A Roundup of OSX Utilities

By Graham K. Rogers

Not all users are au fait with the need for regular maintenance utilities for OSX. These clean up logs and file databases: the system runs less well if they are not done. It is a grouse of some that Apple never mentions these. If the computer is running 24 hours a day, they are not needed and activate automatically. If the Mac sleeps, or is off, they will not run.

macaroniMy particular favourite is Macaroni: this week updated to version 2.0.4. It runs the daily, weekly and monthly scripts at startup (or activation from sleep) and also repairs permissions once a week. A recent addition is a routine to remove unwanted languages. The program, by Atomic Bird, runs for 35 days before you need to pay ($8.99 with discounts starting at 2 computers). It is unobtrusive: you can run it outside the schedules (via System Preferences).

mac_janitorOne of the all-time favourites among Mac users is MacJanitor (1.2.1): freeware that runs the regular scripts when you click the buttons. That is it: no time-scheduling, no extras, and no problems. Like all the software here, nothing happens until you enter an Admin password. Each of these is a graphical interface for Unix commands. This, along with many other OSX applications, is available from VersionTracker.

cocktailA standby for OSX maintenance, Cocktail, has just been upgraded to version 3.5 for Panther (3.4.9 for Jaguar). An updated version for Jaguar (3.5) will be available in February.

System utilities, like MacJanitor or Macaroni, look after the important regular maintenance items, while an appplication like TinkerTool (below) will allow some system-tuning. Cocktail falls between the two types. It allows a user to schedule maintenance tasks, but adds to the tranche by allowing changes to to signficant system attributes, as well as cleaning out logs and caches.

I had an earlier version that I ran for a year or more. It was freeware then. Now shareware, but considerably expanded, it includes network optimisation, and several methods to change both interface and the way applications operate. It has the ability to restart the computer in Single-user mode (usually done with the Command key + S), as well as shutdown and Sleep changes. Some of this might be risky (or scary) in inexperienced hands.

Tinker Tool came to light a couple of years ago and was best known for the trick of allowing a user to put the Dock at the top of the screen, rather than the default bottom or sides. Like all of these, it accesses the Unix to save the user the heartache of working at the command line.


The most recent version (3.3) is still freeware and Dr. Marcel Bresink is to be lauded for this. It has some tricks that none of the other utiities has, so remains as one of the favourites of my toolbox. Of particular value is the Safari item, which allows the addition of a Debug menu. This alone is worth downloading Tinker Tool for: Debug includes a "spoof" item at the bottom which makes websites think Safari is really another browser. This is useful when you are trying to access sites that are not written to WWW Consortium standards, for example those that demand IE6.

Note: this spoof does not work for all, particularly if .aspx pages are involved. Those whose sites keep out those who do not use IE (OSX, Linux et al) will lose sales.

A new kid on the block, and quite popular on the Apple Forums, is OnyX (version 1.4.7). This is freeware and not only has the regular maintenance, but some of the tools found in other utilities. It opens with a narrow panel (the interface can be changed within the application) with eight choices: Appearance, Maintenance, Cleaning, Automation Logs, Info (about the computer) and Preferences.

Included in the eight is the ability to access Unix "Man" pages (the "manuals" that explain how to use each command). I had not seen this before, although (in Terminal) I often type in "man" plus the command I am seeking information for (e.g man ls). OnyX also enables the Safari "Debug" menu.


Repair Permissions is included in several of these appications. It is mostly run from the Apple Disk Utility. Although utilities can run it automatically, I also do this before and after installation of software or an update. Some utilities have the ability to clean caches (system and Internet). I try to avoid this unless there are clearly problems, although I do edit cookies to clean out some of the unnecessary ones.

The utilities here are no more than friendly interfaces to the Unix command line. The ability to access the underlying Unix is one of the beauties of OSX for me. Although some users are perfectly content (rightly so) to use the OSX interface, Terminal (and X11) are a lot quicker. I have some of the simple commands on a suggestions page.

Note: As is often the case, between writing and printing, updates of software are released. Onyx has now been updated to version 1.4.9. Updating was quick and clean, retaining all settings.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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