The first thing I tend to do, to help organise the chaos, is go through the same setup settings I’ve found work well from my years working with Macs — and install some decent apps for security, speed and productivity.

These are the mains ones, and let me know if it helps...

Finder speed

If you've had your Mac for a while, there's a good chance it has some cruft in the preferences. If your Finder is constantly using more then a single-digit CPU in Activity Monitor, it might need a clean up, so give this a try:

  1. Create a folder in your ~Home folder called Desktop Archive and drag everything from your Desktop that isn't an Alias into that new Desktop Archive folder. Try to regularly clean-up your Desktop and use only Aliases to files & folders elsewhere.
  2. Go to ~Home/Library/Preferences/ and delete these files: com.apple.finder.plist, com.apple.loginwindow.plist, and all the com.apple.systemuiserver.plist files.
  3. Restart...  — and let me know if it worked for you too :)

Do all this, and here's the pay-off; this is Activity Monitor on my Macbook with a bunch of applications running, over 300 browser tabs open, and most of the CPU is the Activity Monitor and window taking the screenshot:

My Activity Monitor with macOS 10.14.6 on a Macbook Pro 2018 model

Then, save yourself from having lots of windows open. Click View > Show Sidebar, then drag the folder icon from the top-bar of each folder to the Favourites list on the left.

Then you can have just one window open on the left-half of your screen and use the left sidebar to navigate all the folder windows you want to remember, without having to drill-down each time.

If you're moving files around a lot to get organised, just open another Finder window on the right side of your screen, you'll find it much easier with just one or two non-overlapping windows open than lots of layered windows with random sizes and positions :)

Preferences

Now you've done that, everything is fresh & clean, so lets get it looking nice too...

  • Click on your Desktop > View > Show View Options (cmd-J)
    • Stack by: None
    • Sort by: Kind
    • Icon size: 16 x 16
    • Grid spacing: Max
    • Label position: Right
  • Click on any Finder window > Change to List View > View > Show View Options (cmd-J)
    • Tick “Always open in list view”
    • Stack by: None
    • Sort by: Date Added
    • Icon size: 16 x 16
    • Show Columns: Date Added, Date Modified, Size, Kind
    • Untick: Use Relative Dates
    • Untick: Calculate all sizes (uses a lot of CPU if ticked)
    • Untick: Show icon preview (uses more CPU if ticked)
    • Click “Use as defaults”
  • Finder > Preferences > General
    • Show these items on the Desktop: tick all
    • New Finder windows shows: Macintosh HD
  • System Preferences > General
    • Dark Mode
    • Show scroll bars: Always
    • Default web browser: I use personally and recommend Choosy.app if you have more than one browser, otherwise Vivaldi or Firefox are both recommended.
  • System Preferences > Date & Time
    • Time options: Display the time with seconds (helps to see if your Mac is actually frozen if seconds stop updating)
  • System Preferences > Security & Privacy
    • Firewall: On
    • Firewall Options: Enable stealth mode
  • Change your Screenshots to save to a dedicated folder
    • Create a folder on your Desktop called Screenshots
    • Move all your Desktop Screenshot ...png files into that.
    • Cmd-shift-5 > Options > Other Location... > Select your new Screenshots folder.
    • Magic, your Desktop now stays a bit tidier from all those screenshots!
  • Create Aliases for all frequent folders on your Desktop with alt-cmd click & drag to Desktop.
  • Use Right-click and coloured tags to distiguish between work, home and various projects by colour.
  • Drag frequently used folders to your Dock, eg: Applications, Home, Documents, Downloads etc. Then, on each of them:
    • Right-click > Display as: Folder
    • Right-click > View content as: List

You don’t need all these — but I recommend them. They do make my busy Mac-life a bit more pleasant, speedy and secure, as my favourites in each area:

  • Firefox Nightly* (faster (go to Preference > Nightly Experiments > ✅ Web API: WebGPU), more secure, private and optimisable open-source web browser)
  • Tree Style Tab* (for a Vertical Tabs Sidebar, I prefer the Proton theme in the options)
  • Vivaldi* (more secure, private and configurable Chromium-based web browser - I prefer the Vertical Tabs layout too)
  • LocalCDN* for Chromium (privacy & security also speed up your web browsing)
  • uBlock Origin* for Firefox & Vivaldi/Chromium (privacy & security also speed up your web browsing)
  • LocalCDN* (privacy & security also speed up your web browsing)
  • DarkReader* (protect your eyes and brain with dark-mode browsing)
  • Enpass (password manager & two-factor authentication)
  • Nimbus Capture (for screenshots & annotation, including confidential blurring)
  • Language Tools* (open-source, and IMHO better alternative to Grammarly)
  • Ulysses (for Markdown notes and used to publish this page)
  • AppTamer (slow-down CPU-hog Apps from cooking your machine)
  • Choosy (useful if you use multiple browsers)
  • Tab Session Manager (for moving tabs in bulk from one browser to another)
  • WebCatalog (web-apps)
  • Backblaze (unlimited backups)
  • FreeOffice / Softmaker Office (documents, spreadsheets & slides)
  • Sync.com (secure file storage & sharing alternative to Dropbox)
  • Wondershare Filmora (video editor with nice graphics)
  • ScreenFlow (screencast video tutorials)
  • Find more specialist apps on my extensive Tools page.

*Free (as-in freedom) Open-Source Software (FOSS) — is an ethical way to provide software services for; transparency, security, freedom, privacy, data-ownership, collaboration, developer credit & promotion — and simply good online citizen karma in return for the countless community projects you already benefit from that form the foundations a free and inclusive internet. wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_open-source_software


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