The Complete Data Science Setup (macOS)

Mon, Jun 8, 2020 4-minute read

One of the funnest (and most frustrating) parts of data science is the vast array of tools available to us. It can be overwhelming where to start. Every now and then I like to completely wipe my computer clean, and then reinstall everything from scratch. This helps clean up my computer, and make sure everything is running smoothly.

This is a living document that captures my most up to date set up. My set up is inspired by the University of British Columbia Data Science Program which provides helpful setup guides for three operating systems (macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu).

My guide currently covers the following areas.


I choose to use the python distribution Miniconda from Anaconda. I use miniconda as opposed to Anaconda because it is a stripped down version of Anaconda comes with a lot of software that I do not play to use such as Spyder and Orange.

After I have miniconda installed I then work on setting up my python environment. I like to leave the root environment as is, and create a new environment call ds_base (data science base). I then load in my favourite data science libraries. Note that I never use pip install in the ds_base. If there is a package that I can not install through conda I will clone ds_base and then install the desired package. I do this to avoid breaking the installation of ds_base. Conda recommends:

  • Use pip only after conda.
  • Care should be taken to avoid running pip in the root environment.

Steps to setup python:

  1. Follow the official instructions to install miniconda.
  2. Create a new conda environment. You can either add packages as you wish, or get started by basing your data science environment off of my own. Run one of the following commands in your shell.
# option 1: start from scratch 
conda create -name ds_base

# option 2: start with my suggested packages
# download my environment_ds_base.yml file from github
curl -o environment_ds_base.yml
# create environment from yml file
conda env create -f environment_ds_base.yml

Below is a complete list of packages in my environment


Homebrew is an open source package manager for macOS and linux. When ever possible I try and install software using Homebrew as it helps keep everything organized. Some of my favourite software that I download from homebrew include:

  • tree: Allows you to view directories and files in a tree like structure
  • gh: The CLI. Great for quickly checkout PRs, or creating issues from the command line.
  • autojump: Allows you to quickly jump between directories in the command line (GitHub README).
  • node and npm: I never use these directly, but lots of other tools seem to rely on them.

Steps to install Homebrew:

# download and install homebrew
/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"
# install some of my favourite packages
brew install tree
brew install github/gh/gh
brew install autojump
brew install node

Terminal and ZSH

Instead of the default Mac OS terminal app I use iTerm2. It provides a lot of different options for themes, uses tabs, and allows you to have a split layout on one tab.

I also use ZSH instead of bash. ZSH is now the default shell in macOS, but if you are operating on an older system it may be bash. Here is a good article from comparing the two.

Lastly I customize ZSH with another tool called Oh My ZSH. The tool allows you to extend the usefulness of ZSH by adding additional features, plugins, and themes.

Steps to setup iTerm2, ZSH, and Oh My ZSH

  1. Install iTerm2 from

  2. I will assume that you are already using ZSH, but if you are not update to the latest version of macOS and ZSH should be the default. Here is a guide from How-To-Geek to help switch between shells.

  3. Install Oh My ZSH using:

    sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"
  4. Edit the ~/.zshrc file to add some customizations. Every time you open a new command line window/tab, or refresh your current command line by calling zsh this file will be run. I add a combination of functions and alias for commonly performed tasks. You can copy and paste the below into your own .zshrc file if you wish, or just add your own.

  1. I also add the following lines to the file to enable my desired theme and plugins:
plugins=(git autojump)


Work in progress…

VS Code

Visual Studio Code, or VS Code for short is one of the most popular editors at the moment. I enjoy listing to the Talk Python to Me podcast and it seems like 99% of guests use VS code now. VS Code is great because it is very light weight, but has a ton of powerful extensions.

Steps to setup VS Code

  1. Download from
  2. Install extensions. I currently use the following extensions. You can download them by searching for each one in the extensions sidebar.