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An[other] OS X 10.6 to 10.8 Survival Guide for Editors

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." Well, mostly.

By Adam Wilt | August 14, 2012

Thinking Different

Safari is quite different in 10.8: it has a unified search / URL field; the Delete key no longer does double-duty as "previous page" as well as "delete"; the Activity Window has disappeared; lots of options have changed menus (you'll need to turn on the Develop menu if you want to empty caches, for example). See Safari 6 reader reports on Macintouch for more details.

You can no longer set default fonts in Safari preferences; you have to use terminal commands instead.

Disappearing apps: starting in 10.7, OS X may automatically terminate an app that isn't the frontmost (active) application and doesn't have any windows open. For example, if you open Preview because you want it handy in the Dock to scan some papers, then switch to Mail or Finder or FCP or something else, you may find that Preview silently goes away while you're not looking.

If this bothers you, there's a fix.

No alphanumeric keyboard repeat: in 10.8, holding down an letter or number key doesn't cause it to repeat. Instead, as on iOS, characters with alternate forms (such as accented letters) will pop up a character-picker window. Characters with no alternates just sit there sullenly.

Punctuation, special characters, and navigation keys still autorepeat: arrows, periods, at-signs, Command+V, and the like happily keep on spewing out. It's only letters and numbers that are affected.

If this bothers you, there's a fix.

Reopening windows: by default, reopening an app reopens whatever windows it had open when it was closed. If you had two documents open in TextEdit when you quit it, for example, restarting TextEdit will reopen those two documents. Don't like this? Turn it off in System Preferences: General > Close windows when quitting an application.

Also by default, OS X will now reopen windows that were active when you shut your Mac down. There's a checkbox ("Reopen windows when logging back in") in the shutdown dialog that controls this behavior.

You can't just drag apps out of Applications any more. Instead, you have to hold down the Command key to drag an app out of Applications. Just dragging an app creates a shortcut (alias) in 10.8.

Sandboxing, a security measure (and a requirement for new apps on the App Store) segregates app data in its own iOS-like container folder, stored at ~/Library/Containers/[app-identifier]/Data.

Normally it's not an issue, until you need to hack a preferences file or dig into the Library. Regular, non-sandboxed apps have their data rooted in your home folder; for example, you'll find your FCPX prefs at ~/Library/Preferences/ Mail is sandboxed in 10.8, and its container folder is ~/Library/Containers/, so you'll find its preferences in ~/Library/Containers/

Gatekeeper is another security measure, designed to keep you from running dodgy code from unapproved places. Downloaded installers and apps that are (a) not from the App Store or (b) do not have a registered Apple Developer signature are not allowed to run.

With Gatekeeper at its default setting, you're simply told "no, you can't do that".

If this blocks you from running something you think is OK, or you just want to revert to pre-10.8 behavior (where OS X warns you about "apps downloaded from the Internet", but lets you run 'em anyway), go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and change "Allow applications downloaded from:" from "Mac App Store and identified developers" to "Anywhere".

The Fixes

Terminology and Tools

Some of the things you'll want to fiddle with are accessible in System Preferences, Mail Preferences, and the like, and are indicated using the symbology:

App > Tab or Pane > Setting

e.g., System Preferences (the app) > General (the pane) > Close windows when quitting an application (the setting)

Many of the other fixes described (and many more besides) can be tweaked simply and easily using one or another of these tools:

TinkerTool, a freeware system tweaker. Highly recommended.

Onyx, a donationware system tweaker / cleaner / checker / maintainer with additional functions not present in TinkerTool. There are versions for OS X releases back to 10.2. Highly recommended.

Mountain Tweaks, a donationware system tweaker. Light on documentation and it doesn't show the current state of the tweakable parameters, but it's useful nonetheless. Has some settings that Onyx and TinkerTool don't yet support.

If these tools can't do it, you're back to the command line in a Terminal session; such commands are shown in "code" typeface and can be copied and pasted into a Terminal window (watch out for wrapped lines caused by PVC's narrow columns; some long "defaults" commands are wider than PVC can display on a single line).

Most commands can be reversed should you not like the result by substituting "true" for "false" or vice versa. You can also use "yes" in place of "true" and "no" instead of "false".

Some terminal commands take effect immediately, while others won't show up until you [re]launch affected apps or log out and in again.

As always: proceed at your own risk... and make full backups first!


These are my fixes, in priority order. Pick and choose from them as you see fit. Where I can, I've listed source for fixes, in case you want to explore the topic further.

Required if you use Mail

Mail: show duplicates
defaults write AlwaysShowDuplicates -bool true

Sanity Preservers

Make your Library folder visible in the Finder
chflags nohidden /Users/USERNAME/Library
where USERNAME is the name of your home directory.
(Source: other,s).

Turn off time-wasting smooth scrolling
defaults write -g NSScrollAnimationEnabled -bool false
(Sources:; also in Mountain Tweaks)

Turn off time-wasting window animations
defaults write NSGlobalDomain NSAutomaticWindowAnimationsEnabled -bool false

Replace ugly skins in Calendar and/or Contacts
Standalone installers at
Mountain Tweaks has its own installers for new skins.
Sadly, there aren't cleanup skins yet for Notes. Or for Game Center, gack!

Mail: be given the possibility of seeing that dupes exist, if not the certainty thereof, assuming you haven't made the fix above
Mail > Preferences > Viewing > Show header detail > Custom... (and just hit "OK" on the popup)

Mail: see where dupes live, without having to select individual inboxes
Mail > Preferences > Viewing > Use classic layout
or, in Mail's menu, turn off View > Organize by Conversation

Mail: show the Format bar in the message-composer window
Mail in 10.7 and 10.8 offers a rich text formatting bar just below the toolbar, but if you've upgraded from 10.6 you'll probably never see it or even know it's available. The only way I know of to get it in this case is to:

  • Open a New Message window, then right-click / control-click the toolbar and select "Customize Toolbar..."

  • Drag the "Format" button onto the toolbar.

  • Hit "Done" to close the customization sheet.

  • Click "Format" to reveal the Format bar.

You can customize the toolbar again to remove the Format button, or you can leave it there. Mail isn't clever enough to hide/show the Format bar based on whether your message is plain text or rich text the way TextEdit does, but at least now there is a Format bar.

Reverse the vertical scrolling direction (if it's backwards for you in 10.7/10.8)
System Preferences > Mouse > Scroll direction: natural
System Preferences > Trackpad > Scroll direction: natural
as necessary for your pointing device(s).

Stuff that may or may not be useful to you

Change the OS version number to let Canon XF installers (and possibly others) work
Temporarily change the version number in /System/Library/CoreServices/SystemVersion.plist to what the installer expects; install; change it back. Details at's forums. I tried this out using the Canon XF importer plugins for 10.7, and it worked. Just be careful editing SystemVersion.plist, and make sure you change it back or replace it with a backup when you're done—and remember, you proceed at your own risk!

Disable Auto Save with versioning
defaults write -g ApplePersistence -bool false
For a given app only, e.g. TextEdit:
defaults write ApplePersistence -bool false
or, try (in the case of Numbers):
defaults delete ApplePersistence
With this change, OS X seems to consistently take an additional 15 - 17 seconds to show the desktop after logging in, whereas without this change, I notice a 15 second delay only sometimes. The reasons for either behavior are unknown.
(Sources: https,://,

Disable Automatic Termination
defaults write -g NSDisableAutomaticTermination -bool yes
(Source:; also settable in TinkerTool, Mountain Tweaks)

Setting default fonts in Safari
An example for the proportional font:
defaults write 'Lucida Grande'
defaults write 14

An example for the fixed width font:
defaults write Monaco
defaults write 12

If your desired font name contains a space, you need to wrap it in quotes, as shown with 'Lucida Grande'.
(Source: multiple references on,,, etc.)

Turn on alphanumeric key repeat
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
(Sources: http:,//

Turn off reopening windows
When restarting apps: check System Preferences > General > Close windows when quitting an application
When restarting the system: in the Logout, Shutdown, or Restart dialog, uncheck "Reopen windows when logging back in"

Make Auto Save apps behave slightly more like traditional apps
System Preferences > General > Ask to keep changes when closing documents
This option pops up a warning dialog when you close an edited document, giving you the option to save your changes or revert to the last save. It also brings back the "edited" dot on the window's close button.

Move Growl notifications into Notification Center
Hiss will do this, or so I'm told by I hav.en't tested it myself.


Mac OS X 10.8 is a mix of old and new, good and bad (and ugly and just plain different), and finished and unfinished features. It has a lot of rough edges, some of which may be polished up in point releases—10.8.1's first beta was pushed out last week—and some of which, sadly enough, may be with us from here on out.

If you're excited by the new stuff like iCloud, Notifications, the new Auto Save model, and so on, you might find 10.8 a compelling upgrade. If you find the increased complexity of multiple document persistence models, the removal of useful status indicators and affordances, the embarrassingly buggy Notes, and the user-abusive iCloud-enabled Save dialogs distressing, you might feel equally compelled to stay on 10.6.

I'm in the middle: I thought that 10.7 broke more things than it fixed, while 10.8 adds enough shiny new features to offset the inelegant deficiencies of the post-10.6 era. I'm hugely annoyed by the inconsistencies in Auto Save behavior depending on where a document is stored, but that annoyance is more academic than practical; once I understood the persistence model, I easily adapted to it. I'm gobsmacked by the aggressive way Apple "encourages" me to keep my data in iCloud, yet I find iCloud's ease of use compelling: I've built this article using TextEdit and Pixelmator on multiple Macs, with both apps keeping their data in iCloud, and it all Just Worked.

(I should note that I use iCloud for short-term "working storage" only; once I'm no longer actively using a document, I move it to a folder "On My Mac". Apple doesn't have the world's best track record when it comes to long-term provisioning of cloud-based storage: AppleLink, eWorld, iTools, iDisk, .Mac, MobileMe, and have all come and gone, and those who trusted these cloud services as data repositories wound up unhappy in the end.)

I'm not switching my Macs wholesale to 10.8, not yet: I still have data in PowerPC apps that I need to migrate to modern formats and applications first. Besides, Apple usually smooths off the jagged edges of a new OS with the follow-on point releases; if they hold true to form you might want to wait for 10.8.3 just on general principle.

But even this first release of 10.8 interoperates well with 10.6 and 10.7, so I can keep a mix of machines cohabiting with minimal stress. When push does come to shove, I won't have any problems upgrading.

Good luck!


Macintouch has quick, easy-to-digest reviews of the new stuff in 10.7 and 10.8: 10.7 review 10.8 review

Ars Technica has much deeper, detailed, techno-geeky reviews: 10.7 review 10.7 review

Other stuff: Safari 6 reader reports Mountain Lion is (Still) a Quitter [discussing automatic termination]

Apple: iCloud: Configuring Mail with Mac OS X v10.6 or iOS 4

Apple: iCloud Mail overview

Apple: iCloud help How to Fix Every Mountain Lion Annoyance With Third Party Apps The OS X Mountain Lion Survival Guide Making Lion and Mountain Lion more like Snow Leopard (The last tip, "Turn off autosave", doesn't actually turn off autosave, it simply turns on a prompt when you close a document without first saving the changes, and brings back the "edited" dot on the window-close button.) Terminal 101: 10.8 UI Tricks

Feedback, please

If you have comments / questions / additions / corrections, please email 'em to me at "awiltatprovideocoalition at gmail dot com". I'll try to keep this article as up-to-date and as accurate as possible.

Disclosure: No material connection exists between me and Apple or any of the vendors mentioned in this article. No one has offered any payments, freebies, or other blandishments in return for a mention or a favorable review.

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