Configure a MacBook for Development

Configure a MacBook for Development

After years working with Windows and Linux workstations, now I need to configure a MacBook for development. Some years before, a MacBook was a natural tool for Designers and Media producers. But now, many developers are using a MacBook for software development. The developer community behind MacBooks made possible to get the most useful developer tools available for Mac users. This is a my own list of steps to configure a MacBook for Development.

Software and hardware prerequisites

To configure a MacBook for development, you will get better productivity using a machine with enough system capabilities. These are some of the most important:

Get the most updated OS

Currently, the most common OS used is macOS High Sierra (10.13). Actually, macOS Mohave (10.14) is the latest release. Most of the tools used today are compatible with 10.12 (macOS Sierra) or latest OS versions. You can update your OS and components for free when an update is available in the App Store.

Enough memory (RAM)

To get a smooth transition between applications you need at least 8Gb of RAM. With 4Gb of RAM you can expect some delays in application loading and transitions. However, some developer tools like Android Studio IDE or Eclipse-based IDEs needs at least 8 Gb of RAM to run smoothly. Also, virtualization tools need, sometimes, a huge dedicated memory reserved for internal use.

CPU optimized for virtualization

Use an Intel Core i5 or latest CPU to get enough virtualization capabilities. A lower CPU spec is enough to run many developer tools. However, virtualization capabilities are a central part of running developer emulators. Android and iOS emulators, virtual machines (VMWare, VirtualBox) and virtual containers (Docker, Kubernetes).  Run sysctl -a | grep -o VMX in a console to see if VMX is enabled in your CPU.

An extra monitor

It’s not mandatory but a second screen could boost your productivity twice. As a developer, you probably will switch between code, application preview, and documentation many times in a day. You can leave in a second screen some part of your work to keep an eye in both places. Also, some IDEs use several windows to show different aspects of your development (project files, console, object inspector) using many screen space. An extra bigger screen could help to extend your view, specially in a small MacBook Air 11” laptop.

Common development tools

Even though you are working as a web, mobile or general software developer, you need some basic development tools to configure a MacBook for development. Some web development tools comes already installed with macOS, like Php and Apache:

 Package Installers

Some applications and tools are not available in the App Store. However,  they come pre-packaged in third-party application installers. Also, the installation of applications using a package manager is simple and straightforward.

  • Apple’s Xcode Developer Tools:
    • Used to install the package managers listed below
    • Run xcode-select --install (you will be prompted to download and install Xcode command line tools)
    • Run xcodebuild -license to accept the developer license
  • MacPorts: It’s the oldest package manager used since 2002.
  • HomeBrew: Is self-claimed as “the missing package installer for macOS”.
    • Install using the command
      /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
    • You will be able to install popular development tools like node, git, python (see HomeBrew formulae list for a complete list of packages)
  • Yarn: It’s a package manager used for several development tools and applications.


You will need Git for repository management and versioning. When you install XCode, it installs Git and other developer tools automatically. Otherwise, you can check the Git installation instructions for macOS or use the HomeBrew installer brew install git.


By default, MacOS comes with a python interpreter already installed (2.7 in High Sierra). Many other development tools are build over python, so you must have it installed, and make sure it’s not an outdated version. You can install python 3 using the HomeBrew command brew install python3.

Useful MacOS Shortcuts

To toggle show/hide system and hidden files in Finder, press:


To take a screenshot (custom size), save to the desktop


To take a screenshot (custom size), save to clipboard


To copy and paste a file a file in Finder

Press CMD + C selecting the source file(s), then CMD + V in the target folder

To cut and paste a file a file in Finder

Press CMD + C selecting the source file(s), then CMD + Option + V in the target folder



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