The “Other” System Preferences



I was changing something in System Preferences on a friend’s Mac a while back and stopped for a second to consider the “Other” section and the lonely little Logitech Controller that was in there all by itself. Not many applications install to the “Other” section of System Preferences and this got me wondering about what I had gathered in my section over time, and more interestingly, what other Mac enthusiasts had in theirs. So I took a quick survey over on SuperUser (currently closed beta, sorry) and figured I’d share those applications people called out as “must-haves.”

Growl: A longstanding favorite of Mac fans everywhere, this desktop notification app “lets Mac OS X applications unintrusively tell you when things happen.” This is one of the first things I put on new Macs and it’s so natural and intuitive it makes you wonder why Apple (s aapl) hasn’t already bought them out and built this right into the OS.

Secrets: This handy little utility from the fine makers of Quicksilver exposes all those options hidden away in application .plist files and makes it dead simple to do things like change the login window desktop image, switch to the 2D Dock, and so much more.

Perian: “The Swiss-army knife for QuickTime,” Perian adds support for a metric crap-ton of different video codecs and enclosures to QuickTime. Anytime someone tells me they can’t open a video, this is the first place I send them.


TextExpander: This handy little timesaver lets you easily insert often-used text snippets or images into a document using easily customized keystroke triggers. Tired of writing out over and over how to connect to a printer on the network? Next time a local user sends an email asking about it, just hit the trigger key and the answer is inserted right into your response.

Plaxo: This one’s for syncing up your address book across multiple computers. If some of your contacts are themselves Plaxo members, then as they update their information it will cascade down and be updated in your address books as well.

Flip4Mac: One of the few things Perian won’t play is WMV, so for those occasional times when you do need to watch some Windows Media, Flip4Mac is here to help.

This was a great way to find some new gems I didn’t know about and remember some I had forgotten. A couple of honorable mentions I should call out were iStat menus (for displaying important system info in the menu bar), and GeekTool (for displaying info from scripts or files on your desktop).

If you’ve got any of your own favorites sitting in the Other section of your System Preferences, please share them in the comments.


Mark Wesley


Does anyone else have a problem with growl displaying an icon in the applications stack folder on the dock? I see icon in apps folder in finder, and can get it in dock itself, but not in that collapsible stack folder that shows all my apps icons in a grid style. Maybe Growl didn’t include that icon in their software?

Matt Hoult

I’m looking at my work machine right now and I have Flip4Mac, iStat menus, Kerio Sync Connector, MacFUSE and Perian. I don’t think I have anything more at home though… Perhaps I do and I can’t think of them.

It’s always interesting to see what people have in their SysPrefs though. Good topic.


Cameras is another good one – let’s you distinguish your auto-actions between cameras (and mobile devices with cameras).


I have:
SynergyKM and Teleport
TexDistribution (TexLive 2008)


While I’ve got a bunch of those mentioned, I’m really surprised nobody mentioned these:

Cameras ( – lets you set a default action for each camera plugged into your computer (including, but not limited to, iPhone, Flip camcorders, regular digital cams, and the new SD slot on the new MBPs)

NuFile ( – A contextual menu plugin. It adds a new file menu when you right click at a folder(i.e. desktop or Finder background) – similar to what you can do in Windows. With this menu, you can create an empty file of your favorite type (i.e. New Text Document, New Excel Document) with just two clicks…


One that has not been mentioned that I use from time to time is Teleport. It lets me control multiple computers from one keyboard and mouse (or trackpad in my case). It’s great for running multiple laptops at the same time.

Tom Reestman

I have DoubleCommand, Flip4Mac, MacFuse and Perian. I also have Growl, but it’s days are numbered. This is the second chance I’ve given it, and it still blows.

Oh, and I don’t have an “Other” section in System Preferences. I change the view to alphabetic; I hate having to guess what category an item is in.


I currently have:
Flip4Mac, iStat Menus, MacFUSE, MultiClutch, NTFS-3G, Pen Tablet (Wacom Graphire thingy), Perian, PTHPasteboard, RC Default App, RCEnvironment, Secrets, Startup Sound, USB Overdrive, Witch.

I couldn’t live without some of them, while I never make use of some other… anyway, I’d like to highlight MultiClutch. If you have a multitouch trackpad, it’s invaluable – definitely a must have.


I have MacFUSE, Pen Tablet, Growl and Xmarks for Safari. I have iStat on my widgets though.


Hmm, I would have added my list, but the concept of someone magnanimously sharing what elitists in a semi-private beta think made me want to set fire to your blog instead.


Wow I have a bunch. A Better Finder, Application Enhancer (which I have been meaning to uninstall), Connect360, Flip4Mac WMV, FunctionFlip (must have for laptops IMHO), GamePad Companion (which is seriously in need of an update), LiteSwitch X, MacFUSE, MaxMenus (another one that needs an update pretty badly), MouseWorks, Secrets, TextExpander, WindowShade X (will be uninstalled with Application Enhancer), and Xbox 360 Controllers.


I’ve been using TinkerTool since 2002, it’s one of my most important utils. But, on to Other sysprefs: the already-mentioned Flip4Mac, and MacFuse (part of VMware Fusion, code by Amit Singh of Google); also EarthDesk for a dynamically changing view of the planet, day/night terminator, and cloud cover; DejaVu (old); MenuMeters is a great thing and still works in 10.5.x; Secrets.

One of the better ones (but don’t try it at home if you don’t know what you are doing) is “defaults write” from the command line. Google for more, but start with Apple:

Bryan Schuetz

@Jeff hadn’t heard of TinkerTool before but it looks interesting
@Gazoobee sorry to hear about your trouble with Growl, I’ve never had a problem getting it to work. I agree though, I wish Apple would build a good system notifications system into the OS
@David hadn’t heard of FinderPop or Macaroni before but they do look intriguing

Lots of hidden gems here.


Almost from day one, Macaroni. Also Perian and Flip4Mac. PTHP pasteboard and Finderpop.

Helge André Gudmundsen

In my Other/section, I have: 3DConnexion, Default Apps, Default Folder X, Apple QMaster, Flip4Mac WMV, GeekTool, Growl, Hazel, MacFuse, PCKeyboardHack, Perian, Salling Clicker, Secrets, Spanning Sync, Startup Sound, TechTool, TeX Distribution, TextExpander, VersionCue CS4, Wacom Tablet, Witch, Xmarks for Safari


I have Perian and a few others you didn’t mention, but Growl sucks IMO. Aside from the ugly icon it’s just not configurable enough and it regularly screws up on me.

I like the *idea* of Growl so much I’ve installed it three times now and each time I end up deleting it in anger a week or so later because it just doesn’t do what you want it to do in a reliable fashion.

I think if you’re into Linux and like fiddling with crap all day long you could get it to work efficiently, but otherwise I just wish that Apple would build in system notifications of their own that actually work properly.


i have used growl on multiple macs for years without any problems


Yeah, I’ve used it for almost as long as it’s existed and have never had issue with configuration or it’s ability to work as expected.

Even customising different balloons for different tasks on different apps is not an issue (although it is counter-intuitive on the more recent versions)


actually, now that i think about it, TinkerTool isn’t really a prefpane, it’s a utility. Still unlocks lots of nice preferences though!


Apple Qmaster, Connect 360, DivX, Flip4Mac, Growl, iStat Menus, MacFUSE, Perian, and Xmarks for Safari


A Better Finder, Flip4Mac, GeekTool, Glimmer Blocker, Growl, iStat Menus, Pen Tablet, Perian, Secrets and SynergyKM.

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