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CJ R.
CJ R.

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Setting up a Mac for Development

I recently (July 2022) wiped and reloaded my MacBook Pro with macOS Monterey. I documented my process and the tools / apps / settings I use on a daily basis.

You can watch me talk about this setup on YouTube.

If you have other apps / tools you use, please let me know in the comments.

What Macbook do I have?

I am still using the 2015 Macbook Pro (yes still in 2022). This 7 year old laptop still runs great for all of my needs (development, music production, video editing and image editing).

These are the specs at a glance:

  • Intel "Core i7" Quad Core 2.5 GHz
  • 16GB RAM
  • 500GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon R9 M370X 2GB GPU

You can read more about it here

The apps and settings I use should work on the latest M1 and M2 MacBooks as well.

Homebrew / Terminal / Shell

Homebrew

Homebrew allows us to install tools and apps from the command line.

To install it, open up the built in Terminal app and run this command:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
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This will also install the xcode build tools which is needed by many other developer tools.

After Homebrew is done installing, we will use it to install everything else we need.

Terminal

The first app I install is to replace the built in Terminal.

I prefer iTerm2 because:

  • Nice window chrome
  • Lots of customization options
  • Clickable links
  • Native OS notifications

Quick aside - "window chrome" is another term for the basic structural elements used in a graphical user interface, such as window frames and scroll bars, as opposed to the content. After having a few people review this, I realize not everyone knows / uses that term ­čśů

There are a lot of options for a terminal replacement, but I've been using iTerm2 for years and it works great for my needs.

Checkout their documentation for more info on what iTerm2 can do: https://iterm2.com/documentation.html

We install this using a Homebrew "cask". Casks are full applications, similar to what you would install from the App store.

brew install iterm2
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Once installed, launch it and customize the settings / preferences to your liking. These are my preferred settings:

  • Appearance
    • Theme
    • Minimal
  • Profiles
    • Default
      • General -> Working Directory -> Reuse previous session's directory
      • Colors -> Basic Colors -> Foreground -> Lime Green
      • Text -> Font -> Anonymous Pro
        • You can download this font here.
        • I use this font in VS Code as well
      • Text -> Font Size -> 36
        • I use my Macbook to present / teach, so a big font size is important so everyone can see the commands I'm typing
      • Keys -> Key Mappings -> Presets -> Natural Text Editing

Shell

Mac now comes with zsh as the default shell. bash is my preferred shell.

I prefer bash because every remote linux machine I log into uses bash. Also, most shell scripts you come across (.sh files) are meant to be run on sh (Bourne shell) or bash (Bourne again shell). These files might run on zsh, but there might be some compatibility issues.

If you are a beginner, you probably don't need to replace your shell with bash. If you're going to stick with zsh, checkout Oh My Zsh which gives you a bunch of customizations out of the box.

Install Bash and set it as the default

To see what shell is currently your default, run:

echo $SHELL
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To install the latest version of bash:

brew install bash
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Then, determine where bash got installed:

which bash
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This will likely print /usr/local/bin/bash.

We now need to add this to our /etc/shells file so we can set it as our default shell.

Open up the /etc/shells file in nano (a command line text editor) with super user privileges (you will need to type your password after running this command):

sudo nano /etc/shells
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Command explained:

  • sudo is a way of running a command with super user privileges.
  • nano is an easy to use command line editor. As opposed to vi or vim.
  • /etc/shells is the file we need to edit / update.

This will launch a command line editor. Add /usr/local/bin/bash to the file above the other list of shells.

Press CTRL+X to close the file and then Y to confirm / save the changes.

Now that /usr/local/bin/bash is in our /etc/shells file, we can set it as our default shell (you will need to enter your password for this command as well):

chsh -s /usr/local/bin/bash
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Now that you've changed your shell, if you open up a new iTerm2 tab or close / re-open iTerm2, you should be presented with a bash shell!

You can run the following to confirm you shell has changed:

echo $SHELL
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Customizing Bash with .bash_profile

I have a custom .bash_profile with all of my custom settings including a customized prompt, aliases, PATH variables, colors and more.

If you do not want to go through the process of customizing your .bash_profile, you can install Oh My Bash to get a ton of customizations out of the box.

I store my .bash_profile on github here so I can copy it over to any machine I'm setting up.

Copy this file (or create your own) in your home directory:

cd ~
curl -O https://raw.githubusercontent.com/w3cj/dotfiles/master/.bash_profile
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Commands used by my .bash_profile

  • vcprompt - list the current branch if in a folder that is a git repo
  • fortune - print a random quote / story / joke / poem.
  • cowsay - use a cowfile to say a random fortune
brew install vcprompt
brew install fortune
brew install cowsay
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Install the latest version of git

My Mac came with git version 2.32.1, we can use brew to install the latest version of git:

git --version
brew install git
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Open a new tab / window to start using the latest version:

git --version
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Configure git with your name / email and preferred editor:

git config --global user.name w3cj

git config --global user.email cj@null.computer

git config --global core.editor nano
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Other command line tools I use

  • ffmpeg - edit videos from the command line
  • imagemagick - edit images from the command line
brew install ffmpeg
brew install imagemagick
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OS Productivity

Window Management

I know this feature is built in to a lot of other operating systems, but it is not built in to a Mac, so we need an app for it.

I use rectangle to move and resize windows using keyboard shortcuts. I used to use spectacle, but rectangle is more regularly maintained and allows me to use all of the same keyboard shortcuts as spectacle.

I highly recommend installing this and memorizing the keyboard shortcuts. Fluid and seamless window management is key to being productive while coding.

brew install rectangle
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App Switching

The built in App switcher only shows application icons, and only shows 1 icon per app regardless of how many windows you have open in that app.

I use an app switcher called AltTab. It shows full window previews, and has an option to show a preview for every open window in all applications (even minimized ones).

I replace the built-in CMD+TAB shortcut with AltTab.

brew install alt-tab
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Quick Launching

The built in spotlight search is a bit slow for me and usually has web search results as the default instead of apps or folders on my machine.

I use Alfred to launch apps / folders. There are features locked behind the paid powerpack, but I purchased a lifetime license a few years ago, and Alfred keeps working great for me. There are a lot of other cool things you can do with Alfred (workflows, scripting, clipboard manager etc.), but I mainly use it for launching apps and folders.

brew install alfred
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Other Apps I Use Daily

  • firefox-developer-edition - Preferred web browser
  • app-cleaner - When removing an app, will search your file system for related files / settings that should be removed as well
  • android-file-transfer - Transfer files to / from my android phone
  • android-platform-tools - Installs adb without the need for the full android studio.
  • keepingyouawake - Prevents my Mac from going to sleep when I'm presenting / live streaming
  • discord - Messaging / Community
  • vlc - I use VLC to watch videos instead of the built in QuickTime.
  • keka - Can extract 7z / rar and other types of archives
  • kap - Screen recorder / gif maker
  • time-out - Break timer
  • gimp - Image editor
  • inkscape - Vector editor
  • visual-studio-code - Code Editor
  • sublime-text - Note taking (I know there are better apps...)
  • insomnia - HTTP / REST / GraphQL tester / requester

You can install them in one go by placing them all into a text file and then running brew install:

firefox-developer-edition
app-cleaner
android-file-transfer
android-platform-tools
keepingyouawake
discord
slack
vlc
keka
kap
time-out
gimp
inkscape
visual-studio-code
sublime-text
insomnia
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xargs brew install < apps.txt
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OS Settings

These are my preferred settings for Finder and the Dock.

Finder

  • Finder -> Preferences
    • General -> Show these on the desktop -> Select None
      • I try to keep my desktop completely clean.
    • General -> New Finder windows show -> Home Folder
      • I prefer to see my home folder in each new finder window instead of recent documents
    • Advanced -> Show all filename extensions -> Yes
    • Advanced -> Show warning before changing an extension -> No
    • Advanced -> When performing a search -> Search the current folder
  • View
    • Show Status Bar
    • Show Path Bar
    • Show Tab Bar

Dock

I don't use the Dock at all. It takes up screen space, and I can use Alfred to launch apps and AltTab to switch between apps. I make the dock as small as possible and auto hide it.

  • System Preferences
    • Dock & Menu Bar
      • Size -> Small as possible
      • Position on screen -> Right
      • Automatically hide and show the Dock -> Yes

Menu Bar Customization

System Stats Widgets

I like to see my network traffic, CPU temp / usage and RAM usage at a glance.

I used to use iStat Menus, but a few people in my twitch chat pointed me to stats, a FOSS menu bar stats app. I tried it out, and I like it so far.

In each widget, a key setting to look for is under "widget settings", choose "merge widgets into one".

brew install stats
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Menu Bar Calendar

I like to have a calendar in the menu bar that I can quickly look at. stats does not include one, so I found itsycal. It seems fine for my needs.

brew install itsycal
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itsycal shows the date, so I hide the date in the system menu bar widget:

  • System Preferences
    • Dock & Menu Bar
      • Clock
        • Show Date -> Never
        • Show Day of Week -> No

Note Taking

There are likely a million other better options, but I have used Sublime Text as a note taking app for years now. I essentially use it as a staging area before moving my notes into a more permanent place (Google Docs, Google Keep, Trello, actual code project READMES etc.) or I delete the note (close the tab) after it has served its purpose.

I use sublime because it allows me to open new tabs / files without the need to save a given file. I can have several tabs / staging areas open and then completely close sublime. When I open it back up, all of my tabs are still there.

Web Browser

Firefox

I use Firefox because it is open source and comes from the Mozilla Foundation, a non profit company that respects my privacy.

I use the following extensions to protect my privacy while browsing the web:

  • Adblocker - uBlock Origin
  • Tracker Blocker - Privacy Badger
    • Firefox now includes tracker blocking, but I leave Privacy Badger enabled.
  • Cookie Autodelete
    • Removes cookies from websites that are not in my whitelist whenever a tab is closed. An additional precaution to tracker blocking.
  • Decentraleyes
    • Caches CDN links locally and intercepts requests to serve from the cache. Prevents CDNs from tracking you across websites.

Node.js

I use nvm to manage the installed versions of Node.js on my machine. This allows me to easily switch between Node.js versions depending on the project I'm working in.

See installation instructions here.

OR run this command (make sure v0.39.1 is still the latest)

curl -o- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.39.1/install.sh | bash
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After installation you'll want to add the following to your .bash_profile / .zshrc etc.

export NVM_DIR="$([ -z "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME-}" ] && printf %s "${HOME}/.nvm" || printf %s "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME}/nvm")"
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/nvm.sh" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/nvm.sh" ## This loads nvm
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Now that nvm is installed, you can install a specific version of node.js and use it:

nvm install 18
nvm use 18
node --version
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Global Modules

There are a few global node modules I use a lot:

  • lite-server
    • Auto refreshing static file server. Great for working on static apps with no build tools.
  • license
    • Auto generate open source license files
  • gitignore
    • Auto generate .gitignore files base on the current project type
npm install -g lite-server license gitignore
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VS Code

VS Code is my preferred code editor.

You can view all of my VS Code settings / extensions here.

2 of the most notable settings are:

{
  "editor.linkedEditing": true,
  "editor.snippetSuggestions": "top",
}
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  • editor.linkedEditing
    • Automatically edit a closing tag when editing an opening tag
  • editor.snippetSuggestions
    • Puts the most relevant auto complete options at the top

Break Timer

I use an app called Time Out.

I have it setup to show:

  • 10 second micro break every 15 minutes
  • 5 minute long break every 60 minutes

There is also a cross platform break timer call Stretchly. I have not used it but a lot of people have recommended it.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading this far down. Please let me know in the comments if there are other tools or apps you prefer to use. If I made a typo or missed a link, please feel free to open a pull request here.

-CJ

Discussion (14)

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moopet profile image
Ben Sinclair

Where you use keepingyouawake I use amphetamine. I imagine they're fairly similar.

I also use barrier so I can use the mouse and keyboard on my proper computer to control the Mac just by moving my mouse to its screen.

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eljayadobe profile image
Eljay-Adobe

I <3 Barrier.

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dromerodev85 profile image
Diego Romero

I recommend Raycast, alternative for Alfred, Rectangle, Clipboard Manager, etc. All in one

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receter profile image
Andreas Riedm├╝ller

I can recommend Flycut (Clipboard manager), the best I found so far. Text only and simple/fast to use.

As a notetaking app I used to have nvAlt and switched to IA Writer which is also quite ok. On the phone I use 1Writer with the same Dropbox folder.

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bubster profile image
TvO

Clipy is also very nice. Very straight forward in usage and clean UI

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affinage profile image
affinage

OMG! thank you, thank you, thank you for the itsycal! i was using Day-O, but i was sooooo lacking of calendar events support.

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alco profile image
Jakub Stibůrek

As a better Mac terminal I can recommend Warp. Still in beta but very cool. Great article btw.

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nirmalsinghoo7 profile image
Nirmal Singh

Instead of Inkspace vector space, I used Vectornator. one of the best app.

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eshimischi profile image
eshimischi

Brew install starship - customizable prompt for any shell

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andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden
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yongchanghe profile image
Yongchang He

Thank you for sharing this!

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moonseeker profile image
Moon Seeker

Interesting. After a life-long usage of Windows, my daily driver is now a Mac (work policy). I had no idea where to start.

Thanks!

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codenameone profile image
Shai Almog

I used to automatically go for bash too out of pure inertia... Then I discovered fish. It's an amazing shell. Highly recommended.

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kentezrabetita profile image
Kent Ezra A. Betita

iÔÇÖm curious to know more about the machine your using, is it the 15 inch 2015 MBP? how is the performance?