Essential tasks after installing OS X Yosemite

After installing a new version of OS X, there are always lots of essential tasks to perform to get it running exactly the way you prefer. OS X Yosemite for the Apple Mac comes with predefined settings that are mostly OK, but everyone has their own preferences and it takes a few tweaks here and there to get the Mac just the way you like it. Here are some of the changes I made to Yosemite after installing it.

General settings

I generally go to the Apple menu, System Preferences and open each of the items in turn after installing or reinstalling OS X, checking that the settings are the way I want. The first item is General and an item I always change is Sidebar icon size. Open a Finder window and on the left in the sidebar are often used locations like Applications, Desktop, Documents, Downloads and so on.

The Sidebar icon size setting changes not only the size of the icons used, but also the text. If you work on a small screen, such as a MacBook, the text is too large and it is better to select the Small setting.

I always have a problem with scrollbars in windows. They seem to automatically hide and reappear at the most inconvenient times and instead of making windows easier to use, they make them harder. I always set Show scrollbars to Always.

OS X Yosemite General preferences

Desktop and Screen Saver

Open Desktop and Screen Saver in System Preferences, select the Screen Saver tab and click the Hot Corners button at the bottom. The four items enable you to perform actions when the mouse is moved to the four corners of the screen. Choose a corner and then select Put Display to Sleep.

This enables the screen to be switched off simply by pushing the mouse into the corner of the screen. It is useful if you are using battery power on a MacBook and want to do something away from your computer for a minute, like check your phone, go and get a drink, read something and so on.

Desktop and Screen Saver settings in OS X Yosemite

Dock

Apple seems to think that everyone likes animations and windows animate when appearing on the screen and when they are minimised. I don't and it would be good to have an option to completely eliminate it, but there isn't. In the Dock settings in Preferences is a tick box to enable/disable animations when opening applications, but when minimising windows you must select one of two animations. Scale effect is the lesser of two evils.

Another essential setting here for MacBook owners is Automatically hide and show the dock. The Dock takes up too much of the screen, which is small anyway as it is a laptop. Turning on this setting hides the Dock except when you push the mouse to the very bottom of the screen.

OS X Yosemite Dock settings

Mission Control

The Dashboard has been in OS X for years and it enables you to run widgets, which as small and simple apps, on the desktop. Does anyone still use desktop widgets? If you do, you need to turn on the Dashboard in Mission Control because it is off by default. I don't use widgets, so this is fine for me, but if you do like them, turn it on and get your widgets here https://www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard/

Language and Region

What day is the first day of the week? That's not a silly question and some people prefer to have Monday as the first day because it is the start of the work week. Monday is actually the default in Yosemite, but in Language and Region you can reset it to Sunday if you prefer.

Displays

The Mac is able to mirror the display to other screens, such as a big screen TV that has an Apple TV attached, external monitors and so on. If you do not regularly use external displays you might want to remove the icon from the menu bar to keep it cleaner and simpler. Open Displays and clear the tick against Show mirroring options in the menu bar when available.

Keyboard

Hold a key down, such as when entering text, and the key will repeat, so you get aaaaaaaaa, or whatever key you hold down. The length of time you have to wait before the key starts repeating and the speed at which it repeats are in Keyboard in System Preferences. I find the default settings far too slow and drag both sliders to the right - Fast for the repeat and Short for the delay.

Yosemite Keyboard options

It is actually hard to find any app in which this works though. Holding down a key usually doesn't repeat and instead you get a selection of foreign versions of the character.

Trackpad

If you have a MacBook or an iMac with a trackpad, open Trackpad in System Preferences. You might want to tick all the options, so you can tap to click, tap with two fingers to Ctrl+click (like right clicking on a two-button mouse), and three-finger drag.

App Store

Open the App Store in System Preferences and turn off all the options. This means that the Mac will not automatically check for updates and install them. Instead, you must manually open the App Store from the Dock and click the Updates tab. The reason for turning off auto-updates is that it is best not to be the first to install something. Wait a few days and see if there are any reports of problems. If you don't hear anything, go ahead and install an update.

The option to automatically download apps purchased on other Macs is sometimes useful, but not always. Different Macs often have different uses and so it is best to go to the App Store and download anything you need. You don't want to fill your Mac with apps your kids are downloading on their Mac, for example.

Date and Time

Do you really not know what day of the week it is? Do you need to look at the menu bar to find out? Why have the day in the menu bar - it is next to the clock. Open Date and Time in System Preferences, select Clock and clear the tick against Show the day of the week. A more useful option is just below it, Show date. I don't always know the date and having it in the menu bar is a useful reminder.

Accessibility

I really dislike transparency effects and there are a lot in Yosemite. The menu bar is an obvious place where transparency appears, but as you use OS X you will find many other places. If you want to turn it off, and it is one of the first things I did, open Accessibility. Select Display on the left and tick Reduce transparency. There is an option to increase contrast too and it has an effect on window features, such as putting borders around buttons and boxes, and text, making light grey dark grey and other pale colours darker. You may find it easier to use the screen.

Reduce transparency in Yosemite

Battery indicator

By default, there is a battery level indicator in the menu bar, but this doesn't really give enough information. You can't tell exactly how much battery power is left from the graphic and two similar values like 30% and 40% look the same. Click the battery icon and tick Show percentage.

Customise the sidebar

Open a Finder window and on the left in the sidebar are some useful locations, like the Documents folder, Desktop, Downloads and so on. It does not show your home folder, which is surely a useful location to have there. Click Go in the menu bar, Computer. Open the disk drive, open the Users folder, then click and drag the home folder to the sidebar and drop it wherever you want it.

 

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Comments

3

Thank you for all this usefull informations!

Hope backups are ready to safe install OS X Yosemite on Mac.

This was very usefull to me since I'm new to mac and this made a significant performance gain. (no more laggy animations :)). I wish you could made a more thorough 'walkthrough' which goes deeper then just the essentials.

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