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Laptop is a script to set up a macOS computer for web development, and to keep it up to date.

It can be run multiple times on the same machine safely. It installs, upgrades, or skips packages based on what is already installed on the machine.

This particular version of the script is geared toward beginners who want to set up a Ruby environment on their Mac to be able to install gems such as Rails or Jekyll. More advanced users can easily customize the script to install additional tools. To see an example of a more advanced script, check out 18F/laptop.


Supported operating systems:

  • macOS Catalina (10.15)
  • macOS Mojave (10.14)
  • macOS High Sierra (10.13)
  • macOS Sierra (10.12)
  • OS X El Capitan (10.11)
  • OS X Yosemite (10.10)
  • OS X Mavericks (10.9)

Older versions may work but aren't regularly tested. Bug reports for older versions are welcome.


Begin by opening the Terminal application on your Mac. The easiest way to open an application in macOS is to search for it via Spotlight. The default keyboard shortcut for invoking Spotlight is command-Space. Once Spotlight is up, just start typing the first few letters of the app you are looking for, and once it appears, press return to launch it.

In your Terminal window, copy and paste the command below, then press return.

bash <(curl -s

The script itself is available in this repo for you to review if you want to see what it does and how it works.

Note that the script will ask you to enter your macOS password at various points. This is the same password that you use to log in to your Mac. If you don't already have it installed, GitHub for Mac will launch automatically at the end of the script so you can set up everything you'll need to push code to GitHub.

Once the script is done, quit and relaunch Terminal.

More detailed instructions with a video are available in the Wiki.

It is highly recommended to run the script regularly to keep your computer up to date. Once the script has been installed, you'll be able to run it at your convenience by typing laptop and pressing return in your Terminal.


Your last Laptop run will be saved to a file called laptop.log in your home folder. Read through it to see if you can debug the issue yourself. If not, copy the entire contents of laptop.log into a new GitHub Issue for me. Or, attach the whole log file as an attachment.

What it sets up

  • Bundler for managing Ruby gems
  • chruby for managing Ruby versions (recommended over RVM and rbenv)
  • Flux for adjusting your Mac's display color so you can sleep better
  • GitHub Desktop for setting up your SSH keys automatically
  • Heroku Toolbelt for deploying and managing Heroku apps
  • Homebrew for managing operating system libraries
  • Homebrew Cask for quickly installing Mac apps from the command line
  • Homebrew Services so you can easily stop, start, and restart services
  • hub for interacting with the GitHub API
  • PhantomJS for headless website testing
  • Postgres for storing relational data
  • ruby-install for installing different versions of Ruby
  • Sublime Text 3 for coding all the things
  • Zsh as your shell (if you opt in)

It should take less than 15 minutes to install (depends on your machine and internet connection).

The script also lightly customizes your shell prompt so that it displays your current directory in orange, followed by the current Ruby version or gemset in green, and sets the prompt character to $. It also allows you to easily distinguish directories from files when running ls by displaying directories in a different color. Below is a screenshot showing what the colors look like when using the default Terminal white background, the Solarized Dark theme, and the Solarized Light theme.

Terminal screenshots

If you want to use the Solarized themes, run the following commands in your Terminal:

cd ~

curl --remote-name

curl --remote-name

open Solarized%20Dark.terminal

open Solarized%20Light.terminal

This will add the Solarized themes to your Terminal's Profiles, and if you want to set one of them as the default, go to your Terminal's Preferences, click on the Settings tab, scroll down to the Solarized Profile, click on it, then click the Default button. When you open a new window or tab (or if you quit and relaunch Terminal), it will use the Solarized theme.

If you want to try out different prompt colors other than orange and green, open your .zshrc or .bash_profile in Sublime Text:

subl ~/.zshrc

Define a new color variable using any of the 256 possible Xterm colors. For example:

BLUE=$(tput setaf 190)

Then in the line that contains PS1=, replace {ORANGE} or {GREEN} with {BLUE}. Save the file, then open a new Terminal window or tab to see the changes.

Customize in ~/.laptop.local and ~/Brewfile.local

# Go to your macOS user's root directory
cd ~

# Download the sample files to your computer
curl --remote-name
curl --remote-name

# open the files in Sublime Text
subl .laptop.local
subl Brewfile.local

Your ~/.laptop.local is run at the end of the mac script. Put your customizations there. If you want to install additional tools or Mac apps with Homebrew, add them to your ~/Brewfile.local. You can use the .laptop.local and Brewfile.local you downloaded above to get started. It lets you install the following tools and Mac apps:

  • Atom - GitHub's open source text editor
  • CloudApp for sharing screenshots and making an animated GIF from a video
  • Firefox for testing your Rails app on a browser other than Chrome or Safari
  • iTerm2 - an awesome replacement for the macOS Terminal
  • Redis for storing key-value data

Write your customizations such that they can be run safely more than once. See the mac script for examples.

Laptop functions such as fancy_echo, and gem_install_or_update can be used in your ~/.laptop.local.

How to manage background services (such as Postgres)

The script does not automatically launch these services after installation because you might not need or want them to be running. With Homebrew Services, starting, stopping, or restarting these services is as easy as:

brew services start|stop|restart [name of service]

For example:

brew services start postgresql

To see a list of all installed services:

brew services list

To start all services at once:

brew services start --all

How to switch your shell back to bash from zsh (or vice versa)

  1. Find out which shell you're currently running: echo $SHELL

  2. Find out the location of the shell you want to switch to. For example, if you want to switch to bash, run which bash.

  3. Verify if the shell location is included in /etc/shells. Run cat /etc/shells to see the contents of the file.

  4. If the location of the shell is included, run chsh -s [the location of the shell]. For example, if which bash returned /bin/bash, you would run chsh -s /bin/bash.

    If the location of the shell is not in /etc/shells, add it, then run the chsh command. If you have Sublime Text, you can open the file by running subl /etc/shells.


This laptop script is inspired by thoughbot's laptop script.

Public domain

thoughtbot's original work remains covered under an MIT License.

My work on this project is in the worldwide public domain, as are contributions to my project. As stated in CONTRIBUTING:

This project is in the public domain within the United States, and copyright and related rights in the work worldwide are waived through the CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication.

All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0 dedication. By submitting a pull request, you are agreeing to comply with this waiver of copyright interest.


A shell script which turns your Mac into an awesome web development machine.




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