My Mac Setup

I came to Macs quite late, switching to Mac laptops in 2009 because of the quality of the hardware. Over the last year I have taken my 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina to China, the USA and Europe. With the World Travel Adapter Kit to allow hassle-free power connections, this is the ultimate machine for travelling.

I still use Windows desktop machines, but switching between Mac and Windows machines is easy nowadays thanks to three things: almost all the software that I use runs on both systems, Dropbox allows easy sharing of files between machines, and Windows and Mac OS X have converged so as to have very similar features and capabilities.


Most of my core applications are open source: Emacs, Firefox, Thunderbird, Git for version control, Cyberduck (for ftp and ssh), and TeX Live. Mac-specific software includes iTerm2 (a replacement for Terminal), Path Finder (an enhanced Finder), Skim (PDF viewer) and Witch (app-switcher, Cmd-tab replacement). And for numerical and symbolic computation I use MATLAB.

A password manager is essential nowadays. I use 1Password, which runs on all my Apple hardware and Windows, and I sync it via Dropbox.

On the iPhone a couple of free apps are proving very useful. MapsWithMe gives offline maps downloadable by country, and since it only needs a GPS signal it’s great for finding where you are while on a train, or in a foreign country. As long as I have the iPhone in my pocket, Moves is good at counting my number of steps per day, which is sadly all too low, and records my time spent travelling. It also has the handy feature of showing on a map where you have been, which is useful if you are lost and want to retrace your steps.

On my MacBook Pro I have File Vault turned on, so that the hard disk is encrypted. I’m impressed with how little overhead this creates with the Core i7 Ivy bridge chip and an SSD. I also like the way File Vault works with Find My Mac to trap thieves via the Guest account (as detailed in this article)!

I continue to use Windows desktop machines. Two particular reasons are that I have not found Mac programs that match the functionality of Xyplorer (file manager) and Fineprint (printer driver), which I use many times every day.

This post is a modified version of an article titled “My Setup” that appeared in MacUser magazine, November 2013, page 126.