May 8, 2019 6 min read
Less is More: macOS
By embracing minimalism with macOS, I reduce distractions, increase clarity, and increase mobility.
I work best when I am initiating action and not responding to it. Modern desktop and mobile operating systems feel like they are increasingly moving to the other extreme: reactive “command stations” that send updates your way and sculpt the pace and content of your thoughts. One manifestation of these are push notifications.
If you’ve read my .bash_profile and .ssh/config posts you’ll know I find much liberation in simplicity and austere minimalism.
Let’s find out how to do the same with macOS.
An empty mind is a happy mind!
Just turn everything off. No banners, no alerts, no notifications, no badge app icons. Nothing. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority!
This has added utility if you often screen share in a professional context like I do. Nothing is worse than having a sensitive Slack message pop-up while someone else is looking at your screen. One time I Slacked my colleague, “Remember that time I saw Carrot Top at the airport?” and it appeared during his sales pitch.
macOS offers no way to clean up or organize the contents of your menu bar. Bartender is a nice little utility that lets you conditionally hide icons as you see fit. Surprise: I keep most things hidden.
I switched to 24 hour time a few years ago and have never looked back. From this screenshot alone I know I took it in the morning.
Alfred is another utility that I am deeply thankful for. At any time, I can press
^+Spacebar and a text input appears. From here I can launch any program, start a search, trigger shell scripts, and view my clipboard history. It does a whole bunch of other stuff, too. I probably only use 5% of the features.
Yet another utility I am deeply thankful for is Divvy. It is a simple window management tool that allows me to resize windows with simple keyboard combinations. I have this set to
Desktop & Finder
The Desktop Itself
Files don’t linger on my desktop for more than a few hours. I have all my downloads set to land here. It is the temporary holding space for files I’m working with. In the above image, you can see I have a hotel receipt I need to enter as an expense report along with a photo from a new Highlander to add to our blog dashboard.
Also, might I recommend the standard issue “Stone” (
#545554) wallpaper? I have often attempted to go darker (
#222222 to even
#000000), but I find the contrast and emptiness this gray affords unparalleled.
When I first made the switch to Apple stuff (around the time of Snow Leopard) I often felt quite lost as to “where I was” on the hard drive. I found this handy command to replace the Finder title with the absolute path of the current directory. Just open Terminal, paste this in, and press
defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool true; killall Finder
Now instead of
Desktop I see
Toolbar & Navigation
Another quirk about macOS: navigating to the parent directory via the UI is not incredibly intuitive — and in the case of some shortcuts and events — actually impossible. To address this I added the “Path” item to the toolbar and removed everything else but “Search” and “Back/Forward”. You can also right click on the title bar to navigate to parent directories, but I always forget about that.
The “Path” toolbar item.
Getting used to
⌘+Shift+G is crucial as well. Pressing these keys opens the “Go to the folder:” dialog box. Note this works with “tab” autocompletes, so you can start typing the name of a director, press
Tab and it will automatically fill out the rest for you.
It’s empty and hidden. Only running apps are displayed. I recently added a Finder shortcut to a frequented directory and am not sure I am comfortable with it. I’m always experimenting…
This one is sorta boring but worth mentioning briefly.
I try to keep my directory structure shallow and wide. In relying on verbose, descriptive names for files instead of their relative locations, I create a sort of redundancy. For example, I might name a file:
Acme Co — Design & Development Proposal 2019 — Highland Solutions.pdf instead of placing a file named
Design & Development Proposal 2019.pdf in an
Acme Co directory.
The difference is subtle but remarkable: if you don’t do it this way, you’ll end up with 500 files named
Design & Development Proposal 2019.pdf on your computer!
Date & Time
I only use list view. Dates and times are displayed dynamically based on how wide the column is. The irregularities of the stock behavior always felt somewhat random to me, so I just simplify and normalize them all.
Here’s a smattering of my Finder preferences and settings:
There’s a bunch of other innumerable tiny things I’ve done, but these are the big ones. What are some of your favorites?