“We have a lot of default software already installed on our machines and a lot of third party developers just try to wrap them in a different user interface. While this is great (because everyone of us has a different workflow), we should ask ourselves critically if we really want this or if another workflow wouldn’t be better in the end. It’s about steadily asking ourselves if we do the right thing. It’s about questioning our life and our perception. And *this* is really great.”—Rafael Bugajewski
I’ve never been a fan of digital clocks. Twenty past four and nearly twelve sit far more comfortably with me than 16.26 and 11.57. Digital time just seems anxiety inducing whereas analogue feels more relaxing!
Many years ago, I saw a picture in a magazine. I can’t even remember which magazine but it was in a feature article about creative office setups. One of the examples was essentially a large square low table, probably a coffee table, with large floor cushion for seating and a single Powerbook on the desk and nothing else. That image burned a hole in my brain like no other for some reason. I remember it just as clear as if I was looking at it now. I think it was just the idea of being able to have something so simple as your “office” was inspiring to me. No chair, no desk in the traditional sense, no filling cabinets – just a laptop and a cushion and a surface. There was something so raw, simple, yet complete about it. I’ve been dreaming of achieving the same ever since.
I’ve long wanted to try and slim down what is running on my mac, especially as it gets a little older in the teeth, and the battery needs all the help it can get in retaining some charge. Here are a couple of things I’ve started doing:
1. I have a spotlight saved search for any files over 100mb, and when drive space starts to run low, I go there first to see if I have any old video files, podcasts or iLife project files I can toss out. There are applications which show your disk inventory, but spotlight, and some simple search types can do the same thing for you.
2. Get rid of the widgets! Every one of those running dashboard widgets is like having another safari window open, and there are few dashboard widgets which can’t be replaced with easier, and lighter alternatives. The calculator, timezones and convertor widgets which ship with OSX can all be replaced by some clever google searches. For Example:
100USD in GBP
1yard in inches
Time in Auckland
These queries will all bring back instantaneous results without the need to launch the resource heavy dashboard. Similar results can be gained via spotlight, as mentioned on this blog previously. I work 90% of the time in the browser, so for me this is the simplest and quickest solution.
3. language switching. Set a keyboard shortcut in the preferences to change input sources. It sounds obvious, but it isn’t there by default. I write frequently in another language, and being able to switch between Japanese and English without taking my hands away from the keyboard is a must. Mine is set to ‘ctrl + ~’, YMMV.
Hopefully these tips will be of use, they certainly make my mac an easier machine to use!
Thanks to Stu for submitting these ideas. Some useful tips for sure. I think using smart searches to replicate the functionality of a program like, say, Disk Inventory X is an especially brilliant use of the built in functionality in Mac OS X.
More than a few folks have asked how I got my dock pinned to the bottom of my screen, and actually, it’s a pretty simple trick. You can move the dock around all you want with a single line of code in the Terminal and a reboot of the dock.
Shawn Blanc not only goes on to share this wonderful tip, he takes the time to explain his entire dock workflow and it is chock full of useful tricks. This is a must read and has caused me to rethink my flow a bit.
Do you long for the distraction free environment that a tool like Writeroom offers in other applications? If so, here are two tools that can help. Think and Isolator, when activated, will cover up your desktop and all the icons on it, as well as the windows of all other applications, so you can concentrate on the the current task at hand. Personally, I use Isolator but only because I found it first. Otherwise, the difference between the two are marginal at best. Both are free so there is not reason not to check them out.
"Striving for minimalism on your Mac is not about removing everything from your computer. It’s about getting rid of the fluff that distracts you from achieving peaceful productivity. Removing items from your dock or desktop for the sake of minimalism misses the point. Minimalism is a means to an end. The end is the opportunity to really enjoy using your Mac."
This was submitted by my friend Pat Dryburgh for our consideration and he is 100% correct.
My goal, with this site, is that it helps people be a bit more productive with their Mac. I hope it points to tools that might help with that - including ones already built into the Mac OS. I hope it challenges people to the idea that they do not need yet another tool to make their Macs better, and in turn their lives easier, they may just need the right ones - and only the right ones. I hope it challenges folks to think about what they really need from their computer and, also, what they don’t.
For example, if you write a lot, perhaps a way to reduce distractions with a tool like Writeroom may help. Perhaps you will never use all of additional features in a full fledged word processor, so why have them? Perhaps there is a tool like Bean that gives you just enough of what you need and no more. Perhaps TextEdit alone is enough.
Sometimes, I pose questions and ideas that I myself could not live with but, maybe might help someone else. Spotlight could not currently replace Quicksilver for me. I use many of the advanced Quicksilver features, like appending/prepending text, hourly. That said, I know there are many who have Quicksilver installed just to launch applications and open folders quickly. If that is the case, Spotlight will do a more than adequate job of that.
Simply cleaning up your desktop or dock will likely not make you more productive. That said, perhaps cleaning up the visual clutter will be less distracting and, therefore, more productive. The goal is not the cleaning but the reduction of distraction. It’s not about the “what”. It’s about the “why”. Please consider this idea whenever reading anything here and don’t miss the real point of all of this talk of minimalism, zen, enough, etc. It’s to help all of us be better.
In the previous post about using Spotlight instead of Quicksilver, it is a given that there is some Quicksilver functionality that Spotlight can’t replicate. Towards this end, Minimal Mac reader and all around smashingly swell Brit Adam Wilcox has submitted this nice set of Applescript applications to mimic the System Manipulation commands in Quicksilver. In turn, these allow you do do such useful things like restart, empty the trash, sleep, logout, etc. from spotlight.
Thanks Adam for making Spotlight even more useful.
"Keeping with the theme of using the software that comes with your Mac, I gave up using QuickSilver and other similar tools when Leopard came out. 10.5 made Spotlight much faster, and it now does 90% of what I was using third party launcher tools for.”
I just wanted to take a few moments to mention several items…
First of all, words are not enough to express my gratitude to everyone for making Minimal Mac such a success. In just the first few days, it is beyond even my wildest hopes. I want to create a place where I can engage others in conversation and thought around the idea that simpler can be better when it comes to computing in general and Macintosh specifically.
Towards that end, you will often see me pose questions here around the idea of “enough”. For instance, do you really need a word processor, PDF reader, web browser, etc. beyond what is already provided in Mac OS X? I want to be clear, these questions are not meant to say there is something wrong with wanting or needing more. In fact, in many cases the questions are meant to challenge my own thinking as they are for others. I, therefore, really value your response – especially when it challenges me.
Finally, as stated in the introduction, I have a fair amount of items saved up to post. Also, there are always new links, apps and resources released. That said, I’m always on the lookout for more and welcome your submissions. To make the process easier, I have enabled submissions on Minimal Mac. Just go here:
“People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”—Steve Jobs
"Inspired partially by my preparation for the Tiger upgrade and partially by my proficiency with QuickSilver, I’ve emptied everything out of the doc. Only the Finder and Trash are persistent. Everything else, in when in use, out when not.”
And I, inspired by Garrick, have done the same. You should consider doing so as well. In fact, an unexpected side effect of this tip is that it helps you find out which applications you really need and use.
There are many utilities and preference panes you can install on your Mac to make the date appear in the menubar next to the time. Avoid them. Everything you need to achive this is already there in your Mac. These detailed instructions will show you how.
"Just like your Login Items, you want to cruise through your Applications folder and trash anything you don’t need or use any more. To be clear, this won’t speed up your Mac, but it will reclaim hard drive space."
Minimalist computing includes getting rid of things you don’t need or are otherwise just taking up space. The speed and performance tips in this post are worthwhile as well.
I’m pleased to announce a new Flickr photo set of desktop backgrounds. The start of this set is 10 photos, all taken on the North Shore of Lake Superior. In the spirit of share, remix, reuse, I have Creative Commons released each of these, and give the ability to download the full 1440x900 resolution images.
Enjoy, and let me know if you decide to use one of these as the desktop background on your Mac (or PC).
Some beautiful and minimalist shots in this set by my good friend Eric Senf. Well worth a click.
While there are lots of great tips on this list, the one that stood out and has relevance to the topic of this site is #13:
"Use applications that are compatible across all computers you may work on. You never know when you’ll need to switch, so save yourself the stress of having to download new software for the crusty backup computer at the last minute"
"DateLine is a simple, elegant, and visually unobtrusive Mac OS X app that displays a linear calendar on your desktop in a fully customizable, transparent window. Double-clicking a day will will launch iCal, taking you right to that date."
Dateline is that translucent calendar you see on the desktops of so many of the inspiration shots you seen me post so far. Oh, and it’s free too.