How to Add/Remove Startup Items in Mac OS X

In Windows, users may be familiar with using the msconfig utility to enable and disable programs from starting up on boot.

On Mac OS X, this is handled in a number of places:

Application’s Preferences Window

Sometimes, an application will have a “Launch at startup” or “Run on Log On” or “Automatically Start” checkbox in its preferences. To check, make sure the application is active (its name appears in the app menu (top left, next to the Apple icon), and click its name and then Preferences or Settings (shortcut is usually Command+,) or click its icon in the menu bar (top right near clock) and choose Preferences or Settings.

Under Accounts > Login Items

You may also add/remove/hide apps from starting up under System Preferences > Accounts > Login Items. NOTICE: Any item ON the list will startup automatically when you login. Checking the box HIDES that app from the Dock (but it still runs!) – To disable an app from starting up, delete it from the list.

Starting Up Services

In Windows, this is done in the Control Panel > Administration window, under Services. In Mac OS X, services are handled differently. First, you may enable some services under System Preferences > Sharing. For example, checking the “Web Sharing” option turns on the Apache web server on boot. For more details and far more control, see How to Enable/Disable Services in Mac OS X.

Macbook Display or External Display Automatically Dimming?

Are you annoyed that your Macbook display is going dim randomly? This may be caused by a number of things.

Checking Your Macbook Light Sensor

Macbooks have a light sensor which can detect changes in ambient light, and adjust the brightness of the Macbook display accordingly. If you turn off the lights, the screen dims, saving you power and eye strain. Brightness is ramped up if the lights go on. This is sometime desirable, but may become annoying, particularly if you’re not sure why it happens.

To locate this feature, click Apple menu -> System Preferences -> Displays and look for “Automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes” on the bottom. This might not be available if your Macbook does not contain a light sensor, or if you’re looking at an external display rather than the Macbook display. If enabled, the Brightness level indicator pulsates.

The light sensor is located near the right side of the keyboard on older models, and next to the webcam on newer models. Try putting your hand on either of these spots while looking at the screen or brightness level to find it.

What About External Displays?

This feature does not apply to external screens you may have plugged into your Macbook, but some displays, particularly Samsung, have a dynamic contrast feature which will automatically adjust the contrast/brightness depending on what you have on screen.

Checking External Displays

To test this out, have two big windows open on your external display. One with a white background, and one with a black background. Switch between the windows, and see if your display is dimming automatically. If so, check your monitor’s menu for a “Dynamic Contrast” option. On Samsung models, this is located under the “MagicBright”option.

Other causes – Energy Saver

The Energy Saver panel under System Preferences contains two options which cause the screen to dim automatically. “Slightly dim the display when using this power source” is turned on for battery power, and will keep the display dim throughout the entire session you’re using this power source. If you unplug your AC adapter from the Macbook, you will see the Macbook display become slightly dim. This option is not available under the Power Adapter energy source.

The other option is “Automatically reduce brightness before display goes to sleep” which will dim the screen, giving you a heads up that your Mac is about to go to sleep. The screen returns to its initial brightness when you move the mouse or press something on the keyboard.

Keyboard Key Lights Turning On/Off Automatically

This is caused by the “Illuminate keyboard in low light conditions” option in the Keyboard panel under System Preferences.

Essential Mac Shortcuts

CMD + ALT + F this is to give focus to the search bar in Finder, Safari, Camino, etc.

Shift + ALT + G in Finder lets you jump to a folder by name (Go to Folder under the Go menu in Finder). This window supports tab completion, meaning you can type out part of a folder/filename and hit Tab to have the name completed for you. Be careful of ambiguities.

CMD + W closes a window in nearly every app

CMD + Q quits nearly every app. Quitting means the app is shut down and taken out of memory.

CTRL + CMD + D while your mouse hovers over a word will open up the definition of that word in Dictionary. This only works for Cocoa apps.

CMD + Z to undo

CTRL + SHIFT + CMD + E to edit in external browser

shift + CMD + [ (or ]) to move left/right through tabs

CMD + SPACE for spotlight

CTRL + C to kill shit in Terminal

CMD + , for preferences

Running Windows or Linux Inside Mac OS X

You can run another OS inside Mac OS X as if it were an application. This is NOT the same as installing Windows on your Mac, like you would do using something like Bootcamp. This means having and using OS X like you normally do, with the addition of having a window running Windows in which you can do (almost – see pros and cons) everything you would normally do on a machine running Windows exclusively. This means installing applications, using the Internet, testing your software or configurations, creating and utilizing media, and so forth.

This is done by using programs that act as Virtual Machines. These let your computer share resources among multiple operating systems.

Why would somebody want to do this?

Running multiple operating systems on a single machine can be useful in many situations:

You want to use an application that is not available natively for their own OS.

You want to test your application on different operating systems, and/or different versions of an operating system (Windows 7, Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server Edition, etc).

You want to test your site in different browsers to make sure it looks right. This is especially common for web developers and designers who want to make sure their web apps and sites look good and work in Internet Explorer, and for different versions of IE.

You want to learn another operating system, perhaps Windows, Linux, or BSD.

Being able to double click an icon and have Windows or another OS boot up inside your OS is just plain awesome.

The Pros

The major pro is being able to quickly boot up and use an OS without having to reboot or logout of OS X. This is especially helpful for designers and programmers who are only interested in quickly checking to make sure their apps are working in every major OS/browser.

You can run an OS created for a system that you don’t have. Qemu for example can emulate other CPUs (ARMs) directly on your Intel or PowerPC.

Backups and security may be easier to do on a guest OS. Essentially, the entire OS will be packaged into a single file or directory that you can move, copy, or save for backups or future use. Most VM software is also capable of creating snapshots of an OS (not to be confused with stuff like System Restore for Windows).

Being able to share files and resources between the guest OS and natively running OS in realtime. This means I can use Winamp for Windows to play music I have on my Mac, or being able to. Even just being able to copy and paste between 2 OSes is neat.

Guest OSes act as a quick and safe sandbox for testing things out. Run all the malware you want, poke around in the system’s internals without fear of rendering your computer un-bootable.

The Cons

Running a guest OS may be CPU intensive and so may eat up battery life. Something to be cautious about when running multiple OSes on your Macbooks with no access to a charger or power outlet.

Some things might don’t work in a virtual machine. Some VM software works at a higher level in the OS, with no direct access to some hardware on the machine they are being run. This means not having access to the video card, for instance, and therefore no capability of running things that make extensive use of it, like games, or DirectX in general. However, this particular issue is being addressed, and as of this writing may not be a problem at all. VMware Fusion 2 supports DirectX 9.0.

Being that your resources will be shared with the guest OS you’re running inside OS X, it means that the guest OS will not run at its optimal level. This is usually OK depending on what you’re doing, but may be a problem when trying to run huge apps inside a virtual machine on a slow Mac.

What are the requirements?

Ideally, you want a CPU that supports “Virtualization” which most versions of the Intel Core 2 Duo does, but most virtual machine software can run without this, albeit a little less efficiently.

You also need the operating system you wish to install. This can be done from a disk image (ISO file you’ve downloaded for example), or a CD/DVD of that OS, that you’d normally boot into and install on a new machine.

How do I do this?

There are multiple options available for Mac. Here are a few:

VMware Fusion

Other Options to Consider

BootCamp (comes with OS X)

Dealing With Annoying Slide Animation in Spaces

UPDATE 12/23/2010: The fix below is deprecated. To disable the animation, enter the following in console:

defaults write workspaces-swoosh-animation-off -bool YES && killall Dock


This video shows VirtueDesktops running on Snow Leopard.

As somebody who came to Mac from a Linux background, Spaces never impressed me. It’s lacking very fundamental desktop-management features. There’s no workspace selection box in the Dock.

It becomes sluggish over (a very short) time. At first I thought my Mac was slowing down, but then I noticed that it only occurred when I switched spaces. The animation was choppy, and became choppier the longer my Macbook remained on.

You can’t disable the animation. In my search for a way to do this, I came across people complaining about this and requesting it as a feature since at least 2007. This seems like an obvious (and relatively straightforward) feature to implement. You can’t even hack the application to get it working. There are of course ways to mod or ‘hack’ the app itself to alter its behavior, but it doesn’t seem like the concern is worth the massive effort.

The animation makes people sick, it causes a headache, it’s not that impressive after awhile, it’s very confusing and disorienting. When it becomes sluggish, it causes me major irritability.

There are alternative apps you can use. Unfortunately, development stopped for all of these apps as soon as Leopard was released with Spaces. These apps were written for OS X 10.4 (Tiger), and so most don’t even work. Most of the ones that do, suck, but one does one. VirtueDesktops works on Snow Leopard (minus some features) good enough for daily use.

Press cmd+Space to bring up Spotlight, and search for “p spaces” and choose the first option, Expose & Spaces System Preferences. Uncheck “Enable Spaces” – all windows you had on inactive spaces will be merged onto your current space. Now open VirtueDesktop, and you’re pretty much set. Press alt + Tab to select a workspace, and viola – the change is instant. If you’d like to set shortcuts keys to jump directly to a workspace, or just want to check out the existing shortcuts, go to the Bindings page. Here, right click and choose the “Set Workspace ‘Main'” etc for each workspace you have, and double click the trigger column to set a shortcut key. I use ctrl + [1-4] and have my Caps Lock bound to Ctrl.

By default, the app has Main, Mail, Browsing, Code. To change these labels or add/remove workspaces, click the Virtue icon in your status menu and “Inspect Active Desktop” under the “Active Desktop” menu.

Space (not Spaces) – cannot set keys to switch to direct workspace

Virtue – Though it has many bugs, I still prefer using this to using Spaces.
Crashes when you go to inspect -> applications.

You cannot move windows between apps.

The frontmost app is given focus when you switch to that space, as opposed to
focus remaining on whatever app you last clicked.

if you quit, apps on other workspaces are not shown, gotta re-open Virtue to access those workspaces.

Sometimes the desktop will change on its own when you right click a Dock icon and hit “new window”

Virtue Tips:     

use shift + tab to show the desktop selection screen (pager) – this stays open.

use alt + tab to show overlay pager

Display window control crashes (alt + cmd + O)

cubicles – very broken. Does not work. asks you to create a new cubicle and then just slowly redraws the desktop and crashes

Just Got a Mac. Now What? An OS X Primer For ex-Windows Users

So you just got a new mac. Maybe you’ve owned a mac before, or maybe you’re coming from Windows or Linux as a first timer. Below is a list of Windows/Linux equivalent tasks and tips on OS X. The rest of this post is coming asap

How do you install an app in OS X?

Where is the “control panel” in OS X? How do you change settings?

How do you open a shell or terminal in OS X?

Where is “My Computer” and Documents?

How do I change what program opens a specific filetype?

Can I install and use .EXE files on Mac OS X?

What is the difference between Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, etc.

How do I update my OS?

How do I add a Font in OS X? And what font formats are supported?

Why does Mac OS X keep asking me to enter my password?

How do I browse multiple images rather than opening one at a time in Preview?

What is the OS X equivalent to MS Paint?

What is the OS X equivalent to Notepad?

How do I find what apps are installed on my Mac? (Like Windows Start -> Programs)?
How do I change the Mac desktop background?
How do I setup dual screens or more on my Mac?
How do I change my screen resolution?
How do I defragment my hard drive on OS X?
What does “repairing permissions” mean in OS X?
About the recycle bin in OS X
About the Dock in OS X
What are the most useful hotkeys to know on OS X?
Spotlight: cmd+space
How do I maximize a window in OS X?
How do I view my Mac’s technical specs?
How do I check how big a file size in OS X?
What is the shortcut for renaming a file on OS X?
Select the file and press Enter.
How do I show hidden files on OS X?
Do I need drivers when installing new hardware?
How do I know if certain hardware is compatible with my Mac?
How do I find files or what programs are installed on OS X?
How do I zip or unzip files on OS X?
What are alternative apps for your Windows and Linux favorites?

How do power users use their mac?

Why is the maximize button so broken?

Some mac caveats

Should you get Snow Leopard?

Why do they charge for 10.4 10.5 10.6 etc..

Understanding iTunes


Apple Mac OS X Tips & Guides

Learn the terminal. Make extensive use of Spotlight.