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UI Customization in Leopard

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As you might have guessed from my past articles here, I tend to heavily customize the appearance of OS X on any machines I use regularly. Looking at my desktop, I see no default icons, my dock isn’t much better, and every time I use someone else’s machine, I’m generally surprised by the candy-colored dots springing out of the top of my windows.

Then I upgraded to Leopard.

To my faint surprise, most of my icons were gone. Some, fortunately, stuck around – the sea serpent body parts that I use for drive icons, notably – but others, including the complete replacement of the system icons (David Lanham’s Agua set; see my previous posts for a link) had gone. My utter loathing of the boring, front-on, barely-embossed Leopard default folders began. The candy buttons were back, too. The new install ate ShapeShifter and Samui. As if that weren’t enough, I keep my dock on the left, meaning I’m left out of all the fun of customizing my dock; the dark-glass theme completely overrides any modifications made, even if they show up when the dock is at the bottom of the screen.

The Leopard-default replacements aren’t particularly good, either, failing usual interface guidelines in terms of color, shape, and aesthetic rules. For example, take the icon for the music folder. On the left, Leopard’s default; on the right, a Tiger-style music folder. Note how the rich green of the music note really makes the purpose of the folder pop. Look, too, at the difference in shape – the off-center cant and the overrun of the default folder shape by the note make the music folder stand out from any other folder. Why, if the point of different icons for different purposes is to make finding what you want easier and quicker, would anyone choose icons that look all the same?


To my dismay, there doesn’t seem to be any solutions for this. Pixadex’s website doesn’t mention Leopard at all. CandyBar is incompatible with Leopard. So is ClearDock, ShapeShifter, FruitMenu, WindowShade…. all the Unsanity apps, in fact.

Is the fate of all the customization apps Apple’s way of telling users to leave the UI alone? I certainly hope not. That said, though, does anyone know of any solutions to this, short of changing each and every icon manually? For that matter, what about all the UI elements – the toolbars, the buttons – that can’t be changed through the Get Info pane?

18 Responses to “UI Customization in Leopard”

  1. I’ve always found the Mac OS GUI a little uncustomizable compared to others, notably Linux. Compare screenshot threads of Linux and Mac; the Mac screenshot thread is mainly desktop backgrounds whereas with Linux you have things like widgets, differing border decorations, desktop manager effects, and so on, not to mention Mac-like docks.

  2. Get this, yesterday I updated to Candybar 2.61 and I was able to change my icons back to what they were before the Leopard update. Don’t ask me what I did coz I have no clue why I was able to change them after the upgrade. Now when I click on Candybar I get the same message that it is incompatible but my icons are back to my beloved Snowe set. I’m pretty happy about it coz the new icons were driving me batty…

  3. Steve Grenier

    I’ve read you saying the same basic things before about the folders and I do agree with you, but you seem to be singling out Leopard. Tiger’s folders were no different. They were on an angle yes, but all the folder’s had the same shape and nothing stuck out past the folder, and those were the default OS X icons for many years. Granted Tiger’s were more noticeable imo, they still broke many of the rules you state as being important (and they are, no hate)

    As for changing icons, most of the default folders are located within your Core Services folder and within the CoreTypes bundle. Rename the icns and drop em in and login and out.

  4. Constable Odo

    I’m darn sure glad I have better things to do than looking at icons. Just wait for the icon changing programs to be updated so you can have your system looking so metrosexually sweet and pretty. Are most Leopard users really concerned about such cosmetic things? I’m more concerned about stability and speed than some lusciously delightful icons.

    I can understand that some of you don’t like to have less than what you had in Tiger, but gee whiz, Leopard is darn powerful. I’m using Leopard Server now and it’s way better than Tiger Server. That’s the stuff that really matters.

  5. if you read this post by Cabel, it should relieve some of your grievances.

    for those who dislike clicking and reading, here’s the short of it.

    “CandyBar 3 is coming soon, and it’ll be worth the wait.”

    “We plan to ship CandyBar 3 before the end of November…”

    “…Pixadex 2 (remember, Pixadex 3 will be Leopard only) should all generally work fine in Leopard…”

    “…CandyBar 3 will be Leopard only. (And, while I’m here, this is true for the next planned update to Pixadex, also.)”

  6. Yet more #@%^ from The Apple Blog about some percieved injustice that Apple has done to you. This time it’s folder icons. Get real! It’s simple to change them if you don’t like them. Some of us, on the other hand, DO like them.

  7. Does any one know where the System holds the icon for the internal drive? It’s not in System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources which is odd. Actually, that whole directory is rather odd in that it has ancient pre-osx icon in it.

  8. It’s sad that none of the standard “hacks” work, I found myself saying “who cares” when it comes to themes for OSX.

    There simply aren’t many good themes, and there are no great ones. While some clearly improve the overall appearance, none truly theme it the way we could in OS9.

    Icon customization is nice to have, but I’ve found that it really adds very little without an overall theme. Again, there are some nice sets to compliment Aqua, but none truly make a huge difference, at least for me.

    Because OSX is so complicated to theme, I don’t see much of a “growth” in the customizing arena as far as new themers go. Sad.

    I’m also left wondering what ever happened to the (in)famous Omega theme?

  9. Although the icons of Leopard do miss the purpose in the old Finder UI, it’s clear that Apple understood the new folders are not fit for this purpose; after all, there’s alternative icons for the sidebar. The new icons do work a lot better in Coverflow, since the front-on perspective distorts better on the left and right sides of the view.

    I tried finding the middle road in my last iconset, Orion, but it’s obvious only a full-front-on icon set can solve these issues. We will have to wait for Candybar 3 (it’s worth it, just believe me) and Agua’s redrawing for 512 pixels, which, if you can believe David Lanham’s twitter account, will be redrawn with another, new perspective as well.

  10. You will find the icons in System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources. I used an icon editor to change mine. It takes a half hour or so, but once it’s done you have custom icons system-wide.

  11. You should check out the extremely handy first Related Entries entry: Candy Bar 3 Features Preview. That leads you to Panic’s Cabel Sasser’s blog where there’s a whole lot of info on Panic apps and Leopard.