Minimal Setup Zen

“Happiness is very simple and minimal.” - Tablo

My desk has nothing more than a laptop, two monitors, a keyboard, a mouse, and a small coffee cup. I don’t even have books on my desk. They go to the book shelf where they should be. I’m proud of my office desk setup. But when it came to my laptop setup, I knew I had a bit of work to do.

I have always hated cluttering my computer. I keep it fairly clean - relative speaking. The difference between some of my friends’ setup and my setup is of day and night. But my IDEs, docks, menu bar are cluttered more that I was proud of. This had to change! …

Recently, I have been on a long spree to clean up my setup and go absolutely minimal. Here are some of the changes I’ve made in my digital life to embrace the Zen of minimalism even more than before:

This blog

If you look around, this blog is as minimal as it could be. There are no sidebars, no menu items, no blog rolls, etc. My blog setup used to be never like this when I was using WordPress. In fact, one of the reasons why I set up this blog as a static website rather than going after WordPress - or even Medium - was to have something very very minimal. I wanted both the backend and the frontend to be minimal.

Applications

Over the last few days, I’ve deleted more than 25 apps that I’ve almost never used for a long time. I was always hesitant to uninstall them thinking that I might need them some day. But when I checked with CleanMyMac, it was confirmed that I hardly use most of them. I’ve not used some of the apps since December 2014 - the month I got my current laptop!

I was so determined to go minimalism that I even got rid of one of the fairly popular apps I have developed. It was a tough decision, but at the end of the day, I just wasn’t using the app anymore. And no it wasn’t not LightPaper :)

I couldn’t delete all the built-in apps that ship with MacOS. I’m bummed about it. I never use most of them. The only one I use regularly is Preview app.

Desktop

I’ve always kept my desktop clean mostly because I love my desktop wallpaper. And I don’t want anything blocking its gorgeousness. However, I always end of having few files scattered around the desktop.

I’ve now gone even more minimal with my desktop. I’ve been only saving temporary files on my desktop, and they go under a “Trash Me” folder. My plan is to empty it every two weeks.

My minimal desktop

Dock and Menu bar

I’ve always kept my menu bar very minimal as well. So there wasn’t a lot to clean up there. But I was still able to remove some of the menu items. I kicked them out from my startup items as well.

Again, my dock has had only essential items set to “Keep in Dock, ” but there were few that I used only once in a blue moon. Now, I’ve only kept the items that I use every day such as Polymail, LightPaper, SourceTree, iTerm2, etc.

My minimal dock

Browser

I use Google Chrome as my primary browser. I also have Firefox, which I only use for testing websites and in some rare cases. I had lots of extensions installed for Google Chrome. Some of them were disabled but they were still there. Don’t ask me why!

But now I have about 5 enabled extensions including Ghostery and uBlock Origin .

As I was going minimalism with my browser, I also got rid of all my bookmarks. I’ve also unchecked View>Always Show Bookmarks Bar option. I only see the bookmark bar when opening a new tab.

The only bookmark I’ve is to this blog and not because I need it but if I don’t have at least one, the bookmark bar shows an ugly For quick access, place your bookmarks here … message.

I wish there existed a way to get rid of bookmarks bar completely or at least get rid of Other Bookmarks folder on the right. But so far I’ve not found a way to do it.

Honestly, I don’t see any advantage of having a bookmark bar showing in my face all the time and taking up my precious vertical screen real state. With location auto-completion, I can just type a character or two, hit enter, and visit the website I’m interested in. I’m a Vi enthusiast and use keyboard shortcuts for most of my tasks. So it slows me down to grab my mouse and click that bookmark.

Another annoying “feature” of Chrome browser is that avatar name that gets displayed on the top-right corner. But, I got rid of it using this “dirty-but-effective” trick.

Finally, I installed this useful extension to get rid of most visited pages tabs that show up when you open a new tab. I hate that I need to install extensions to get rid of these tiny annoyances. I wish Google made it easier to disable/hide them. Heck, I’d even take a “View>Go Minimal” button.

My minimal dock

IDE

As a developer, I spent most of my time coding in an IDE. Like mentioned above nowadays my job requires me to use Android Studio and PHPStorm. There used to be a time when I’d have so many tools, shortcuts, and plugins installed and visible that it was hard not to get distracted.

But now my IDE looks so minimal that one of my friends confused it with a text editor instead of a full-blown IDE. Have a look yourself:

I hid all the tools. The only ones that I use are Projects and Terminal. These tabs were always visible including others that I almost never click them forget about actually using it!

I have CMD+1 bind to Toggle Projects and CMD+2 to Toggle Terminal, so it’s easy to tuck them away and bring them back as and when I need them.

I also went ahead and disabled most of the built-in plugins such as CSV Integration, hg4idea, Subversion Integration, etc. I had no idea that these extensions were enabled by default. I am never going to use them - unless, of course, the world comes to an end if I don’t.

My IDE looks very minimal, and with a bunch of plugins disabled, it feels faster as well. Faster IDE may well be a placebo effect but who cares even if it is only psychological. I feel it is faster and cleaner and that is vital to me.

My minimal IDE

Conclusion

I feel much more productive and much more focused now that I have a very minimal setup. Everything looks so fresh and inviting. The result of this “minimalism spree” been so psychologically satisfying that now I’m constantly looking for a way to have minimalism even in my code and my work.

I do have more places to embrace minimalism such as my daily life, things I own, and even some bloated features that I add to my apps. I hope one day I will be able to transfer this minimalism to other parts of my life and be even happier.

Have you been on a spree like me to kill some of your apps and go absolutely minimal? Please share your experience.