OSX / MacOS settings for security and productivity

OSX / MacOS settings for security and productivity

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

This year I’ve decided to do a fresh Sierra install. 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 - best tool for remapping keys
    • Disable CapsLock
    • 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
    • Some custom scripts, e.g. “j GR-123” command to open Jira ticket
  • Spectacle - simple window manager, organize windows using keyboard
    • Option + Command + F to maximize active window
    • Option + Command + ← to move window to the left part of the screen
  • KeepingYouAwake - puts a coffe cup icon on menu bar, clicking it prevets 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
    • I like seeing CPU usage to quickly see anomalies like zombie apps taking 100% of CPU power
  • Boom2 ($13) - system-wide audio equalizer

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
    • Block unnecessary analytics/tracking connections coming from the system or apps
    • Detect suspicious connections
  • MicroSnitch ($5) - notifies you when any app uses the camera or microphone
  • TorBrowser - the simplest way to be sure you are using TOR correcly is to have a dedicated TOR browser
  • GPG Suite - GUI tools making using GPG email and files encryption easy, integrates with Mail.app
  • Coherence ($3) - encapsulates webapps as Mac apps
  • Chrome with my favorite plugins:
    • Disconnect - disables tracking/analytics/ad-network scripts
    • AdBblock - disables ads
    • Signal - safe communication
    • Tab Wrangler - automatically closes unused tabs after 20m
    • Bookolio - displays a nice list of bookmarks in empty tabs, I like it better than having the bookmarks bar always visible
    • Pocket - stores articles to read later on iPhone during commute/lunch


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 brigthness/volume controls, but you can bind anything to function keys
    • Text
      • Disable all the auto-correct crap
      • Disable accents menu on key hold, in console: defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false
  • Dock
    • Automaticaly 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 ctrl+mousewhell
  • Spotlight
    • Disable Folders only if you don’t use spotlight for finding files (I use console tools)
    • Disable everything else for security & performance reasons
  • Display
    • Disable “automatically adjust brightness”
  • Mission Control
    • Prevent automatic desktops rearrangement preferences

Finder Preferences

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

TextEdit Preferences

  • Preferences
    • Plain Text - make it like good ol’Notepad
      • copy & paste to get rid of text formatting

Digging deeper

Here’s a few tutorials for tweaking hidden system settings. Go throught them and enable those you find suitable.

OSX for hackers settings

A great set of ~100 settings for power users:

Security guides

Simple things accesible from system preferences:

A magnificent, complete guide on how to make macOS more secure:

General Internet security guide:

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.

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