How to Use Several Useful Utilities in OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks comes with a plethora of useful utilities that make using your computer more pleasant and/or make you more productive when you use your computer.

Activity Monitor in OS X Mavericks

In Unix, the underlying operating system that powers OS X, applications and other things going on behind the scenes are called processes. Each application and the operating system itself can run a number of processes at the same time.

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Here you see 78 different processes running, most of them behind the scenes. Note that when this picture was taken, there were half a dozen or more programs running, including the Finder, FaceTime, the Mac App Store, and Activity Monitor itself.

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To display the two CPU Monitor panes on the right side of the Activity Monitor window, choose Window→CPU Usage (keyboard shortcut Command+2) and CPU History (keyboard shortcut Command+3).

You also select what appears in the Activity Monitor’s Dock icon — CPU Usage, CPU History, Network Usage, Disk Activity, or the Activity Monitor icon — by choosing View→Dock Icon. All but the Activity Monitor icon appear live, meaning that they update every few seconds to reflect the current state of affairs.

To choose how often these updates occur, choose View→Update Frequency.

But be careful — setting Activity Monitor to update more frequently causes it to use more CPU cycles, which can decrease overall performance slightly.

Finally, the bottom portion of the Activity Monitor window can display one of five monitors. Just click the appropriate tab — CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, or Network — to see that particular monitor.

Because all Macs that can run Mavericks have at least a dual-core processor, you’ll see at least two, and possibly four or more, CPUs displayed in Activity Monitor, one for each core.

Geeks and troubleshooters (and even you) can use Activity Monitor to identify what processes are running, which user owns the process, and how much CPU capacity and memory the process is using. You can even use this feature to quit or force-quit a process that you think might be causing problems for you.

Messing around in Activity Monitor isn’t a good idea for most users. If you’re having problems with an application or with OS X, try quitting open applications, force-quitting applications (press Command+Option+Esc — the Mac “three-finger salute”), or logging out and then logging back in again before you start mucking around with processes.

AirPort Utility in OS X Mavericks

You use AirPort Utility to set up an AirPort Base Station, AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, or Time Capsule and configure its individual settings, such as base-station and wireless-network passwords, network name, Internet connection type, and so on.

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When you first open AirPort Utility, select the AirPort Base Station you want to work with by clicking its icon on the left side of the window.

If you want assistance with setting up your base station, just click the Continue button in the bottom-right corner of the AirPort Utility window. You’re asked a series of questions, and your base station is configured accordingly. If you know what you’re doing and want to change your base station’s settings manually, choose Base Station→Manual Setup (Command+L) instead.

ColorSync Utility in OS X Mavericks

ColorSync helps ensure color consistency when you’re scanning, printing, and working with color images. This package includes ColorSync software as well as premade ColorSync profiles for a variety of monitors, scanners, and printers. And the ColorSync Utility has a bunch of tools designed to make working with ColorSync profiles and devices easier.

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A ColorSync profile is a set of instructions for a monitor, scanner, or printer, which tells the device how to deal with colors and white so the device’s output is consistent with that of other devices, as determined by the ColorSync profiles of the other devices.

In theory, if two devices have ColorSync profiles, their output (onscreen, on a printed page, or in a scanned image) should match. Put another way, the color that you see onscreen should be exactly the same shade of color that you see on a printed page or in a scanned image.

If you’re not a graphic artist working with color files and calibrating monitors and printers to achieve accurate color matching, you probably don’t need the ColorSync Utility (unless you’ve gotten hooked on iPhoto and want your printed inkjet color pictures to match up correctly).

If you’re compelled to do whatever it takes to get accurate color on your monitor and printer, check out Color Management For Digital Photographers For Dummies, by Ted Padova and Don Mason (Wiley).

DigitalColor Meter in OS X Mavericks

The DigitalColor Meter program displays what’s on your screen as numerical color values, according to two different systems: RGB (red-green-blue) and CIE (the abbreviation for a chromaticity coordinate system developed by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage, the international commission on illumination). If you’re not a graphic artist or otherwise involved in the production of high-end color documents, or working in HTML, you’ll probably never need it.

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