How to Customize Your Mac: A Guide For Advanced Users

Last Updated: February 23, 2017

While Mac has been a pretty popular option amongst productivity freaks, it isn’t exactly known for its customization. Therefore, I waded through dozens of apps to bring you this article on how to customize your Mac’s look. After all, there’s nothing like customizing your Mac to make it your own and add to its emotional value.

The introduction of System Integrity Protection (SIP) in EL Capitan put a nail in the coffin for several notable customization apps like Flavour, which added new themes to the Mac. While most of the apps have stopped working with El Capitan and newer versions, there are other ways to customize Mac. So, without any further ado, here are the 5 best ways to customize Mac:

1. Built-in Settings in macOS

I can almost hear you screaming that this guide was meant to be for advanced users only, and yet here I am, showcasing the inbuilt settings. Sometimes, we focus too much on the sophistication part that we forget to get along with simplicity. For instance, amongst the myriad of sophisticated Mac applications, it’s easy to forget the handy inbuilt apps on the Mac. If you believe we still aren’t on the same page, feel free to skip to the next section directly.

To access the inbuilt settings, go to “System Preferences” from the menu bar on the top.

  • The “General” tab allows you to select the appearance for Windows, highlight colour, sidebar icon size and even enable a dark theme for the dock/menubar.

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  • The “Desktop & Screensaver” tab allows you to set different wallpapers/screensaver and adds in some neat features like changing wallpapers automatically after a certain time, and changing wallpapers in random order.

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  • The “Dock” tab allows changing dock size, magnifications and several other dock-related options.

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2. Create Desktop Widgets Using GeekTool

GeekTool is to macOS what Rainmeter is to Windows. It’s been around for years, has a bit of learning curve associated, but can produce some spectacular widgets for your macOS desktop. For starters, I’ll be showing you how to create a weather widget using GeekTool.

First of all, download and open GeekTool. For the weather widget, we’ll be using a custom HTML forecast embed by the folks over at Dark Sky. (h/t u/SarenSabertooth)

Drag the “Web” Geeklet from the GeekTool window to your desktop. A new window titled “Properties” should open and, and a transparent placeholder should be created on your desktop.

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In the “Properties” window, under the text field beside URL, enter the following URL and press enter—

http://forecast.io/embed/#lat=28.625093&lon=77.209473&name=New Delhi

You will need to replace the latitude and longitude to match your place using a service like iTouchmap. You can set the widget to refresh after a certain time in the “Properties” window. This is how it should look like after you are done with the setup—

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So, there you have it. A clean and beautiful weather widget on your Mac’s desktop. If you’re looking to gain even more control like changing the font, colour or the units, head over to Dark Sky’s website, which shows you all the custom parameters that the URL accepts.

Of course, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible with GeekTool. It can be used to create widgets that display the system information, CPU/RAM usage, calendars amongst hundreds of other things. Since it’s not possible to mention every widget, I’d recommend you to visit GeekTool’s official website, which lists some pretty cool widgets you can create. Once you get familiar with GeekTool’s functionality, you can personalize your Mac with some great widgets. Just don’t go overboard with it, as it might cause performance issues.

3. Use cDock to customize your Dock

The Dock is an integral part of your Mac. It’s where you can pin certain applications for faster access and access open documents (unless you become a keyboard ninja!).

cDock is a third-party solution that adds tons of settings to customize your dock. Before you can start using cDock, you’ll need to disable SIP on Mac if you’re running macOS El Capitan 10.11 or later. We have covered how to disable SIP in one of our earlier posts. Once you’ve disabled SIP, you can continue to download cDock as usual and open it.

To begin with, it includes more than 20 themes and allows changing seemingly minor aspects of the dock like dock border, and colour indicator lights.

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Along with the looks, it can even change the dock’s behaviour to only show active apps or dim hidden applications. Explore the tons of settings you can change with cDock here.

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Remember that some of the settings will require you to “Restart Dock” for changes to take effect. It also includes an option to “Reset” settings under the “Dock” tab in case you want to restore to the original version. For more dock customization, you can check out our detailed article on the same.

4. Use mySIMBL to Customize Mac

mySIMBL uses plugins to inject custom code and thus add new features to existing apps for Mac. As you might have guessed, using mySIMBL requires you to disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) on El Capitan or newer Macs. Once you’ve disabled SIP, download mySIBL. It supports macOS 10.9 and above.

In the “Discover” tab, you can find various plugins to enhance and add new functionality to your Mac. Installing a plugin is as easy as clicking on a plugin name and clicking “Install”.

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Some of my favourite plugins are:

  • Binventory: Adds an item count to the trash icon in the Dock.

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  • BlurFocus: Blurs all the open background windows.
  • cleanHUD: Replaces Apple’s default volume/brightness control overlay to a much cleaner and minimal overlay.

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  • CustomNC: Customize Notification center alerts.

My only gripe with mySIMBL is that it is a bit buggy at times. Some of the tweaks will require you to restart your Mac. Some tweaks may not work on all versions of macOS, too. Nevertheless, mySIMBL is one such app which is worth giving a shot. Feel free to browse through other plugins and let me know which ones are your favourite.

5. Even More Ways to Customize Your Mac

  • Menu bar apps are dope on Mac, but some unnecessary apps can make your menu bar look cluttered. You can re-arrange/remove menu bar apps by dragging them around while holding down the CMD button on your keyboard. Note that this works with Apple’s system apps and some third-party applications only. If you’re looking for a more robust solution, you should grab a copy of Bartender 2.

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SEE ALSO: 5 Apps to Stay Healthy While Working on Your Mac

Customize Mac Using These Ways

According to me, these were some of the best ways to customize your Mac interface. You can use a combination of tweaks to dramatically enhance the Mac interface. I tried the following options and apps in my MacBook Air running macOS Sierra and they worked out fine for me. So, try these methods out and let us know how they worked out for you. So, have you customized your Mac? Let me know in the comments below if you find another customization app worth mentioning.

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