Commit #9: Mastering macOS keyboard for better efficiency

In the past few years, I have seen a rise in MacBook Pro usage in tech companies, including in Jakarta. Although pricy, MBPs are one of the primary go-to machines for tech folks around to world. The well-known butterfly-switch issues since 2016 don’t seem to prevent people from buying MBPs, which thankfully fixed for good in the recent new 16″ model. In my opinion, one of the main reasons for this rise is the productivity value it brings along with the macOS.

In the software engineering field, macOS has many things to love. It’s UNIX-based, which is almost similar to the Linux environment used for most server-side services. For mobile app engineers like me, macOS allows us to develop applications for both iOS and Android. Not to mention the OS integration with the trackpads, which unrivaled in the laptop realm – its buttery-smooth experience convinced several designer friends of mine to work mostly using them. Nevertheless, I found that the senior engineers I worked with use their keyboard more than their trackpads. They seemed to be able to do things way faster than others due to mastering their keyboards.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried to reduce my trackpad usage and use more keyboard for work, which I find to be efficient. I wrote this based on my experience, so you might find this post to be opinionated. Still, I hope you could draw some benefits that could increase your work efficiency.

1. Use macOS’ Spotlight

Most Indonesians (including me) grew up using a Windows machine as our daily driver. So on our first time we got our hands on a Mac, we’ll be looking for the “Programs” folder using our mouse and click the application icon to run them.

Windows XP’s Start Menu. I grew up seeing this menu a lot of times. Image taken from OpenDNS.

While we can run applications the same way in macOS, there’s a quicker way to do it: using macOS’ Spotlight. All we need to do is press the Command + Space key, type the application name, and then press the Return key (or Enter in other keyboard layouts).

Screen Shot 2020-01-06 at 20.27.33
A sample screenshot on how to open applications using Spotlight in macOS.

On the screenshot above, I only typed “xc” in the Spotlight, and it shows the most-used application with a matching prefix: Xcode. All I need to do next is pressing the Return key to open the Xcode.

Besides opening applications, macOS’ Spotlight also provides a lot of nifty features, e.g.:

  1. Opening a file based on filename,
  2. Calculating a simple conversion, e.g., “1000 USD to IDR” or “70 F to C”, or
  3. Searching a word definition in the thesaurus or dictionary, e.g., “hitherto.”

2. Use a third-party window manager

Coming from the Windows environment, I missed the Windows Aero’s Windows + Arrow keys combination to tidy up my application windows (pun intended). When I started using OSX Maverick, my friend suggested me to use SizeUp. The site page says that its the “missing window manager” for macOS, and it’s not an exaggeration.

With a simple combo of Control + Option + Command + Arrow keys, you could arrange your windows with ease! I find this approach is way more efficient than macOS Split View feature. For multi-monitor users, SizeUp could move the currently active window to another monitor using the Control + Option + Left or Right arrow keys. What’s not to love?

You can use SizeUp for free due to its unlimited demo. Still, it shows a pop-up periodically until you bought their license. If you wanted a free open source alternative, check out Spectacle. Be warned, though; the source code is not maintained anymore.

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