My macOS configuration

Creating a comfortable environment

Paul Krzyzanowski

May 5, 2019

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 OS X to my liking. Your needs are almost certainly very different from mine.

System setup

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

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.

Add content to the Finder’s sidebar

Finder > Preferences > Sidebar

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


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


-iCloud Drive


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

Tags - Recent Tags

Show all file extensions in the finder

Finder > Preferences > Advanced

There are two reasons I set this. First, I don’t need the mystery of hidden text in my file names. Second, OS X is forgiving if an extension is missing. 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.

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.

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 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

Why did Apple get rid of their collection of abstract patterns as wallpaper? I find photo backgrounds too distracting and solid colors a bit too boring. I use a blurred-out version of the old Aqua Graphite wallpaper:

Move your wallpaper to some file in the system and navigate it via the Folders selector in System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop.

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.

Reduce the desktop icon size

Right click (control click) anywhere on the screen and select Show View Options. I resized mine to 36x36 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.

Show the remaining battery life in the menu bar

This is only useful for laptops, of course.

Click on the battery icon in the menu bar. Select Show Percentage.

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.

Change caps lock to control

System Preferences > Keyboard

Nobody needs a CAPS LOCK key! 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.

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 (it’s 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

Enable root access

A lot of people 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.

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 (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:.

Enable screen zoom

System Preferences > Accessibility

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

Disable automatic playing of songs during import on iTunes

defaults write play-songs-while-importing FALSE

Software settings

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 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 status bar

In Safari, Select View > Show Status Bar

Software installation

Install dropbox

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

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
cp -p qsync-in $HOME/bin
cp -p bash_profile $HOME/.bash_profile
cp -p bashrc $HOME/.bashrc
sudo cp -p hosts /etc/hosts
bash ./qsync-in

Also, copy: - /usr/local - Library/Tex

Create a .bash_profile

If you use a shell, 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 BC_ENV_ARGS=-q
PS1="\h|\W: "

The first keeps bc from printing a copyright notice. The second 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.

App Store software

I use:


Additional Software

Install additional software. Other software I use:

Printer/Scanner software:

Show the date and time on the top menu bar

Apple’s time display doesn’t show the date by default. If you just want to see the time with the day and date displayed, click on the date and select Open Date & Time Preferences…. Select the Clock tab. Under Date options, select Show date.

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 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 OS X from showing the clock. Run System Preferences and select Date & Time. Then select Clock in the list of buttons on the top. Uncheck ** Show date and time in menu bar**.

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

Install 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:

If you have a non-subscription version installed, copy


from a computer that already has MS-Office installed.

Move Microsoft User Data out of Documents.

If you install Microsoft Office, you’ll notice that running any of its applications causes a directory called Microsoft User Data to be created under Documents. This, IMO, wasn’t a great design decision. The Documents directory in general holds things that you care about, not system configuration files. Move this directory to Library/Preferences under your home directory:

mv ~/Microsoft\ User\ Data ~Library/Preferences

If, by the way, you want to make the Library directory visible in the finder, run this shell command:

setfile -a v ~/Library

To make a file invisible to the finder, use setfile -a V. If you want to make all hidden files visible in the finder, run this command:

defaults write 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.