You’re about to discover that I’m not much of a tinkerer when it comes to macOS.

I’ve never spent hours customising it or using Automator to tweak the operating system to the nth degree. I have a feeling that might change when macOS Monterey hits the shelves, but for now, I remain the most cautious of tweakers.

However, I know what I like, and in the many years I’ve been using Macs as my daily drivers, I’ve relied on a few key customisations to make them work just perfectly.

Prepare to be either underwhelmed or inspired.

1. Re-size and hide the dock

I have an odd relationship with the dock in macOS. I think it’s a far better shortcut to your most important apps than anything Windows has offered, but I’ve always struggled to find the perfect configuration for it.

For instance, when it comes to placement, I’ve tried it both on the side and at the default bottom position. The former is how it remains on my 34” ultra widescreen monitor (it makes total sense there), but for my iMac and MacBook, it remains at the bottom. This will irritate Side-Or-Die Dock People.

I always resize it, though (as small as possible before it becomes illegible), and when placed at the bottom, it’s always set to hide.

2. Add Macintosh HD to the desktop (and snap to grid)

I started life as a Windows user, and I’m conscious that several of my macOS configuration tweaks are probably influenced by that.

For instance, it has always baffled me that the Macintosh HD shortcut isn’t placed on the desktop by default. It remains the most common method I use to access stuff on my computer. So, I add it immediately (you’ll find the option in Finder > Preferences), and make sure the desktop itself snaps-to-grid to keep things tidy.

3. Minimise windows into applications

I hate clutter on my Mac. It’s why my desktop is always as clean as possible, but also why I turn on this particular dock feature immediately.

By default, when you minimise an app, it’ll place it on the right-hand side of the dock. Therefore, if you minimise lots of apps, your dock keeps getting bigger and untidier.


Right-click on the dock, Dock Preferences – Minimise windows into application icon; sorted.

4. Small Finder tweaks

I really like how Finder has developed over the years, but it does need some tweaks for me to fully enjoy it (again, likely borrowed from my Windows days).

I do three things:

  • set the View to as List (I just prefer this method of sorting through folders and files)
  • show the Status Bar (I like to know how much storage I have left with a quick glance)
  • add folders to the favourites list

The latter is really important and super-easy to do; you simply drag folders that you use most often over to the left-hand pane, under Favourites. I use this all the time because it saves me so much time hunting for stuff.

5. Remove all but the essentials from the dock

Ah, we’re back to the dock.

When you first unbox and switch on a new Mac, Apple ‘helpfully’ installs lots of stuff for you, including the iWork (is it still called that?!) suite. I remove these apps immediately from the dock, along with a bunch of others I have zero need for (FaceTime – which might change come Monterey – Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and others).

Trust me – a clean dock is one of the best things ever. If it only contains the apps you use most often, it’ll take up less screen space and make it far easier to find what you want.

6. Turn off ‘Hey Siri’

The Mac does not need this. I have 281,817 Apple devices that already respond (or ignore me) when I utter those immortal words.

7. Set my default apps

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I removed Mail and Calendar from the dock earlier. That’s because I use two entirely different apps for those tasks: Spark and Fantastical, respectively.

I therefore want the correct app to fire up whenever a new calendar item requires access to my diary, or when I start the ‘new mail’ process from somewhere else.

Annoyingly, you have to set the default calendar and mail apps in Apple’s stock apps, which means opening them and heading into their preferences. I’m not sure why this bothers me, but it does.

8. Add widgets

As mentioned recently, I’m not a huge widgets user, but I do have my favourites.

On macOS, I start by removing all of the default widgets Apple leaves you with (does anyone use the Stocks app?), and add the following:

  • weather (it’s just nice for glanceability)
  • world clock (I work with people across the globe, so it’s nice to know what time it is in their neck of the woods)

That’s it. I can’t get too excited about widgets.

9. Unlock with Apple Watch

If you have an Apple Watch and a Mac, this is an essential and utterly brilliant feature. It completely removes the need for any form of biometric security on your Mac and is the most convenient, effortless way to unlock your computer.

I sometimes have a few issues enabling it the first time around, but it usually works after a few clicks of the tick box in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. Turn it on!

10. Set appearance to Auto

Like many people, when Apple first introduced Dark Mode in macOS Mojave, I immediately switched it on and left it like that for weeks.

That soon became a little overbearing, and I’ve since found that the sweet spot really is the Auto setting which can be found in System Preferences > General – Appearance.

This switches automatically between Light and Dark mode, depending on the time of day. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it’s a nice contrast and somehow rejuvenates me when I return to my computer later at night to find it looking a bit different. I’m funny like that.

What are your favourite macOS customisations?