How to code with a macbook

Even though nowadays I code on an arch linux machine, I used to code with my macbook for 3 years of my university carreer and still sometimes do. Here I'll give a quick overview on how I would go about doing this.


That program hackers sometimes seem to be working on in hollywood movies is actually going to be your second home if you get good at coding:
screenshot of macbook terminal
This is the terminal app, open it by just opening spotlight and typing "terminal" or if that doesn't work go to your launchpad ➡️ other ➡️ terminal and click it (yours isn't going to have the pinguin, nor the apple, house, tilde and green symbol). Now that we have it open, right click the icon on the bottom of the screen and pin it so you don't have to search for it every time (options➡️ keep in dock). If by opening a browser by clicking on the app icon or opening a file from finder is ordering a flight to somewhere then this is the cockpit of your pc, from here you control the plane. All the apps work through this terminal in the background, people used to have to do everything via this terminal but nowadays with everything being graphical it only gets used by.. well.. Us!: Programmers. you might see a "~" at the line you're currently on in the app, this means the "home directory", i.e the USERNAME (In my case arthuradriaens) directory where all your files are located such as Downloads and Documents. Now I'll tell you about some basic commands you'll use very often in your coding journey and you can now test out by typing them in the terminal and pressing enter:

How does a unix computer handle packages?

This isn't necessary knowledge to program on your mac, but it does make it easier to memorize what follows. In general, the filesystem of a unix-based PC (e.g a macbook but also all linux platforms) have 'root' denoted as "/" in the filepath as the highest "file", next you have a lot of folders:
an image of the files at root
Try reproducing this output. We're located at /home/USERNAME e.g /home/arthur, this is where you find your familiar folders such as Downloads, Desktop,... . Aside from this, in every folder there are 2 special folders that you can't see, the folder "." (dot) and the folder ".." (dotdot). The "." folder is the current folder and the ".." folder is the parent folder. Now when you start a program from the command line, your computer searches all the directories in a variable called PATH, if an executable with the name you typed is found there that is the executable that will be launched. To see what directories are in your path you can enter into the terminal "echo $PATH". When a program gets installed (e.g python) , it gets installed into a directory listed in this PATH variable, if that's not the case your program wouldn't work.


To install programs and update them we'll need something called a "package manager", this makes our lives way easier. The package manager I use for macbook (and it's probably the only one available) is called homebrew and is installed by going to Their website, clicking on the little clipboard symbol (as this makes the line copy to your "clipboard": the place where command+c is stored) under Install Homebrew, pasting in the terminal and pressing "enter". This might prompt you some questions in the terminal app, try to read the questions and if it's a yes or no question it will end in "Y/N?", to answer yes you just type "Y" and hit enter, analogous if you want to answer no. If the question has a suggested answer it will show up like this: "[Y]/N", i.e it's adviced to answer "Y".

Using homebrew

After you're done answering the questions try out homebrew by installing python! To do this simply type "brew install python" and look at it doing everything for you! To install packages that you might need in python (e.g numpy, matplotlib,...) you use pip so for example "pip install numpy" installs numpy. This can't be done via homebrew as pip installs them to a different directory where python looks. Two commands to memorize are "brew upgrade", which upgrades all your packages to their latest version and "brew update" which upgrades homebrew.

Using the terminal to launch programs

Say you created a file (e.g using Vim which we'll get to later) in your downloads directory, to execute this file go to your downloads directory in the terminal (using cd as mentioned before) and type "python". To stop a program that freezes in your terminal you can always hit the key combination "ctrl+c".


It can be quite useful (and fast) to stay in the terminal and not have to open up a text editor to write your programs, especially if it's a small program. A tool I like quite a lot for this is vim. Of course this is optional and you can still use vscode or something similar if you want to but this can also be useful to quickly change a file. You install it the way you would (now) install any program, by writing "brew install vim" in your terminal and hitting enter. To make for example the file in our downloads folder we can now move to our Downloads folder and type "vim". Vim has "modes" and you're now in "command mode", so you can't type just jet. To insert text hit the "i" key so you enter into "insert" mode. You can now start typing, as you get better at vim you'll really appreciate this "mode" style of typing as a lot can be done using the "command" mode, but for now we'll keep it simple and say that you can just type something like "print("hello")" and write and quit by hitting the "escape" key to get back into command mode and typing ":wq" to Write (w) and Quit (q). To try out vim open op a large text file/program (basically the same thing as extensions like ".txt" or ".py" don't really mean anything and are just like the name of the program) with vim and in command mode move around using the "h", "j", "k" and "l" keys. These keys are the standard for moving around the file as you don't have to leave your fingers off the keyboard, you can jump a lot up (or down) by "repeating" e.g typing "10k" will make your cursor jump up 10 lines (same for "10j") it might take some time to get used to a lot of these commands but some useful ones are:

Vim bindings

This is REALLY optional but you'll appreciate this a lot if you are used to vim, if you type very long commands in your terminal and you need to change something way at the beginning it can be quite the pain. This is solved by enabling vi-mode in your zsh profile (zsh is the shell you're interfacing with using the terminal, if you have no clue what all of this means, I'm planning on doing a blog on general terminology). You can do this by going to your home folder and editing the .zshrc file, there in some line add 'bindkey -v' and now, if you hit escape on the terminal, it works the same as in vim!
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