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Change the Appearance of Your Mountain Lion Buttons, Menus, and Windows

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Computers don’t care about appearances, but if you want your Mac with OS X Mountain Lion to look a bit more festive (or, for that matter, businesslike), you have options in the General pane at your disposal. To open this pane, choose Apple→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 windows’ Sidebar.

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

  • The Show Scroll Bars radio buttons let you choose when you wish to see scroll bars on windows. Your choices are Automatically Based on Input Device, 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 System Preferences 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.

    It would be even nicer if all third-party apps supported this feature, but some — including Microsoft Office 2011 — don’t behave properly no matter what you choose for this setting.

The first two items in the next section are a pair of check boxes:

  • Ask to Keep Changes when Closing Documents: Like Lion before it, Mountain Lion 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 saving your changes, enable this option.

  • Close Windows when Quitting an Application: Your Mac’s default behavior is to reopen any 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 more time 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 controls the Number of Recent Items that are remembered and displayed in your Apple→Recent Items submenu. The default is 10, but you might like having access to more than 10 applications and documents in your Recent Items submenu so you can crank it up to 20.

The final area offers a few options for how your fonts look. The Use LCD Font Smoothing when Available check box makes text look better on most displays. Unless your monitor is a very old tube-type (CRT) display, you probably want to select this check box.

The Turn Off Text Smoothing for Font Sizes x and Smaller pop-up menu (where x is the pop-up menu setting) does just what it says. Fonts that size and smaller are no longer antialiased (smoothed) when displayed.

If you find that type in small font sizes is hard for you to read, try increasing or decreasing this setting.


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