Because reasons I'll be having to use MacOS on a Macbook Pro for the next few weeks. (Previously it was Archlinux on said Macbook, and before that was OSX a couple of years ago.) Anyway, setting it up again has been an ... interesting ... experience.

I'm used to a very customised setup involving i3wm, heaps of config, and several scripts, gradually tailored over time to build the workflow I have now. Switching from that to a vanilla MacOS was major culture shock.

So, what exactly have been the problems and what have I done over the last week to make it slightly more inhabitable? Right, here's a list of notes and thoughts, in no particular order:

Window tiling

Ok, controlling windows with a mouse is such a drag (lame pun intended), and MacOS's idea of full screen apps in split-screen is weird (maybe ok for some, but I didn't want to take the time to get used to it).

Saved by Spectacle! This provides a bunch of keybindings to resize/move windows. For example option + command + right-arrow moves the focused window to the righthand side of the screen and resizes to fill half the screen.

Modifier keys


So command seems cross between control and super. Where apps would have used control (such as ctrl + t for new tab on firefox), they suddenly now use command. Control doesn't seem used at all.

Option is supposed to be alt, but it does weird things. Eg. in a terminal, I can't use any bindings (including the all important readline bindings) with alt. option + f inserts ƒ.

While writing this post, I discovered iTerm has an option to set the option key to send meta, but it doesn't seem to work correctly - it just inserts question marks??

So far, haven't found a solution to make these more sane...

Karabiner Elements made it possible to remap capslock to the way more useful "esc on tap, ctrl on hold" though.

Disk space

I haven't copied any of my documents and files on yet, and the system is already using 43GB out of the 120GB disk. This is only base install + essential apps (Firefox, LaTeX, python3, nodejs, and some more small assorted apps).

Compare that to ~40GB my now-bloated Archlinux desktop install is currently taking up (counting system files only, yes this includes the 10GB of cached pacman packages).

Closing apps

Closing windows doesn't actually close the app. It closes the window but the program is still running, and focused. I hope there's a solution to that. I also hope there's a simple solution to getting window focus to follow the cursor...

Middle click

No middle click on the trackpad by default. I don't want 'data detecters' on three finger tap, I want middle click.


Time for a positive! Spotlight is pretty awesome. Fast + powerful access to apps, settings, files, etc.

I have a basic verson of this setup on Linux with rofi and various scripts. (I can fuzzy search and launch apps, copy passwords, open saved pdfs, and a few other things with different key bindings, but haven't got around to getting something set up as a unified thing.)

Copy/paste in a terminal

Command + {v,c} copies and pastes between the system clipboard and a terminal. It's kinda nice to be able to press a two key sequence instead of a three key sequence (control + shift + {v,c}) on linux. I think I'll try setting up a similar binding on my Linux desktop.

Small things!

File location standards

Aaarggh! What was wrong with the unix standards!? Why are home directories under /Users/ (with a capital U) instead of /home/?? ~/Library/ instead of ~/.config/??


Let's not talk about Finder.

$ brew install ranger
# also install tmux otherwise ranger will crash on start
# if update_tmux_title is true
$ brew install tmux

Problem solved!


Which brings us to Homebrew. This transforms MacOS into a real OS with package management. I can't imagine MacOS without Homebrew. I'd probably ragequit pretty quickly.

Daily OS

Could I use this as a daily system? At the moment, no. However, I would imagine that if I had to, with further tweaking and learning other configuration tools, it would be quite usable. I've heard good things about tools like Hammerspoon, and there's probably heaps of hidden features that you'd only find after using it for a while. But the thing is, at the moment at least, I don't have to switch permanently. It will take a bit to convince me to leave Linux.


This was fun to write. Hopefully it doesn't offend too many Mac enthusiasts. If you know the answers to any of the unresolved gripes in this article, please contact me with a solution!

I wonder if I'll have the same thoughts and opinions after a couple of weeks...