As a basic software buying rule, I like free. Sure, I’m not averse to paying money for good Mac apps and utilities, but I’m on a budget, so I look for bargains.
Today’s bargain is limited in a number of important ways. It’s free until the end of January 2010. And it’s a lite version of a popular Mac utility. MacPilot Lite comes with 150 of the features of MacPilot but at a much lower price tag. Free. For awhile. If you enjoy tinkering with your Mac’s finer hidden features, MacPilot Lite is worth a look. But this ‘Lite’ version comes with a Big Gotcha™.
What’s Under Your Mac’s Hood?
It’s not enough that our Mac’s are complex, sophisticated beasts of technology. Apple makes OS X simpler and, arguably, easier to use than Windows.
Easier to use? Sure. How? One way is by hiding a whole bunch of useful features. Why?
One could also argue that the less you muck with your Mac the better it runs. MacPilot Lite is simply a lite version of the full-on MacPilot but with fewer features.
Think of it this way. Even at 150 features for free, that’s 150 more than you had before downloading MacPilot Lite.
What Does The Free Puppy Do?
There must be over a dozen free and not-so-free Mac utilities which unlock the hundreds of hidden features in Mac OS X. MacPilot is one that costs money. The Lite version is kinda sorta free for a select few Mac users, doesn’t do as much, but does enough to qualify as useful, especially if you can get over the Big Gotcha™.
For example, look at all the extra features in the apps list below. From Finder to Dock, iTunes to Mail, Safari to System, basic Mac maintenance, and a bunch of Tools, MacPilot Lite gives you plenty of places to tinker.
Can you get by without all these added features to clutter up your time? Yes. But it’s not as much fun. The option to tinker is what makes a personal computer, well, personal.
Take a look at the features in the Finder. A handy one is the UNIX path so you can actually see where certain files reside. Another is the option to Show Hidden Files and Folders.
The Dock option lets you give translucent icons to hidden applications, or remove the 3D appears and replace it with a 2D look. One feature in Mail lets you view invisible characters in the email message.
You get the idea, right? Your Mac comes with more features than Apple thinks we need to know about. MacPilot and Lite open ‘em up so we can mess with our Macs. Or, not. Most of these hidden features are completely reversible with no ill effects.
Why Bother With Hidden Features?
Why does Apple hide certain features and not hide others? Why should we pay money to unlock those features (some utilities, such as MacPilot, unlock or reveal hundreds and hundreds of such features, but for a price)?
I don’t have the official Apple synthesized answer, but I’m certain that most of these hidden features aren’t really necessary for most of us to get the most out of our Macs.
There are some that I like, though. For example, you can set your Dashboard for Developer Mode—Widgets can be dragged outside of Dashboard to hover on the Desktop. It’s not more productive, but it’s cool.
What’s The Big Gotcha? ‘Lite’ Is Not So Free
If you’re ready to enjoy the finer workings of Mac OS X, MacPilot Lite is a bargain at free, but it’s free only until the end of January 2010, and it comes with a Big Gotcha™. The Silly Marketing Award™ of 2009/2010 goes to Koingo, the MacPilot publisher. Why? MacPilot Lite is free, but only to existing Koingo customers. That means you needed to have purchased something else from Koingo to get the free version of MacPilot.
The rest of the free Mac utility using world is left out in the cold. Or, are they? There are plenty of utilities which reveal OS X’s hidden secrets, and, thankfully, some of them are free. Assuming that you prefer free as in forever free, and not free with a big gotcha, try Joel Barriere’s popular Onyx or Maintenance, both of which reveal a bunch of cool hidden Mac features (though not as extensive as MacPilot).
UPDATE: Just got a note from a Mac360 reader who says that if you merely register at Koingo, you can then sign up to receive MacPilot Lite license for free (no purchase).