TinkerTool

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TinkerTool

Known Issues

There are currently no known issues for this product.

Release Notes

The are currently no known problems that require additional documentation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is TinkerTool?

TinkerTool is an application which gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into macOS. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications that come with the system.

TinkerTool does not provide any features itself. Its single task is to give you an extended interface to your personal preference settings. The tool will never change anything in the operating system. For this reason, the integrity of your system is not put at risk. All settings are restricted to the user accounts that launch TinkerTool. If you have multiple user accounts on your computer, settings of different users will not affect each other.

The feature set of macOS varies greatly between different operating system versions. For this reason, TinkerTool must automatically adapt to the system it is running on. The settings available in each system version are listed at the official web page.

When you detect a preference setting that causes a compatibility problem with a third-party application, you can simply reset this or all preferences to their previous values.

Can I have a manual for TinkerTool?

There is no documentation other than this English FAQ list. Because TinkerTool doesn't provide any features, there is not much that could be documented. The tool has a single function: If you click on setting “X”, TinkerTool will change your personal preference setting “X”. Apple may change the meaning of setting “X” any time at their own discretion, so we have absolutely no influence on the effects each setting may achieve.

What version of TinkerTool should I use for which version of macOS, OS X, or Mac OS X?

Versions of TinkerTool are not directly related to versions of macOS. TinkerTool uses unique technology to automatically adapt its user interface to the operating system version you are currently running. However, in order not to overload TinkerTool with dozens of styles for all the different generations of macOS and to be able to support the latest interface features of the OS, there are currently five different applications in the TinkerTool series, designed for five basic product generations of macOS:

Operating System TinkerTool variant
macOS 10.12 Sierra
TinkerTool
OS X 10.11 El Capitan
OS X 10.10 Yosemite
OS X 10.9 Mavericks
TinkerTool 5

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion
Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

TinkerTool 4
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
TinkerTool Classic Generation 2

Mac OS X 10.3 Panther
Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar
Mac OS X 10.1 Puma

TinkerTool Classic

Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah
Mac OS X Public Beta
Mac OS X Server 1.0

no longer available

Could you please add feature “X” to TinkerTool?

In most cases, the answer is no. TinkerTool does not provide any features, so it cannot add any. The features you are seeing are provided by macOS and controlled by Apple. TinkerTool is only a helper application to activate them.

However, if you know an additional built-in preference setting neither accessible in System Preferences nor in TinkerTool, suggestions are welcome. Note that we sometimes have to deny integration of a preference setting because the setting may have a negative effect on some applications (which is the reason why Apple did not make access to this setting publicly available).

Do I need to restart the computer for changes to take effect?

No, this is never necessary. For many applications, it is sufficient to quit and relaunch the respective programs. In all other cases, it is sufficient to log out and log in for changes to take effect.

Are there unexpected issues when disabling the Finder animations for opening Desktop icons?

Yes, there is one specific interaction with the Finder where a missing animation for opening a Desktop icon may show an unusual result: When you drag a Finder tab to the Desktop, the Finder expects that it can always show an animation to convert the dragged miniature tab into a Finder window. If that animation is switched off, the icon for the miniature tab will just stay on the Desktop, behind the new window. It will automatically disappear the next time the Finder is restarted.

Are there alternative ways to restart the Finder?

Yes, in up-to-date versions of macOS, you can hold down the option (alt) key while right-clicking the Finder icon in the Dock. An item to restart the Finder will be displayed in the context menu.

There are .DS_Store files everywhere! Has TinkerTool destroyed my system?

No, you just have enabled the Finder's “show all files” option with TinkerTool. The .DS_Store files are created by the Finder during its normal course of operation but they are invisible by default. The Finder will automatically put a .DS_Store file into every folder you have opened. These files are used to save the positions of icons, the size of the respective Finder window, the window's background, and many more view options. While professional users consider the .DS_Store files to be a design flaw of the macOS Finder, a mechanism like this is necessary when opening Finder windows for exchangeable disk media to give former users of the classic Mac OS the same user experience they had in previous operating system versions. If you don't like to see the .DS_Store files, disable the Finder option Show hidden and system files in TinkerTool, or replace the Finder by a better file management application.

Can I use TinkerTool to change fonts in macOS?

No, this has never been a feature of TinkerTool and this would not be a good idea. Applications such as word processing or layout programs would become unusable if TinkerTool would somehow force them to replace given fonts with other fonts.

The pane “Fonts” is designed to change your personal preferred defaults for fonts. Applications designed in a user-friendly way won't request pre-specified fonts for controls in their user interface, they will ask macOS for the preferred default font settings for nine particular font categories instead. For example, an application displaying a fixed-pitch font for a specific text view in a window will not send the request to macOS to use the font “Menlo Regular 11 pt” for this text display. Instead, it will ask macOS to fetch the font the user is currently preferring for fixed-pitch use cases. This can be any font of your choice, currently set for the category Fixed-pitch in TinkerTool. The developers of applications determine for each single use of typographic output if they like to use a specific font, “hard-wired” in the application, or if they like to use a generic font, oriented at the user's personal preferences.

Can I use the default font settings to increase the size of fonts?

Yes and no. You can specify a larger font as your preferred default font for a certain usage category, as explained in the previous section. However, this might not be a good idea for certain applications, because you risk that texts will be clipped by surrounding elements, like boxes, buttons, etc. when they are rendered with larger sizes. Parts of the user interface could become unreadable.

The appropriate way to increase the size of fonts is to enlarge all parts of the user interface. This is possible by modifying the rendering resolution of the interface which is normally fixed at 72 pixels per inch. Such changes cannot be controlled by simple user preferences. For this reason, this cannot be part of TinkerTool. If you don't use a Mac with a Retina screen, you might be able to control the overall screen scaling factor by our alternative application TinkerTool System 5. Please see its official web page for more information.

When specifying preferred fonts, can I use color, shadow, or other effect settings?

No, macOS does not allow this. Although it is possible to control shadows and similar options via the system's font panel, only font types and font sizes will actually be set. All other settings you can establish for fonts will be ignored.

Can I specify typefaces for all font categories?

Preferred font sizes can be specified for all 8 font categories defined by Apple. The option to also set preferred typefaces, however, is not applicable to all font categories. In the technical specifications of macOS, Apple only defines the two use categories Application Font and Fixed-pitch Font as being user-customizable.

Can I specify font defaults for menus and the menu bar?

No, the menu-bar is a component taken over from the classic Mac OS. The predecessor of macOS, NeXT OPENSTEP for Mach, did not use a menu bar. For this reason, macOS never contained a feature to specify preferences for the fonts used in menus.

What is the difference between TinkerTool and TinkerTool System?

The applications share a similar user interface and internal technologies. However, the features and target audience of the applications are very different: TinkerTool is a utility that allows you to set personal preference settings Apple has built into macOS. TinkerTool is not capable of changing any system settings or other settings that may affect more than your private user account. For this reason, you don't need administrative permission to use TinkerTool. The tool can be used in professional networks where you have limited access, for example students working with the campus network.

TinkerTool System on the other hand is directed to system administrators, consultants or experienced users that need to change and optimize operating system settings. This will affect all users that share a computer. Only user accounts with administrative permission can use TinkerTool System, macOS does not allow access by standard users.

The tools do not share any duplicate settings or features. They complement one another, to have the full feature set you'll need both applications. It is not planned to offer the system tool in other languages than English and German.

How can I remove TinkerTool?

Just drag the application to the trash. Because TinkerTool doesn't install or change anything in the operating system, that's all. You might consider resetting macOS's preferences you have changed via TinkerTool to the pre-installation state before removing the tool. (See the next item.)

I used TinkerTool for a while, then I deleted it. But all of its settings are still effective, what should I do?

As mentioned above, TinkerTool just changes user preference settings of macOS. Applications will respect their settings no matter if TinkerTool is on your disk or not. If you want to reset your configuration, just open the Reset pane in TinkerTool, choose one of the reset buttons, log out and log in.

Why did Apple include so many hidden features in macOS?

Of course we cannot officially speak for Apple, but there are several reasons why some built-in preference settings of macOS are usually kept under the hood:

  1. Settings for professional users: Some settings, e.g. the preference to show hidden and system files in the Finder, are official features of macOS but Apple intentionally does not disclose them to normal end users. Those features are documented to developers or to professional users which read the technical manuals of macOS. This way Apple can keep the user interface simple, at the same time not excluding particular user groups from using advanced features.
    Especially in professional networks, system administrators even don't like the graphical user interface but prefer shell scripts and the Terminal command-line. So there are also cases where Apple considers it too costly to develop a graphical user interface, thinking that most users would not use it.
  2. OPENSTEP settings untouched by Apple: Technically seen, macOS is not a successor of Mac OS but of NeXT's operating system OPENSTEP for Mach. This operating system contained several features which are still part of macOS. In some cases, Apple does not want to touch some of the old features, because this could have the risk of unwanted side effects. For this reason, these functions have never been deactivated but are “sleeping” in the OS.
  3. Features hidden for design and marketing reasons: System developers usually think far ahead while designing their applications. For this reason they prepare or implement many features without a direct order. In some cases they “play” with some features or need them for temporary testing purposes. However, superiors or the marketing division might later decide that a feature is “too advanced”, “not needed by most users”, or “doesn't look right”. Because it can be very expensive and time-consuming to remove program code, those functions are only deactivated, not deleted, and we have another “sleeping” feature.

This list of reasons is not necessarily complete. The strategy of hiding built-in features is not unusual, you can see the same on other operating systems as well. For example, Microsoft® had a tool called Microsoft PowerToys (formerly called Tweak UI) which did a similar job on MS-Windows® XP as TinkerTool does on macOS.