Add some ZEN to your desktop

When Mac OS 10.7 Lion came out, one of the most exciting features for me was Misson Control. Basically, Mission Control wants to give you an overview over all your open applications and spaces, and it also gives you easy access to your Dashboard. What does Mission Control have to do with academia? The answer is simple: With a few and easy tweaks to Mission Control, you can add some ZEN to your computing experience that might help you to focus, relax, and be more productive.


Meet Lion Designer

Lion Designer is a small little Mac OS 10.7 app that you can download for free and that allows you to exchange the background images in Mission Control and other Lion specific places (e.g., Dashboard, Launchpad folders, Login Screen, and some other tweaks). Don’t be irritated by the somehow cluttered design and the free price tag: Lion Designer performs well once you have figured it out, and I had no problems so far. And if you don’t like your tweaks, you can revert to the original settings. The developer accepts donations for his efforts.

In my case, I only changed the Mission Control and the Dashboard background. Before diving into the details, here is a quick comparison gallery for Mission Control:

This is how the standard Mission Control looks like.

Thanks to Lion Designer, this Mission Control has a little bit more flair.

And here for the Dashboard:

I never liked the spartan look of Lion's original Dashboard.

I prefer a sandy background. Actually, I used an image, not a pattern, for this beach effect. Works okay, but patterns are easier to handle.


Use tileable patterns for best results

When you start Lion Designer, two windows will open: the main Lion Designer window, and a smaller Conversion Window. The latter one is good if you want to use a picture that does not have the right dimensions, but for best results I recommend to ignore the Conversion Window and work only with tileable patterns instead. If you are older than 25 you probably remember how you used very pixel-ish tiles to sexy up your old Windows 3.1 machine, but believe me, these tiles have come a long way and look actually really great now! The benefit of tilable patterns is that you can fill the complete screen without any obvious cuts or edges – with much smaller file sizes than a full-screen photo. You can check out some free tiles here, here, and here. Of course, these patterns can also be used on your blog or your online twitter page.

Lion Designer's interface is a little clunky, but it does the job. Unless you want to use pictures, you don't need to worry about the Conversion Window. For the best results, stick to seamless patterns that you can exchange through the dialogues in the main window.

Once you have picked your tile, just click on the Change button for the background (or icon) you want to change, select the file, and click on Apply. You need to insert your administrator password, both for changing and reverting your background.

There is more to Lion Designer, but these are the features that I like the most. Again, I had never troubles with it, and you can always get back to the original settings. Be warned though: you can become slightly addicted to redecorating your desktop, and you might even try to convince your office mate that this is the coolest thing since the invention of the desktop metaphor for computers. Maybe it is not, but I find Lion Designer to be an easy way to add some ZEN into my work.

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