Review: MacPilot – Terminal’s missing GUI - Macenstein

Review: MacPilot – Terminal’s missing GUI

Above: Have you ever wanted to set you Mac to have INSANELY large dock icons? MacPilot can hep you out (and more importantly, put them back to normal)

One of the best things about using Mac OS X is the ability to dig deep into the UNIX-y guts of the OS via Terminal and tweak virtually every aspect of the system to your liking. Unfortunately, this power has 2 drawbacks; namely, Terminal and UNIX.

If you’re like me, you have occasionally read about some cool Terminal trick you want to try, but the fact that the instructions are usually accompanied by a disclaimer to the effect of: “Only try this if you are comfortable with Terminal We are not responsible if you screw up your system” gave you second thoughts. Well, MacPilot is the answer to your prayers, as it provides an easy to use way to do all those cool Terminal tricks, and, more importantly, put them back as they were when you grow tired of them.

Above: Which seems the better way to invoke Leopard’s 2D dock? Firing up Terminal and typing in the above UNIX commands… or simply clicking that checkbox?

Using a series of checkboxes along with easy to read descriptions of each function, you can easily perform hundreds of OS X parlor tricks such as: setting a screensaver to run as your desktop, run a 2D Dock in Leopard, add an Eject icon the Menu bar, change the log-in window desktop, show/hide hidden files, change the default screenshot format, mute the startup chime, and way too many more things to mention. See here for the complete list.


MacPilot’s interface is fairly straightforward. Along the top are the broad categories MacPilot can help you customize. Once selected, you are presented with the various options you can change. Under the “General” tab is where most of the fun happens. Along the left-hand pane you are presented with list of all applications on your system that MacPilot can tweak, and the list is extensive. From the Finder to Safari to Photobooth, nearly every Apple application is listed. 3rd party apps are present as well, and as you install new ones MacPilot adds them to the list.

For pros and novices alike

While hard-core UNIX geeks might be able to mimic MacPilot’s functionality via the Terminal, there is are still a wealth of additional system-level tools here to keep almost anyone busy, and the time savings will be appreciated by pros and novices alike. Ever wondered what keyboard shortcuts do what on your Mac? Or what key combinations you need to press to bring up the “degree” Ëš symbol? MacPilot gives you a full list of keyboard shortcuts for various Mac hardware running OS versions from system 7 to present, as well as a full character map for every font installed on your machine, along with the ability to copy and paste those crazy characters into your documents.

MacPilot can also handle system maintenance tasks as well, such as deleting various caches, hiding or showing files, locking files, extracting only the native Intel or PPC part of an app to save space, verify preference files, and on and on. Honestly, MacPilot gives you access to so many different aspects of your system that half the fun is just seeing what is possible to tweak.


As good a job as MacPilot does at trying to explain what each feature does, there are still some things the program lets you do that that you have may have no idea whether you want it to or not. As a general rule, I have decided that if I don’t understand the option, odds are I do not want to enable/disable it. For instance, under MacPilot’s “Startup” section, I had no idea what the “Use Power Button as NMI” meant. A quick post in the #MACOSX IRC room and forgor told me it was some sort of debugging feature. The fact I didn’t fully understand much of his explanation was enough for me to realize I didn’t need to turn this thing on. 🙂

The only other issue I could possibly see someone having with MacPilot is that you can do all that MacPilot does for free via either the Terminal, or through a combination of a bunch of system apps such as TinkerTool and Onyx, but MacPilot is pretty much a one-stop shop for most of your Terminal tinkering needs, plus it offers other goodies like keyboard shortcuts, manuals, error code lists, character maps and more.


MacPilot lets even the most newbie of new Mac users screw around with a wide range of the most famous system hacks and Terminal tricks, secure in the knowledge that undoing those hacks is just a checkbox click away. Additionally, it provides a slew of system maintenance and optimization tools to keep even long-time Mac users busy discovering all the customization OS X allows you. Who thought system preference management could be fun?!

MacPilot by Koingo Software

Price: $19.95

Pros: Easy to use interface makes system customization and maintenance fun, offers options for nearly every app you can think of, slew of extras like keyboard and character map shortcuts, takes the mystery out of Terminal

Cons: If you try hard enough you can track down a bunch of freeware aps that do much of this

6 Responses to “Review: MacPilot – Terminal’s missing GUI”
  1. Ryanm says:

    It’s not so much Terminal’s missing GUI, as it is a missing GUI for the “defaults” command.

    Terminal can do a WHOLE lot more than mess with property lists.

  2. dbr says:

    “Cons: If you try hard enough you can track down a bunch of freeware aps that do much of this”

    Or one freeware app that does much of this? OnyX
    or “Deeper” (same site, it’s basically OnyX with the less-commonly-useful stuff removed)

    Or.. is probably a little closer to MacPilot, and again, free.

  3. JP says:

    Cool. I have been wanting use my MacBook as an iTunes alarm clock, but the start up chime always wakes me before the songs.

  4. I think for me, half the fun of using Terminal is the split second before I hit “Enter” when I wonder, “Will this screw up my baby?”

    However, I do agree that discovering all the little things you can tweak is fun and addictive…and that’s why I’m always so amazed whenever I come across programs such as these.

  5. TC says:

    As a free option, I much prefer the Secrets Preference Pane, I am not sure what has happened to it though, as I try to get to it, it seems to have been taken down. If you can find a copy of it, download it. It does most of these and more, also if combined with ONYX, it definately covers all of these same abilities.

  6. Mason says:

    Oh and by the way, the Secrets prefpane is FREE.
    And its by the same people behind Quicksilver…my absolute favorite app for my Mac (it just doesn’t seem like a Mac without it).

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