4.5. Designing Your Desktop
In some ways, just buying a Macintosh is a renegade act of self-expression. But that's
only the beginning. Now it's time to fashion the computer screen itself according to your
personal sense of design and fashion.
4.5.1. System Preferences
Cosmetically speaking, Mac OS X offers two dramatic full-screen features: desktop
backgrounds and screen savers.
The command center for both of these functions is the System Preferences program
(which longtime Mac and Windows fans may recognize as the former Control Panels).
Open it by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock, if it's there, or by choosing
its name from the menu.
When the System Preferences program opens, you can choose a desktop picture or screen
saver by clicking the Desktop & Screen Saver button. For further details on these System
Preferences panes, see Section 4.5.1.
4.5.2. Graphic Designers' Corner: The Gray Look
One of the earliest objections to the lively, brightly colored look of Mac OS X came from
Apple's core constituency: artists and graphic designers. Some complained that Mac OS
X's bright blues (of scroll bar handles, progress bars, the menu, pulsing OK buttons,
highlighted menu names and commands), along with the red, green, and yellow window-
corner buttons, threw off their color judgment.
These features have been greatly toned down since the original version of MacOSX.The
pulsing effects are subtler, the three-dimensional effects are less drastic, and the button
colors are less intense. It's all part of Mac OS X's gradual de-colorization; in Leopard,
both the menu and the Spotlight menu have gone from colorful to black.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
How do I change the fonts used by the Mac OS X Finder?
In Mac OS versions gone by, you could choose any font you liked for your icon
labels. You even had a choice of fonts for use in your menus.
Nowadays, that flexibility is gone. You get Lucida Grande in your menus and as
icon labels—love it or leave it. You can change the type size in System
Preferences, but not the font.
For now, Apple intends to remain conservative with the look of Mac OS X–both
for "branding" reasons (to make Mac OS X instantly recognizable) and for
technical ones (to make sure that it doesn't open a Pandora's box of interface
hacks that wind up destabilizing the machine).
But that's just Apple's intention. You can still fiddle with Mac OS X's look, as
described in Chapter 17.
But in case they still bother artists, Apple created what it calls the Graphite look for Mac
OS X, which turns all of those interface elements gray instead of blue. To try out this
look, choose System Preferences;click Appearance;and then choose Graphite
from the Appearance pop-up menu.
Tip: The Highlight Color pop-up menu lets you choose a different accent color for your
Mac world. This is the background color of highlighted text, the colored oval that appears
around highlighted icon names, and a window's "lining" as you drag an icon into it.
4.5.3. Desktop Sounds
Desktop sounds are the tiny sound effects that accompany certain mouse drags. And
we're talking tiny—they're so subdued that you might not have noticed them. You hear a
little plink/crunch when you drop an icon onto the Trash, a boingy thud when you drag
something into a folder, a whoof! when you drag something off the Dock and into
oblivion, and so on. The little thud that you hear at the end of a file-copying job is
actually useful, because it alerts you that the task is complete.
If all that racket is keeping you awake, however, it's easy enough to turn it off. Open
System Preferences, click the Sound icon, and then turn off "Play user interface sound
And if you decide to leave them turned on, please—use discretion when working in a
library, neurosurgical operating room, or church.