Moving In: What makes a computer feel like home
Last week was new computer day at work. As I was looking between the new machine and the old one, I was thinking about what makes a computer feel like mine. There are settings, little utilities, and how I arrange things that make it feel like home.
I’ve been shockingly consistent over the years. Here’s a screenshot from 2005.
And here’s my personal machine today (with the Dock visible for the photo op).
(I promise I’ve changed my desktop background a few times, but Hurricane Isabel from the ISS is in my regular rotation.)
- Make things small by cranking up the scaled resolution. On a laptop that means the smallest Apple offers — or smaller. On my 13” personal machine I used a hack to enable 1920 × 1200 HiDPI. I don’t go full-native on my 27” external 4K display, but I do use the second-from-highest, 3360 × 1890.
- Colors: I set the system accent color to gray (aka Graphite) but keep the highlight color blue.
- Clock settings: Day of week, no date, 24-hour clock, show the seconds.
- Take basically everything out of the Dock (all I have there permanently is an editor to drag files to), turn off showing recent apps, and turn on auto-hiding. I also make it smaller, using the second-from-smallest tick when resizing while holding ⌥. But yes, I keep my Dock at the bottom.
- Non-default gestures and hot corners:
ExposéMission Control: 4 fingers up
- App windows: 4 fingers down and top left corner
- Move between spaces/full-screen apps: 4 fingers side-to-side
- Paging: 3 finger swipe
- Desktop: top right corner
- Never sleep: bottom right corner
- Display sleep: bottom left corner
- Moom with SizeUp-inspired keyboard shortcuts.
- Set up a keyboard shortcut (⌃⇧⬅) for Notification Center. (I didn’t have a Magic Trackpad for a while, so wanted a quick way to access it. Now it’s habit.)
- Revert a couple of recent design changes via accessibility settings: turn on persistent proxy icons and Reduce Transparency.
- Finder settings:
- Turn on the status and path bars
- Have new windows default to my documents folder (inside ~/Documents/)
- Set search scope to the current window
- Show all file extensions
- Put the path item in the toolbar (though I usually end up
⌘-clicking the titlebar)
- Windows default to list view (though I’m constantly switching between ⌘2 list and ⌘3 columns)
- Turn off the new window animation
- The menu bar: after the clock, I start out right to left with battery, wifi, volume, MenuMeters average CPU graph, MenuMeters network activity graph, and Day One. Everything else is hidden by Bartender (with a handful of show-for-updates exceptions).
- Install Alfred and set it to the “macOS” theme. The ⇧⌥⎵ muscle memory for the launcher and ⌘⌥J for clipboard history are deeply ingrained.
- Keyboard layout to Dvorak. (What can I say, I switched 20 years ago.)
- And rounding out (pun intended) the I Hate Change category is Displaperture, which I use to round the menu bar on non-notched displays.
I also have iStat Menus, but I’ve been using MenuMeters since ~2004 and honestly I think it just feels more Mac-like and at home in the menu bar. ↩︎
I’d much rather support an established indie Mac developer than an upstart awash in Silicon Valley money and culture. ↩︎