My <Span Class="caps">OSX</Span>

Read­ing Time: 5 min­utes

I have decid­ed to take a quick break from my more busi­ness-ori­ent­ed writ­ing of late to focus on some­thing that peo­ple seem to have an inter­est in: how I have my com­put­er set up and con­fig­ured. This post will nec­es­sar­i­ly be in more of a cat­a­log for­mat than arti­cle, but hope­ful­ly no less use­ful.

I switched to a Mac a few years ago, com­plet­ing the cir­cle of com­put­ing life as I did, as I start­ed with an Apple IIc around 1981. In between I fell in love with var­i­ous com­put­ers from the Ami­ga, Atari ST, ear­ly IBM machines, to Lin­ux and final­ly to the pin­na­cle of all things com­put­ing: the NeXT. Ever since then I think I have been sub­con­scious­ly try­ing to get my desk­tops to look as flu­id and work as well as the NeXT machines did, with vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess. Some of my choic­es reflect that impulse.

I will pref­ace this by say­ing that this is how I have my com­put­er set up and con­fig­ured, and is by no means the right way–it just works for me. The soft­ware I use is what I find inter­est­ing or use­ful to my work­flow and style, but I am always look­ing for improve­ments. This cat­a­log, then, will prob­a­bly be out of date five min­utes after I’m done writ­ing it all down.


Microsoft Out­look . I have installed and used Post­box , Thun­der­bird , and a cou­ple of oth­ers, but I keep falling back to Out­look. Per­haps it is a lit­tle bit of the Stock­holm Syn­drome (though not IPv6 Stock­holm Syn­drome ), but I can’t seem to find any­thing else that match­es every­thing fea­ture-for-fea­ture that I need. It’s all a com­pro­mise some­where, some­how. With Out­look I have to put up with the usu­al Microsoft Bloat, but I com­pen­sate with a lot of mem­o­ry and pro­cess­ing pow­er.

Web Browser

Google Chrome . I’m sure some­one will cas­ti­gate me for this (as if the last sec­tion was­n’t bad enough) but I just find that it works well, is light­weight, and does every­thing that I want rea­son­ably well.

Remote Desktop

Cord is my go-to for con­nect­ing to remote Win­dows servers, though this is always in flux. I do much more via Pow­er­Shell than ever before, so pure Remote Desk­top Pro­to­col just does­n’t get used as much as it used to in my envi­ron­ment.


Ever­note is my main tool in the “remem­ber­ing stuff” cat­e­go­ry of tools. I use it to grab and cat­a­log things that I find inter­est­ing or use­ful. I use tags and dif­fer­ent note­books and such with­in the tool, and it suits me nice­ly. I did switch to the pre­mi­um edi­tion quite a while back, and it’s well worth it as far as I’m con­cerned.


Tweet­bot and some­times my own com­mand-line client (writ­ten in Python as a learn­ing exer­cise) if I’m feel­ing plucky.

Text Editors

TextE­d­it , VIM (though I use a fair­ly cus­tomized ver­sion and con­fig­u­ra­tion, more on that lat­er).

Markup Tools

A lot of these tools revolve around spe­cif­ic tasks. For instance, I use Mark­down Pro to com­pose all of my blog posts, this one includ­ed. It gives a nice appear­ance to things with­out a lot of the fuss and extra bag­gage of full-weight word-proces­sors, and I can export the com­plet­ed work in HTML or PDF for­mat. Not par­tic­u­lar­ly fan­cy, but it gets the job done. My only com­plaint here is that the for­mat­ted por­tion of the screen (split-screen com­pos­ing win­dow) does­n’t keep up with the raw-text side. Minor annoy­ance, but if I could find some­thing that solved this I’d prob­a­bly switch prod­ucts.

I also use BBE­d­it for some things, though I’m find­ing I use it less these days than a cou­ple of years ago. It’s def­i­nite­ly one of those tools you either learn and love, or hate. There’s a fair­ly steep bar­ri­er to entry in both price and learn­ing, but you may find it use­ful for its syn­tax high­light­ing, script­ing, etc. More use­ful for raw code edit­ing (HTML, XML, C, etc.) than for arti­cles and such.

LaTeX has been my go-to for any kind of seri­ous doc­u­ment cre­ation (resumes , man­u­als, schol­ar­ly papers, etc.) for years now. I will warn you that it is absolute­ly not for the feint of heart as it is basi­cal­ly an old pro­gram­ming lan­guage for doc­u­ment markup. Most Mas­ters and PhD the­ses are writ­ten in this lan­guage, as are most schol­ar­ly research papers. It is well worth learn­ing, and once you do you’ll nev­er use any­thing else as it cre­ates the most hands-down beau­ti­ful doc­u­ments you’ll ever find. A lot of peo­ple will be turned off by the steep learn­ing curve (you have a lot of code to learn, and a lot of com­pil­ing to even get a view­able doc­u­ment) but if you have the patience, go for it.

The link above is to an OSX-spe­cif­ic set of pack­ages, and I rec­om­mend you start there. You can also look at The LaTeX Project and a nice Doc­u­ment Guide/Wiki to get start­ed. The CTAN Archive is a great place to browse for pack­ages and what­not. Hap­py hunt­ing!

Terminal Emulators

iTerm2 Solarized

iTerm2 Solar­ized

I use iTerm2  instead of the built-in ter­mi­nal pro­gram shipped with OSX. It has many nice fea­tures (too many to list), is more cus­tomiz­able, and is just bet­ter. Go get it. You’ll thank me. While you’re at it, get the Solar­ized  pack­age and install it for every­thing you have. In addi­tion to a uni­form col­or palette, it helps across the board with aes­thet­ics when work­ing in any of the sup­port­ed appli­ca­tions.


Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)

I use two pri­ma­ry tools for cod­ing on my Mac: XCode when I’m doing some­thing using the Cocoa Frame­works (not often) and Komo­do IDE 8 for every­thing else (most­ly Python these days). Your choic­es here are like­ly to be high­ly per­son­al depend­ing on how much pro­gram­ming expe­ri­ence you have or are like­ly to do, and in what envi­ron­ments. You can do any kind of pro­gram­ming or script­ing in any kind of text edi­tor, of course, but I find a nice IDE to be a com­fort­ing thing to have around. I also have my VIM install con­fig­ured with syn­tax high­light­ing for the lan­guages I use.


I use a ton of oth­er pro­grams from Wire­Shark to Drop­Box to get my work done; VPN clients, var­i­ous pho­tog­ra­phy suites (anoth­er hob­by of mine), to things like 1password for pass­word stor­age. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this post is longer than I expect­ed already so I’m stop­ping it here. I’ll come back with a part II soon, and hope­ful­ly there I can include all rel­e­vant por­tions of my actu­al con­fig­u­ra­tions (.vim­rc, screen­rc, tmux_conf, .bashrc, .pro­file) as well as all of the OSX-spe­cif­ic hacks I’ve made over the years to get my Mac to behave like I want it to.

In the spir­it of giv­ing back, I’d love to hear from any­one else as to what nifty soft­ware, con­fig­u­ra­tions, or hacks you use to get things done on your Mac and why you like them. As I said at the top, many of these things are just what I’ve done, but I’m always open to sug­ges­tions and bet­ter ways of accom­plish­ing things.