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Computers don’t care about appearances, but if you want your Mac to look more festive (or businesslike), you have options in OS X Mavericks’ General pane at your disposal. To open this pane, choose app→System Preferences, and then click the General icon.

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First up are the general appearance options:

  • Appearance pop-up menu: Use this menu to choose different appearances and change the overall look of buttons, such as the three gumdrop buttons in the top-left corner of most windows.

    Apple, however, in its infinite wisdom, provides only two choices: Blue and Graphite.

  • Highlight Color pop-up menu: From here, you can choose the color that text is surrounded by when you choose it in a document or select an icon. This time, Apple isn’t so restrictive: You have eight highlight colors you can choose, plus Other, which brings up a color picker from which you can choose almost any color.

  • Sidebar Icon Size pop-up menu: Choose Small, Medium, or Large for icons in your Finder Sidebar.

The next area in the General pane enables you to set the behavior of scroll bars and title bars:

  • The Show Scroll Bars radio buttons let you choose when you want to see scroll bars on windows. Your choices are Automatically Based on Mouse or Trackpad, When Scrolling, or Always.

  • The Click in the Scroll Bar To radio buttons give you the option of moving your view of a window up or down by a page (the default) or to the position in the document roughly proportionate to where you clicked in the scroll bar.

    An easy way to try these options is to open a Finder window and place it side by side with the General pane, reducing the size of the window if necessary to make scroll bars appear. Select an option, observe the behavior of the scroll bars, and then select a different option and observe again.

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    Choose the Jump to the Spot That’s Clicked radio button if you often work with long (multipage) documents. It’s quite handy for navigating long documents. And don’t forget — the Page Down key does the same thing as choosing the Jump to the Next Page choice, so you lose nothing by choosing Jump to the Spot That’s Clicked.

The first two items are a pair of check boxes:

  • Ask to Keep Changes when Closing Documents: Like Lion and Mountain Lion before it, Mavericks can save versions of your documents automatically and without any action on your part. So when you quit an application or close a document, your changes are saved automatically. If you want to be able to close documents without having to manually save your changes, enable this option.

  • Close Windows when Quitting an Application: Your Mac’s default behavior is to reopen documents and windows that were open when you quit that app. When you launch the app again, all the windows and documents magically reappear right where you left them. So enable this option to have your apps open to a clean slate, without reopening documents or windows from the previous session.

These last two items may not work as expected with older third-party applications. As a rule of thumb, the longer it’s been since a program’s last update, the more likely it is that the app will ignore these two settings.

The last item in this section of the General pane is Recent Items. It controls the number of recent items that are remembered and displayed in your app→Recent Items submenu. The default is ten, but you can change this number to suit your needs.

The final area offers a single option for how fonts look: The Use LCD Font Smoothing when Available check box, which makes text look better on most flat-screen displays. Unless your monitor is a very old tube-type (CRT) display or you’re a photographer or artist who insists on a CRT for its color accuracy, you probably want to select this check box.

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