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Customizing Your Macbook with Terminal

4 MINUTE READ | March 6, 2017

Customizing Your Macbook with Terminal

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Brock Boren

Brock Boren has written this article. More details coming soon.

I got my first Apple Macbook Pro in 2010 when I went off to college. If you’re like I was back then, you love it, but you’re not sure what all it can actually do. Even worse, some things were just a flat out headache. Always wondering where that one screenshot went, constantly having to sort the files on my desktop to avoid something like this, and having a mild panic attack every time Photos would show something embarrassing after plugging my phone in are all things I could have lived without. Thankfully, there is a solution to all of these things (and more!). I’ll cover a few of my favorites and how to use them yourself here, but you can see all of my favorites here.

To get started, we’re going to open up the Terminal app. It’s what we’ll be using to change some things around. It can look intimidating if you’re not a developer but don’t worry; you’ll mostly just be copying and pasting. The default location for Terminal is in Applications/Utilities.

Open up your “Applications” folder and find the “Utilities” folder, circled below.

Utilities Folder

Then, in the Utilities folder, find the Terminal app. It’s on the far right in the image below. Double click on the icon to open up a new window.

Terminal Location

You should see something that looks like this on your screen. Don’t worry if yours looks different than mine! Most developers end up changing how their terminal looks.

Empty Terminal Window

One of the best ways to avoid having a desktop cluttered with screenshots is to have them automatically saved somewhere else. I prefer to have mine saved in a folder called, you guessed it, “screenshots.” To create this folder, we first have to navigate to our desktop from the terminal. We can do that by using the command below. I call my folder “screenshots” in this example, but you can call yours whatever you want.

cd ~/Desktop/ && mkdir screenshots

Now that we have our screenshots folder made, we can tell our system to put all of our future screenshots there automatically:

defaults write location ~/Desktop/screenshots

For these changes to take place, we have to restart the thing that manages screenshots:killall SystemUIServer

BOOM. Take a screenshot and then open the screenshots folder we created earlier. Your new screenshot should be in there.

If you’re like me and want to go one step further, it’s also possible to hide all of the items on your desktop. They’re still there — you can still use Finder to access all of these files and folders — the icons just aren’t. This feature is also super useful when giving presentations.

So how do we go from a desktop that looks like this…


…to this?


If your Terminal’s “working directory” is still the Desktop, you’re good. You can double check the current working directory by typing pwd and hitting enter. You should get back something like Users/{your name}/Desktop. If that’s not what you got, or if you closed out of your terminal earlier, go ahead and open up a new window then type in, cd ~/Desktop/ and hit enter. Now, to actually hide the desktop of your items, copy and paste the command below: defaults write CreateDesktop -bool false && killall Finder You should see your desktop image briefly disappear. When it reappears, all of your desktop icons should be hidden. To reverse those changes and have your desktop icons show again, enter the command below: defaults write CreateDesktop -bool true && kill all Finder

When Apple first introduced the Photos app to MacOS, my least favorite thing was having it open every single time I plugged my phone in to charge. Luckily, you can fix this with one quick command. Open up a new terminal window and enter the command below (you don’t have to make sure you’re working in the desktop directory anymore). Note that this one sometimes requires restarting your computer to work properly.

defaults -currentHost write disableHotPlug -bool true

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And there you have it. Some of the most frustrating things about your MacBook are now a thing of the past, and that weight has been lifted. Doesn’t it feel nice?

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