Software

How to customize system extensions in macOS

Learn how to use macOS extensions to accelerate common tasks and maximize the operating system's customization capabilities.

You can tailor Apple and third-party components, called extensions, to offer additional functionality within macOS, including directly within Finder, applications, Notification Center, and more.

macOS extensions add functionality in the form of pieces of code that adjust, or extend, the operating system's capabilities. For example, you can configure Markup actions to prove available within other programs, including Mail and TextEdit, to enable adding images, signatures, drawings, and notations to files, such as images and documents.

SEE: Software usage policy (Tech Pro Research)

To configure macOS extensions, open System Preferences, which is typically found in the Dock or within the Applications directory. Clicking the corresponding Extensions option opens extension preferences and permits enabling (checking) and disabling (un-checking) various components.

macOS divides extensions into the following categories (Figure A).

  • All: Collects all third-party extensions
  • Actions: Displays extensions providing viewing and editing functionality
  • Finder: Lists extensions for customizing the Finder
  • Photos Editing: Organizes extensions for editing images and photos
  • Share Menu: Presents extensions that adjust options for sharing content with others
  • Today: Contains extensions for adjusting Today view functionality within the Notification Center

Figure A

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Image: Apple, Inc.

The All option displays all third-party extensions installed on a Mac. When an extension possesses content-editing functionality, an Actions checkbox will be present. When an extension possesses the ability to customize Finder, a corresponding Finder checkbox will be present. Only the boxes that are checked are active extensions.

Default extensions, such as those for Mail, Messages, and AirDrop, cannot be customized. Extensions that don't appear within a specific category cannot be used for that category's purpose. Further, only extensions that permit posting or messaging appear within the Notification Center's Today view Social widget.

The extensions that can be added to the Finder include those for Dropbox and OneDrive. Many third-party photo and imaging-editing applications, including Pixelmator, Luminar, and Aurora, are present within Photo Editing, while Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Flickr, and even Microsoft OneNote, among others, are compatible options within the Share menu.

SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF download) (TechRepublic)

Mac users who are fond of using notifications will find a variety of extensions available for extending the Notification Center's functionality. Among the extensions that integrate with Notification Center are weather apps, Reminders, Twitter, and Calendar. By tweaking the Notification Center extensions, you can customize the events, reminders, alerts, and related items that appear.

Take the time to customize macOS

The more you customize macOS to meet your specific preferences, the more your Mac can better fulfill your needs. Extensions play a significant role in the process—you just need to take the time to customize these settings. The payoff is you'll be able to easily, continually, and more quickly access these common items. Considering the minimal investment required, that's a good return.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/Suradech14

About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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