My macOS configuration

Creating a comfortable environment

Paul Krzyzanowski

September 1, 2022

Every year or so, I get a new Mac and have to set it up. I created this page as a checklist of things to configure. This is a personal cheat sheet to configure macOS to my liking. Your needs are almost certainly very different from mine.

System setup

Preferences

If using a mouse, enable the right mouse button and adjust tracking speed

System Preferences > Bluetooth

Check Show Bluetooth in menu bar.

System Preferences > Mouse

If you plan to use only a touchpad, skip this step.

Make sure that right clicking is enabled on your mouse. It probably is, so you can skip this step. If you’re using an Apple Magic Mouse, open System Preferences, select Mouse, and make sure the Point & Click tab is selected. Make sure the Secondary click item is checked.

If you’re using a generic two-button mouse (or scroll mouse), System Preferences, select Mouse. The Primary mouse button is typically set to Left.

Change the tracking speed to a faster value. I use 9/10, one step removed from the fastest.

Set the computer name

System Preferences > Sharing

Go to System Preferences and select Sharing. The name entry box is on the top.

Enable ssh login, file sharing, screen sharing

System Preferences > Sharing

Go to System Preferences and select Sharing. Check Screen Sharing, File Sharing, Remote Login.

When you select File Sharing, by default you only share your public folder. Add others as needed (e.g., your home folder) by clicking + under the Shared Folders box and then navigating to the folder.

Reduce the dock size (or hide dock) & set dock magnification

System Preferences > Dock

Make the dock smaller and turn on mouse-over magnification. You can do this via System Preferences > Dock or by clicking and dragging the separator bar on the bottom right part of the dock. For a laptop or small screen, I hide the dock by checking Automatically hide and show the Dock.

I prefer a small zoom when hovering over dock items, so I:

  • Check Magnification
  • Set it to about 60%

Pick your favorite wallpaper

System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop

This is totally a personal preference. I find photo backgrounds too distracting for certain situations and use different wallpapers on different virtual desktops. Solid colors seem a bit too boring so I use a blurred-out version of the old Aqua Graphite wallpaper:

Move your wallpaper to some convenient place in the system (e.g., Photos/Wallpaper) and navigate it via the Folders selector in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop.

For dynamic wallpaper, I use the macOS Monterey wallpaper from Vyncher. To install this:

  1. Download the wallpaper from vyncher.com/macos-monterey.
  2. Open System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop.
  3. Click on any wallpaper under the Dynamic Desktop category.
  4. Open a Finder window and navigate to the folder containing the wallpaper.
  5. Right click on the HEIC file and select Services > Set Desktop Picture.

Enable hot corners to put the display to sleep

System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Screen Saver

Open System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver and select the Screen Saver tab. Then clock on the Hot Corners button on the bottom right. Select Put Display to Sleep for the bottom-right corner.

Enable screen zoom

System Preferences > Accessibility

I don’t need it for reading but find it sometimes useful for zooming in on some images.

  • Click the Zoom tab on the left
  • Select “Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom:”
  • Select ^Control as the modifier key for zooming.

Change caps lock to control

System Preferences > Keyboard

Nobody needs a CAPS LOCK key (unless you’re old and irate). Make it function like a Control key instead. Incidentally, the original IBM PC keyboard had the control key to the left of the A key. For some reason, it was changed to a Caps Lock key when the PC/AT came out.

Open System Preferences and select the Keyboard tab. Click on the Modifier Keys… button on the bottom-right part of the window. Change the Caps Lock modifier to be ^Control and press OK.

Show character viewers in the menu bar

System Preferences > Keyboard

I often need to enter special characters (e.g, Greek letters, math symbols, arrows) or need a reminder what some of the keyboard modifiers do.

Open System Preferences, select the Keyboard and select the Input Sources tab. Check the Show Input menu in menu bar box. A flag will appear on the menu bar.

This part is only for releases before Big Sur: Then select the Keyboard tab. Check the Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar box. The flag will turn into an icon of a desktop with an command symbol on the bottom right.

Customize character lists

Click on the Keyboard/Emoji/Symbol viewer in the top menu bar. On Big Sur, it’s a rectangle with a couple of horizontal lines on the left and an X on the right. Click on Show Empji & Symbols. A window with emojis will open. Have it show more options by clicking the rectangular window icon on the top right of the window. Then click the V symbol on the top left of the window. Select Customize List….

On earlier releases, it is a rectangle with the Apple command symbol on the bottom right). Select Show Emoji & Symbols. Click on the gear box on the top right of the window that opens and select Customize List….

Check:

  • Arrows
  • Bullets/Stars
  • Currency Symbos
  • Digits - All
  • Dingbats
  • Emoji
  • Enclosed Characters
  • Letterlike Symbols - All
  • Math Symbols
  • Parentheses - All
  • Pictographs
  • Punctuation - All
  • Sign/Standard Symbols
  • Technical Symbols
  • European Alphabetic Scripts
    • Greek
    • Latin

Then click on Done.

Finder setup

Show disks on the desktop

Finder > Preferences > General

A clean desktop is wonderful but I find it clunky to open the finder app from the dock and type command-N to create a new finder window. Open the Finder, select Preferences and select the General tab. Check Hard disks. Optionally, also check External disks, CDs, DVDs, and iPods, and Connected servers.

Reduce the desktop icon size

Right click (control click) anywhere on the screen and select Show View Options. I resized mine to 60x60 for retina displays and 36x36 for lower-resolution displays but that’s just a personal preference. With the touchpad on a notebook, you can change the desktop icon size dynamically by pinching or unpinching the touchpad with the mouse focus on the display.

Add content to the Finder’s sidebar

Finder > Preferences > Sidebar

Open the Finder, select Preferences and select the Sidebar tab. Select:

Favorites

  • Recents
  • Applications
  • Desktop
  • Documents
  • Downloads
  • paul (your home directory)

iCloud

-iCloud Drive

Locations

  • Hard disks
  • External disks
  • CDs, DVDs, and iOS Devices
  • Bonjour computers
  • Connected servers

Tags

  • Recent Tags

Show all file extensions in the finder

Finder > Preferences > Advanced

Check Show all filename extensions.

There are three reasons I set this. First, I don’t need the mystery of hidden text in my file names. Second, macOS is forgiving if an extension is missing, but Windows may not be. For example, you can open a jpeg file even if it doesn’t have a .jpg suffix. This will really confuse Microsoft Windows if you move the file to that system. The final reason is security. Malicious files have been distributed with double extensions in their names in the hope that the target will hide the final extension and think they are opening something more innocuous. For example, “myphoto.jpg.xlsx” is an Excel file but may be mistaken for a jpg file if you hide hide the filename extension.

Enter the Finder (click on the leftmost icon in the dock or on the Macintosh HD icon). Then select Finder > Preferences > Advanced and check show all filename extensions.

Select column view

In most cases, I prefer the multi-column view of finder. Select Finder > View > As Columns. Go to View > Show View Options in the Finder toolbar and select Always open in column view.

Enable root access

A lot of people, for good reasons, will recommend against enabling the root account and suggest using the sudo command instead. I use root access too often and don’t have the patience to type the extra characters before everything that needs to run as root.

See How to enable the root user on your Mac or change your root password.

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Choose Users & Groups from the View menu.
  3. Click the lock icon on the bottom left of the window and authenticate.
  4. Click Login Options at the bottom of the list of users.
  5. Click the Join… button next to Network Account Server:
  6. Click on Open Directory Utility… in the window that pops up.
  7. Click the lock in the Directory Utility window and authenticate.
  8. Select Enable Root User on the Edit menu.
  9. Choose and enter a root password in both the Password and Verify fields, then click OK.

Software settings

Terminal

Bring the terminal to the dock

I use the shell (a.k.a. Terminal) a lot. If you don’t then this is useless to you.

  • Open the finder. Select Applications/Utilities.
  • Click and drag Terminal.app (or just Terminal if you don’t show all extensions) to the dock.

Have the terminal close when you exit the shell cleanly:

  • Launch Terminal.
  • Select Terminal > Preferences > Profiles > Shell.
  • Select Close if the shell exited cleanly for When the shell exits:.

Safari

Safari homepage

  • In Safari, go to Preferences.
  • Click on the General tab (far left).
  • Set the Homepage to a blank field or to about:blank.

Safari website address and developer menu

Ever since Yosemite, Safari doesn’t show the full address of a web page by default.

  • In Safari, go to Preferences.
  • Click on the Advanced tab (far right).
  • Select Show full website address in the Smart Search Field on the first line of check boxes.
  • Select Show Develop menu in menu bar.

Safari status bar

In Safari, Select View > Show Status Bar

Mail setup

Add accounts

macOS enables your iCloud account but others have to be added.

Change Mail’s copy address behavior (not needed since Big Sur)

Starting in 10.6, Mail’s Copy Address copied the name together with the address in angle brackets. To just copy the email address onto the clipboard, run this in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.mail AddressesIncludeNameOnPasteboard -bool NO

Change Mail’s message viewing and quoting

I don’t care for a conversational view of messages. Start Mail, select each mailbox, and uncheck View > Organize by Conversation.

I also don’t care for message replies to be quoted (indented). Select Mail > Preferences. Under the Composing tab, uncheck Increase quote level.

Mark addresses

This highlights email domains that don’t end with one of the domains you list. I add my work domains here:

Check Mark addresses not ending with and enter domains in the form @domain1.com, @domain2.com.

Software installation

Install dropbox

  • Go to www.dropbox.com and download the installler
  • Run the installer from the downloaded DropboxInstaller.dmg
  • The installer will ask you to turn on Accessibility > Dropbox.

If you’re not asked to go the accessibility panel, you may need to do so manually to enable the Dropbox badge. Go to:

Settings > Security & Privacy > Privacy

Click the lock icon at the bottom left if the lock is in the locked position.

Select Accessibility from the list on the left and check Dropbox on the right.

Rsync home files

This is completely custom and will not apply to anyone else reading this. Go to system_setup in dropbox and:

cd System_setup
mkdir $HOME/bin
mkdir $HOME/.ssh; chmod 0700 $HOME/.ssh
cp -p qsync-in $HOME/bin
cp -p bash_profile $HOME/.bash_profile
cp -p bashrc $HOME/.bashrc
cp -p zshrc $HOME/.zshrc
cp -p ssh/* $HOME/.ssh
chmod 600 $HOME/.ssh/*
sudo cp -p hosts /etc/hosts
bash ./qsync-in

Also, copy:

  • /usr/local

Set your login shell to bash

I’m too accustomed to bash. If you want bash to be your login shell, run:

chsh -s /bin/bash

Create a .bash_profile or .zshrc

If you use a shell and your shell is bash, you’ll want a .bash_profile in your home directory. What you put in your profile is really up to you. Among other things, I stick in an

export BASH_SILENCE_DEPRECATION_WARNING=1
export BC_ENV_ARGS=-q
PS1="\h|\W: "
set -o vi

The first item keeps bash from stating that zsh is now the default interactive shell on macOS. The second item keeps bc from printing a copyright notice. The third sets the prompt to the hostname|base_name_of_current_directory:. If you don’t use bc (or the shell), then you won’t care.

If your shell is zsh, then create a .zshrc in hour home directory. The basic for me is:

bindkey -v
export PROMPT='%m|%C: '

App Store software

I use:

Optionally:

Set up OneDrive

If OneDrive is installed, enable third-party Mac extension on the finder

  • Go to System Preferences and select Extensions in the second row of icons.
  • Click on Finder Extensions in the left column and check OneDrive Finder Integration in the box on the right.

Run OneDrive.

  • Authenticate with your Microsft Office 365 email address and password.
  • Choose your OneDrive folder. I just have one called OneDrive under my home directory
  • WHen you get the screen that states Your OneDrive Is Ready for You , check the box next to Open at login so my files sync automatically.

Additional Software

Install additional software. Other software I use:

Communication & collaboration

Utilities

  • Adblock Plus: ad blocker
  • 1Password 6: password manager
    • Do not download the app store version if you have a standalone license
    • I use an older version (6). Download that instead of the latest.
    • Install the safari extension
  • App CLeaner & Uninstaller: app uninstaller
    • No longer available via the App Store since it uninstalls programs; get it from nektony.com.
  • OmniDiskSweeper
  • FontBase: font manager
  • Onyx: cleaner
  • MOS: a utility that enables smooth scrolling and control of scroll direction with non-Apple mice. I don’t need this with the Logitech MX Master 3 but needed it with other mice that didn’t come with their own drivers.

Photography, design, and publishing

Other software

Homebrew

Homebrew is one of several package managers available for macOS. Installing packages such as Imagemagick is a pain without it.

Install it by running this in the terminal:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"

Then install

  • imagemagick: image manipulation tools:
    brew install imagemagick

  • exiftool: dislpay/manipulate EXIF headers in photos: brew install exiftool

  • libdvdcss: DVD DRM decoder for use with Handbrake (if you plan to rip DVDs):
    brew install libdvdcss

  • Multimarkdown: Multimarkdown converter to html and latex:
    brew install multimarkdown

  • Pandoc: document converter:
    brew install pandoc

Printer/Scanner software:

Set up file sharing to enable the network printer’s scanner to save scans.

Open System Preferences and select Sharing. Select File Sharing from the left list. Click ‘+’ under Shared Folders. Navigate to folder you want to use to store scans (/Volumes/P/Scans in my case). Click Add.

Microsoft Office

Still a de facto standard. I use the Office 365 subscription. You can install it via the App Store here

Or get it from Office 365:

  • Sign in via office.com
  • Select Install Software
  • A reason for installing it from Microsoft is that you get the option of getting early access to new releases. After installation, start any Office program. Go to Help > Check for Updates and check the Join the Office Insider program to get early access to new releases box.

If you have a non-subscription version installed, copy

/Library/Preferences/com.microsoft.office.licensing.plist

from a computer that already has MS-Office installed.

Extra - make the Library directory visible in the finder

Apple hides this so that users don’t go poking around there. This means that you need to start from the Terminal app if that’s what you want to do. If you want to make the Library directory visible in the finder, run this shell command:

chflags nohidden ~/Library

If you want to make all hidden files visible in the finder, run this command:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE

and then restart the finder with:

killall Finder

Change the last parameter to FALSE in the ``defaults write` command to undo this. I choose not to do this because I don’t want to see extra clutter in my finder view and hidden files are rarely of interest to me.

Menu bar setup

Show the remaining battery life in the menu bar

This is only useful for laptops, of course. Older versions of macOS had a Show Time option. This is gone. If you want it, check out one of these menu bar programs

Battery Monitor
This shows you various battery statistics when you click on it and has options to show the remaining percentage or time.
Battery Time Indicator
This takes less space in the menu bar since it shows the remaining time within the battery icon. However, it does not show information on battery health.

If you use either of these, remove Apple’s battery icon from the menu bar by going to System Preferences > Energy Saver and uncheck Show battery status in menu bar.

Show a calendar when clicking on the date and time on the top menu bar

If you’d like to see a monthly calendar when you click on the date and have options to configure the display of the date and time, there are several programs that do the job.

I use Mowglii’s itsycal. Itsycal is a tiny menu bar calendar that shows a monthly calendar when you click the clock.

  1. Download the itsycal zip file.

  2. Navigate to your Downloads folder and and drag itsycal.app to Applications/Utilities.

  3. Click the program to run it.

  4. Click on itsycal’s date icon and select Preferences from the gear icon on the bottom right.

  5. Check Launch at login and Automatically check for updates from the General tab.

  6. Click on Appearance and enter the set the datetime patterns field to your preferences. Instructions for formats are here.
    I use:
    E MMM d h:mm a

  7. Check Hide icon.

Since these programs replace the clock, you need to disable macOS from showing the clock. Since macOS 11.1 (Big Sur), clicking on the clock brings up the Notification Center, so it cannot be fully removed. Instead we will make it take up the smallest amount of space by selecting the analog clock display.

Run System Preferences and select Dock & Menu Bar. Then select Clock from the list on the left under the Menu Bar Only heading. Select Analog in the Time Options category on the right.

Disable Siri

I don’t need Siri. Remove it from the menu bar by going to System Preferences and selecting Dock & Menu Bar. Then select Siri from the list on the left under the Menu Bar Only heading and uncheck Show in Menu Bar in the right pane.

Arrange the menu bar

Non-system items in the meny bar can be rearranged by holding down the command key (⌘) while dragging the item. Move the date-time display as far to the right as it would go.

Disable automatic playing of songs during import on iTunes

Open the Terminal and run the command:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes play-songs-while-importing FALSE

Other software

Install command-line tools for Xcode

  • Open the Terminal
  • Become root
  • Run gcc
  • Agree to the license (“agree”)

If you don’t want to install all of xcode, run

xcode-select --install

Dock setup

Again, this is highly personal based on the software you use.

Remove:

  • Siri
  • Launchpad
  • Numbers

Add

  • Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Photoshop

The ordering I use is:

  • Finder
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • Safari
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Slack
  • Teams
  • Facetime
  • Photoshop
  • Photos
  • VueScan
  • Music
  • Podcasts
  • News
  • TextEdit
  • Word
  • Pages
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Keynote
  • Terminal
  • App Store
  • System Preferences

Mission Control and assign apps to spaces

**System Preferences > Mission Control **

  • Uncheck Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use
  • Uncheck Displays have separate Spaces

Assign apps to spaces:

  • Control-click an app’s icon in the Dock.
  • Choose Options
  • Select This Desktop or Desktop on Display # have the app open in that space.

I assign Photoshop & Lightroom to different spaces from the main space.

**System Preferences > Mission Control **

  • Uncheck Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use
  • Uncheck Displays have separate Spaces

Enable SMS forwarding

On your iPhone, go to Settings > Messages. Select Text Message Forwarding and check the new computer so that it will send and receive messages from the iPhone.

Install fonts

I use FontBase as a font manager and store my core typefaces in Dropbox. Run FontBase and drag the collections under Install Fonts into FontBase. Typeface choice is highly personal. Here is what I use in addition to the standard typefaces installed by Apple and Microsoft:

Serif:

  • Adobe Caslon Pro
  • Adobe Jenson Pro
  • Bembo Std
  • Clarendon LT Std
  • Excelsior LT Std
  • ITC Giovanni
  • Minion Pro
  • Minion Std
  • Perpetua Std
  • Sabon LT Std
  • Stempel Schneidler Std
  • Trajan Pro

Sans Serif

  • Formata
  • Bell Centennial Std
  • DIN Std
  • Franklin Gothic Std
  • Frutiger LT Std
  • Myriad Pro
  • Trade Gothic LT Std
  • Univers LT Std
  • VAG Rounded Std
  • Segoe UI

Monospace

  • Prestige Elite Std
  • Teleprinter

Handwriting

  • Ashley Script MT Std
  • Balzano Std
  • Bickham Script Std
  • Brush Script Std
  • Caflisch Script Pro
  • Caliban Std
  • Freestyle Script Std
  • Kaufmann Std
  • Kuenstler Script LT Std
  • Ruzicka Freehand LT Std
  • Shelley LT Std-Script
  • Snell Roundhand LT Std
  • Zipty Do Std

Decorative

  • Caslon Open Face LT Std
  • Clairvaux LT Std
  • Dorchester Script MT Std
  • Eurostile LT Std
  • ITC Zapf Chancery Std
  • ITC Zapf Dingbats Std
  • Linoscript Std
  • Linotext Std
  • Nuptial Script LT Std
  • OCRA Std
  • OCRB Std
  • Stencil Std
  • Diploma
Last modified September 1, 2022.
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