My New Mac Setup Steps

I recently switched from a Mac Pro to a MacBook Air. I’m documenting the switch in an effort to find out if this is truly a practical solution for developers, designers and other professional Mac users. The first thing I did when I got the new MacBook Air was run through my checklist of initial set up steps. Keeping in mind that these are my personal preferences, I thought I’d share them with you. They may not work for you, but they help my productivity tremendously.

Apps, in no particular order:

I also install various audio apps and plugins as well, but I will detail those in my Home Studio Setup post coming soon.

Preferences and Terminal tweaks:

System Preferences

Natural scroll direction off

I can’t get used to the reversed scroll direction. Maybe I could if I used it for awhile, but I want to be used to scrolling in a way that works on ALL MacBooks, not just Lion and newer ones.

Move dock to top-left, remove all shortcuts, add Applications folder

I use TinkerTool to move the Dock to the start position, and tuck it up in the top-left corner, right below the  menu. I also remove all shortcuts to keep it uncluttered. I use the Dock purely as a way to see and switch open apps. I have two folder shortcuts in the Dock and that is all: Applications (displayed as folder, sorted by name, view as grid) and Downloads (view as stack, sort by date added, view as list). I use Alfred, Spotlight, or the Applications shortcut in the Dock to open apps.

Turn off file locking (Lion only)

Lion introduced Versions and Auto Save. These new features have been somewhat controversial, but without a doubt one of the most annoying things about this was that files would automatically lock themselves after 2 weeks. Even Apple realized this was a bad idea, and this feature is completely gone in Mountain Lion. To disable this on Lion, the setting is oddly enough in the Time Machine preference pane.

Use tab to cycle through all controls

I prefer being able to use the Tab key to access buttons, checkboxes, popup menus and other controls. This setting is in the Keyboard preference pane.

Add Command+Option+/ shortcut for Zoom

While you’re in the Keyboard preferences pane, here’s a handy shortcut to add: Command+Option+/ for Zoom. I use the Zoom function all the time, which expands a window to the full screen, or sometimes big enough just to view the visible contents. Having a shortcut for this is very handy. Add it under the Keyboard Shortcuts section:

Install Archive Preferences pane

This gives you some hidden options in how to deal with .zip files. I install this solely for the option to move the .zip file to the trash after expanding. To install it, navigate to /System/Library/CoreServices/Archive, right-click or control+click it, select “Show Package Contents”, then go to /Contents/Resources and double-click the Archive.prefPane file.

Finder Preferences

When performing search, search the current folder

When I perform a Finder search, I like it to default to searching the scope of the folder I’m in. A quick click changes the search scope when I do wish to search everywhere.

Show file extensions in Finder

I like to see file extensions in the file system.

Don’t warn before emptying trash

When I select Empty Trash, I’m already sure that I want to empty it. This is a redundant step.

Show Status Bar in Finder

This is under the View menu. It adds a metal strip to the bottom of Finder windows that show you if you do not have write access, how many items are in the folder, and how much space is left on the drive.

Show Path Bar in Finder

The Path Bar shows the path to the folder you’re currently viewing at the bottom of your Finder window. This is under the View menu as well.

Show drives on desktop

I like to see my hard drives on the desktop.

Set file types to open with right apps

I like to set file associations so HTML, CSS, PHP and other files open with the proper editor, media opens with the proper player, and other files will open with the app of my choice. Find a file, get info on it, then set the Open with section. Be sure to click the Change All… button so all files of this type will open with the chosen app.


Configure Terminal appearance

I like my Terminal window to have a black background, semi-transparent, with aqua text.

Enable new list view in Dock

This allows you to drag items out of list view Dock shortcuts (the Downloads folder for me) and is indispensable to my workflow. I drag things out of Downloads all the time, and almost always access Downloads through the Dock. Type these two commands into Terminal:

  • defaults write use-new-list-stack -bool YES
  • killall Dock

Make ~/Library folder visible

Ever since Lion, Apple has decided that a user’s Library folder should not be visible by default. I access the ~/Library folder all the time, so I always make sure it is visible. Type this into Terminal and the change takes affect immediately:

  • chflags nohidden ~/Library


Tell Safari not to open safe files after downloading

I prefer to go examine a downloaded file before opening it. Sometimes I’m downloading it for later and do not want it automatically opened. This will prevent trojans and scripts from automatically opening and compromising security as well.

Change’s new message sound to Glass

I cannot hear the default new mail sound when I’m listening to music. The Glass sound is high pitch enough that it stands out even when loud music is playing. It is very easy to hear.