The Setup – Minimalist Approach to OSX for Developers

One of the most exciting things for anyone who spends a significant amount of their day on a computer is getting a new one. I experienced this excitement recently and the only thing that took away from the bliss was the lack of the configurations, big and small, that I had become accustomed to. You never know what you’ve got until… you get a new computer. Since I’ve recently gone through the process, I’d like to share a couple of my favorite applications to help with the setup of OSX for developers.

UI

I personally can’t deal with the clutter. I prefer an empty desktop and a minimal top bar. Keeping my desktop clean is a more matter of staying on top of screenshots, folders, and files that I move around for convenience. For the latter I use Bartender 2 to aggregate all of my less frequently used top nav icons into one place where I can access them when needed.

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The nice thing about Bartender is that you can configure system applications, as well applications you have installed to either be completely removed from the top nav, placed within the bartender icon, or displayed normally. You can also customize the Bartender icon itself and setup hotkeys for controlling display actions.

Utility

Looking at a screen all day can take a tole on these old eyes. The normal work day isn’t too much but a lot of us don’t get off our computers once we clock out. The rest of the evening is generally spend perusing the internets, gaming, working on side projects, whatever. F.lux is an application that helps ease you into the night by adjusting the warmth of your screen based on the time of day. As the sun sets, the screen becomes warmer(more yellow, less florescent white) and when the sun rises it returns to its’ normal state. For my own taste, F.lux needs a little bit of configuration to keep it from becoming too warm as evening turns into night. Conveniently, you can change the spectrum for daytime, sunset, and bedtime individually to suit your needs and quickly disable the app for various periods of time when you don’t want it on at all.

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Productivity

There is one tool that I’ve realized that I almost cannot function without. My best friend, my confidant, my right hand, Alfred 2. I use it for pretty much everything. It is all that spotlight wishes it was and 20 times more. The default hotkey, opt+space, is the first step to almost everything I do on my computer: open applications, search for files, search Google, Amazon, or Wiki, system actions, and tapping into any of the numerous workflows that I’ve added. The application lookup is by far my most used basic function and the use of workflows via the powerpack addon does come with a price of around $20. The cool thing about the search functionality of Alfred is that it learns what your tendencies are and adjusts the results accordingly so it only takes one or two keys to bring up exactly what you want. The powerpack enables me to add open source workflows like the one for GitHub which lets me search my repos and various GitHub pages like applications just by prepending my search with “gh”.

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The amount of time this saves me throughout the day when looking up issues and reviewing pull requests across multiple projects is awesome. Some other useful workflows I’ve found are Toggl for time tracking, and one of the many Stack Overflow for quickly searching dev questions. It doesn’t end there, these are just a few of the free workflows available, but you can also make your own custom actions. I’m just beginning to play around with making my own, I’ve got a simple action that plays a random album in iTunes that I use when I’m being indecisive. I’ve used Alfred for a few years now and I continue to discover new cool things that it can do, while relying heavily on the base functionality for my everyday activities.

These are some of my favorite things. I implore everyone to give them a try as they all offer a free tier or at least a trial period. Drop me a line and let me know what you think of them and share you’re own personal setups (seriously, hook it up with the cool/useful apps and Alfred workflows).

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