3 minute read

MacOS settings for security and productivity

I was pretty impressed that my previous OSX install had served me for 4 years of heavy software development and daily personal use.

But a time has come for a fresh system reinstall. During the setup, I had some troubles remembering all useful system settings and tweaks I’ve made, so here’s the list for my future reference, and possible use for other power users.


Utility Apps

  • Karabinier - a tool for remapping keys
    • Replace CapsLock with ESC
    • Switch right command with right alt (for easier access to polish diacritic chars)
  • Alfred (free or $25) - application launcher and a swiss army knife
    • Bind CMD + F1, CMD + F2, etc. to app activate, my most used apps are Chrome, MacVim, and iTerm
    • Add a task to task manager’s inbox, e.g. inbox Buy milk
    • Some custom scripts, e.g. j GR-123"command to open Jira ticket
  • Spectacle - simple window manager, organize windows using keyboard
  • KeepingYouAwake - puts a coffee cup icon on the menu bar, clicking it prevents your Mac from going to sleep for an hour (modern version of Caffeine app)
  • Flux - prevents your eyes from being burned in late hours
  • MenuMeters
    • displays system metrics (CPU, memory, network, disk usage) on menu bar
    • quickly identify anomalies like zombie apps taking 100% of CPU power
  • MonitorControl - software controls for monitor brightness
  • BetterTouchtool - customize TouchBar icons
  • UnnaturalScrollWheels - automatically enable “Natural” mouse scrolling on Apple Mouse and disable it for other mouses

Security Apps

  • 1Password ($65 or $3/month) - fully featured and good looking password manager
  • ClamXav ($30) - open-source antivirus, useful for scanning apps from not trusted sources
  • LittleSnitch ($30) - firewall, it requires you to set rules for any new Internet connections
    • Detect suspicious connections
    • Block unnecessary analytics/tracking connections
  • GPG Suite - GUI tools making using GPG email and files encryption easy, integrates with Mail.app
  • Chrome with my favorite plugins:
    • Disconnect - disables tracking/analytics/ad-network scripts
    • uBlock Origin - best ad-blocking tool
    • Bookolio - displays a nice list of bookmarks in empty tabs, I like it better than having the bookmarks bar always visible

Console tools


System Preferences

  • Security & Privacy
  • Date & Time
    • Display the time with seconds
    • Use a 24-hour clock
    • Show day of the week
    • Show date
  • Keyboard
    • Keyboard
      • Key Repeat - Fast
      • Delay Until Repeat - Short
      • Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys
        • You will need to hold Fn to use brightness/volume controls, but you can bind anything to function keys
    • Text
      • Disable all the auto-correct crap
      • Disable accents menu on key hold, run: defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
  • Dock
    • Automatically hide and show the Dock - I use keys most of the time to change apps
  • General
    • Use dark menu bar and Dock
  • Mouse
    • Enable right click
  • Accessibility
    • Enable zoom on option+mousewhell
  • Display
    • Disable “automatically adjust brightness”
  • Mission Control
    • Prevent automatic desktops rearrangement preferences

Finder Preferences

  • Remove unused things from the sidebar
  • Advanced
    • Show all file extensions

TextEdit Preferences

  • Preferences
    • Plain Text - make it like good old notepad
      • copy & paste to get rid of text formatting

Digging deeper

Here are a few tutorials for tweaking hidden system settings. Go through them and enable those you find suitable.

OSX for hackers settings

A great set of ~100 settings for power users:

Security guides

Complete guide on how to make MacOS more secure:

General Internet security guide:

Simple things accesible from system preferences:

Block malicious domains

The list contains a huge collection of tracking / malicious / ad-network internet addresses. Put them inside your /etc/hosts system file to block them on DNS level.

Other references

  • https://github.com/nikitavoloboev/my-mac-os/