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Tips for MacOS Users

Support for this type of devices is limited.

Purchase of MacOS devices

You get the best price if you purchase your MacOS devices through Surfspot (10% discount). Log in with your ULCN account and proceed to the “partnershops”. If you are purchasing the device via a University of Leiden budget (SAP number), however, contact

Common IL Network Disks

Because MacOS devices are not managed by the Lorentz Institute IT department, their access to the IL network infrastructure is restricted. This implies that all IL network disks will be unaccessible from your Mac unless the connection is secured via a tunnel to our ssh server at

Useful SoftwareDescription
MacFusionMount NFS Disks
DropboxProprietary Remote File Storage
Time MachineFiles Backup
BurnBurn to CD/DVD



I keep all my email on the Linux mail server, so that it is backed up and accessible from everywhere using the IMAP protocol. As a cross-platform mail client I recommend Mozilla Thunderbird. Connect to port 993 on with SSL/TLS. For outgoing mail, connect to port 465 on with SSL/TLS. (Leave the “secure authentication” box unchecked, since the whole transmission is secured; port 587 no longer works with Thunderbird 3.) When you are on the road, all your mail remains available via the webmail interface (connect to


To display programs from the Linux computers on your Mac, make an ssh-tunnel through after opening the X11 application. A convenient shell script to automate the tunnel process is /home/beenakkr/bin/ssh-tunnel. For example, to tunnel to asselijn I call ssh-tunnel “-Y -l beenakkr” 5901 localhost 5902 localhost 5903 You might have to set the DISPLAY variable first on your Mac, by putting these lines in your .cshrc file:

   if( ! $?DISPLAY ) then
   setenv DISPLAY :0.0

For passwordless login, I use Leopard's built-in ssh-agent.

Keeping home & work in sync

To keep my Macs at home and at work in sync, I rely on my Google account as an intermediary for my iCal calendar database (setup) and for my Thunderbird address book (using the Zindus plugin). Most of my other files are kept in sync via Dropbox.


The TeX distribution can be installed using the MacTeX package. This also includes the TeXShop front-end, which offers a very convenient integration of LaTeX source and PDF output. XeTeX allows you to use the fonts installed on your Mac with TeX.

With LaTeXit (also included in the MacTeX package) you can easily insert LaTeX formulas into plots and slides. I combine LaTeXit with Intaglio for plots and with Keynote for slides.

Here are some tips for Intaglio users. For many helpful hints on LaTeX, Keynote, etc. see here.

For a method to simulate LaTeX commands in email and chat, take a look here.

Office software

We have a campus license for MS Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), ask Carlo for the CD (departmental use only, buy an inexpensive license at Surfspot for home use). LibreOffice (or OpenOffice, but that is becoming obsolete) is an open source alternative.

As a plain text editor I use TextWrangler. To annotate+manipulate (for example, merge) pdf files you can use Leopard's Preview as an alternative to Adobe Acrobat Pro. To edit pdf files, Intaglio or Inkscape are inexpensive or free alternatives to Adobe Illustrator.

I have switched to paperless archiving of scientific articles, with the help of Papers (tips).

Licensed software

Most of our network licensed software (mathematica, matlab, idl) can be installed locally on the Mac and then used by connecting to the license server:

See flexlm for details about the license server software and its setup.

Wolfram products and macOS Big Sur

All current versions of Wolfram products are compatible with this release. However, earlier versions will not function once users have installed macOS Big Sur.

Here is the list of products and versions compatible with Big Sur right now:

  • Mathematica 12.1.0 and 12.1.1
  • MathLM 12.0 and 12.1
  • Wolfram|Alpha Notebook Edition 12.0.1 and 12.1.1
  • gridMathematica (and Wolfram Lightweight Grid Manager) 12.0.1 and 12.1.1
  • webMathematica 3.5.0, 3.5.1 and
  • System Modeler 12.0.0 and 12.1.0
  • Wolfram Finance Platform 3.1.1
  • Wolfram Player and Wolfram Player Pro 12.1.0 and 12.1.1
  • Wolfram Programming Lab for Desktop 12.1.1
  • Wolfram Desktop 12.1.0 and 12.1.1 (for Wolfram|One)
  • Free Wolfram Engine for Developers 12.1.0 and 12.1.1
  • WolframScript 12.1.0 and 12.1.1

Compiling Unix software

Since MacOS X is based on Unix, you can compile and install many Unix programs from the source files. To do so, you will have to install first the compiler and associated Xcode tools from the AppStore. For example, I installed sm, tgif, and gv. You can also get precompiled binaries from the fink or macports repositories.


You could use 1Password to keep track of web passwords and automate the sign-in procedure.

institute_lorentz/tips_for_mac_users.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/12 07:50 by lenocil