Many software developers use Mac computers for work or personal use. To start on a new Mac, the most convenient option is to transfer from an existing Mac or restore from a Time Machine backup. But from time to time, we still need to set it up as a brand new computer, maybe because an existing Mac isn’t available or we simply want to start fresh with the new laptop.

In this post, I’ll document what I consider the best way to setup a brand new Mac for software development. The primary purpose is to serve as a reference for my future self, but if some readers find it useful, that would be awesome too.

These are just based on my personal experience, so there is no guarantee they’ll work well for you too. If you find other better ways to do certain steps, please let me know in the public comment below or reach out to me directly.

Step 1: Install Homebrew

I use Homebrew to install and manage most of command line tools and GUI apps.

Install it with:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"

This script is quite intelligent. It works on Intel or Apple Silicon based Macs and even Linux, and it installs Homebrew to different preferred prefixes based on the situation. For more information, please refer to the Homebrew Installation guide.

Step 2: brew bundle

Manually installing all the packages needed on a new Mac is tedious, but luckily we don’t have to do that thanks to Homebrew Bundle.

One can create a Brewfile with brew bundle dump and then run brew bundle to install and upgrade all packages from the Brewfile. For more details, please refer to the brew bundle section of the brew man output or brew bundle --help.

I’ve saved a Brewfile to my dotfiles repository on Github, so I can just download it with:

curl -fL -o Brewfile

And then run brew bundle to install the packages.

Step 3: Add SSH key to Github

The next couple steps involve cloning from Github, so generating a new SSH key and adding it to my Github account is necessary.

Generate new SSH key

ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C ""

Reference: Generating a new SSH key and adding it to the ssh-agent

Add to Github account

First copy your SSH public key to clipboard with

pbcopy < ~/.ssh/

Then login to your Github account, go to Settings -> SSH and GPG keys -> New SSH key. Give it a title and paste your key into the “Key” field.

Reference: Adding a new SSH key to your Github account

Step 4: Install my dotfiles

git clone
cd dotfiles
ruby ./install.rb

Step 5: Install maximum-awesome

git clone
cd maximum-awesome
git checkout qing

For installing Vim plugins separately, just run :PlugInstall in Vim.

Step 6: Install asdf-vm and programming languages

git clone ~/.asdf --branch v0.8.1

If you don’t already have this in your zshrc, the following is needed:

echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/' >> ~/.zshrc
echo -e '\n. $HOME/.asdf/completions/asdf.bash' >> ~/.zshrc

Now I’d like to install Erlang and Elixir:

asdf plugin-add erlang
asdf plugin-add elixir
# actual Openssl version depends on what's in `brew list`
export KERL_CONFIGURE_OPTIONS="--without-javac --with-ssl=$(brew --prefix openssl@1.1)"
asdf install erlang 23.3.4
asdf install elixir 1.12.3
asdf global erlang 23.3.4
asdf global elixir 1.12.3

Obviously you could install whatever programming languages you need, be that Ruby, Node.js, Python or something else.

For more details on how to do that with asdf, check out my comprehensive guide: How to Use asdf Version Manager on macOS.

Step 7: Install prezto and set zsh as default shell

git clone --recursive "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}/.zprezto"
for rcfile in "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}"/.zprezto/runcoms/^; do
  ln -s "$rcfile" "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}/.${rcfile:t}"
sudo chsh -s /bin/zsh

Step 8: Install fzf

git clone --depth 1 ~/.fzf

Step 10: Preferences in GUI

  • iTerm
    • Profiles -> Colors -> Color Presets -> Solarized Dark
    • Profiles -> Text -> Font -> Size to 14
    • Profiles -> Terminal -> Scrollback Buffer -> tick “Unlimited scrollback”
  • System Preferences
    • Keyboard -> Modifier Keys -> Map “Caps lock” key to Escape
    • Trackpad -> Point & Click -> tick “Tap to click”
    • Accessibility -> Pointer Control -> Trackpad Options -> tick “Enable dragging” -> three finger drag
    • (Optional for external monitor) Displays -> (on the external monitor) Option + click “Scaled” and choose 2560 x 1440

Step 11: Ignore new system update (optional)

If you are not ready to upgrade to the latest version of macOS, you can stop it from showing up in System Preferences -> Software Update with:

sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --ignore "macOS [version name]"

Here version name could be Catalina, Big Sur or Monterey, depending on which you’d like to ignore.

When you are ready to install the new version, just restore it with:

sudo /usr/sbin/softwareupdate --reset-ignored


After following the steps in this post, there may be things you still need to install or tweak, but the new Mac should be fairly close to be ready as the primary development machine.

Surely, these steps are going to evolve over time and I’ll try my best to keep them up-to-date. But again, I don’t do this very often, so they may get out of date.

Anyway, please feel free to take what you need and let me know what you think :slightly_smiling_face:

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