Cocktail 8.3 (Yosemite Edition): Tom's Mac Software Pick

Tweak or Troubleshoot Your Mac

Cocktail
Courtesy of Maintain

Cocktail from Maintain is a system utility that gives everyday Mac users access to system configuration settings that is usually only available through more intimidating processes, such as editing configuration files and executing Terminal commands. Cocktail takes all of these sometimes difficult processes and wraps a friendly user interface around them, to make it much easier to configure some of the more esoteric details of your Mac.

Pros

  • Checks drives for errors and permission issues.
  • Resets home directory permissions.
  • Runs maintenance scripts on your schedule.
  • Controls Spotlight indexing settings.
  • Disables startup sounds.
  • Accesses hidden Time Machine settings.
  • Finds corrupt preference files.
  • Cleans DNS cache.
  • Modifies user interface settings in Finder, Dock, Safari, Login, and other apps.
  • Creates tasks that run at scheduled intervals.

Cons

  • Some tools will rarely be used.
  • User interface needs an update.
  • Just about every thing Cocktail can do can be done with free utilities.

It’s been a version or two since I've taken a look at Cocktail. In the past, it was one of my favorite utilities for tweaking OS X to get it to work the way I wanted it to work. This is still, in my opinion, the primary use for Cocktail. Oh, sure, it can run cleanup utilities, as well as provide hands-on control of the Mac's housekeeping functions for those who want such control.

But for the rest of us, it’s the little things that Cocktail makes easier that endear it to us.

Using Cocktail

Cocktail uses a pretty standard single-window user interface, with a tab bar of buttons across the top, and a window just below it that contains various controls, depending on the tab you chose.

The tabs you can select include Disks, System, Files, Network, Interface, and Pilot. Pilot is a means of automating tasks and scheduling when they should be performed; we'll get back to that in a bit.

The other five tabs are where most of us will spend our time. That time can be broken into two major types of tasks to be performed: tweaking the OS X interface, and troubleshooting and repairing Mac problems. This is one place where Cocktail could use an interface makeover. It provides no distinction between these two primary tasks, so the task you wish to undertake can be difficult to find. The ability to quickly find troubleshooting tasks versus system tweaking would be a helpful improvement.

Disk: The Disk tab lets you tweak various disk-related parameters, including turning journaling on or off, checking and fixing drive permissions as well as resetting user account permissions, and setting sleep setting for the drive(s). You can also have Cocktail mount external drives, even when no one is logged in, handy for accessing data from another computing system.

System: The System tab is where you can run the Mac's built-in maintenance scripts. These scripts are run automatically by OS X on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, but Cocktail gives you the ability to run them when you see fit.

You can also clean up memory, something that isn't that useful, considering how the Mac manages memory. More helpful are the abilities to easily enable and disable Spotlight indexing on a drive-by-drive basis, configure Time Machine to work with network volumes, and set how often backups should be run. You can also rebuild the LaunchServices database, something we recommend doing from time to time, especially if you have duplicate entries in your Open With menu. You can also disable startup sounds and control a few additional processes from the System tab.

Files: The Files tab has a few basic functions, including clearing out user caches, managing log files, and a few other tidbits.

The most important tool here is the tool for finding corrupt preferences. One problem that frequently rears its head in OS X is apps or the system having strange problems that are difficult, if not impossible, to track down. One common source of this type of problem is a corrupt preference file. Often, the recommended action is to delete a preference file, to force the app or system to create a new one. Cocktail can find, delete, or move a corrupt preference file for you, a very handy tool indeed.

Network: The Network tab allows you to manually configure settings for all of your Mac's network interfaces. In the past, this was a very helpful way to get the best performance out of a home network. It’s less of an issue for most users today because most networking devices are pretty good at self-configuring. Nevertheless, there are still some interesting functions here, such as the ability to enable AirDrop even when your Mac doesn't directly support this feature.

Interface: The Interface tab was always my favorite, because it allowed me to tweak the OS to work the way I wanted it to. Here you can control how many “recent items” will be displayed in the Dock and the Apple menu, turn off the system-wide spelling checker, change the image format used for screen shots (I need TIFF format for my workflow), and even change the location where screen shots are stored. You'll also find quite a few changes that Cocktail can make to the Finder, the Dock, Safari, and the login process.

Pilot: The Pilot tab is used to automate tasks and schedule when they will be performed. On the surface, this sounds very interesting, but in actual use, the tasks you can set up are limited to running the maintenance scripts, clearing user caches, repairing disk permissions, and clearing system logs. Don’t get me wrong; it's a nice feature, but I was hoping for a bit more ability to select and schedule tasks.

Cocktail has many hits and only a few misses. The misses are mostly very minor, and will have little if any effect on actual use. That's why Cocktail remains one of my favorite utilities for tweaking OS X to meet my needs.

Cocktail 8.3 is $19.00. A demo is available.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

 Published: 4/18/2015