or by clicking it once and then pressing Command-I.)

Uncheck "Warn before emptying".