Background tools and basics

I spent the last two days watching my computer be a 45 minute drive away according to FedEx, but it turned up this morning!

So, the first thing that I do with a new machine is set up all those small things that make life manageable. Plus all the individual little touches. Then setting up the basics of the dock, and the apps I use most frequently, and then the bookmarks for the browsers. (You can click through for larger versions, and I’ve got closeups of the dock and menu bar below.


The desktop when I started: galaxy wallpaper, default application items in dock




wallpaper of light filtering down into water, with icons in blue, black, and grays in the dock (description of icons follows)

new computer – after

dock - icons in blues and grays and blacks, described below

In the dock, you see, from left to right: the finder, Chrome, iTunes, Firefox (which I use mostly for Netflix these days), Spotify, and Scrivener. I’ve changed all of the icons, obviously. On the right side of the dock, you see a sonic screwdriver (for my ‘other useful apps’ folder), and a Tardis key (for my ‘to sort’ file.) And then of course the trash can. As you can see, I decided to set this all up with blues and blacks and grays

(The sun in the upper right corner is Jing, which I use for screenshots. It’s normally faded out.)

In the top menu bar, you see f.lux, jiTouch, Bluetooth, volume, Time Machine, search, FuzzyClock (my clock) and the reminders app.

My first steps:

  • Download Chrome so I can have notes handy. (Also, email and chat)
  • Do my initial run of major bookmarks I use all the time.
  • Download Jing so I can take the screenshots for this post the way I want.
  • Move the files for the icon and wallpaper and changes I want.

System preferences: Go into system preferences and set various things. These include:

  • Energy settings
  • Shortcut settings: I turn most of them off unless I’m going to use them. (It helps if the cat and the keyboard meet up.)
  • Dock: Display at the bottom. Set stacks to lists.

Necessary extensions: 

  • f.lux is a weird little extension that basically helps you have fewer unwanted effects from screen time – it affects the brightness and color of the light from your screen. I keep mine set on “candle” but there are lots of options.
  • I use FuzzyClock instead of my default clock. It also has an option so you can set it to say things like “Go to work” or “Go to bed” at specific times.
  • I love my MacBook trackpad, and I got the trackpad for the iMac as well. I use an extension called JiTouch, which lets you assign even more gestures.  The ones I use all the time and that are way easier on my hands include: next/previous tab, open link in new tab, close tab, refresh.

If you share your computer, I warn you that this last one will deeply confuse most people, even if they’re used to using a Mac and a trackpad. I also note that the one thing I cannot retrain my automatic response to when swapping between a Windows machine and a Mac is the scroll direction on the trackpad. (I solve this by using a mouse at work.)

Wallpaper: I’m one of those people who is somewhat finicky about my desktop wallpaper and icons. And I go through periods of changing things up. My current go-to for home use are wallpapers from Right now, I’m attracted to deeply saturated colors, relatively simple designs or things that play with texture, and (unsurprising to anyone who knows me) blues and greens and purples over warmer colours.

Particular favorites (not all in current use, but I was checking for new ones anyway) include:

For other icons: It is sort of not fair to change icons extensively if you share your machine. I don’t, so I do. (And I do not consider myself bound by the icons designed for a particular program: I sometimes mix and match.)

I collect icons and use a mix, including the defaults, the Flurry sets from IconFactory, folder sets and some of the desktop icons from Marmalade Moon, and CandyBar to do some of the editing. (However, due to changes in how Apple handles things, CandyBar is now free but unsupported: read more at the link.)

And then bits and pieces from other places, including the IconFactory Doctor Who sets (one and two) and Indiana Jones (who doesn’t want a Grail diary icon?) Other places worth checking out include IconpaperWe Love Icons and Deviant Art (look in the Customization -> Icons -> Dock Icons category and then search for things that amuse you.) This roundup has some good places to start, too. I often find creators I like, and then browse their other stuff.

I also have a number of things dowloaded from Kate England (especially her folder icons): she is moving on to other projects, but you can (until the end of January) download her archives.

Set up the dock: The Apple default is to put lots and lots of things on your dock. I do not like this default, and remove anything I do not always have open or use daily. Things I use regularly but not all the time get an alias that lives in the Other Apps folder on the dock (so they’re a click or two away) Things I do not use often live in the Applications folder. I have not yet moved all my apps over (just the ones I use all the time), but I’ll go into that once I’ve got everything set up again.

Right now, you see my basic dock, which is: Finder, Chrome, Spotify, Firefox, iTunes, Scrivener, the holding folder for my ‘other apps’ (currently just includes Jing, which is my go-to for screenshots), and my ‘to sort’ folder where I stick anything that’s cluttering up other folders (downloads, the desktop, etc.) until I get around to sorting through it. I pick icons that go with my

Set up the immediate bookmarks: The places I go all the time, basically. Gmail. (Actually, this was very easy: Chrome was set up to sync)

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Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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