Basic Operations

The control window of TinkerTool System

After starting TinkerTool System, the main control window will appear. Depending on computer model and system configuration, it may take a few seconds until the window becomes visible. TinkerTool System is performing a great number of validation and security checks during startup which will need some time until completed. The checks are necessary to ensure that TinkerTool System can indeed run successfully even if you are using it as a kind of first aid utility on a computer with a partially damaged operating system.

The control window of TinkerTool System
The control window of TinkerTool System

The control window is divided into horizontal bars, representing the different functional areas of the application. Each bar contains a number of icons which can be clicked to open the control pane connected with the respective feature set. For example, clicking on the icon Info in the row System Maintenance will open the pane named Info, used to access detail information about the computer and operating system. The panes behave very similar to the items found in the System Preferences application of Mac OS X.

As an alternative, you can select one of the items in the menu View. Jumping from one pane to the next or previous one is possible by pressing one of the two arrow buttons in the toolbar of the control window. Stepping through the panes is also possible by menu, selecting the items View > Back or View > Forward, respectively, or by pressing ⌘ + ← or ⌘ + →. To go back to the overview of all pane icons, press the button Show All in the toolbar of the window, or select the menu item View > Show All Panes (⌘ + L).

You can also use keyboard navigation to open the different panes. If you like to do that, you’ll have to ensure that full keyboard access is enabled in your user account:

  1. Open the System Preferences application.
  2. Open the pane Keyboard and its tab item Keyboard Shortcuts.
  3. Verify that the button All controls is selected at Full Keyboard Access.

If full keyboard access is active, press the tab key in the control window of TinkerTool System to display the keyboard focus ring in the pane overview. You can then move the focus using the arrow keys or tab keys. Press the space-bar to open a pane.

Panes can also be subdivided into different functional areas. Tab items are used to select between these features. TinkerTool System automatically remembers which tab was open the last time you used a pane. It will automatically go back to the previously selected item the next time you use the pane again.

Context Help

Each pane of TinkerTool System offers a context help drawer which can be opened by pressing the round button with the question mark in the upper right corner. A drawer will slide out at one of the sides of the window, displaying short help information for the pane and the tab item currently open. The help text is structured by the following sections:

Fields for file system objects

Many features of TinkerTool System work on files and folders. In contrast to other applications, it is often important to know at which exact locations the objects are stored. Mac OS X is using UNIX paths to describe such locations. For this reason, TinkerTool System is using special fields to display file system objects together with their UNIX paths. These fields are a special feature of TinkerTool System and look like this:

Path entry field
Path entry field

In all cases where TinkerTool System likes you to specify a file system object, you can use any of the following methods to enter the requested data:

Understanding when Changes Take Effect

When you are using TinkerTool System to modify a system setting of Mac OS X, it tries to let the changes take effect immediately. Note that Mac OS X may ask you to enter name and password of an administrative user first before the actual change takes place. You see that the change has been applied successfully if the user interface keeps its new state, e.g. a check mark you have set “sticks”, or a radio button you have pressed keeps the marker in its new position.

For features which do not affect a simple setting but actually execute some operation, for example to delete a selected file, TinkerTool System will show a dialog sheet after the operation has been completed. The sheet will confirm whether the operation was successful or whether it has failed for some reason. More complex operations which might run for several minutes are accompanied by a textual report, displayed either during the operation, or after it has completed, depending on technical situation. The reports can be saved into text files, or be printed for future reference.

General Preferences

TinkerTool System supports a few general preference settings which control some basic policies. You can modify them by selecting the menu item TinkerTool System > Preferences… or by pressing ⌘ + ,.

The preferences window
The preferences window

The option Always create report before performing delete operations controls if TinkerTool System should display a confirmation dialog before removing objects from the file system. It applies mainly to the pane Clean Up and to a few other features where TinkerTool System might delete files from folders unknown in advance. In the confirmation dialog you can preview what TinkerTool System will do and which files will be lost after the delete operation has been executed. You can either cancel the entire operation, or deselect particular files or folders from the deletion set. It is recommended to keep this preference setting switched on. Switching it off causes TinkerTool System no longer to wait for confirmation but to remove files immediately. The pane Clean Up has additional switches to override this policy for single operations, however.

The option does not apply to all delete operations. When removing cache files or when removing language support packages from applications, tens of thousands of files might be affected, so a confirmation for each file would not be useful.

TinkerTool System contains a safety mechanism which tries to detect if you are about to make modifications which could make the whole operating system unusable. Examples are the change of permission settings for files which are part of the operating system, or removing files which belong to Mac OS X. In these cases, changes could cause TinkerTool System or the whole computer no longer to work correctly, so it would also become impossible to revert such a change without reinstalling the whole system.

Very experienced administrators can disable this safeguard, setting a check mark at Allow critical operations which could destroy Mac OS X. After this, TinkerTool System will no longer block dangerous file operations. The administrator alone will be responsible for any actions performed.

Attention It is not recommended to enable this feature. Total data loss can occur. You should know exactly what you are doing when the safeguard is inactive.

You must not understand this safety feature as a guarantee that TinkerTool System cannot be misused to damage important user or system files even if it is left at its recommended setting.

Setting a check mark for the option Automatically open last used pane when starting has the effect that the application will remember the pane which was active the last time when you have used and then quit the program. TinkerTool System will automatically switch to this pane and the correct control tab the next time it is started.

The option Deauthorize administrator after each completed operation controls if TinkerTool System should allow Mac OS X to cache and reuse name and password of an administrative user after these credentials have been entered correctly and no more than 5 minutes have passed since the last successful authorization. For further details, please see the section on changing the security policy in the chapter The First Launch of the Application.

The preference Don’t suggest evaluation when launching in demo mode only applies if you don’t own a valid registration key for TinkerTool System. Under normal conditions, TinkerTool System will offer to let you test the application during a limited period for free, which is called evaluation mode. When setting a check mark for this option, TinkerTool will no longer make this offer upon each launch (if still available), but directly switch to the locked demo mode. For more information about demo mode, unlocking TinkerTool System, and evaluation mode, please see the respective chapter.

The buttons in the box Display of Memory Sizes allow you to select how the program should round the number of bytes whenever it needs to represent the size of storage space or main memory:

The button Reset to Defaults will reset all of the preferences discussed in this section to their recommended default settings.

Reverting All Permanent Changes to System Settings

Among the many features of TinkerTool System is the capability to modify system settings built into Mac OS X. When experiencing system problems, you might like to reset all settings to Apple’s factory defaults. This is possible by selecting the menu item Reset > Reset all permanent changes… or pressing the key combination ⇧ + ⌘ + R and following instructions.

This step is also helpful after you have tested TinkerTool System without license in evaluation mode but the evaluation period is over. In this case, TinkerTool System will fall back to demo mode and you can no longer use it to revert system settings you might have changed. The reset feature however will always remain functional, no matter if you are going to purchase a license or not. This makes sure you cannot be locked out from certain settings after the evaluation has ended.

Note that it is not possible to differentiate which system settings have been changed by TinkerTool System and which have been changed by other third-party applications or by using the Mac OS X command-line. For this reason, TinkerTool System must reset all system settings it could have changed theoretically to factory defaults, even if you didn’t use it, but something else to make the initial changes.

Searching for Software Updates

TinkerTool System is under continuous development and new versions will be published in irregular time intervals. These updates are usually free unless a completely redesigned product will be released. The latest version is always available for download via the official web site. TinkerTool System can check if a new free update is available for the version you are currently using. To do this, select the menu item TinkerTool System > Check for Updates. The program will connect to the Internet and inform you about the results. In case a newer version is indeed available, you can choose to open your web browser to be automatically guided to the download page.

To protect your privacy, it is TinkerTool System’s policy never to initiate any contact to the Internet unless the user gives an explicit command to do so. For this reason, the program does intentionally not support any automatic checks for updates.

The program also does not support any auto-download mechanisms because such features usually do not work and should not work in professional environments where all applications are stored on protected file servers. Automatic replacement of software products might neither comply with security regulations of large organizations, nor with the laws of certain jurisdictions.