After over a decade of working on macOS, I’ve iterated upon my digital workspace until I found the perfect setup. This post will be a small curation of little tips and tricks that I use when working within Apple’s desktop ecosystem.

Aesthetics

Default

This is a standard but great setup that I use. A lot of it derives from the default setup. First, here’s an obligatory picture of my desktop.

My desktop

I have a hidden dock with the apps I use the most, a menu bar with few icons, and a nice color scheme that switches from light to dark based on the time.

Menu Bar

One more thing you can see in the desktop screenshot is the menu bar. Typically, useless icons clutter this space. By default, you can reorder it, but you can’t hide it. I found an app called Vanilla that lets you hide unwanted icons. You can then re-expand it by clicking the arrow.

The menu bar extended

Because I rarely interact with the menu bar, I only leave a few icons visible. This helps decrease the clutter from all the menu icons of apps running in the background that I don’t care about.

Hiding Desktop Files

Even with files in my Desktop folder, no icons show up on my desktop. I did this by running the command

$ defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop false; killall Finder

in terminal. This hides all icons on the desktop, keeping the “home page” of your laptop clean. It also leaves the Desktop folder as a usable directory to store files.

Workflow

Trackpad Speed

I like to make my cursor speed fast, so that I have to move my fingers less (I’m lazy). This takes a while to get used to but helps when trying to quickly navigate. I don’t have to lift my finger up again after it’s extended to keep moving the mouse.

Trackpad settings

Trackpad Shortcuts

One of the most convenient features of the mac trackpad is the ability to highlight with 3 fingers. By setting all the default gestures to 4 fingers, you can enable this feature.

Trackpad shortcuts

In System Preferences > Accessibility > Pointer Control > Trackpad Options, there is a checkbox to enable three finger drag.

Set three finger highlighting

Keyboard settings

I delete a lot of the code I write by pressing and holding the delete key. The default setting for Apple makes this a very slow process. There is also a long delay from holding down the button to when it actually begins to start deleting. I fixed both of these issues in System Preferences to reduce the lag and make it much snappier.

Keyboard settings

Finder Sidebar

I dislike having folders in my Finder sidebar which I never use, such as “Connected servers.” If I’m never using them, why should it always be there?

My finder window

I removed the folders that I didn’t use from my sidebar, accessed by Finder > Preferences > Sidebar.

Sidebar settings

This makes it a much cleaner environment for me to work in, streamlining my navigation.

File Sorting

I’ve also changed file sorting and search behavior for Finder.

Advanced finder preferences

In Finder > Preferences > Advanced, I selected all folders to stay at the top of the directory. This helps because when I know I need to go deeper into a directory, the folders are on the top. This saves me time, so I don’t have to scroll through the current directory to look for the folder to enter.

The other change here is the search directory. Surprisingly, ‘the current folder’ is not the default option when searching in the Finder window, which is frustrating. Changing it makes the search much quicker for a specific file which you think is somewhere close.

Hot Corners

Hot corners can be annoying when accidentally triggered. Even so, they’ve become an integral part of my workflow, and I find them to be convenient.

Hot corner setup

Top Left: I use the desktop shortcut to hide all windows and look at my desktop. I do this when trying to open a Finder window without a lot of windows behind it.

Top Right: I use this corner for my notifications, so I can glance at the messages I’m getting. I chose this corner because it is the same as the notification menu. But by using a hotcorner, I don’t have to actually click the icon.

Bottom Left: I use this corner to put my display to sleep. This is convenient when I need to get up to grab water, but don’t want to close my laptop.

Bottom Right: This corner activates the screensaver, so I use this when I am going to be away a while. I also find myself using this a lot in coffee shops to show that the screen is still active, while still locking the computer.

Screenshots

Screenshots are an invisible part of my workflow - I don’t want them cluttering my desktop. That’s why I downloaded Xnip, because it allows me to directly copy the file. However, if you prefer the macOS screenshot system, you can actually have the file copied to your clipboard and not saved with the default shortcut. This saves a lot of time when you need to quickly send it to somebody, and don’t need it for anything else.

Screenshot