Mac OS X: Make Snow Leopard (and other cats) roar like Lion

Tips and tools for getting Lion-like features today

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Alfred

Alfred is both a search tool and an application launcher.

Click to view larger image.

Alfred, currently in beta, is a combination application launcher and search tool. You launch Alfred via a keyboard shortcut, then type a few letters into the text field to see immediate results, including applications, files on your Mac, and Web bookmarks. If it can't find these, Alfred suggests appropriate Web searches, or you can instruct it to perform a search by typing the site name and your keywords, as in "google ipad 2." You can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly launch the resulting apps, files, bookmarks or searches; Alfred learns your most commonly used items and orders the results appropriately for even faster access.

Alfred works with OS X Leopard and later. The basic version is free; also available is the Powerpack, which adds features such as iTunes remote control, file system navigation and management, a clipboard history that allows you to review and reuse previous copied and pasted items, and a recent documents viewer. It costs £12 (about $18.50).

Berokyo

Berokyo helps organize your desktop in addition to launching files and apps. Click to view larger image.

Berokyo, which works with OS X Tiger and later versions, is a combination application/file launcher and desktop organizer.

The $18.95 program creates bookshelf-like organizers called cabinets for frequently accessed apps, folders and collections of files (documents, photos, videos, Web pages, etc.), presenting instant access and previews to all manner of content. Berokyo also offers a tagging feature that makes it easy to locate specific pieces of information or references across file types.

Dock Menus
Create multiple floating docks with Dock Menus. Click to view larger image.

Dock Menus lets you create multiple free-floating docks separate from the built-in Mac OS X Dock; the floating docks can be moved around your desktop as needed. By creating multiple docks, you can group related apps, files and folders. Dock Menus works with OS X Leopard or later and costs $5 after a free 10-day trial.

From the same developer as Dock Menus, iDock works with the built-in Mac OS X Dock, letting you create multiple Docks, each with its own content, and switch among them as needed. This creates an effect somewhat similar to the multiple home screens in iOS and the Launchpad preview. IDock works with OS X Leopard or later and costs $5 after a free 10-day trial.

Like iDock, Dock Spaces lets you create and switch among varying Docks using the traditional Mac OS X Dock interface. Dock Spaces goes a step further than iDock in that it offers integration with the OS X Spaces feature, allowing you to tailor virtual desktops that automatically open specific applications, specific windows and a specific Dock for a variety of tasks such as graphic design, document editing, social media, Web browsing or chat. Dock Spaces is free and works with OS X Leopard or later.

DragThing is a venerable Mac tool that predates Mac OS X. It allows you to create Dock-like work areas that can contain shortcuts to applications, folders, files and URLs. There's also a space to store copied items for later pasting, offering a way to copy many items and have them readily available.

DragThing is shareware: You can download and try it for free, and if you decide to keep it pay $29. The current version of DragThing supports Mac OS X Tiger or later, but earlier versions are also available for earlier versions of Mac OS.

Quicksilver is a free Finder alternative for OS X Tiger and newer Mac OS versions; it lets you launch applications and locate specific files quickly just by typing the first few letters of an application or file name. It's a simple, keyboard-centric way to launch apps and open files. Like Alfred, it learns your preferences and orders results accordingly, and it lets you assign keyboard shortcuts to a wide variety of actions.

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