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Setting up a new Mac & my top 3 essentials…

Having just bought a new Mac it made me realise how simple it now is

Mac and my top 3 apps

Buying a new Mac used to have mixed feelings for me – there was always that buzz from going to the Apple Store and carefully selecting and bringing home your machine – but then, for me at least, the fun gave way to a certain level of trepidation and fear.

I vividly recall when I bought my 27-inch iMac in 2015 it sat at the back of the office for around a month before I finally plucked up the courage to unbox it and put it to work.

Back in those dim and dark, setting up a new Mac seemed a tedious and lengthy risk-taking exercise.

Apple & macOS has come a long way though & they’ve made it so simple and slick that it’s now like a walk in the proverbial park.

Simple as it is though – there are still choices to make.

New Mac – new me

One of the ways that Apple offers you to set up your new purchase is to migrate data from an existing Mac.

Now that always sounds tempting and has me hovering over the option for a moment or two…yet I’ve never had the nerve to click on it. Although I’m certain that Apple will have made that option a quick and seamless setup, when I have a shiny new Mac sitting in front of me, I want to keep it as clean and clutter-free as possible.

I’ve always feared – although it may be erroneous of me that by migrating I may be bringing over apps, data and general bloatware that I don’t want or need.

As much as I like to think I’m pretty damned cautious about what I put on any of my Macs – I’m no saint and I’m pretty certain clutter will have accumulated over time. I always see a new Mac as a chance to start fresh – a new start.

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The key to it all

If you are buried in Apple’s walled garden then getting going on your new Mac is kinda 75% done the moment you sign in to Apple ID.

With all the news recently from Nothing and Bleeper, the importance of our Apple ID has been highlighted. It’s the key to pretty much everything in your Apple life – passwords, wallet & possibly ID. This is why the thought of sharing it with anyone other than Apple leaves me shaking in fear.

If you’ve been reading my stories for a while then you’ll know that a couple of months ago I nearly fell foul of being hacked. I felt bloody stupid for falling for the honey trap, but I was lucky and got away unscathed – but it taught me some valuable lessons.

The first of those was to immediately change my Apple ID login details. I suspect like many of us I’d used the same details forever – and to be frank the previous password was laughably simple. I now have a new and far more secure password in place and a 2FA authenticator app that I use on as many of my accounts as possible. In the end though, good came out of a potentially bad situation.

But once you’re safely signed into your iCloud account your calendar, email, notes, reminders, spreadsheets and iMessage are all set and ready – it’s as painless and as simple as that. You’re basically good to get to work at that point.

Complicating matters

Now my situation is possibly cleaner than some as generally, I tend to use all the native Apple apps including their password manager. I trust Apple about as much as anyone and their privacy record is pretty damned impressive.

But if you use third-party password managers and calendar apps then clearly they are going to be priorities for you when it comes to powering up your new Mac.

As much as my ‘clean install’ approach may make for a little extra work at least this way in those early days, weeks and months I know only the essential tools are on that Mac, and by using the native apps I can be as certain as possible that everything is as optimised for macOS as possible.

New Macs for me are a little different now in so far as I often buy them with reviewing them in mind – but the care with which I go about the set-up hasn’t changed – at heart, I’m still that same Apple geek.

On the new M3 iMac for instance, when it came to emails I only have the iCloud email set up locally. For the other two email accounts I use regularly, I rely on cloud-based solutions – it least lets me see what’s going on without filling up local mailboxes.

It seems every time I set up a new Mac it’s getting simpler, easier & quicker and with the set-up done it’s then the decision as to what are the three essential apps that I put on a new Mac. I reckon those first three apps you download always say a lot about the person sitting in front of that Mac.

Your choices will very probably be different, but I thought it may be interesting to pull back the curtains on my must-haves and then start a conversation & hear back from you about what you consider to be the 3 essential apps on your machine.

1. Dropbox

If I was starting all over again – the need for Dropbox would possibly not be as high on my list as it is now.

I started to use Dropbox at about the same time I bought my first iMac. That means I’ve been using the storage service for about a decade and I have a lot of stuff stored there.

I currently have a 3 TB business plan – of which 1.7 TB is used – so it’s fair to say I’m a pretty heavy user. I pay $165/year which I reckon is decent value and – touch wood – in all that time the service hasn’t gone down or left me in the lurch.

Dropbox has gotten much fancier over the years – I don’t use many of the services they now offer – but for robust, reliable, affordable and easy-to-use cloud storage it works just fine for me.

I said a moment ago though that if I was starting over again I may not bother with Dropbox – again it’s down to Apple.

iCloud Drive looks and behaves in a very similar way to Dropbox and I may be tempted just to use that instead. One feature Dropbox does have that Apple hasn’t yet mimicked is Smart Sync. When that was first launched it was a total game changer – the ability to see all your work without it being stored locally was a genius move.

I currently have 2 TB of iCloud Drive storage included with my Apple One bundle. The upgrade options with Apple though are odd. You can’t incrementally increase storage – plans jump from 2 TB at £8.99/month to 6 TB at £26.99/month or 12 TB at a whopping £54.99/month. As much as I do like the idea of everything being under the Apple roof – there is no real worth in my changing.

2. Clean My Mac

This one I know is going to prove Marmite moment.

Firstly let me say there is no financial link between me and Clean My Mac. They did sponsor one of my videos a month or so back – but that was after years of me buying their app and using it on all of my Macs.

As soon as I mention Clean My Mac the haters come out and are quick to tell me it’s a total waste and useless – but I’d argue speak as you find.

As much as I love Macs I’m no genius when it comes to fully understanding the workings behind the screen.

So for someone like me, Clean My Mac offers a simple-to-use solution that has helped me clean junk from my Mac and also keep them healthy. I also reckon it helped to some small degree with that attempted hack I mentioned.

3. Creative Cloud

When I’m not working in native Apple apps I’m going to either be working in Ulysses or one of the Adobe apps.

Ulysses, I’ll typically use once a day three or four times a week. It’s where I write all these stories and the scripts for the videos – but if I absolutely had to I could write in any app.

But when it comes to Adobe they are very creative specific apps that are hard to replicate. I’d say I use one of the Creative Cloud apps every day of the week. My go-to apps are Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom, Audition and In Design.

As with Clean My Mac there are often some negative comments about Creative Cloud – because it’s a subscription-only based service.

If I were to add up how much I’ve spent over the years with Adobe I’m sure I’d wince – but you know what – I’m ok with it. They were one of the first to go the subscription route and it’s money I barely notice going out now. I don’t say that flippantly – but I get great value out of it. If had to buy and update 4 or 5 apps that wouldn’t come cheap either!

Again, similar to Dropbox, if I was starting now I’d possibly try to go the Final Cut & Logic routes (the Apple fanboy in me!) – but I am too long in the tooth with Adobe and the finer nuances of how their apps work to waste time retraining.

I’ve always said that using any program is easy enough when you are doing the basics and when things are working – but the real test comes when there are problems – that’s when you need to know you’re software.

I spent much of last week working on that M3 iMac – the most recent of my new Mac set-ups – and these apps are all loaded up & being heavily used.

I’m hoping that Apple will release a new Mac mini with the M3 Pro chip in January and if they do, I’ll once again be going through this now tried and tested set-up procedure.

It may not be the quickest route to get your new Mac up and running – but hey, I’ll stick with the adage – if it ain’t broke…

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