macbook-settings

The Best Way To Set Up Your New MacBook For Work

These are the fundamental things to set up when getting a new MacBook. Most things I assume would also be useful for PCs.

Note: This is mainly used whenever I decide to change or completely reset my MacBook. Feel free to use parts of it or the entire thing and let me know if there’s anything I’m missing.

I’ve divided this note into two sections:

  • System Preferences

  • Applications

System Preferences is applicable to all MacBooks whereas Applications mostly cover which applications I use and the settings I have set up for them, thus let’s dive into System Preferences first.

Best MacBook System Preferences Setup

It’s not until you’ve used your MacBook for several years and then switched to a brand new one, that you discover how much of a difference there is. The proper System Preferences setup is a big deal when using your Mac on a daily basis.

Go ahead and click "CMD+SPACE" and search for "System Preferences".

Notifications

I have pretty much all notifications turned off. Again, this is likely something you wouldn’t notice the need for if you haven’t tried it before. But to paint perspective, the only thing that notifies me (when I haven’t turned on DND mode) is Messages and E-mail.

Other than that, everything is silent. Slack has that badge icon indicating new messages, but I mostly hide the dock bar so that I only notice new messages whenever actively looking for them.

Trackpad

Most often I use a Bluetooth mouse, but whenever I take my MacBook somewhere, these are the settings I have set up for the trackpad:

Trackpad Settings in System Preferences

The most noticeable things here are my Secondary Click with two fingers, Click threshold set to light, and the Tracking Speed set somewhere above average. This tracking speed is near 1:1 with how my fingers move across the trackpad which feels best for me. The last thing is under the "Scroll and Zoom" tab where I have enabled Smart Zoom by double-tapping with two fingers.

Now, aside from the screenshot above, here’s the one single thing I always set up for my trackpad: the ability to drag items with three fingers. Having to click and drag has always been a mess for me, so I was super excited when I discovered this feature.

To set up dragging with three fingers go to:

System Preferences -> Accessibility -> Pointer Control -> Trackpad Options -> Enable Dragging -> Three finger drag

Enable dragging with three fingers feature on macbook

Keyboard

For the keyboard, there’s a bit more configuration to be done. Here are the first items to configure:

  • Key Repeat = Fast (enables much faster typing but more importantly, deletion)

  • Delay Until Repeat = Short (ensures that your deletion process doesn’t have to “wait” before deleting. Major game-changer)

  • Touch Bar shows = Expanded Control Strip (restores the old keys from my MacBook that didn’t have the touch bar. I really haven’t found a proper use case for the touch bar yet and hate when having to press two keys to dim the lights)

Keyboard preferences setup

The next major thing is this highlighted shortcut. Those times where I have multiple Chrome or Finder windows open, switching between those can be a pain in the ass. This shortcut makes it extremely easy.

Move focus to next window shortcut

Night Mode

Spending a lot of time in front of the monitor, both in the early mornings and late nights, I think Night Mode is essential. I didn’t use this prior to discovering Flux, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Enabling dark mode on Macbook

Automatically saving screenshots in a folder

Taking screenshots is easy on a mac, and so is getting a really messy desktop. To prevent that, I always put my screenshots (the ones I don’t only store in the clipboard) in a folder on the desktop. Pres "CMD+SPACE", search for the terminal, open it, and "COPY+PASTE" the following code into the terminal (include a space after the code below)

1defaults write com.apple.screencapture location

Before pressing enter, create a folder on your Desktop and drag it onto the Terminal. This inserts the path to that folder. Press Enter and you’ve now changed how screenshots are saved. You should end up with something similar to this:

1defaults write com.apple.screencapture location /Users/lasseravn/Desktop/Screenshots 

That was it for the System Preferences setup. Let’s move on to the Applications.

Most Useful MacBook Applications

The second part of this note is about applications. I don’t use a lot of them, but I use the ones I have a lot. My mac is used for both work and personal use. So a few of my applications, especially Chrome, reflect that.

Chrome Browser

Starting off is Google Chrome. Downloading Chrome is one of the only things I use Safari for. It does a great job at that though. The main thing to customize in Chrome is Extensions. But other than that, here are a few settings I have set up. First, open up the Chrome browser and go to this URL:

1chrome://settings/cookies

From here, enable "Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome". This ensures that whenever you quit Chrome (CMD+Q) you’re logged out of all sites. In situations where your Mac is stolen, this feature would save your ass (part 1). Second, open this URL in the browser:

1chrome://settings/passwords

And disable the first two options: "Offer to save passwords" and "Auto Sign-in". Allowing this would store your passwords in Chrome, which would make it pretty damn easy for intruders to access them. Extensions are the bread and butter of the Chrome browser. Here are the ones I use and why.

LastPass

I store all my passwords in my Password Manager. I use LastPass both at work and privately and most of the time it works great. Using a Password Manager is generally annoying, but I’d rather go through the hassle of logging in with LastPass and 2FA every time than see all my work being deleted.

AdBlocker

I hate ads and have gotten really used to using this adblocker. Works without you noticing it and really make it more pleasant to just browse the web.

Pixel Checkers

Since I’m doing work involving tracking and technical setup, I also use these Pixel trackers to ensure our tracking events have been set up and read by the platforms correctly. These aren’t used every day, so I sometimes just disable them and then turn them back on when needed.

JSON View

If you’re ever previewing JSON files in your browser, this extension goes through the hassle of formatting and makes it easy to read. Also an extension I only turn on when needed.

Google Optimize

Just like the pixel checker extensions, Google Optimize has an extension that lets you control how your experiments are set up. Again, not needed for 99% of my browsing, so I turn it on when needed.

Grammarly

I freakin’ love Grammarly. When writing my thesis, I created separate documents inside the Grammarly application. But for smaller docs like this one, having the extension activated inside Google Docs does the job well.

Spectacle

Windows machines do window management a lot better than Apple does it out of the box. Luckily, there are applications like Spectacle. Especially when working on larger or multiple monitors, arranging your windows as wished can be a tiring process, but with "Spectacle" I can arrange 8 different windows on my two monitors in something like 10 seconds.

Spectacle settings

Flux

Flux ensures that my eyes aren’t exposed to any unnecessary blue light during early and late hours. I actually have my settings turned all the way up during the night and morning. Only if I do some graphical work do I turn it off for short periods of time, just to ensure that I’m not combining ugly colors.

Flux settings

Unsplash Wallpapers

Changing wallpapers is a tiring process if done manually. This small app does it automatically and grabs beautiful images from Unsplash. I’ve set mine to change daily and really like it.

Visual Studio Code

Whenever I’m writing code, I usually use VS Code. I’ve used Atom and Sublime Text before, but the amount of extensions that VS Code provides just makes it an easier choice. And after reading Make VS Code Awesome I also customized the program to a look and feel that didn’t feel like the 90s.

VS Code Settings

Here’s my settings.json file that you can copy to get how my editor looks and feels:

1{
2    "workbench.activityBar.visible": false,
3    "workbench.editor.showTabs": false,
4    "workbench.sideBar.location": "right",
5    "workbench.statusBar.visible": false,
6    "editor.minimap.enabled": false,
7    "window.zoomLevel": 0.8,
8    "editor.fontSize": 14,
9    "terminal.integrated.shell.osx": "/bin/bash",
10    "workbench.colorTheme": "Visual Studio Dark",
11    "emmet.triggerExpansionOnTab": true
12}

Whenever I code, it’s either on this site, some Python program, the Camille Brinch site our some internal tool we’ve developed. Having the Terminal live inside the editor is also something I really like.

Sourcetree

Since I come from a marketing background, I haven’t really used git commands in the Terminal. The feel of adding commit messages, pushing, merging, etc. just feels more “secure” via something like Sourcetree. But maybe that’s just me. And for SourceTree, I also have Dark Mode enabled. Aaaah!.

Slack

We use Slack for all internal communication at work, so having the app instead of accessing workspaces through the browser is really nice. As mentioned previously, all notifications for this are turned off. This really helps me stay focused on my tasks and push non-urgent messages and tasks for later.

Postman

Ever since I started working more and more with APIs, installing Postman was really a game-changer for me. Before I usually previewed different Integromats to see how API calls acted. Now I just test the setup in Postman and then move the configuration to Integromat when tested.

Adobe Creative Cloud

I’ve spent so many hours of my teenage years in (cracked version of) Photoshop, editing all sorts of images for friends and family. Now I sometimes stumble across something that can’t be solved in free editors, so I quickly fix it with Photoshop from Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Luckily, with a license sponsored by Camille Brinch ;).