Since I get new Macs somewhat more regularly than most folks and since I want a consistent work / productivity environment across all of them, I have gotten a pretty decent way set up for going from zero to hero on a new, tabula rasa Mac.
It basically comes down to four things: dropbox, homebrew, github, and the App Store. But here are the steps in more detail:
Step 1: Basic Data & Backup
Step 2: Configuration Essentials
1Password. Having some password manager is essential and increases both security and convenience. And if you only use Apple products, 1Password is a no-brainer. Otherwise I would still use it, but I could see arguments for LastPass. Now with Mavericks, these aren’t quite as essential, but there are some web sites that Mavericks won’t save the password on, which is annoying and one of these apps can help with.
Alfred 2 — it’s the launcher I use for everything and a must-have.
Install Xcode — it’s required for homebrew, which is up next, and I use to get most unix tools. In my experience it causes less frustration than macports.
Setup Homebrew. I use this to make sure things like zsh, vim, git, etc. are installed and up to date:
brew install zsh brew install git brew install macvim --custom-icons --override-system-vim --with-lua
Then I get my some ssh keys set up to connect to github, where I store my .dotfiles as well as some vimwiki files. This way I can make sure that my my zsh, vim, etc. configurations are the same on all my machines:
git clone email@example.com:jsholmes/dotfiles.git ~/.dotfiles
Vundle — I switched from vim-pathogen to this a couple months ago after using pathogen for ages. It really is better.
Step 3: Other Apps I Recommend
Intego VirusBarrier and Internet Security — Macs get viruses, but more importantly, malware. People that don’t think their Macs are vulnerable to getting owned are kidding themselves.
Flux — if you use your computer for things other than playing games in dim light (e.g.: at night) this app makes the screen much easier on your eyes. It changes the gamma to match the hour.
Bartender — if you have a bunch of apps that put icons in your menu bar, this will go a long way toward tidying them up.
Step 4: Work VPN
VPN support has been built in to MacOS for a while now, so this is pretty easy.
Step 5: Etc.
ScanSnap — have to install the software for my ScanSnap S1500M. This thing is indispensable. A ScanSnap or something like it is pretty critical to a reasonably organized life. Getting the software installed is something of a pain unless you prepare / hoard, because you can’t just download everything from Fujitsu. So I’ve made a disk image of the install media and squirreled it away on my Synology.
Aperture — since this is going to be my new main productivity machine at home, I need to copy my photos from my old Mac. They’re in iPhoto and Lightroom. I’ve decided Lightroom is just too clumsy for library management (though great for editing), so I’m going to give Aperture a try on the new box.