Privacy is important when it comes to personal computers, and even more so when that personal computer is a shared one. Even if your computer is only really used by you, but others such as friends or spouses have access to it from time to time, privacy is important. For the sake of ease, programs these days keep track of a great deal of things, from what documents you last had opened to which folder you last visited and this information might not be something you want others to see, for whatever the reason. Programs that cache a lot of information about activity, such as browsers, have already started to adopt a privacy option where no information about your activity is saved. Unfortunately, this feature is not becoming standard beyond browsers and for any other kind of program you would have to manually go out and delete information about your activity. Alternatively, you could use a third party application, such as Mac Cleanse.What it does
Mac Cleanse is a small utility that you can use to easily purge information stored on your computer in order to ensure your privacy. Using a simple checkbox method, you can specify what information you want gone and the program will go deep into the system and remove it for you.Working with it
Mac Cleanse is similar in many ways to other cleaning applications that make it easy to remove certain kinds of files from your system that are buried deep. Unlike other applications that mainly focus on files that take up disk space needlessly, or which you have not used in quite a while, Mac Cleanse focuses on files that store information about your activity on that certain computer. These files tend to be both very small and very often used, so they are overlooked by similar applications.
Using Mac Cleanse is simply a matter of selecting what you want cleansed and hitting the button. If you want to leave as few traces as possible, the easiest thing is simply purging everything routinely. This approach while very straightforward can impact your productivity and cause annoyances as most of the information
that is stored helps cut down on the redundancy of some every day tasks. Furthermore, some information such as the recent documents that appear in the File menu in Cocoa applications uses the same system and Mac Cleanse will purge this information from all programs indiscriminately. As such, it tends to be more practical to remove only the information that you want gone. Although carefully making selections can be more time consuming than purging everything, it only needs to be done once, as Mac Cleanse will let you save a preset, which you can then load at any time.
Hand picking what you need cleansed is a rather straightforward affair when it comes to the applications that the program has listed. Besides browsers that make up the bulk, Mac Cleanse also lets you clean up chat programs, including Adium, AIM, iChat, Fire, MSN, Proteus and Skype. For any and all other applications, there is an aptly named 'Miscelaneous' category that includes a huge mishmash of everything from Acquisition to Microsoft Office and Xtorrent. The long list available here is ordered alphabetically so finding what you want is relatively simple.
When it comes to global files, the Finder and the System, things are a bit more serious. Here, the options are either very specific, such as Samba Logs and Cron Logs; or very general such as the Last Current Directory. Fortunately, each and every option has a description which will be displayed on the right side and these are often more than enough to give you a clear idea of what you will be deleting, even if you have never heard of it before.Presets and security
Because fine-tuning Mac Cleanse to only delete certain files can take quite a long time, it is best to save the configuration once it is ready as a preset. This is simply a matter of giving it a name, by which it will be identified in the menu on the lower left of the screen. Unfortunately, managing presets is non existent beyond this point and should you wish to make changes, you will have to save a new preset with a new name and then delete the old one.
The other important feature that Mac Cleanse offers is secure deletion of files. Since simply trashing the files leaves them susceptible to recovery through different methods, the program gives you the option of securely removing them so that they will never see the light of day. The file to be removed will be overwritten, renamed and truncated before unlinking, but while this process might be good for peace of mind, it is bad for time. Developers warn about how long using this option will make the entire process, and they are not kidding.The Good
Makes it easy to remove all traces of your activity with just a few clicks. Secure deletion of files makes the cleansed information irrecoverable.The Bad
The presets system is primitive and finding the applications you need can be a bit of a chore.The Truth
While it is nowhere near as good as the 'Private Browsing' option that web browsers now have, it is far better than removing the files by hand. Depending on the programs you use, this application might make things as easy as a few clicks.
Here are some screenshots, click to enlarge: