Automate Mac Settings Depending On Your Location With ControlPlane

Justin Pot 26-02-2015

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:

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.

  1. List the various locations where you use your Mac.
  2. Teach ControlPlane how to tell where you are.
  3. 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”.

Automate Mac Settings Depending On Your Location With ControlPlane controlplane two contexts

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.

Automate Mac Settings Depending On Your Location With ControlPlane controlplane evidence sources

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.

Automate Mac Settings Depending On Your Location With ControlPlane controlplane rules


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 What Is a Static IP Address? Here's Why You Don't Need One A static IP address is one that never changes. Dynamic IP addresses do change. We explain why you don't need a static IP address. Read More , 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:

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:

Automate Mac Settings Depending On Your Location With ControlPlane controlplane default printer

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 The Awesome Automation Guide for Mac Users Whether it's sorting your email, searching your documents or building a playlist, you'd be amazed how many tasks can be done automatically instead of manually - if only you knew how to get started. Read More . It’s a few years old, but has lots of great ideas.

Is ControlPlane the Mac automation app you’ve been missing?

Related topics: Computer Automation, OS X Mavericks, OS X Yosemite.

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