When setting up a new computer, there’s always a few settings we all have to change in order to fix annoying behavior. Here I’ll cover 5 settings that make my experience using macOS vastly better, and maybe you’ll find them useful too.
For decades, one of my pet peeves about macOS was the mouse acceleration curve, which controls how quickly the cursor moves depending on how quickly you move your mouse. The problem is that macOS’s acceleration curve is extremely aggressive, especially compared to Windows, so moving between my Mac and Windows PC feels really bad as I need to reorient myself to the feel of the mouse.
The worst part was that there wasn’t a way to disable mouse acceleration in macOS, let alone change how it works, at least without 3rd party tools or fancy command line options that no longer work. That is, until the recent release of macOS 14, aka Sonoma. Finally, Apple has answered our prayers and built in a way to disable mouse acceleration.
To do this, just go into System Settings, then all the way down to the Mouse menu. Here you can change Tracking speed, which isn’t the same as acceleration, but is something you may want to tweak afterward. Press the Advanced button at the bottom, and the only option you can toggle here is Pointer acceleration. Disable it and you’re good to go!
Now, as an honorable mention, I also hate Natural scrolling, which makes the page scroll up if you scroll the mouse wheel down, and vice versa. It only makes sense, kind of, if you imagine you are rolling a wheel or a ball on top of a screen for some weird reason, so I make sure that nonsense is turned off too.
Tip number 2 has to do with audio. I have multiple audio devices like speakers and headphones, and if you do too, then I recommend showing the Sound icon in the menu bar. Doing this let’s you click on the icon to not only quickly adjust the volume, but also the output device without having to open the Sound menu in System Settings.
And if you hold the Option key and click on the Sound icon, it also lets you change the Input device quickly too.
To ensure the Sound icon is always in the menu bar, you actually have to go to System Settings, and then the Control Center menu. Look for the red Sound line item, and then select “Always Show in Menu Bar”. Now you can quickly change your audio devices on the fly!
One of the weird feelings I get whenever I switch to using macOS after a session on Windows is that macOS feels slower for some reason. After a bit of noodling, I think it has to do with the excessive animations for certain things in macOS, for example when making a video fullscreen. These animations are supposed to make the UI seem more fluid, but it also appears to slow things down.
To make things feel faster, there are ways to disable certain animations. However, I found that a single switch does a pretty good job at making the areas of slowdown that I perceive to feel much faster. That switch can be found in System Settings, and then the Accessibility menu. Here, go into the Display section, and then turn ON “Reduce motion”.
This has various effects related to changing the animations with opening apps, switching desktops, opening the notification center, and so forth. But now, I can fullscreen videos almost instantly, and that’s a win in my book.
There are 2 main input devices for computers, and we already talked about mice, so now it’s time for the keyboard. Perhaps the most noticeable annoyance here has to do with repeating keys when holding one down.
If you hold down the spacebar or backspace, for instance, you will start typing multiple spaces or deleting multiple characters. However, the default key repeat rate is dreadfully slow. To change this, goto System Settings, and then the Keyboard menu. Under Key repeat rate, adjust it all the way up to Fast. I find that this setting is the only acceptable speed for me not to get bored while waiting for things to happen.
The other issue with key repeat is that when you hold down a key intending to type it multiple times, you actually get a popup menu with similar variations of that letter. While useful if you use such characters frequently, if you prefer to be able to type a character repeatedly by holding it down instead, there’s no option in the menu to allow that.
However, there is a Terminal command you can use instead. Open Terminal, then copy and paste this command: “
defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false“, then press Enter. You’ll have to logout of your user account or restart your computer for it to take effect, but afterward, you’ll finally be able to type multiple characters just by holding down a key. To reverse the effect, apply the command in Terminal again, but change the last word from “false” to “true”. After logging out and in again, you’ll have the default popup behavior back.
The final tip is also related to the keyboard. If you use a keyboard that not “for Mac”, it will probably come with Windows and Alt keys instead of Option and Command, or maybe it’s a keyboard like this Logitech MX Keys that has both. And if you connect the keyboard to your Mac using Bluetooth, it could map the keys correctly so Command is on the right near the space bar.
But in my setup, I use the USB dongle instead, to switch my keyboard, mouse, speakers, and microphone between my Mac and Windows PC with a single button, which you can check out in this previous video I made.
Through the USB dongle, I find that the keys are switched, such that the Command key registers when you press Option, and vice versa. Here’s how to fix it.
We’ll go to System Settings, then the Keyboard menu. Then click the Keyboard Shortcuts button, and then go to the bottom section that says Modifier Keys. First, make sure your keyboard is selected in the “Select keyboard” section at the top. If you have multiple USB input devices, including mice, they can show here too. And if the name is generic and not helpful, you might have to use trial and error to see which device is being affected.
Next, what you’ll want to do is change the mapping for the Option key to Command, and also change the mapping for the Command key to Option. And there you have it, now your Command and Option keys should be working properly for a Mac setup.
As I mentioned, you can also change the modifier key mapping for a mouse here, and if you’re interested in learning how I share my mouse shortcuts between Mac and Windows without needing to install bloated mouse software, be sure to check out my previous video on that.