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Exploring The Utilities Folder On Your Mac

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Our claim to fame is letting folks know where they can go to download the best in Mac freeware, but there are already some great free applications hiding on your Mac that you might not know about. With the initial install of Mac OS X Tiger, there is a Utilities folder full of goodies. You can find it in your Applications folder or by pressing Shift-Command-U in Finder.

Once there, you’ll find all kinds of goodies. I thought I’d run thru each one and let you know what it is and what you can do with it.


Activity Monitor – Activity Monitor let’s you know what is going on with your computer. It can let you know where your memory and CPU is being used most.

I think this app is mostly useful when there is an app that won’t quit or a document that can’t be trashed because it is “in use.” Fire up Activity monitor and you can kill that process.

There’s another nice use for Mac users with Intel machines. You can sort all the processes by “Kind” and there you’ll see any apps that are still running as a PowerPC app. The only one left on my list is that darn URLwell. What I wouldn’t do for an update of that app.

More info on Activity Monitor here


Airport Admin Utility – The application will let you configure your Apple Airport products.

I know there are cheaper routers out there, but I encourage all my family members to get the the Airport products because this app makes it so easy to manage these routers. When even my mom has set up a router successfully, you know it’s a good app.


Airport Setup Assistant – This app is used when you first set up your Airport product. It’s an easy wizard for setup.


Audio MIDI Setup – You can use Audio MIDI Setup to configure the audio input and output devices you use with your computer, such as microphones and audio playback equipment. If you need this app, you probably already know how to use it.


Bluetooth File Exchange – If you have a cell phone or PDA with bluetooth, this application makes it very easy to send files back and forth. This is a great way to take your photos off of your phone, or to add ringtones to your phone.


Colorsync Utility – This app gives you access to to Apple’s Colorsync specs. In this app you can set different profiles. There is also a nifty calculator that can convert between RGB and CMYK. This is another of those apps that isn’t useful to most people.


Console – Console gives you a “behind the scenes” look at your Mac. While you see all the pretty pictures and graphics of Mac OS X, there is a ton happening in the background. Console lets you watch that. It’s especially helpful to see error or status messages.


Digitalcolor Meter – If you are preparing your work for professional printing and you have an Apple monitor, you can use DigitalColor Meter to match the color on your screen against several industry standards.


Directory Access – Directory Access lists the different kinds of services that Mac OS X can access. The list includes directory services, which give Mac OS X access to user information and other administrative data stored in directory domains. The list also includes kinds of network services that Mac OS X can discover on the network.

You can enable or disable access to each kind of service. If you disable a kind of service in Directory Access, Mac OS X no longer accesses services of the disabled kind. The different services can be found here.


Disk Utility – There is all kinds of power in the Disk Utility. Here you can reformat a disk, check and fix permissions, and so many other things.
One of my favorite uses is to create encrypted disk images. That way you can keep sensitive documents on your Mac (e.g., scanned social security card, bank records) and they are safe if your Mac was ever stolen.


Grab – Grab will let you “grab” screenshots of your Mac. Of course, you can already do this with key combinations, but Grab does have one nice feature. You can do a timed grab. Start the timer and ten second later the Mac will grab a screenshot.


Grapher – Grapher lets you create 2D and 3D graphs from equations.
OS 9 came with a graphing calculator. OS X versions before Tiger had no graphing options. But, with Mac OS X Tiger, we now have Grapher.


Installer – You’ve probably used Installed a hundred times and didn’t know it. Whenever you download a new application that comes in a package or a metapackage, Installer makes it possible to install that application.


Keychain Access – Keychain Access gives you access to the keychain. Duh.

Anytime you save a password to a site or a server or anything on the Mac, it is stored in the keychain. If you forget one of those passwords and it isn’t filling in automatically, you can access keychain with this application and find your password.


Migration Assistant – This is simply one of the most amazing applications. If you’ve ever purchased a new Mac and migrated from your old one, this is the app you used. You can also use it to get a use from a different machine. I’ve used this application about 10 times and have had perfect and problem-free migrations each time.


Netinfo Manager – Netinfo is the built-in Mac OS X directory system. It stores information about users and resources and makes it available to Mac OS X processes that want to use it. This application helps you manage it. But I wouldn’t “manage” it unless you know what you’re doing.


Network Utility – Since I run a fairly large network of Macs this app is great. It makes it easy to ping machines, lookup name server and DNS, do traceroutes, port scans, etc. It also is a quick way to find info on your Network interfaces. (e.g., ethernet, airport, etc)


ODBC Administrtator – This will give you access to database management systems using Open Database Connectivity standards. (At least as far as I can tell. I’ve never used this app.)


Printer Setup Utility – When you get that new printer and hook it to your Mac, this app comes to the rescue. It will lead you along to get the printer working.


System Profiler – If you need information about your Mac, here is the place to come. It will tell you about your RAM and your drives and your processors and anything thing else you’d need.


Terminal – This is the gateway to the true power of Mac OS X. It is a terminal emulator that will let you use the Unix base of Mac OS X. I use this most often to connect via SSH and to set the crontab of my machine, but there are thousands more reason to use it.

You can learn more about how to use Terminal at our sister site, Start from the earliest post and work right on thru to learn the basics.


VoiceOver Utility – Voiceover is a Mac OS X feature that lets you interact with your Mac via voice. It will read the text of websites, email, and documents. It also allows you to control your Mac using audible commands.

Voiceover Utility lets you determine how Voiceover will behave.

Well, that’s all of them.

I’m familiar with most of these apps, but some of them I’m not too experienced with. If you have any tips about any of these apps, I’d love to read them. You can leave them in the comments for me and for the other readers.

10 Responses to “Exploring The Utilities Folder On Your Mac”

  1. takaaki Says:

    I wonder why you need to show each icon. This article must have been well-written and well-designed if no icons are used.

  2. Jesse Says:

    Very nice and to-the-point overview. I don’t understand the previous comment about icons, it is handy to see the icon of the utility that is referred to, although arguably they are a bit big.

  3. Jag Says:

    Great article! I’m sure I’m not the only one who was curious about some of those apps.

  4. Janssen Says:

    ColorSync Utility can also be used to create new PDF filters that are available through the system print dialog. I’ve used it to downsample and compress images in PDFs to customize the overall image quality to file size ratio for documents. It’s a little more technical than how you would do it in Acrobat Professional, but it’s a whole lot cheaper and the features are easier to find than in Acrobat.

    I also have a plug for Grapher… The quality of the graphs is amazing and the program is much easier to use and cheaper than Maple, Mathematica, or Matlab, which are essential math software packages in the scientific community. You can also copy the equations and paste them in LaTeX format, which is a huge timesaver, particularly when you are just learning the LaTeX syntax for mathematical typesetting. You can also export the equations as images if you like. Overall, the equation editing process is much easier to use than Microsoft’s Equation Editor (which is on the MS Office CD, but is not part of the default installation… something that took me a while to figure out).

    By the way, Bluetooth File Exchange can also be used to transmit files between bluetooth enabled Macs. This is particularly useful on those days when you have your laptop, but forgot your USB thumbdrive and don’t have the time or equipment to set up a network connection.

  5. tapcam Says:

    I really like Grapher when I can figure out how to make it work. Sometimes it will behave just the way I want it too, and then I think I am doing the same thing I did before, but Grapher doesn’t behave the way I remember it behaving. For example, I wanted to create a point set using Grapher. I was entering coordinates fine for awhile, and then some strange field appeared in a column and nothing worked any more. I was able to create the point set by importing from a text document, but I wish I had the option of using Grapher, as well. I’ve been surfing extensively, in hopes that some kind soul has put together some Grapher documentation. Ideas, anyone?

  6. Loy Miller Says:

    My os was re-installed and I’m missing some of these utilities (specifically Directory Access.) Do you know how I can re-install them?

  7. W. Lin Says:

    Does anyone know where to download the application “Grapher” for iBook? I’ve tried and tried, but so far… not so good. I don’t want a MacBook! I want my iBook, only with more, better applications!

  8. Chris Says:

    Right, this page has been REALLY useful, and i’ll tell you why – like a complete idiot, i just accidentally moved my utilities folder to trash, then hit empty. Once i realised what i was doing i stopped it, but by then the it was half way through, and i could only save up to disk utility. Every other utility listen after disk utility on this page has been deleted from my computer – terminal, system profiler, keychain access etc. I think i’m screwed. I don’t suppose you know if i can copy these other utilities from another mac? Or even download them from the net?! I use terminal quite a lot and to think i have now lost it for ever is quite a concern. Please let me know what you think i should do. Thanks

  9. Lynnea Teters Says:


    So not sure how this happened, but I seam to have deleted EVERYTHING out of my utilities folder on my mac. I really do not even know how it is running at all :) But I have created a huge problem for my self. I can not even download anything. Any suggestions on how to get all my utility apps back? Any advice would be helpful thank you! Have a good day.

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