OS X: 5 Settings to Tweak for Newbies

Whenever you’re configuring a computer for someone who’s new to the Mac (or someone who’s coming from an older version of OS X), you might need to tweak a few things to make the transition easier for him or her. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the changes I usually make. Now, while I’ve found that these settings in particular can often confuse people, this doesn’t mean that I’m implying that I know better than Apple how things should be configured. Nope. What I am saying, though, is that avoiding late-night phone calls from your Uncle Eugene is ideal, and I want to help with that.

No offense to Apple, of course.


1) Turn the scroll bars back on. Under System Preferences > General, you can switch “Show scroll bars” to “Always,” and this’ll take OS X’s windows from this…

…to this:

For a lot of folks who haven’t used touch-sensitive devices before, this is a big one. It’s not entirely intuitive how to move around on an Apple trackpad if you’re accustomed to visual cues, so turning the scroll bars back on just removes all doubt.


2) Toggle Safari’s Favorites Bar back on. Used to seeing bookmarks appear in a toolbar near the top of your browser window? You’re not alone, Uncle Eugene. OS X by default now hides those favorites, but to turn them back on, just choose View > Show Favorites Bar.


3) Change the Dock’s appearance. For some new users, the so-called stacks that appear on the right side of the Dock can be confusing.

Folders in the Dock typically show their contents rather than a folder icon, which means that the way they look will change when something new gets added. To switch this, right- or Control-click on one of those Dock shortcuts and choose “Display as…Folder.”

Then those icons will look like, well, folders, which seems easier to figure out to me.


4) Turn off iCloud Drive. If your new user has an iCloud account, you might consider heading over to System Preferences > iCloud and toggling off the “iCloud Drive” option if it’s unnecessary. The reason for this is twofold. First, if that’s on, the person whose machine you’re setting up may start uploading files to iCloud without meaning to or maybe even understanding where things’ve gone, which can be a headache when he can’t find those files afterward. Secondly, with that on, a lot of programs will open to a window that looks like this:

I find that opening to a template chooser or blank document (depending on the program and settings) is just simpler for some to understand, and that’ll be exactly what will happen with iCloud Drive off. 


5) Add descriptive text to Mail’s toolbar. I find some of the icons in Mail to be a bit…esoteric.

To make them more understandable, right- or Control-click on Mail’s toolbar and choose “Icon and Text” from the menu that’ll appear. And poof! Confusion disappears!

So what about you? Have you ever configured a new machine for someone else, and if so, did you make any changes to the default setup? Or did you WISH you had after getting the aforementioned late-night call? I’d love to hear your take on it.