You use your Mac differently at home than you do at work. What if it knew the difference between these contexts, and set itself up accordingly?
That’s idea behind Control Plane, a free Mac app you can use to teach your Mac all sorts of tricks. You could, for example, set your Mac up to automatically:
- Mute the system’s volume when you’re at the library, so you don’t accidentally bother anyone.
- Set a different default printer at work than at home.
- Wake up your Mac without a password at home, but require one when you’re somewhere else (the way Android phones can work).
- Turn off file sharing when you’re away from the house, then turn it back on when you get home.
These are just a few examples: you can probably come up with even more. Here’s how to set everything up.
How ControlPlane Works
This sounds simple enough, but ControlPlane can be a little intimidating when you first launch it. Don’t panic. If you want to use this program, it’s a lot easier if you think in terms of a three-step process.
- List the various locations where you use your Mac.
- Teach ControlPlane how to tell where you are.
- Tell ControlPlane what you want it to do when you arrive at or leave a particular location.
Let’s look at each individual step, to give you a better idea of how this all works. It’ll be worth it, I promise.
Step 1: Create Contexts, Or Places Where You Use Your Mac
First, download and install ControlPlane. then launch the app. Click the menubar icon that appears, then click Preferences.
In the window that opens, click the “Contexts” button. Here you need to list all the places you use your Mac, assuming you want to set up rules for those places. To keep things simple, I’ll create two: “away from home” and “home”.
You can optionally pick a colour for each context – the menubar icon will change depending on where you are.
Step 2: Provide Evidence For Your Contexts
Click the Evidence Sources tab next. Here we tell ControlPlane what sort of evidence we want it to consider.
The number of sources enabled by default is probably a good balance for most users, but we can come back here later should we decide more information is needed. Click Rules and we’ll start teaching your Mac.
I’ve set up two simple rules: if my home Wi-Fi Network, “Potcasting”, is visible I’m at home. If not, I’m away from home.
Like I said: my example is extremely simple. You could set up more rules than this: anything you enabled in “Evidence Sources” is an option.
You could, for example, teach ControlPlane to recognize when you’re at your desk by letting it know which mouse, keyboard and external monitor you plug in there. If you’ve set up static IPs on your home network, you could use your IP as a source of evidence.
If you think some rules are likely to be true in more than one place, you can toggle how much stock ControlPlane should put in them – this is what the “Confidence” bar is for. Add enough rules unique to a given location and things should work pretty consistently. If you set up a lot of contexts, you’ll probably want to configure how confident ControlPlane should be before switching – you can do that in the “General” section of the settings.
Step 3: Create Rules And Start Automating
This is the fun part: telling ControlPlane what you’d like to see happen when you arrive at, and leave, particular locations. I’ve set up a few:
These rules, in order, mean:
- I don’t need a password to wake up my Mac, when I’m at home.
- I need a password to wake up my Mac, when I’m away from home.
- My unsupported network Time Machine drive mounts automatically when I’m at home (delayed 30 seconds, because it depends on another drive being mounted).
- My system volume is muted when I’m away from home.
- The network drive where my Time Machine virtual drive resides is mounted when I’m at home (delayed 5 seconds to ensure the network has time connect).
Creating your own rules is simple. First, pick what you want to happen:
Click anything and you’ll see a unique dialogue. For example: let’s pretend you want different default printers at work and at home. Click the Default Printer option under System Preferences Actions and you can set up a rule:
Create one rule for home, as seen above, then another rule for work. From now on, ControlPlane will switch your default printer depending on where you are – no more using the wrong printer without realizing it!
What Will You Automate?
Finding software like ControlPlane feels like gaining a super power: suddenly a bunch of things you were switching yourself depending on context are toggled automatically.
Which makes me wonder: what will you set up ControlPlane to do? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll also do everything I can to help you with any questions you might have.
Want more automation goodness? Check out our guide to automating your Mac. It’s a few years old, but has lots of great ideas.
Is ControlPlane the Mac automation app you’ve been missing?