Written by Tania Rascia on

macOS Big Sur: Setting up a Mac for Development

Last Updated: 6/18/2021

I have to set up a MacBook Pro fairly often - when starting a new job and when buying a new personal computer. I created this article back in 2015 when I got my first Mac and have been updating it ever since with whatever I need as my job evolves. I'm primarily a full-stack web developer, so most of my needs will revolve around JavaScript/Node.js.

Getting Started

The setup assistant will launch once you turn the computer on. Enter your language, time zone, Apple ID, and so on. The first thing you should do is update macOS to get the latest security updates and patches.


Install the Homebrew package manager. This will allow you to install almost any app from the command line.

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install.sh)"

Make sure everything is up to date.

brew update

Install Apps

Here are some the programs I always install.

Don't install Node.js through Homebrew. Use nvm (below).

Program Purpose
Visual Studio Code text editor
Google Chrome web browser
Firefox web browser
Rectangle window resizing
iTerm2 terminal
Docker development
Slack communication
Spotify music
Postgres database
Postico database UI
Postman API tool
App installation
brew install \
  git \
  make &&

# GUI programs
brew install --cask \
  visual-studio-code \
  google-chrome \
  firefox \
  rectangle \
  iterm2 \
  docker \
  slack \
  spotify \
  postgres \
  postico \


Catalina comes with zsh as the default shell. Install Oh My Zsh for sensible defaults.

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/ohmyzsh/ohmyzsh/master/tools/install.sh)"


Use Node Version Manager (nvm) to install Node.js. This allows you to easily switch between Node versions, which is essential.

curl -o- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.38.0/install.sh | bash


Install the latest version.

nvm install node

Restart terminal and run the final command.

nvm use node

Confirm that you are using the latest version of Node and npm.

node -v && npm -v


For later, here's how to update nvm.

nvm install node --reinstall-packages-from=node

Change version

Here's how to switch to another version and use it.

nvm install xx.xx
nvm use xx.xx

And to set the default:

nvm alias default xx.xx


The first thing you should do with Git is set your global configuration.

touch ~/.gitconfig

Input your config and create some aliases.

  name   = Firstname Lastname
  email  = you@example.com
  user   = username
  a      = add
  ca     = commit -a
  cam    = commit -am
  cm     = commit -m
  s      = status
  p      = push
  pom    = push origin master
  puom   = pull origin master
  cob    = checkout -b
  co     = checkout
  fp     = fetch --prune --all
  l      = log --oneline --decorate --graph
  lall   = log --oneline --decorate --graph --all
  ls     = log --oneline --decorate --graph --stat
  lt     = log --graph --decorate --pretty=format:'%C(yellow)%h%Creset%C(auto)%d%Creset %s %Cgreen(%cr) %C(bold blue)%an%Creset'

With the above aliases, I can run git s instead of git status, for example. The less I have to type, the happier I am.


Simplify the process of SSHing into other boxes. Create an SSH config file.

mkdir ~/.ssh && touch ~/.ssh/config

Add the following contents, changing the variables for any hosts that you connect to. Using the below will be the same as running ssh -i ~/.ssh/key.pem user@example.com.

Host *
  AddKeysToAgent yes
  UseKeychain yes
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Host myssh
  HostName example.com
  User user
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/key.pem

Now just run the alias to connect.

ssh myssh

Generate SSH key

You can generate an SSH key to distribute.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "email@example.com"

Add key.

ssh-add -K ~/.ssh/id_rsa


I don't like a lot of the Apple defaults so here are the things I always change.

To get the Home folder in the finder, press CMD + SHIFT + H and drag the home folder to the sidebar.


  • Set Dark mode
  • Make Google Chrome default browser


  • Automatically hide and show Dock
  • Show indicators for open applications


  • Key Repeat -> Fast
  • Delay Until Repeat -> Short
  • Disable "Correct spelling automatically"
  • Disable "Capitalize words automatically"
  • Disable "Add period with double-space"
  • Disable "Use smart quotes and dashes"

Security and Privacy

  • Allow apps downloaded from App Store and identified developers
  • Turn FileVault On (makes sure SSD is securely encrypted)
  • Turn Firewall On (extra security measure)


  • Change computer name
  • Make sure all file sharing is disabled

Users & Groups

  • Add "Rectangle" to Login items


A few more commands to change some defaults.

# Show Library folder
chflags nohidden ~/Library

# Show hidden files
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

# Show path bar
defaults write com.apple.finder ShowPathbar -bool true

# Show status bar
defaults write com.apple.finder ShowStatusBar -bool true

# Prevent left and right swipe through history in Chrome
defaults write com.google.Chrome AppleEnableSwipeNavigateWithScrolls -bool false

Application Settings


Visual Studio Code

  • Press CMD + SHIFT + P and click "Install code command in PATH".
  • Install New Moon Theme
  • Install GitLens
  • Install Highlight Matching Tag
  • Install ESLint
  • Install Prettier
  • Install Jest
  • Install Jest Runner
  • Keyboard Shortcuts
    • Copy Line Down - CMD + SHIFT + E
    • Delete Line - CMD + SHIFT + D
    • Format Document - CMD + SHIFT + L
    • Make sure "selectNextSuggestion" and "selectPrevSuggestion" are not set to up and down arrows, to allow ease of navigating files


  • Full Screen: CMD + SHIFT + ' (prevents messing with other commands)
  • Left Half: CMD + OPTION + LEFT
  • Right Half: CMD + OPTION + RIGHT



That sums it up for my current preferences on setting up a MacBook Pro. I hope it helped speed up your process or gave you ideas for the next time you're setting one up.