Jan Kremer

Nix on macOS

Moving from Homebrew to Nix. Mostly.

For about a year, I’ve been fascinated by Nix and NixOS. I don’t remember exactly what fascinated me at first, probably the possibility to setup and configure my system using a single file. A few weeks ago, I decided to give it a serious try.


To be honest this is not my first time installing Nix on my machine. I tried the official Nix installer and the “old” way to use Nix which is basically the same as any other package manager. I didn’t see the point of having two package managers so I uninstalled Nix quickly after.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across this guide and it instantly clicked with me. Having a single file in which I declare my complete system and then have it set up in a few minutes without rebooting is just infinitely cool. In Nix, this feature is called flake. The guide uses the Determinate systems installer which sets up flakes by default. It also explains how to install Nix Darwin.

Nix Darwin

Nix Darwin is a set of Nix modules that brings declarative configuration to macOS. It includes a bunch of options such as for the dock, Finder or the keyboard for example. It also gives the user basic configuration options for various programs. However I prefer to set up terminal based programs using Home Manager instead, because it supports even more programs.

What I do use extensively is the Homebrew module to install not only GUI (graphical user interface) apps from Homebrew, but also from the App Store.

Home Manager

For everything else, from terminal based programs to their configuration, I use Home Manager. It includes a huge set of modules and allows me to setup every non-GUI program in a declarative way. Still, sometimes you have to configure the “traditional way”, meaning in the original configuration language. But still, I much prefer this over my cluttered .config directory.


In the process of writing my Nix configuration, I became unsatisfied with my Neovim setup. I used to use LazyVim but it felt more and more bloated and slow on my 9 year old machine. For some time I used Helix which has great defaults, such as language server protocol (LSP) and fuzzy finder integration. I really think Neovim should go in this direction. Unfortunately it lacks some features to make it my main editor, mostly support for Typst which is already added to the master branch. It also lacks a plugin system, but given such great defaults, there isn’t that big of a need for it. Helix also features its own set of motions, and although I think they are not bad, maybe even better than Vim motions, the latter are so ubiquitously implemented that I would essentially use both all the time.

That’s when I saw a video by ThePrimeagen in which he recommended Kickstart, a minimal Neovim starter configuration mainly written by TJ DeVries. It almost everything you need to get started and has insanely great documentation.

The only thing that bothered me was the use of Mason as a LSP package manager. For some people this might be the best way to install LSPs, but I don’t understand why I would use a second package manager when I can just use Nix for everything. Helix has a list of supported LSPs and all you have to do is make sure they are in your $PATH.

Luckily, others already had the same issues and decided to write Nixvim. Nixvim is a NixOS / Nix Darwin / Home manager module that lets you configure Neovim (almost) entirely using Nix. It uses Nix as the plugin manager and has great defaults and documentation.

I basically recreated Kickstart using Nixvim with some minor tweaks. It feels just as snappy as Helix and I love it.


This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg of what is possible with Nix. Next, I want to learn to write my own flakes to set up development environments. I should probably learn a bit of Nix language too. But to sum it up so far, I’m really happy and excited about this “new” way to manage my computer.