Mac OS X looks great and runs smoothly right out of the box. But if you wanted to make minor tweaks to the interface or automate specific maintenance tasks, in the past you had to know how to use the command line. Fortunately, some savvy developers have made it possible to perform once-difficult tasks through the use of an easy-to-understand interface. We have a couple of freshly-reviewed programs this week that make tweaks and useful maintenance tasks in Mac OS X much easier for the regular user.
Cocktail (Leopard or Tiger) is perfect for those who like to tinker with their Macs. With Cocktail you can help with routine maintenance and customization across your disks, system, files, network, and even your interface. You'll be able to perform other tasks, such as clearing out your cache for speedier computing and adjusting the appearance of your Dock and Finder. Cocktail's Pilot feature makes it possible to set up a schedule for regular maintenance, so you can rest assured your Mac is running at peak performance. One of the best things about the application is the extensive help manual, which will guide you through even the most complex of Cocktail's tasks. All this functionality isn't free ($14.95), but the 10-use trial lets you take a look at all the Cocktail has to offer.
Onyx (Leopard or Tiger) offers a set of tools similar to Cocktail's, with some minor differences. OnyX can help you with everything from checking S.M.A.R.T. status on your disks to configuring the Dock, Finder, Dashboard, and Expose. One of my favorite tweaks with OnyX is the ability to have an animated desktop background. You won't get the scheduled, routine maintenance that comes with Cocktail's Pilot feature, but you may be able to look past it, because, well, OnyX is free.
Even though Mac OS X is a great experience from its first launch, sometimes people like to get under the hood and make customizations of their own. Thankfully, there are programs like OnyX and Cocktail to keep the guesswork out of small tweaks and routine maintenance, making it possible for people like you and me to make tweaks of our own.