Configurations to empower your macOS

The following configurations empowers your Mac in ways that you cannot achieve by the usual System Preferences or similar config pages, thought for power users. I talk about quick-look plugins, spotlight extensions, terminal configuration, and brew tricks.

Note that 1) I keep updated this list with the things that I actually use on my Mac, and 2) I work close to the OS guidelines: these are not ugly hacks but (what I think) more or less correct ways of achieving stuff.

Quick-look plugins

Quick-look is the preview window of Mac that appears when you press spacebar on a file in Finder. In this page you can get plug-ins that allow you expand the number of files you can quick-look. I have the following: brew cask install qlcolorcode qlstephen qlmarkdown quicklook-json qlvideo.

Search in JSON, Markdown… using spotlight

You can upgrade Spotlight to search more file types, for example Markdown, YAML, or JSON.

  1. Download this zip file from Bretter Pstra’s post, which is a base extension for Spotlight.
  2. Unzip it to ~/Library/Spotlight/ (create the Spotlight folder if it does not exist).
  3. Edit with a text editor like nano ~/Library/Spotlight/Markdown.mdimporter/Contents/Info.plist. You will see a line with the following: <string>net.daringfireball.markdown</string>, which is inside an <array>. You can add more <string> elements to this <array> defining file types that you want to be searcheable. For example, I have <string>public.json</string>and <string>public.yaml</string>. Find other types in here.
  4. As the post from Pastras says, execute mdimport -r ~/Library/Spotlight/Markdown.mdimporter to load this new configuration.
  5. Execute sudo mdutil -E / to re-index (with the new configuration). This will take time.


Enhancements to the default bash terminal. Many of them can be performed to any Unix with bash (like debian).

Personalize the terminal

The default bash terminal in the Mac is just too plain and too white. You can upgrade the expierence by personalizing bash, for example changing colors or the information it displays (ex. the path you are in, username, name of active virtualenv…). To achieve this:

  • (Mac only): download a terminal theme from macos-therminal-theme and follow the instructions of the website.
  • To personalize what bash prints on screen you will need to make some bash code. This bash code must be placed in your ~/.bash_profile. What I do is have this code in a file in a sync folder in the cloud, and then write the following in bash_profile: . /path/to/my/ Here you have a WYSIWYG that auto-generates the code for you.

Set locale to UTF8

Mac messes with your locales in the terminal, which caused me some problems. For me has proven good to just do the following at every mac installation and forget about it.

  1. Go to Preferencesin the terminal > Profiles > select your profile > Advanced > untick set locale environment variables during startup.
  2. Paste the following in your ~/.bash_profile:
export LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8
export LC_ALL=en_US.UTF

Mac does not have nano as the default terminal text editor. Add the following to your ~/.bash_profile: export EDITOR=nano. Softwares like *git*1 select an editor from this variable.


Interesting stuff with the defacto package manager of Mac, brew.

Execute packages installed with brew

Brew installs packages in a way that it doesn’t mess with your system, meaning that you cannot do something like (imagine we installed postgres through brew): $ psql –it will print a nice command not found.

Write something like the following in your ~./bash_profile (in this example we want to access node and postgresql:

export PATH

Managing brew services

Managing other services, like databases as Postgres, with brew is easy with brew services. Use brew services list to list the installed services, brew services run to run a service… execute brew services to get a list of commands.

Using postgres again as an example, to run it just do brew services run postgresql@9.6.

Install fonts using brew

Fonts that are open-source or free to use (like from google fonts) are usually in brew’s cask fonts:

brew tap homebrew/cask-fonts
brew cask install font-hack-nerd-font

Happy configuring 🙂

  1. Reference

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