For an all-purpose system utility, I'm recommending a newcomer, Ice Clean.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Two free Mac utilities you won't want to be without

January 29, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

Apple's Macs are designed to be safer than Windows PCs. But the added safety of Macs can be deceiving. Like Windows PCs, Macs need to be cleaned up; leftover files need to be trashed, old Internet files have to be tossed out, and other odd files and temporary droppings must be given the heave-ho.

Utilities -- programs that do specific tasks related to computer maintenance -- are not hard to find for Macs. Some of them, however, simply duplicate functions that are done by the Mac itself.

(A good example would be a utility that does nothing more than run the Mac's own cleanup routines. All recent Macs run these simple routines, which get rid of old log files and check other things, on a schedule. If the schedule is interrupted because the Mac is turned off, the Mac automatically runs them at the next opportunity. No added utility software is needed.)

So the utilities worth using might well be ones that organize many different functions, giving you a single application that can handle multiple cleanup chores. Another kind of utility you should have on hand is an uninstaller.

I'm recommending my top choices in both areas this week.

For an all-purpose system utility, I'm recommending a newcomer, Ice Clean, free from www.macdentro.com. This program seems fairly ordinary -- when you first run it, you see a smallish window with simple options -- but after you look north to the menu bar you quickly see four categories of functions. One of them has two dozen options alone.

Lest you assume that Ice Clean uses non-standard techniques that might damage your Mac, let me explain that the software actually provides menus and dialogs (in other words, a graphical interface) for the UNIX commands geeks use every day. (Macs have a UNIX operating system totally unrelated to Windows.)

In other words, when you click on a menu choice that says "Clean Font Caches," Ice Clean actually runs a hidden terminal command that looks like this: "sudo atsutil databases -remove" -- without requiring any UNIX familiarity from the user. (I learned many of these commands when I tackled Linux, an offshoot of UNIX, and I'm happy to leave them behind with Ice Clean.)

The other utility I find essential is AppCleaner, free from http://freemacsoft.net. Mac software is supposed to be easy to move or delete, with all parts of a program located in a single container file. But some Mac apps scatter their associated files in many places. This means the traditional method of uninstalling a Mac application -- dragging its icon to the trash -- might leave some stuff behind.

AppCleaner rides to the rescue by locating these drips and dregs and tossing them out with the main program. It shows you all the items it is about to delete so you can double-check its choices -- a good thing, at least in my experience, because there were a couple of times AppCleaner guessed wrong and chose files that didn't belong to the program I was deleting. Overall, however, it does a good job.