Sweet Mac Setups

Jeffrey Abbott’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Jeffrey Abbott. I spend my time writing, editing, and making photographs in Huntsville, Alabama.

I currently work for a large international software company that has a local office nearby. They create plant design and management software, and I write the help manuals. It’s not incredibly exciting, but it pays the bills.

To scratch my creative itches, I spend a lot of time writing, reading, photographing, and helping other people with their writing. Most of my writing isn’t public; it’s just not something I have a desire to publish, and I love the feel of writing with pen and paper.

I run a blooming photography business that I’ve been growing for the past year. I typically create portraits for families and couples, or I work with local media to provide news and sports photos on demand. I’ve also launched an editing service that’s geared toward individual authors called Draft Evolution. I love partnering with writers and helping them get better at their craft.

My wonderful wife is a piano instructor and works out of our home. Our fourth anniversary is coming up really soon. We have two adorable Cavalier King Charles spaniels to look after and make sure we don’t become too busy.

What is your current setup?

Jeff Abbott Sweet Mac Setup

Jeff Abbott Sweet Mac Setup

Jeff Abbott Sweet Mac Setup

My primary computer is a mid-2011 Macbook Air. I usually connect it to my cheap-o 23″ Acer monitor, but I also enjoy using it in my reading chair as a true laptop. The monitor is mounted on an arm that makes it convenient to reposition when I’m working. I’m continually impressed by the speed and resilience of the Air. It’s my favorite computer, and I wish I could use it everywhere. At work I use a company-issued Dell with Windows 7 that weighs about 37 pounds. Even though it’s crazy fast, it still feels slow compared to the Air because it uses a hard disk drive. SSD is the only way to go.

I didn’t know that mechanical keyboards existed until Shawn wrote a review of several. I now have a CM Storm Quick Fire mechanical keyboard that I bought from Amazon. It was cheaper than most, and I wanted to experiment with the genre before spending more money on a nicer one. I love the keyboard, but I keep it at home now because it was annoying my coworkers (sorry guys).

My desk is a large number from IKEA that I dreamed of having for many years while I put up with an extremely small and wobbly desk from Target. The desk is large and immodest, but it’s so nice to spread out notebooks, prints, and electronic devices comfortably when I’m busy. After I make a mess, it all gets cleaned up. I try to dust and polish the desk once a week to combat the dust that a dark colored surface attracts. Some weeks are better than others. I sit on a generic Herman-Miller knock-off from Sam’s Club.

My Sony MDR-7506 headphones are never far away. Since my wife is usually teaching until 7 or 8 each night, I need a way to enjoy my music without disturbing anyone around me. These headphones do an excellent job of that and being comfortable at the same time. I’ve used these since high school when I went through an audio recording and engineering phase. Someone recommended them to me back then, and they’re still some of the best around for the price.

There is always a small collection of fountain pens on my desk. Right now, the current rotation is a TWSBI Mini and a Pilot Metropolitan. These change fairly regularly, but that’s an entirely different post.

For mobile computing, I can’t be without my third-gen iPad and my iPhone 4S. I prefer using the iPad for writing and reading, and the iPhone for communication and in situations where there isn’t WiFi. The iPhone amazes me as a pocket computer, but the iPad lets me work easier and faster. I carry an Amazon Basics bluetooth keyboard that connects to the iPad for longer writing sessions.

There is a 2-bay NAS attached to our Apple Extreme router that holds two 2 TB RAID-0 drives. This holds all of our media and backups of my photo libraries. I have two more backups on external USB drives that I keep in our fireproof safe, but all of our computers are backed up to CrashPlan as well. I take backups very seriously.

I also use a Spyder color profiler for my monitor to make sure the colors I’m seeing are somewhat accurate. I have a USB hub and a CF/SD card reader to ingest all the photographs I come home with.

My wife has a white MacBook that I bought in 2008. It’s had a long, fulfilling life, and it’s almost time to retire it. We also have a Mac Mini that does a great job as a media center for our TV. We don’t have cable TV, so the Mini makes it easy to watch all the things we enjoy. The Mini is also in charge of backing up the NAS to CrashPlan. I’d love to turn the Mini into more of a server that can process mail rules and folder scripts, but I haven’t made the time.

Why this rig?

The Macbook Air was a difficult choice, to be honest. I’m a photographer, and I can usually get by with the minimal power that the Air has for processing large files. But there are some times, usually when I’m working through a large number of RAW files that require small adjustments, that the Air gets completely overwhelmed. I love the computer for the portability — that’s why I got it. When I purchased the computer, my freelance work required me to have a computer with me at all times. News is unpredictable, and I was writing a large number of stories that required photographs. I didn’t have an iPad at the time, so the Air was the best choice for me at the time.

Then I got the iPad.

Now, I just take my camera equipment and iPad, photograph the thing, and then come back home to download and process the photos. The time-sensitive nature of my freelance work is pretty much gone, which means I hardly carry the Air with me. The iPad has all the software I need to do my freelance work outside of my office. It’s incredible.

The only thing I don’t use my iPad for is editing photos. Other than that, I could get by with only an iPad 98% of the time. It’s an incredible computer.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I predominantly use my Macbook for photo editing, managing my websites, writing, and discovering music. Here’s a list of my favorite software:

  • Adobe Lightroom 4 for processing, organizing, and exporting my photos to all the various outlets.
  • Adobe Photoshop for the occasional touchup that Lightroom can’t handle.
  • Billings for keeping track of my freelance income and sending out professional-looking invoices.
  • Things for making sense of the craziness in my head. This software keeps me organized, and I’ve never felt the need to jump to a different platform.
  • Spotify for keeping the music interesting.

And here’s a list of the software I use on a more casual basis:

And iOS:

  • I listen to Spotify pretty much all day during my day job.
  • Downcast for all those lovely podcasts.
  • PhotoSmith – I use this app in conjunction with Lightroom to flag photos as keepers before I start making adjustments.
  • Kindle and iBooks for reading.
  • Evernote for keeping track of receipts and things to reference later.
  • Byword for writing while I’m not at my computer.
  • IA Writer for opening .txt or .md files from email. For some reason, Byword can’t do this.
  • Tweetbot for keeping up with Twitter on a regular basis.
  • Riposte for keeping up with App.net. I was using Netbot until I read Shawn’s review of Riposte.
  • Day One for keeping track of my ups, downs, and memorable moments.
  • Camera+ for taking photos and making them look slightly more dramatic.
  • Things for keeping up with my tasks when I’m not at my computer. I use the iPhone app more than anything else.
  • Quotebook for storing lines of poetry, quotes, and other inspirations.
  • Fantastical is my favorite calendar app for the iPhone by far. I will be very pleased when they bring it to the iPad as well.
  • Mail for reading email.
  • Rego for storing places that I want to visit again, visit frequently, or plan to visit. Thanks again to Shawn for this recommendation.
  • Reeder – I don’t use this so much on my phone, but I’m excited about the new version for iPad.
  • Instapaper for reading long articles.
  • Pocket for saving multimedia items for later.
  • Wake N Shake – Never fails to wake me up quickly.
  • 1Password keeps my passwords straight.
  • Simplenote for referencing recipes. I don’t keep any other notes on this service anymore since most of my text files are on Dropbox where Byword can see them.
  • The Magazine is something I look forward to every couple of weeks.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

My current setup allows me to keep my head down when I’m working on a project. This office is my physical mind space, and it’s very important that I can come in here, shut the door, and get some work done. The vast desk lets me spread out my thoughts and organize things physically when I’m thinking through things. The reading chair allows me to lean back and read a new book or get some writing done. I typically do most of my editing work in the chair as well. There’s something about that chair that lets me think clearly. The dogs also love to use the chair when I’m not using it.

Jeff Abbott Sweet Mac Setup

When I think about being creative, I never think about my tools or my environment. They melt away when I’m focused on something. This environment allows me to do that easily. My previous home office environment and my current “real job” environment are non-conducive to focusing on the work. That’s why I prefer to be here, in my external brain.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I would love to have a new 27″ iMac. I imagine the extra processing power will slice through large RAW files like butter. And that gigantic screen. Mmm. It would also be nice to have Mail, CrashPlan, and Hazel constantly running on my computer. The laptop goes to sleep or gets turned off too often to take full advantage of those scripts.

The other thing I’d love to upgrade is my chair. I have a cheap lumbar support pad on the chair that I’m pretty sure only improves my posture by 0.01%. I use an Aeron at work, and I’d be happy to have one here too. I’d really like an Embody, but they’re just so expensive. Small price to pay for a happy back, right?

I’d love to add more decoration to my office walls. We haven’t really spent a lot of time decorating the house, but I would love to have some visual inspiration on the walls that I can look at while thinking.

For the long term, I’d like all of my computers and needs to fit into one iPhone sized package that allows me to do everything from one small device. I’ll make sure Tim Cook is working on that.

More Sweet Setups

Jeff’s setup is one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Patrick Welker’s Sweet Mac Setup

1. Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Patrick Welker from Berlin, Germany. I live and work together with my brilliant girlfriend Maria in a 689 ft² (for the metric reader: 64 m²) apartment.

In our living room slash office we’re both working as freelancers. She’s a 3D artist and I do graphic and web design whenever there’s an occasional job for me.

I’m also a part-time student. My fields of study are English and German. Prior to that I was an audio engineer. Since I’d have to relocate and leave my girlfriend behind to stay in business I decided to listen to my heart which resulted in me staying in the city and starting to study “something which involves reading and writing”.

I let my inner geek out at RocketINK where I write about how I tweak my Mac. Beside that being my number one topic, I have plans to write some more personal and in-depth pieces.

2. What is your current setup?

Patrick Welker Desk Overview

Patrick Welker Displays

Almost all my gear is placed on a large 15-year-old desk. I don’t know the exact model but when looking at the construction I guess it is a safe bet to say that its origin is a Swedish furniture store (hint: four-letter word, all caps).

My main machine is a 2x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Xeon Mac Pro with 10GB of RAM, and it is connected to two 24-inch Dell displays (model: 2405FPW) which give me enough space to toy around with. The first hard drive bay with the operation system is a 160GB SSD from Intel, the other three bays carry bigger regular hard disks.

I’m a die-hard fan of the wired Apple aluminum keyboard. This particular one is the English version, more specific: the international one with a larger return key and some other minor differences. Oddly enough it isn’t listed in the Apple Store anymore. Furthermore I also own a Magic Trackpad which is placed to the right of the keyboard along with a Magic Mouse. I switch frequently between the mouse and the trackpad. If I feel that my wrist is overstrained I throw my mouse into the drawer for the rest of the day and use the trackpad. Apart from this being my regular setup, sometimes I put the trackpad on the left side of the keyboard just to scroll through documents and use my left hand a bit more.

Patrick Welker Portables

My secondary Mac is an 11-inch MacBook Air (1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM) which I tend to neglect when I’m at home and not working on the Mac Pro. My 32GB third-generation iPad is now the undisputed champion of the living room and gives the MacBook a hard time finding the attention it deserves. When my iPad is resting it sits on the Compass stand from Twelve South. The daring position of the Compass is on the left edge of my desk… and so far my iPad took the plunge “only” once. Terrible, I know.

The following are my additional gadgets for the iPad: (my girlfriend’s) Maglus Stylus, an old $5 pogo stylus, a black leather Smart Cover, a Havana smart cloth from Toddy Gear and a Tabü tablet poüch to give the iPad some extra protection.

When I’m on the road I use a messenger bag to carry my MacBook and iPad. I choose to go with the Ristretto from Tom Bihn (link to successor) despite the high shipping costs and customs tax that are due when importing something from the United States. The bag is equipped with the fantastic Absolute Shoulder Strap and a lot of their nifty pouches and leashes. Ninety percent of the times when I leave the house I travel with my bike, and due to Tom Bihn’s Guardian Dual Function Light I feel a lot safer when riding in the dark.

In case I’m not on one of the above mentioned devices my right hand becomes unusable for common tasks. You might think this is because I’m such a reasonable person and finally give my hand some rest, let it calm down after the heavy duty mouse and keyboard work it endured. Far from it! It’s unusable because it automatically grabs my 32GB iPhone and merges with it. I have the theory that this is a widespread disease. By the way, my phone is wrapped in a BookBook case. Despite the fact that I love the look and feel of a naked iPhone (after all it’s a beautiful device), for me the sheer practicality of the case justifies adding a bit of bulk.

Patrick Welker Audio Gear

Now we come to the relicts of my activity as a producer. First there are my beloved Dynaudio BM5A studio monitors (“monitors” is the term used by audio engineers to refer to their speakers, and, by the way, the link points to the successor). Secondly, my current Mic setup consists of an AKG C 4000 B Studio (a condenser microphone) and the Shure SM58 (a dynamic microphone).

Next, my midi-controller is a Novation ReMOTE 37SL and the audio interface of my choice is a RME Fireface 400. Finally, the last part of my audio gear are three headphones: a Philips SHP8900 for listening, an AKG K240 Studio as my personal reference monitor and a Sennheiser MM 550 Travel (link to successor).

Lastly, there is just enough room for one more gadget on the desk: my old Wacom Intuos 3 (6×8).

Below the desk

On the lower surface of my desktop is a EXSYS EX-1177 USB 2.0 HUB with 7 ports. It is connected to my equinux TubeStick and all things USB. I label all cables going into the hub by writing the name of the gadget with a felt marker on a piece of crepe tape.

Beside my Mac a drawer unit is also placed under my desk. In the first drawer are pens and chargers to my various gadgets. Additionally, to have my Tom Bihn pouches close at hand the second drawer is solely reserved to them. On top of the drawer is a power manager from Brennenstuhl with one main switch and 6 separate switches to selectively toggle my equipment on and off. My cable modem, WLAN router and an ICY DOCK ICYCube sit on top of the power manager.

Health Appliances

Health Appliances

The last part of my setup is what I call my health appliances. Strictly speaking they don’t belong to the setup, but I regard them as important components of my work, that’s why I decided to include them here.

When you live and work all day long within a tight space and share it with another person, my belief is that the room you choose needs to have a feel good atmosphere. Moreover, if it is a home office you have the permission to go nuts. To conclude, for me this means transforming my workspace into a whimsical little world with a touch of kawaii.

On the wall in front of me is an empty yellow picture frame to which I added a red curtain with a floral pattern on the upper side and a wooden shelf on the bottom. On this shelf is the DVD, the excellent soundtrack and a cinema ticket from one of my favorite movies. Since there is still some space left to fill with cuteness, I put a few anime figures (i.a. from Azumanga Daioh) and a plant. The lower surface of the shelf is covered with artificial turf and little flowers (the latter are hard to spot on the photo).

Below this frame is my illuminated “cave”. A Philips Living Colors lamp was one of the best investments I made so far for my workspace. It might sound stupid to say this about a lamp, but it really increased my quality of life — it literally brightens my day. No wonder they call it a mood light.

The surface of the cave (again) consists of artificial turf and there’s a Living Colors Mini on the side of it. On the turf my MacBook rests and charges along with a Stache Labbit from Frank Kozik, another plush rabbit my girlfriend made for me, a branch, a raccoon figure, Ollie and lastly a plush carrot and a marzipan carrot for the rabbits because they always look hungry.

To the left of my desk is a window bench where a little bowl with an forrest inside of it and some animals is placed. I grew up on the countryside and miss mother nature from time to time, so my girlfriend did some handicraft work and made me this present.

Other health related gadgets:

  • My relatively okay office chair is from Tchibo, a German coffee company which apparently also sells a of lot other things.
  • A Thera-Band Hand Exerciser with an egg shape to fight my arthritis.
  • A Powerbar 2 which I use every time I feel drained.
  • An Aqua Select Water Filter because I drink about 1.1 gal (4,2 liters) a day.
  • Some plush animals who occasionally visit the office. Yeah, I’m about to turn 32. So what? I’m a child at heart.

The last piece of equipment on my list is our printer-scanner-fax Swiss army knife — a Samsung CLX-3185FW — which is located in the storeroom. It barely gets used since I work pretty much paperless.

3. Why this rig?

Here’s the short story of how I came across my gear.

The Big Mac

I bought the Mac Pro for two reasons. The first reason is that my Power Mac G5 was one of the loudest computers I ever owned. It was terribly nerve-racking for me and all of the smaller audio samples I recorded had the Mac’s omnipresent background noise as a feature. I even bought a soundproof cabinet to tackle that problem. The second reason was that the Mac Pro can take up to four hard drives. I needed a lot of space for storing my audio material and USB or FireWire 800 wasn’t an option for me at that time. The CPU power and the amount of RAM were also pretty helpful when running multiple instances of a demanding plugin in Pro Tools, Ableton Live, and Logic Pro.

However, now my daily work is writing, reading, coding and designing. I don’t necessarily need a Mac Pro for this kind of work, but since the machine is already here and is still an excellent computer, I see no real need to replace it anytime soon (except if Apple decides to stop supporting it when they release the next version of OS X).

Peripheral Computer Devices

I use an English keyboard because it’s part of my “all-in” language learning strategy. Despite German being my native language I write down everything in English. Besides that, I also wanted to try if the keyboard layout is a better fit for writing code, and so far I’m more than happy that I took the plunge. Although it took quite a while to reroute some hard-wired movements to their specific new counterparts on the keyboard. Another thing I have to admit was, that at first I was a tad bummed out since I accidentally bought the international version on eBay. But, I soon realized it was a fitting choice because thereby I gain consistency over all my Macs: for the MacBook I just had to order some keyboard stickers and henceforth all the keys are in the same place again. This wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

The second monitor was an heirloom from my father who moved on to an iMac. I was quite happy with one 24-inch screen, but having two displays opened up a whole new world for me. The result is that I’m now really lazy when it comes to managing windows on the Mac.

The ICYCube has room for 4 hard drives just like the Mac Pro. I searched for a simple multi-bay enclosure and tried quite a few. Since I didn’t need a fancy RAID setup and all I wanted was to slide in the hard disks I already own. This piece of equipment met my criteria perfectly, if I exchange an HD on my Mac Pro I buy a new drive tray for the ICYCube and gain another backup drive. Indeed the enclosure works as my backup solution. At the same time it’s the place where I have stored all my unedited home video recordings which I might not come to edit in a lifetime since I pay way to much attention to details (also I’m not very fast when it comes to editing videos). The downside of the enclosure: it’s pretty loud if you don’t remove the fan. Then again I only fire it up once a week to copy over the backups from my Macs.

Let’s talk USB for a second. I’ve had trouble with Apple Computers and their USB ports for my whole Apple life (since 2005). I’ve always had a lot of audio equipment connected to my Mac via USB. The Mac’s power supply unit could never satisfy the energy-hungry battalion it was faced with. Even on my 2009 Mac Pro the USB ports began to fail until out of six ports only 3 working ones remained. The best investment I’ve made is an industry USB hub — it’s the one and only hub that I tried which delivered enough power (and I tried quite a few). The hub I use is from a swiss company, EXSYS. They offer excellent products in this segment of modern technology. My hub has 4.5 A which is more than enough. Every port gets up to 500 mA. All my devices work properly for the first time.

Regarding the Wacom tablet I have to admit that I neglect it carelessly. My girlfriend borrowed it over the last few years and it just has returned into my possession since she bought herself a Cintiq for Christmas. I have nothing else to add to my defense.

The Little Apples

I ride my bike a lot during the week. Be it my route to the University, or, more rarely, visiting a client. If you have carried a laptop before you know that you feel every ounce of it after a few blocks. The 12-inch PowerBook was my favorite portable computer, but the tiny 11-inch MacBook Air is like a dream come true and it instantly pushed the PowerBook off the throne. It’s so small, slim and light that I can take it with me everywhere I go, and in addition I don’t feel like I’m carrying any additional weight. It is amazing that this is not a toy but a full-fledged system for web development and graphic design work. Also, I still prefer it over the iPad when I’m on the go and want to write something. Using an iPad at the University isn’t an option for me because I need to switch between a (digital) book, references and notes all the time. Having two windows open in split view is a great help and the full-sized keyboard is ideal for lectures where I take a lot of notes. Being able to watch and listen while writing down everything in a blind flight over the keyboard is not possible with an iPad (at least not without an external keyboard).

I still take my iPad with me to University on days where I know I don’t need to write down a lot of information. On those days the MacBook is allowed to stay at home. However, where the iPad shines in my opinion is when working with clients. I prefer to take my iPad with me to them rather than the MacBook because it’s nice to pass it on to people. They instantly know how to use it and get a better feel for how the product they’ve ordered will look and work like.

Since the retina iPhone was released in June 2010 I knew that Apple would come up with an iPad featuring a similar display. So I decided to wait because I don’t wanted to use a phone or tablet on a daily basis which lacks such a stellar display. In March 2012 the wait was over. I couldn’t afford it at that point in time, but finally managed to buy one… shortly before the released the fourth-generation iPad — didn’t see that one coming. For me the iPad is the best device for reading and learning in existence. If I find an elaborate tutorial on the internet I usually save it and read it on my iPad.

Back to the iPad’s little brother. I bought the iPhone 5 because the iPhone is the device I use most religiously out of all my gadgets. Since Apple changed the form factor — which they presumably keep for a while — I felt it was the perfect time to update from my old iPhone 4. I use my phone constantly for all kind of tasks, but here’s a small list of where it has proven to be most helpful to me:

  • snapping a picture
  • reading feeds and Instapaper articles
  • as a reference book
  • as a companion when working out
  • relaxing
  • communication

The accessory that is always with my phone is the BookBook case. It is the ideal choice for me since I always forgot my wallet at home. The purchase has paid for itself: I haven’t had an embarrassing moment at the local grocery store’s counter since I own the BookBook. Everything important is where I iPhone is. My iPhone is at my side 24/7.

My Audio Gear

This is a short one. My current setup is the result of a compromise. At the same time I started my studies at the university I moved in together with my girlfriend into a smaller apartment. My complete rack wouldn’t have fitted into the new tiny place. I sold almost all my gear to pay the rent for the upcoming months. Since I always had a passion for graphic and Web design and worked as a freelancer in that field while studying as audio engineering my new economic center shifted. (I still miss part of my gear.)

I kept the microphones because they barely take up any space. In addition I only own one audio-interface now. It’s from RME. They are famous for their excellent analog-to-digital conversion. You get one of the best conversions you can buy for money — naturally it’s a keeper too. Another thing I couldn’t bring myself to part with were my speakers. In spite of using headphones almost all the time because my girlfriend doesn’t listen to such a wide variety of music as I do while working, it’s still good to know that I could cause a medium-sized earthquake with the speakers if I feel like it.

Lastly, I decided to order a smaller keyboard to at least leave the possibility open to produce a little bit in my spare time. Sadly I only managed to make one track per year since 2008. To look on the bright side of things I really amped up my front-end web design skills in that time.

4. What software do you use and for what do you use it?

There are so many great Mac apps out there in the wild and currently 465 of them are in my applications folder. Here’s a selection of the ones I use most on my Mac:


  • nvALT is my storage for text and code snippets, links to references, general references, lists and TaskPaper documents. It’s constantly open.
  • FoldingText is my go-to writing application. I just love the clean look, that it auto-formats Markdown and the possibility to fold sections.
  • When I’m writing longer articles or take-home exams I switch between FoldingText and MultiMarkdown Composer.
  • Since I write in Markdown all the time, no matter what, I often have Marked running to preview my documents.
  • I’m also a fan of outlines. OmniOutliner Pro and Tree are often starting points for more elaborate projects.
  • When writing research papers for the University I use Pomodoro because if I don’t I have trouble focusing on the job at hand.


On the Mac I use the Google Reader web application to read my feeds. I haven’t yet looked for an alternative for when the service shuts down. I might end up finally using the Fever installation I set up a while ago or even go back to NetNewsWire.

When I read on the Mac it’s usually in a browser. Google Chrome is my browser of choice. I’m a heavy Pinboard user and Chrome extensions are my favorite way of adding and searching my bookmarks.


When I code a website I use Coda 2 since it has smart features I still miss in other editors. I find it most helpful that Coda remembers my open tabs on a per project basis. Even more important, it remembers the split tabs where I grouped documents that are interacting with each other. It’s a great feature that I specially enjoy every time when revive an old project.

To preview websites on my mobile devices I use Adobe’s Edge Inspect and LiveReload.

To store tutorials, references, books about web development and sites that inspire me I use Together. What I like about it is that it doesn’t use a single database file. I can drop files into specific folders and they automatically get tagged when I open Together.

If there is something to code and it is no website, then my favorite editor is Sublime Text 2 — if it would remember the split sets like Coda I’d instantly switch to it since it’s so highly customizable.

I also use Tower for managing my git repositories. Terminal and iTerm apps companions for my way through the shell.


I’m paying Adobe to let me use their feature rich programs aka Photoshop and Illustrator.

To optimize images for the web I use JPEGmini and the hand-made ImageOptim I wrote about in my blog.


When it comes to listing I’m still undecided whether to stick with Rdio or Spotify. Both have drawbacks and great features.

For composing I use Ableton Live and Logic Pro with an armada of plug-ins and virtual instruments.


  • Path Finder and Finder help me manage my files
  • Sparrow is my default mail client.
  • TaskPaper, GeekTool, and OmniFocus build my GTD setup. OmniFocus is the main brain which keeps me from forgetting tasks. I prefer the Mac version over both of the iOS apps in terms of swiftness when it comes to organizing tasks.
  • 1Password is another application which is constantly open. I like to try a lot of new web services.
  • Dropbox keeps the main part of my system — be it files or preferences — in sync across all my Mac’s.
  • I use iStat Menus to keep an eye on my SSD’s disk space and my memory.
  • With myPhoneDesktop and DropCopy Pro I send files to iOS. Since my girlfriend is still running Snow Leopard, DropCopy is our go-to app for sharing files or links with each other.
  • CloudApp is my favorite app for sharing Internet finds with my friends.
  • Fantastical is the best way for me to get an overview of important upcoming events. It’s also the best way to add them to my calendar.
  • Aperture is my database for all personal photos.
  • Growl, Alarms, and Due to remind to exercise, making a pause and to sit straight.
  • And… I use Keyboard Maestro for everything!

iOS — Work:

On my iPhone and iPad I have about 350 apps each. A lot of them are tucked away in a folders. I keep barely-used applications around for easy access in case I really need them. A good example for rarely-used apps would be all the ones that are specific to my home town. On the iPad, however, I don’t have a lot of these specialists. But I have more folders with apps that I haven’t checked out yet. In any case, here’s what I use on a regular basis.

I write in Drafts despite preferring the Markdown toolbar of Scratch. The iPad version of Drafts has one, and I’m still hoping that the iPhone gets one too some day.

If I need to make corrections to a post I open Byword and edit the post. And while we’re at the blog, sometimes I have to open Prompt to analyze a problem or restart my Jekyll blog.

The header images for my blog are drawn in Paper. I love its ease of use, the app is also the starting point for all of my mockups and general ideas for websites.

When I need to share files with someone I use Dropbox, ClouDrop for Cloudapp, or ClouDrop for Dropbox by TouchMyPhone. If I want my screen shots on my Mac I use PhotoSync since it’s faster than waiting for iCloud to sync the files in question.

For research I have couple of apps that most folks will be familiar with: Pinbook and Delitouch iPhone for browsing Pinboard, Tweetbot, Bang On, and Google Chrome.

In addition, I always have my iPhone at hand while reading — if there’s a need to clarify something I open up one of my Dictionaries. I have a couple for different purposes: linguistics ones, literature specific ones, and one for every coding language.

My RSS client of choice is Reeder on the iPhone and Mr. Reader on the iPad. If I find something I like to act on or would like to link it goes into Pocket, and if it’s a longer read I send it to Instapaper — both of these apps are jam-packed to the point that I doubt I can ever catch up with everything in there. If I’m about to continue working on another device I open the article in question with Google Chrome to ensure that I can resume where I left off.

Apart from reading feeds I also like to read books on the iPad. I collect them in my Dropbox and import them into iBooks via GoodReader or DropCopy. If it’s a shorter PDF I read it directly in GoodReader.

When I study for a test I use Flashcards Deluxe. I have a macro which formats a Markdown document of my study notes into the format that the app reads. The macro also puts the file into my Dropbox. All I have to do is to import the file and start learning.

Beforehand I admitted that I barely use my scanner. I digitalize University or office documents most of the times with Scanner Pro and send them directly to my Dropbox.

While we’re still in the category of work related apps that I use most frequently, there are some classics that are hits on the iPhone for a reason. These ones are on my Homes creen: LaunchCenterPro, OmniFocus, Sparrow, 1Password, Fantastical, and the TomTom navigation app.

I mentioned in the beginning that health plays a big role for me when it comes to work. Here’s one of my shorter morning rituals and the apps I use with it: my day starts with two glasses of water, then I put my bluetooth headphones on, fire up Spotify and select some relaxing music for my Yoga exercises. Repeat Timer Pro is the best app I found so far for basic interval training.

To conclude this section about apps I use for working, I also want to end with Spotify since music can increase creativity and help to focus better. I often use my iPhone or iPad to play music instead of my Mac. Unlike the Mac version of Spotify the mobile app doesn’t chuck away on my upload stream. I send the audio signal to Airfoil Speakers on my Mac and I’m good. Furthermore, to focus while studying I have a binaural playlist on Spotify and this little collection of apps: Attractor, MindWave 2, and some AmbiScience apps.

iOS — Everyday Life:

My smartphone has alleviated my everyday life, that’s for sure. Here are some key aspects where I find it utterly useful:

Notesy is one of the most important apps on my phone. Everything that’s inside of nvALT is also in Notesy, for instance when I plan to cook something new I save the recipe in my notes folder and have the Markdown preview right in front of me. I have an array of Due timers for cooking and baking.

If I’m not working it is highly likely that I have my headphones on and listen to a podcast via Downcast or even better, an audiobook (I’m a sucker for audiobooks).

The iPhone is also my main camera, so Camera+ and the default camera app are on my Home screen to make sure I can easily access them any time. I sold my regular cameras because the iPhone suits my needs just fine. I’m the point-and-click guy when it comes to capturing moments, and it’s enough for me.

Another thing I like to do on iOS is to remote control my Mac with Keyboard Maestro Control or iTeleport. Most of the time it’s nothing important but it’s a nice feature I like to use when I’m on the couch.

The last big point where the iPhone shines for me is it helps me to keep track of…

  • my lists with Listary;
  • cartoons and series I’m following with iTV Shows;
  • movies I want to see in the cinema with TodoMovies (side note: I hope to see a Letterboxd app some day);
  • apps that I want to buy with AppShopper;
  • the weather with WeatherPro (which has proven to be the most reliable app for Europe, but not the most beautiful), and RainAlarm (since there is no Dark Sky for Europe).

5. How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

At some point in my twenties I suddenly realized that I had back pain many a time, that I gained some weight, and that my mood swings were in fact a full-grown chronic depression. It was obvious that I couldn’t perform my best under these circumstances.

To fight all of the above I started to do Yoga along with some other exercises, to eat more healthy and to create a work environment which makes me happy. In the last 5 years I managed to drop the extra 22 pounds (10 kg) I gained beforehand and developed an interest in cooking which revealed that one’s own kitchen can serve better food than 90-percent of the restaurants in the close vicinity. These measures lead to fewer periods of depression which I’m very thankful for.

If you work on a desk with a monitor in front of your face from dusk till dawn, then time truly flies. I get easily distracted; I even managed to ignore my own health. By taking breaks and exercising I find myself to be more cheerful, recharged, and overall a bit healthier. It’s a wonder by all the optimizations I made to tweak my operating system that it took so long for me to recognize that my body’s “OS” also was in need of more organization and maintenance.

My point with the 3 paragraphs above is that a healthy body is the only way for me to not drop into a hole of darkness. My other tactic to reduce the likeliness of such a thing happening is to surround myself with stuff that makes me happy. That’s why I called the constituents of my playful environment “health appliances”.

To keep this system running, a good part of my setup consists of different ways to remind me to eat, exercise, and take a break. I change those reminders regularly so that I don’t get too accustomed to one set, otherwise I would sit on my Mac non-stop and forget everything around me. I don’t know the feeling of being bored when I’m in front of one of my gadgets. Combined with decent internet access they work like a creativity accelerator for me. I always find stuff to do and have a variety of lists where I gather different creative projects.

The Mac and iOS devices do a splendid job at reminding me of my goals and showing me what I could and should do next. The only glitch in the system is me, since it’s me who sometimes ignores the good advice and gets lost in a side-project.

6. How would your ideal setup look and function?

A 13-inch MacBook would be sufficient for me to get things done — I’ve worked with one for years. But since I’m allowed to dream a little bit, here we go:

I would love to trade in the two 24-inch displays for one larger retina display. I hope Apple has something in the pipe to can make the Retina Cinema Display work over Thunderbolt — from what I’ve read Thunderbolt could be the bottleneck there.

Particularly with regard to the high energy consumption of the Mac Pro in combination with the two monitors, I can imagine a more lightweight solution. My number one requirement would be a retina display — be it an iMac or a MacBook with a large retina Cinema Display. The next technical condition would be a multi-bay enclosures that is silent, affordable, and fast (think Thunderbolt) to make up for the 4 drive bays which I would leave behind. I just don’t see the latter three conditions happening at the moment.

Speaking of gadgets, here are some more realistic purchases I plan to acquire. I think an Adonit Jot Pro might do a better job when writing things in the Papers app, and another nice addition to my setup would be the Twelve South PlugBug World.

Besides the above mentioned, switching to a lightweight setup feels far away. Some of my gear speaks another language: my MacBook’s display for instance. The right side on my smallest Mac is malfunctioning — it flickers like crazy. Sooner or later the computer needs to get replaced. The next defect device is my bluetooth Sennheiser. I dropped it on a marble floor because the carabiner with which I attached it to my Ristretto bag snapped open while I was fumbling in the bag. I was toying with the idea of switching the brand. The problem is, I only know of one pair of bluetooth headphones that has no problems switching between multiple bluetooth devices, but it isn’t on par with the Sennheiser quality-wise. So my wish would be a good set of headphones where switching from the Mac to my iPhone or iPad is effortlessly possible. Luckily Airfoil exists and so I will swallow the bitter pill and send in my Sennheiser as soon as I have enough cash to pay for the costly repairing.

Since I talked keyboards before, if I were to buy a new MacBook, this time I would order one with a genuine US English keyboard. And in addition, after reading about Brett Terpstra’s switch to the bluetooth aluminum keyboard here on the Sweet Mac Setups, I can picture myself trying to make the switch to a bluetooth keyboard for my desktop Mac too. I was afraid that I would miss all the lovely extra options for additional shortcuts which a numeric keypad provides, but there are other ways to work around that. A bluetooth keyboard would also work great with the iPad.

The last item on the wish list gadget-wise is a NAS. I’ve being comparing the pros and cons of a NAS vs. a Mac mini lately, and at the moment a NAS server from Synology has the best chances to be one of my next investments. Okay, since this part of Sweet Mac Setups is encouraging dreaming it would be a NAS at home and a Mac mini from Macminicolo.net (which I just can’t afford anytime soon) to have my own powerful server.

That’s about it for the gadgets. In terms of a better workflow I wish that I’d already have a more automated way to post on my blog. On the Mac it’s already happening, but my goal from the beginning was to make it work with the iPad too. I’d like to send my drawings from the Paper app to my (shared) server. Federico Viticci’s has a crazy cool Pythonista workflow, and I hope to get there too. On the server the images should get optimized, filed into my upload directory and the corresponding Markdown image links should be appended to a scratch file.

Another workflow issue I have is when I write something for University. Sometimes Markdown doesn’t cut the chase. Here, with all the footnotes, citations, annotations and references Pandoc sounds like the better solution. I definitely have to look into it (… and Scrivener).

There’s also an application wish I have had for a long time: Listary for Dropbox. I’d like to keep everything that closely resembles a note inside my nvALT folder and I still haven’t found a better list app than Listary.

Lastly, some enhancements for my work environment: I want some nice graffiti for the concrete bricks on my desk.

Almost all of the above is not really important. Like I stated in the beginning. A 13-inch MacBook is enough to get the work done. But there are things that would be great long-term investments. By far my biggest wish is a fancy desk which is adjustable in height so that I can switch from working in a chair to working on a standing desk. The best thing I come across so far is the Anthro Elevate Adjusta (check out this YoutTube video for a short demo of the basic functions).

Along the lines of a more ergonomic workspace my second biggest wish is the Falto Wip 37. I tested it on a trade show years ago and have fallen in love with it since.

That’s it. Sorry for being a chatterbox and breaking the character count record here on Sweet Mac Setups.

More Sweet Setups

Patrick’s setup is one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

David Friedman’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is David Friedman. I’m a New York based photographer and filmmaker, and I have a blog called Ironic Sans for my projects that don’t fit under those other umbrellas.

I currently produce a web series for PBS Digital Studios called INVENTORS. It’s part of a larger personal project creating portraits of inventors from all walks of life, from garage tinkerers to famous legends. A book of extensive interviews and photos is in the works.

I’m married to a wonderful woman who’s an Art Director for Marvel.com, which gives me a good excuse to read comics, and we have a two-year-old son.

What is your current setup?

David Friedman's Sweet Mac Setup

David Friedman's Sweet Mac Setup

My primary computer is an early 2008 Mac Pro. It’s hooked up to a Dell 24″ monitor that’s a bit older than the Mac. The screen is still color-accurate when calibrated (with a Datacolor Spyder), and I’m fine with the size, but I’m dying to replace it with something more densely pixeled. A Retina desktop monitor can’t come soon enough.

I sit next to a large window, which is nice for sanity but bad for color accuracy. The windows have opaque shutters I can close when doing color critical work.

The Mac’s hard drive bays are all in use: Bay 1 is my SSD boot drive — it’s fast but small, so I have my Documents, Downloads, and Pictures folders symlinked to a drive in Bay 2. My iTunes media is on a drive in Bay 3. And Bay 4 has a drive for scratch purposes and other temporary storage.

I have a Western Digital MyBook that keeps backups of the drives in Bays 1 & 2 via Time Machine. At some point I accumulated a second MyBook that I keep around as a Magic Install Disk which has come in surprisingly handy.

I replaced the SuperDrive with a Blu-Ray burner even though optical media is on the decline, because I still like having a write-once copy of my photo archive as a last resort backup. I take comfort knowing it’s impossible to accidentally overwrite a file with a corrupt or altered version. So after every 25 GB of shooting, I burn a disc.

I have a Drobo (2nd generation) which holds the primary copy of my photo archive. Every photo I’ve ever shot digitally for personal or freelance work is connected live and easily accessible.

I use a 6×8 Wacom Intuos3 stylus, switching between mouse and pen more or less equally depending on the task. I own an Apple wireless keyboard, but tend to use the wired keyboard because I like having a number pad.

Both my household and business are mostly paperless. For document scanning I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300M. I have a physical inbox currently backlogged with stuff to be scanned.

My monitor has neither camera nor microphone, so I use an old Logitech webcam for rare video chatting and occasional dictation. I’m much more likely to use my iPhone for video chat, usually down on the floor with my son chatting with my parents.

My secondary Mac is a Late 2011 15″ MacBook Pro. I don’t use it most days. It’s mainly for when I’m shooting tethered on location or traveling and need something more than an iPad.

I have a Brother HL-2170W laser printer for document printing, and an Epson R2400 for photo printing.

I usually sit in a Humanscale Freedom task chair (the no-headrest model) I got cheap from a company going out of business. It’s okay.

Why this rig?

It’s the first Mac I ever bought. Here is my switch story:

I’ve always been fairly Apple/PC ambidextrous. Our first family computer was an Apple II (well, a clone). Sometime in the early 90s we got a PC and I learned to use DOS and Windows. Eventually I took that PC with me to college and my parents replaced it with a Mac. When I moved to New York in 1997, just starting out on my own with a small income, I bought another PC. I didn’t think Macs were as affordable, and I already had a lot of Windows software I would need to buy again for the Mac, so a PC worked well for me.

At the same time, I started working in the photo studio at Christie’s auction house. They had just transitioned to a fully digital workflow, a very rare thing in 1997. They were using Macs, so that’s what I used by day, and then went home to my Windows machine. Eventually I left Christie’s to become the staff photographer at Polo Ralph Lauren which insisted I used Windows for corporate reasons. But I continued to be adept at both platforms.

In 2007, I decided to quit my cushy life as a staff photographer and go freelance. I updated my computer to the latest, fastest, and greatest Dell computer I could afford, and it came with the latest and greatest version of Windows: Vista. It was garbage. I hated everything about it.

2007 is also when I moved in with my soon-to-be wife, a graphic designer who had a Mac. Watching her use OS X while I struggled with Vista made it harder to tolerate my own computer. Software for the Mac was more abundant than ever, and the games I used to play on the PC were less important to me.

So in early 2008 I took the plunge. I’d had a good first year as a freelancer, so I could afford to trade up. I got rid of the Vista machine and went all-in with the Mac described above. I kept the Dell monitor. Apple’s switch to Intel gave me confidence that if I really needed a Windows application I couldn’t replace on the Mac I could still run it in a Virtual Machine, and that made the switch easy. I haven’t looked back.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

Specific to my work:

  • Lightroom for the majority of my photo image editing and maintaining my archive.
  • Photoshop for retouching, but less and less as Lightroom gains more powerful non-destructive capabilities that use all the photo’s raw data.
  • Since I do a lot of video these days, I recently updated to the entire Adobe CS6 Master Collection and use Adobe Premiere Pro. I had been using Final Cut Pro but found Premiere to be more stable and faster, despite some nice features I miss from FCP. I purchased the full version instead of getting a Creative Cloud subscription.
  • Parallels so I can use QuickBooks for Windows, to make things easier for my accountant.

More generally useful apps I use. For OS X:

  • Apple Mail
  • Chrome
  • Busycal
  • Dropbox
  • 1Password
  • TextExpander
  • LaunchBar
  • Tweetbot
  • Spotify
  • Keyboard Maestro — I’m finding more and more use for this handy tool.
  • Isolator for when I want to work in single-app mode but don’t want to run that app full screen.
  • Things went from frustrating to amazing once they worked out their syncing issues. It still lacks features I’d like to see, but it’s my To-Do App of choice.
  • Leap is a great visual alternative to Finder. I use it primarily with my various folders of PDFs. It helps me mentally to just think of Leap as my digital filing cabinet.
  • nvALT for notes. I sync to individual text files on Dropbox.
  • ChronoSync for copying crucial files across drives, specifically because it does verification.
  • CrashPlan for cloud backup.
  • iBank for managing my home finances. I don’t love it, but it gets the job done, and they are clearly trying to make good software in a space that badly need it. I’ve tried other apps trying to solve this problem for the Mac, but settled on iBank.
  • Hazel for automated filing of documents.
  • Pixel City is a screen saver which flies through a procedurally generated city. I’m not usually a screen saver guy, but this one is nice, seldom seen, and not overly distracting when it comes on. Sadly, the Mac port doesn’t appear to be easily available anymore, but I think the source code is free somewhere. If you can find it, make sure you get the 1.1 version for compatibility with recent OS X versions.

And for iOS in no particular order:

  • 1Password
  • Instapaper
  • Reeder
  • Things
  • Google Maps
  • Tweetbot
  • Scanner Pro
  • Spotify
  • Remoteless lets you control the Desktop version of Spotify from your iPhone
  • Fantastical— I’ve tried a lot of iPhone calendar alternatives, and this is the only one I’ve stuck with.
  • Photogene is a full-featured photo editor that’s not trying too hard to be cool.
  • Easy Release is a simple model release app so I never have to worry about having them on hand.
  • FiLMiC Pro — when I need to use my iPhone as an extra video camera, this app lets me match the frame rate of my primary camera (usually 24 frames per second instead of the iPhone stock camera’s 30 frames) and select the bit rate. I confess I haven’t done a real test to see just how well it does what it claims, as I imagine it must use some sort of trickery to accomplish its magic.
  • Instacast (I’m longing for a desktop version to sync with!)
  • Team Coco — I cut the cable cord a few years ago, so it’s great to see full episodes of Conan on here. Although actually I tend to just listen to it when I go to bed.
  • TiVo lets you do everything you’d expect it to do from your phone. Surprisingly useful.
  • Dark Sky is maybe my most-useful weather app.
  • WriteRoom for notes, syncing to Dropbox.
  • Kindle — I use the Mac ecosystem because it’s the best for me, but I know that might not always be the case. Who knows what I’ll use in twenty years? Since Amazon seems to want Kindle on all devices, I see it as the most future-proof eBook ecosystem.
  • Google Authenticator for 2-step verification.
  • Launch Center Pro — more useful than I realized it would be when I bought it.
  • Alien Blue (a nice app for lurking on reddit)
  • Navigon MobileNavigator — for me, this is the best GPS software for driving, but I haven’t tried them all. I quite like it, though. (North America edition)
  • Day One I have never been much of a journal writer, but having a kid changed that. I like jotting down my son’s milestones and adventures.
  • Marvel Unlimited — I’m biased because my wife worked on this, but Marvel Unlimited is an awesome service. I’ve been getting back into comics this year after an extended absence, and this is such a great way to catch up on all the story lines I missed over the years. Yeah, there are bugs (not her fault) and the occasional missing issue in the middle of a story here and there, but I’m sure those things will be ironed out. There is just so much great content here. Access to 13,000+ comics from 70 years of Marvel history for so little money is such a bargain.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I’m not sure my current physical setup does much for me creatively, to be honest. It’s mainly the software, and in that sense I benefit from the work other people did. Other people figured out what’s needed in a good video editor before I ever started shooting video. Other people figured out how to capture raw photo data and how to get the most from it. Other people solved a lot of technical problems for me before I even knew I had them. Because of those engineers, obstacles get out of my way and let me just concentrate on getting things done.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

The biggest thing I would change in my setup is its location. I enjoy having a home office, but it’s not isolated enough from the rest of my living space. This makes it tough to separate work from life. I could really use an extra room as my office.

Next, I’d get rid of wires. Unfortunately wireless tech isn’t quite a match for my needs right now, but I hope that changes soon.

Also, I’d have a camera bag that was bigger on the inside than the outside, stores all the gear I need for travel and location work, fits in an overhead bin, and barely weighs anything.

More Sweet Setups

David’s setup is one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

The Sweet Mac Setup of @AppleSpotlight

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Rob, but I’m better known as the guy behind the Twitter account @AppleSpotlight, where I write and link to stuff that I find useful or interesting.

What is your current setup?

Rob's Sweet Mac Setup

For my Mac setup, I use a 27″ iMac at my desk and an 11″ MacBook Air on the go. I can’t type that well, but I can touch type on a number pad. Therefore, I opt to use the Apple keyboard with numeric keypad. I use a Magic Mouse in one hand and a Magic Trackpad in the other for double the magic.

My iMac sits on a huge 3ft by 6ft desk from Design Within Reach, and I sit on a Herman Miller chair. I listen to JBL Creature speakers, which look super cool and sound just okay. My MacBook Air travels in a Tom Bihn bag and usually sits on a coffeehouse table.

As for iOS, I have the iPhone 5 and 3rd-generation iPad. I prefer my iPhone naked and currently use a sleeve by Richshaw for my iPad.

The iMac (and I suppose the cloud) is the hub of my setup. I treat everything else as a satellite device.

That said, this is how I spend my time by device (most to least): iPhone, iPad, iMac, MacBook Air.

Why this rig?

I was a little too early to the desktop-plus-laptop setup. In the early 2000s, I was using a Power Mac G4 Cube and a PowerBook G4. I wanted the power, storage, and larger screen of a desktop while in my office and the portability of the laptop while away. The experience of keeping things in sync, however, wasn’t ideal. Remember, this was before the days of iCloud, Dropbox, et al. So as a compromise I switched to a laptop-plus-display setup — a series of Powerbooks and MacBook Pros with a Cinema Display.

My current rig, along with the right software services, finally delivers on what I was hoping to achieve in the early 2000s.

There is no other tool in my life that I use more than iPhone, so I typically upgrade with each new version. Although upgrading gets expensive, all the improvements in each new model really add up when reaching for my iPhone several dozens times each day.

I love the feel of the iPad mini in my hands, but for now I prefer the larger, retina display and the larger keyboard.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

There are so many great apps, but here are a selection of the ones I find particularly useful:

  • Tweetbot is my primary Twitter client.
  • Dropbox keeps my world in sync.
  • 1Password makes the hell that is passwords a little more tolerable.
  • Things is the task manager that helps me get things done.
  • Focus Time is a nice little iOS app to use with the Pomodoro Technique (if you haven’t hear of the Pomodoro Technique, it’s worth checking out).
  • Reminders is the place for my simple lists, like books I want to read, and shared lists, like the Whole Foods Market list that I share with my wife.
  • Simplenote makes it easy for me to take and find all of my notes.
  • Evernote is for those things that don’t fit in Simplenote, such as notes with photos. Although I’m not a fan of the interface.
  • Instapaper is the black hole where I store things that I rarely have time to read. I’m starting to play around with Pocket, however, and I really like what I see.
  • TripIt is awesome for organizing trip details. Don’t leave home without it.
  • Pixelmator on OS X is what I use to remind myself that I don’t know much about image editing.
  • SuperDuper is what I use for full backups.
  • CrashPlan is what I use for cloud backups.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

This setup is not only about having the best tool for the job but also about having the best tool for where I am. It is also about having access to nearly all of my data and apps, regardless of where or what device I’m using. Apple and the strong Apple development community have made all of this simple and a joy to use.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I think my current setup is near ideal, but I have a feeling Apple may have something else in mind for me.

More Setups

Rob’s is one in a series of sweet Mac setups.

Brett Terpstra’s Sweet Mac Setup

1. Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Brett Terpstra. I’m married to a wonderful girl named Aditi who happens to be a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and I live in a zoo (figuratively: a Pit Bull, a German Shepherd, three cats, a parrot and a 75-gallon aquarium… plus the dogs we take in through our Pit Bull rescue).

I have a great day job as a remote worker for AOL Tech, building blogs like Engadget, TUAW and Joystiq. By night I’m a Mac developer, working on Marked, nvALT and other mad science with Macs.

2. What is your current setup?

Brett Terpstra's Sweet Mac Setup

Brett Terpstra's Sweet Mac Setup

Brett Terpstra's Sweet Mac Setup

Brett Terpstra's Sweet Mac Setup

At the core of my anti-minimalist setup are a Mac Pro (2.8 GHz Quad-Core Xeon) and a built-to-order 2011 13″ MacBook Air. I keep a couple of Mac minis around for testing (and nostalgia).

I use an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad on all of my desktop machines.

The Mac Pro is my primary machine. It’s hooked up to 2 monitors (21″ and 23″, mismatched because I never get the timing right when I upgrade them). I boot it off of a 600GB Velociraptor HD, and have additional internal hard drives for multiple OS versions and extra storage. I have a Drobo with a 4TB capacity and a few more terabytes of external Firewire 800 drives hooked up. I have a cheap Buffalo NAS that comes in quite handy.

My office is in the basement (walk-out with a huge glass sliding door that overlooks the Mississippi River Valley), so I have some issues connecting to my Airport Extreme on occasion. I use a PowerLink wifi antennae to get better results, but generally depend on Zyxel powerline networking.

I keep a very paperless office. On the rare occasions that I do deal with paper, I have an Epson Perfection 4490 Photo and the über-handy Doxie scanner.

I have an array of musical equipment for dinking around with. I don’t do a lot of audio production these days, but still have an Oxygen 49 keyboard, M-Audio FastTrack, Blue Snowball and a condenser mic on a boom with a Blue Icicle. Desktop monitors, decent headphones, a couple of guitars… enough to keep me entertained. A 5.1 Logitech desktop speaker system covers the bases when I’m just listening.

I also have an iPad 3 and an iPhone 4, an AeroPress, and a bizarre assortment of old X10 home automation stuff.

3. Why this rig?

The Mac Pro is provided by my employer. I probably wouldn’t have one if it weren’t for that; my Air is a superior computing machine for a lot of my needs. I like the dual large monitors, though, and that’s the thing I miss when I go Air-only for a while.

My keyboard and trackpad choice is the result of over a thousand dollars worth of “research” in input devices over the years. I’ve tried just about everything. I actually skipped the aluminum keyboards for a long time because I was pretty sure that anything under $80 was going to be junk, and I skipped the Bluetooth keyboards because I swore I couldn’t live without a numpad. Wrong on both counts.

I went through a few dozen mice and trackballs, too. I settled on the MX Revolution for quite a while, but I started getting RSI and switched to a Kensington Expert trackball. I jumped on the Magic Mouse when it came out, and loved the idea but didn’t get into the ergonomics. The Magic Trackpad took the parts of the Magic Mouse that I liked, made it bigger, better and friendlier on my wrists. In fact, since I started using it I haven’t had any wrist pain at all.

I had used 17″ MacBook Pros for years when the Air came out. It was sexy, but I thought there was no way I could get along without my 17″ screen and extra processor power. Then the time came for a new computer purchase, and something possessed me to take a chance on one. It’s probably the best purchase I’ve made in years. The only other purchase that’s brought me as much happiness is my AeroPress. I’ll probably get another of each as their respective times come.

4. What software do you use and for what do you use it?

So much software. I’m an app junky, and I try everything that I’m remotely interested in. Even some things I’m not. I can actually help you find a good cross-stitch pattern app because my mother-in-law asked me about it and I spent an evening trying a few out. However, what I use every day:

  • Coding: I use four different text editors for various purposes (TextMate, Sublime Text 2, Espresso and MacVim). I’m currently working on consolidating most of my favorite functions from each into Sublime Text 2, but for now I use whatever is most appropriate for the job.

    I use Xcode a lot. I also spend about half my computing time on the command line, and iTerm 2 is the greatest terminal app ever. CodeRunner and Patterns get plenty of exercise, and nvALT stores most of my reusable code snippets and notes. Those snippets and notes are all stored as text files, so I can grep and Spotlight them from anywhere and sync them across machines using Dropbox.

  • Writing: again, multiple answer. I use Byword for shorter pieces, MultiMarkdown Composer for longer pieces with lots of linking and formatting, and Scrivener for projects requiring a lot of organization and shuffling. I’ve been working on adding better Markdown editing to Sublime Text as well, and it’s my default editor for README files and quick Markdown edits.

    I often drop finished blog posts back to TextMate because I have an extensive collection of tools built there for auto-tagging, linking and publishing to my blog. Marked is almost always open because I write everything in MultiMarkdown, and it provides a preview tailored to each document’s destination regardless of what app I choose to work in. My app polygamy is essentially the reason I wrote it.

    I brainstorm in nvALT and use mind maps to organize. I rarely outline outside of mind mapping, but I’m really liking Tree for stuff like that. I use Day One for logging/journaling.

  • Music: For listening, I love Spotify, especially with the new(ish) apps that it has available internally. I use Simplify to control it, which works with iTunes as well to cover my music bases.

    I use Logic Pro for composition, and a few iOS apps for extra keyboards and guitar effects. The current version of GarageBand is not only a great musical scratchpad, it excels at producing finished recordings to an extent that I sometimes never make it to Logic with my home recordings.

  • Task management: I use a combination of TaskPaper and OmniFocus for task management. TaskPaper is for individual coding projects; each gets a TaskPaper file (which I can update and modify from the command line, use with my na script and sync easily with git). Day job tasks and all of my errands go into OmniFocus and sync with my iPad/iPhone.

  • Communications/Other: Adium and Skype are always running, and I find I do a lot of communication over Twitter, so the “official” Twitter app is usually open as well. I’ve tried just about every Twitter app, but that one seems to fill my relatively limited needs the best.

    Twitter has also become a primary source of news and current events for me, and I follow a number of (too many) feeds through Reeder.

    I have a few (ok, too many) extra gestures configured with BetterTouchTool to make the most of all that Magic trackpad surface space. I run a hacked-up version of Proximity to turn my office lights on and off. At any given time I’m running three or four new apps just to test them out.

My software philosophy is “the right tool for the job.” Some of my app choices seem (are) redundant, but often one app feels right for one task while another fits in better elsewhere. My system is held together with portable plain text and Spotlight searches, amongst other tools that make it fluid to switch apps the way I do.

Dropbox, git and OpenMeta tie my multiple machines together. I’m not the person to ask about minimalism, that’s for sure.

5. How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

Maintaining a desktop workstation with a broad range of functionality and a portable setup with a synchronized subset of those apps and scripts lets me work when and where I can be most productive. My creativity tends to wane the longer I sit at the desk, so being able to pick up and go somewhere (anywhere) else is often useful in finding my muse.

Part of the reason I love the Apple Bluetooth keyboards and Magic Trackpad is consistency between those work environments. My keys are always in the same place, my gestures match between machines and the overall feel is very similar between my desktop keyboards and the Air. That removes a lot of friction when switching modes and lets me concentrate on just producing.

6. How would your ideal setup look and function?

Equipment-wise I’m generally always happy with whatever I have, and don’t spend a lot of time wishing things were different. I could probably always be happy with just a terminal, a keyboard and a big screen, as long as I’m able to create the things I want to. I do wish I could keep my workspace cleaner…

As far as “ideal” goes, though, I would love to have a Minority Report/Tony Stark setup. Three-dimensional gesture-based computing is mostly the realm of Sci-Fi at this point, but the technology is rapidly becoming reality. I’m looking forward to the holograph-based iPad being available in time for me to design my Iron Man suit.

More Sweet Setups

Brett’s setup is one from an ongoing series of sweet Mac setups.

Dan Frommer’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Dan Frommer, based in Brooklyn NY, but always a Chicagoan at heart.

My main gig since 2005 has been writing about technology news, particularly from a business angle. My most recent project is SplatF.com, a site I started by myself in July, 2011, and hope to be working on forever. Right now it’s a mix of news analysis, reporting, data mining, chart porn, and link aggregation. In the future, who knows what it’s going to turn into. (I’m also, more recently, Editor at Large for a larger tech site called ReadWriteWeb.)

Before that, I helped start a site called Silicon Alley Insider in 2007: A New York-centric tech site that kept growing and morphed into Business Insider, which is now a huge and popular general-purpose news site. I started writing professionally at Forbes, writing about Internet infrastructure and telecom. I’ve also been a part- to full-time web designer since 1995, and I helped work on a few now-defunct Mac sites in the mid-to-late 90s.

What is your current setup?

Dan Frommer's Sweet Mac Setup

I work mostly from a home office in Brooklyn, but I do a fair (and increasing) amount of travel. My main rig is a 2009 quad-core iMac, 27 inches, with an old 24-inch secondary Dell screen (not pictured) that we use to watch videos on from a different angle. I prefer a wired keyboard to wireless (same for mice when I used them) but I’ve gotten used to the Magic Trackpad. My desktop image is an aerial photo of lower Manhattan that I shot out of the window of a plane a few years ago.

I also have a 13-inch MacBook Air for cafes and travel and an old Mac mini hooked up to my TV in the living room. Around the house, I also have a bunch of old Macs collecting dust, including my “Windtunnel” G4 tower (dual-DVD drives!) from 2003 and some old PowerBooks. And an Apple II floppy drive that Steve Wozniak autographed for me.

As far as post-PC living… I have an old iPad 3G, which I’ll be replacing with the new iPad whenever it comes out. And my current smartphone is a factory-unlocked iPhone 4S, which I bought to experiment with overseas SIM cards during my travels this year.

Oh, I also have one of those fake-plastic-grass charging stations, which I mostly use to add some color and life to my desk. Love it.

Why this rig?

I bought the 27-inch iMac soon after they first came out because the screen was just amazing. (It still is.) On most days, it’s still fast enough that I haven’t felt the urge to replace it. Though having the SSD boot drive on my Air has really changed my perception of how quick a Mac should be, so maybe this year I’ll pick up a new iMac with an SSD boot drive, depending on how things go. (I’m in no hurry.)

I started with the 11-inch Air but gave it to my wife after I spent a little time with the 13-inch model. The extra screen size and battery life on the 13-inch is well worth the extra bulk to me, especially considering how light it is relative to my old 13-inch plastic MacBook. The MacBook Air is really the laptop I’ve always wanted but never had: Light enough to take everywhere and not secretly hate it for making my bag heavy. I was so excited about the 12-inch PowerBook G4 when I got it in 2005 but it was always so heavy that I never really took it anywhere. The Air is really magical.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I was really into little hacks and automation and shortcut-type stuff in MacOS 8 and 9, but after switching to OS X in 2001, I’ve tried to use as much of a stock install as I can. It’s nice to keep things simple, I think.

Most of my work is in Chrome, using WordPress for SplatF and Movable Type for ReadWriteWeb. I also use TweetDeck almost all day (the old, Adobe AIR version; like it more than the new one so far). I have Photoshop Elements, Fireworks, and Acorn for graphics stuff, but I don’t do much that’s more elaborate than cropping and resizing images, and maybe adding a little text to them. For photos, I mostly use Image Capture and the Finder to organize them. I do a lot of charts for SplatF, and almost all of that is done in Numbers from the Mac App Store. Other than that, I use Adium for IM and Mail for email.

I’m still running Snow Leopard on my main iMac — haven’t felt the need to upgrade — but have Lion on my Air. It’s… okay.

The old Mac software I miss the most was an app called Hotline, which was most popular around 1998-1999. It was a cool mashup of FTP, IRC, and newsgroups, and there was a great community. I spent hundreds of hours on Hotline in high school, and then a lot of time on Carracho, a Hotline successor. But I don’t think any of that stuff still exists.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

My main job is to find and sift through endless streams and piles of information, so being able to have 2 or 3 windows open at the same time, large enough to see a bunch of data, is why I love the big iMac so much. At Business Insider, I had a second 24-inch screen open to TweetDeck all day, but I don’t really like multi-screen setups. I’m really big on symmetry. During baseball season, sometimes I’ll prop up my iPad next to me to keep the Cubs game on, because the iOS version of MLB’s stream is better than the Flash-based web version.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

My desk is pretty big, but once I move in a few months I might investigate some sort of hybrid sit-stand system. I really like standing, and feel like a jerk sitting around all day. Other than that, I’d just like to always have the biggest screen that makes sense to have. If Apple made a 42-inch iMac, I’d probably buy one.

I like having separate desktop and laptop computers so that I can leave my desktop on all the time (acting as a home server of sorts) and keep a subset of my data on my laptop. Most of my work is on the web so I don’t really care about syncing.

I’m blown away by how efficient, quick, and quiet Macs are these days. When I was home over the holidays, I booted up my old IIci and my old Performa, and the CPUs were both so big, so heavy, and so loud for the little processing power they provided.

More Sweet Setups

Dan’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Brian Stucki and Macminicolo’s Sweet Mac Setups

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I am Brian Stucki. I live in Las Vegas with my wife and 2.6 kids. (We’re due in April with our first girl.) I’m a fan of history, travel and golf. Though, I’m so bad that my golf game probably deserves to be history. Most of my stuff is located at BrianStucki.com and I’m @BrianStucki.

I enjoy starting new projects, building them out, and then selling them for funds to invest in something else. My first time was my golf club cleaning business when I was 11. I had 6 customers that would golf then leave their clubs with me to clean up and have ready for them. More recently it’s been blogs about software, TV show fansites, and even a successful iPad app. The projects have all been great reasons to learn new technology and improve business acumen.

I own Macminicolo, which is my main work focus. We’re turning 7 years old soon. When we first introduced the company, there was quite a bit of doubt (Hi, slashdot friends) but now thousands of minis later, the little machines roll on more powerful than ever.

What is your current setup?

Mac mini Colocation Center

Mac mini Colocation Center

Mac mini Colocation Center

Mac mini Colocation Center

I work from my home office nearly all of the time. I have other locations to be “more business official” but the truth is that seeing my wife and kids often is really important to me. In my home, my office is at the end of a long hall where I can close the door and have quiet. (There is usually James Taylor playing to keep me focused.) However, I’ll regularly step away from the desk to play some catch or color the super-hero of the day. I think this balance is critical.

When I’m in my office, I’m working on a black-brown Galant Desk from Ikea. By design, there is a lot of desk space, and it’s nearly always clean. I really, really struggle to think when surrounded by clutter.

For office hardware, I use a Mid-2011 27″ iMac with 16GB of RAM and a 2TB SATA Drive+256GB SSD combo. Sitting beside the iMac is a 27″ Cinema Display, an iPad 2 16GB+3G, (AT&T because coverage is quite good in Las Vegas). I use an iPhone 4S (AT&T). I use an Apple Wireless Keyboard, An Apple Magic Mouse, and have a Magic Trackpad stuffed in my drawer that I used for twenty minutes and haven’t touched since. I use an Airport Extreme to spray wireless throughout the house. I back up to a media Mac mini that’s hard wired to the router, making up one-third of my tri-approach to backups.

For the Macminicolo data center, it’s minis, minis and more minis. Within the next month, there will be one thousand operating Mac minis in the data center. We have some minis that have been here since day one serving for seven continuous years. (1.25 G4 with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive). And of course, the new i5/i7 machines have been very popular. (1.5TB disk space, 16GB of RAM.)

While in the data center, I use a Mid-2011 MacBook Air. It’s the base version with 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 2GB of RAM.

Two non-Apple hardware items that I use all the time for work and couldn’t function without are a ScanSnap S1500M and a base Kindle. I document all of my travel in the Field Notes County Fair Box Set of all 50 States and keep a good supply of my favorite pen.

Why this rig?


I love the HDD/SSD combo. Nearly all of my everyday stuff is on the SSD (Mail, Apps, iPhoto, etc.) and then I symlink to the HDD for the large data items (iTunes music, iMovie footage, software disk images.) But the best use of the HDD is a nightly place to clone the SSD boot drive without having to have a hard drive plugged into the back of the iMac. It keeps things clean, and keeps me with a bootable backup.

I purchased the 27″ iMac and 27″ Cinema Display because I think any cost in desktop space is proportional to increase in productivity. The iMac screen is showing whatever I’m working on right now. On the Cinema Display, I keep my staple apps open and viewable (i.e. Mail, Twitter for Mac, iChat Buddy list, etc.). Easy to view, quick to reply with customers, etc.

iPad 2

If I am sitting at my desk, the iPad is usually streaming that day’s Red Sox game. When I have a full desktop at my fingertips, I prefer to use it. But if I’m in a meeting the iPad is my main tool. It lets me control Mac minis in the data center, and keep up with all news and messages. I intended to tether my iPad to my iPhone when on the road but that hasn’t happened. It turns out that I still have not disabled the 3G on the iPad itself. It is too convenient to have it always on.

iPhone 4S

If I am on the move or traveling, my iPhone is nearly always the only technology I have on me. I use to bring around a laptop, and then the iPad, but I later realized that the iPhone can hold me over for an extended period of time. I had an iPhone moment the other day. As I pulled into a parking spot at the store, I was: (1) streaming music to my car via bluetooth; (2) controlling a Mac mini in the data center with Screen Sharing; (3) seeing Twitter notifications drop down; and, (4) beaming my location to my wife (via find my friends) as we were meeting at the nearby restaurant. From a phone. Seriously.

MacBook Air

I purchased this laptop for use in the data center. I wondered if the 11-inch screen might be too small but that has proven inaccurate. With Mission Control, full-screen apps, screen sharing, and an incredible battery life, it has been a perfect tool.

Mac mini

I do not think it is possible to list all the activities that the Mac minis are being used for in the data center. We have popular iOS developers hosting here (Bjango.com), numerous Apple employees (who shall remain without name unless they so choose), quite a few Filemaker resellers and small businesses/tinkerers in 47 different countries around the world.

When I say the Mac mini is a great server, I practice what I preach. Our main site, our support site, and our stats/monitoring all run on Mac minis here. I also have some other services running on minis that you may have used in the past Fireballed.org (a mirror for DaringFireball.net), DayliteHosting.com, and our lesser known iPadcolo.net.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I suppose it’s easiest to break this up by product line.

Personal Mac

  • Lion: All my machines are using the latest Lion operating system. I still hear of hesitation to upgrade, but I think it’s been quite stable.

  • Day One: I have kept a journal for 12 years. I am nearing 5000 personal entries spread across paper, books, and applications. It is an absolute treasure to look back on so many important moments of my life. Recently I have moved to Day One and I have found it incredibly well done. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to start a journal.

  • Money: Of all the money apps on Mac and iOS I think this one is best designed across the board. It is clean, and works well. It falls short when it comes to syncing a high number of entries, but they are introducing iCloud for Mac/iOS soon and that will be great.

  • 1Password: Such a time saver when one tries every new online service and network and has to keep the credentials straight. A little part of me cringes every time a Mac user hand types a password into a site. I also love that it will auto-populate as you log into sites for the first time.

  • Twitter for Mac: I think Twitter does well with their official Mac client. My only wish is that you could have a separate window for each Twitter account.

  • Smultron: My favorite text editor. It was free for a long time, but even at its new price , I think it is worth it.

  • SuperDuper!: I mentioned earlier that I backup my SSD to my internal HDD. Once a week, I clone the 2TB hard drive to an external drive with this app, then take that down to the data center for safe storage. All these years and SuperDuper has never failed me on a bootable backup.

  • Caffeine for Mac I’m not a coffee drinker (surprisingly Shawn still calls me a friend) so this app is nearly all of the caffeine in my life. It’s a Menu bar item that prevents your Mac from going to sleep or screen saver. If I’m doing other work at my desk and just keeping an eye on the Mac, this prevents the constant mouse jiggle.

iOS Devices

  • Reeder: Sometimes RSS feeds can be a time drain, but I get a lot of new ideas from reading the intelligent posts of others. Reeder makes it easy. The ability to send to Instapaper and other services is second to none.

  • Tweetbot: The great thing about this app is the design of every little detail. Swipe left to see replies. Tap and hold the icon for options. So intelligent.

  • Capture: I believe it was Shawn that pointed me to Capture. Start the app and you are recording video right away. Great for dads.

  • Golfshot: Do not waste your time buying and testing other golf apps. Even at the higher price, this one is the best. GPS is accurate. Scoring is thorough. I consider this an essential work app. Everyone needs a place they can clear their mind to think, and the golf course is my place. (I had a roommate in college who thought best in the shower. iPhones are not much use in there.) If I’m struggling with an issue or brainstorming a new business idea,I am usually hitting golf balls somewhere.

  • Find my Friends: So often, people assume the worst when you and your spouse use this app to keep track of each other. That is too bad. I have complete trust in my wife, and she in me. Whether she is driving home from vacation, or I am waiting for them to meet me at Grandma’s, this app helps us “communicate” without having to distract while driving.

    I do wish that you could set a recurring “friend” in the app. In other words, all the MMC staff would share location during business hours on weekdays, but not other times. That’d be very convenient.


  • Trackthepack: There are a lot of Mac minis flowing in and out of Las Vegas. This iOS and web app has proven perfect to watch them. I like that you can forward shipment emails to the site and it will automatically add it to your account. (And people wonder how we receive a Mac mini and then have it installed within an hour or two. This app is our secret.)

  • iTeleport: I try all the VNC/Screen Sharing apps in the app store. There are many good ones, and some are better designed, but this one has proven most reliable for me.

  • Lithium: We use lithium to monitor all bandwidth and traffic on the Macminicolo network. The Lithium Core runs on a Mac mini in the data center and there are Mac/iOS apps to keep an eye on things from afar.

  • Boxcar: If there is an issue in the data center, we know about it right away thanks to this app. Sends all sorts of notifications. In a more common (and more fun) occurrence, each time a new customer signs up we get a “Cha-ching” notification. It is like my personal Pavlov experiment.

  • Backpack: We coordinate all Macminicolo happenings with Backpack. I will try every new todo application to run the company, but always seem to come back to this great product. It is a shame that no great iOS clients are available for it.

  • GoSquared: They have a great dashboard (and a nice free plan) to keep an eye on where your traffic is coming from and going.

  • Pastebot: Even after all these years, I still prefer the sales emails to come straight to me. I enjoy that interaction. I like to be there when they start getting ideas for their new mini servers. However, there are definitely some questions that I have received over and over. Pastebot is invaluable to give good thorough answers quickly.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

There is no doubt some overlap in my Apple products. I have reasons for picking each (which I’ve tried to list) but it’s clear I could do without one or two of them. The truth is, I don’t want to. I’m not wealthy, but technology is the one place I’m comfortable to splurge a little with money. My shoes are usually a couple years old, I’ve worn the same brand/style of clothes for 20 years, I’m fine with grilled cheese and a pickle for dinner. Like a lot of you, it doesn’t take many possessions to keep me going. But, I do like cutting edge technology, and I like learning what it can do.

So ideal? I suppose it’s whatever is coming next. And I’ll use it while wearing my old clothes and eating my sandwich dinner.

More Sweet Setups

Brian’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Macminicolo has previously been a sponsor of the RSS Feed here, but this Sweet Mac Setup post is in no way related to that sponsorship.

Andrew Pepperrell’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Andrew Pepperrell, and I created Alfred, a productivity and launcher app for OS X. I live and work near Cambridge in the UK.

Previously, I was a Enterprise Java software engineer and believe it or not, Alfred was the first Objective C / Cocoa project I worked on — primarily to learn something new. Luckily, my foundation in enterprise development helped me nail the architecture and performance of Alfred from the word go. Developing for Mac very quickly became a passion of mine and I have been lucky enough to jump to full-time Mac development around 6 months ago.

In my spare time I love models and radio-controlled stuff, spending time fiddling with a few Tamiya cars which are either working really really well or in complete pieces being rebuilt. I also have a radio-controlled helicopter and plane but generally prefer cars as they crash much less catastrophically.

I am on Twitter as @preppeller and look after the Alfred users at @alfredapp.

What is your current setup?

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

Andrew Pepperrell's Sweet Mac Setup

I currently run a 24″ iMac 2.93 Ghz Core 2 Duo running Snow Leopard as my main development machine with 8GB RAM, which seems essential since Xcode 4 and Safari 5 seem to consume most of this during the course of the day. I have a 20″ Apple Cinema Display attached to the iMac, a wireless Mac keyboard and Magic Mouse plus some Creative GigaWorks T3 speakers which sound much larger than they look! I find the stock iMac too tall for comfort, so have it on an Ergotron MX arm which allows me to lower the iMac screen to a very comfortable height.

I also have a MacBook Air 2.13 Ghz Core 2 Duo 256GB SSD with 4GB RAM running Lion. I should have really waited for the i5 but I am still surprised how incredibly snappy the Air is. Battery life and portability are pretty incredible too.

For Alfred’s build server, I have a Mac Mini (Server) with 2 internal 500GB drives in mirrored RAID running Lion. This is protected by some Mr. Potato Heads which I have found significantly more effective than a firewall.

It goes without saying that I also have an iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

Why this rig?

For a while, I developed primarily on a Black MacBook and while I loved it, the difference when moving to a proper desktop machine with a 24″ screen was amazing. Xcode 4 uses a huge amount of screen real estate, especially with the built-in Interface Builder. I use the external 20″ Cinema Display for everything other than Xcode. I am also really used to the Cinema Display’s colour balance so it helps me know what to expect when deploying anything which isn’t black or white.

The MacBook Air allows me to work on the go and, as everything I do is version controlled, my development environment is comfortably mirrored between the two machines. I have found it to be so light that on one occasion, I left the house thinking that I had it in my bag but realized later I had left it at home — d’oh!

The build server could be seen as unnecessary as I could deploy from my iMac, however I feel I have a responsibility to Alfred’s users to build and deploy something that I can happily know is free from any potential nasties. As such, the Mac Mini server has absolutely nothing installed on it other than what is necessary to build and deploy Alfred, and is only used for this purpose.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

On Mac:

  • Xcode is the main piece of software I use, and use it every single day… Naturally I use this to develop Alfred and a few other secret projects I am currently working on.

  • Fireworks CS5 for screen mockups and general design work. I love the vector as bitmap non-destructive workflow which feels very natural to me. I don’t like how sluggish it feels compared to more native Mac apps.

  • Pixelmator for photo editing, however I am really looking forward to the vector tools in Pixelmator 2 and part of me hopes this will allow it to replace Fireworks CS5.

  • ColorSnapper for quick and easy colour capture and copy colours with a hotkey – perfect for my workflow.

  • Coda for web development. Oddly, before I downloaded ColorSnapper I would open Coda just to access the OS X colour picker panel — weird workflow.

  • TextMate for quick and dirty text and code editing… sometimes vi too depending on where my fingers lead me.

  • Twitter for Mac… no need to explain this one, I spend way too much time watching the Alfred stream.

  • Safari for the majority of my surfing. However, I am trying to go “Flash free” so sometimes I have to revert to Chrome if I am watching YouTube.

  • Evernote because it’s like my secondary brain.

On iOS:

  • Reeder as it’s the nicest way I have found to read my RSS feeds.

  • Calcbot for a calculator as the iPad doesn’t have one. Also use this on my iPhone for consistency.

  • Evernote because I generally need to carry my secondary brain around with me.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

For starters, using a Mac gives me the reliability I couldn’t dream of during my past of using Windows machines… Being a Mac developer means I naturally have to use Mac, so this is definitely a good thing. Having my main iMac display dedicated to Xcode alone allows me focus much more easily.

Having a tidy desk and a distant view outside my window along with BassDrive internet radio playing really helps me remain creative during the day.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I would quite like a bit more space in my office… I work from home and therefore am confined to the smallest back bedroom for my permanent office. A larger room for my office would allow me to have all of my radio controlled hobby stuff permanently set up for working on. I could also fit my Yamaha CP300 stage piano in too, which would remind me to practice more.

From a technical point of view, I would love a faster main machine, however, I am reluctant to upgrade at the moment as the current iMacs and Mac Pros all feel a bit mid-to-end cycle… Ideally I would love a 27″ iMac 8 core without a chin (looking more like the current Cinema Displays) and a 15″ MacBook Air… Did you hear me Apple?? I would like those… asap! chop chop.

More Sweet Setups

Andrew’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Duncan Davidson’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Duncan Davidson and I am a photographer, writer, and recovering software developer. Possibly my most recognizable affiliation is as the main stage photographer for TED. I’ve been exploring video and learning all I can, including bridging between stills and motion with a lot of time-lapse work, such as my recent Tribute in Light project. Finally, I’m a partner in Luma Labs which makes some awesome camera slings.

What is your current setup?

Duncan Davidson's Sweet Mac Setup

Duncan Davidson's Sweet Mac Setup

My desktop is an eight-core, early-2008 Mac Pro with 14GB of RAM, an upgraded ATI 4870 video card, an SSD boot drive in the bottom DVD drive bay, and 24TB of online storage across several arrays, both internal and external.

My primary display is a late-2008 24″ LED Cinema display. Tunes are pumped out through a set of old school USB Harman Kardon SoundSticks. Input is handed using an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard and Magic Trackpad and a Wacom Intous 4 tablet. For voice input, I use an Audio Technica AT2050 microphone hooked up to an Apogee One, and I monitor on a pair of Audio Technica ATH-M40fs headphones.

Document scanning is handed with a Fujitsu SnapScan. Photographs are scanned with an Epson v500 flatbed scanner. Most of my print needs are handled by an Epson 3880 printer, but for bigger jobs I also have a 24″ HP Z3200.

My primary laptop unless I’m in the throes of heavy photo or video work is a mid-2011, 13″ MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. I went with the i5 instead of the i7 in the hope of getting the maximum battery life possible.

My secondary laptop which I pull out when I need to use FireWire drives on the road or when I know that the GPU will come in handy is a late-2008, 15″ MacBook Pro that I’ve upgraded to 4GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. This laptop is almost effectively retired, but not quite.

An iPhone 4 keeps me connected most of the time. A first generation iPad is what you’ll find me using on the couch or in seat 6A when I’m traveling.

Why this rig?

A desktop-plus-portable strategy is the only one that can satisfy my need for power, speed, and storage at home while also keeping things as light as possible for when I’m traveling fast. If I could go with a simpler setup, I would in a heartbeat. So far, however, the trend has been that my storage needs are ramping up quickly over time and dealing with over a TB a year of new data is the big challenge.

On the other hand, nothing beats being able to throw my MacBook Air and a Fuji X100 into a small bag and head out the door for a day or a weekend.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I manage my photographs using a combination of Aperture, Lightroom and Bridge. Aperture is taking over my primary catalog needs from Lightroom. I use Bridge when I need to scour through the archives of photographs that aren’t in my active catalog.

When I need more in the way of photo editing tools than I get from Aperture, I use Photoshop. When I need less, I use Acorn and sometimes even Preview.

For video, I use Final Cut Pro X and love it. I also use Compressor and After Effects for various tasks, including stitching together still frames into video clips.

When I’m in code mode, I use BBEdit or Xcode depending on the task at hand. For straight ahead writing—including all of my blog entries as well as the writing that currently isn’t seeing the light of day—I’ve become a huge fan of iA Writer.

To get things done, I use OmniFocus. At least I try. Sometimes I do better than others. Keeping all of my non-media data in sync between machines in handled by Dropbox. 1Password is essential for passwords. Mail, iCal, Safari, Numbers, and Pages are all open on my computer right now.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

For the most part, it lets me do what I need to do in the kinds of environments I like to be in.

At home, I’ve arranged my desk so that when I’m working on my desktop, I can look up across my living room and out my huge living room windows across downtown Portland. Watching the weather go by is therapeutic to me. The MacBook Air lets me work in cafés near home and as well as anywhere in the world. It’s even useful for the kinds of light photo editing I do on the road.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m pretty close to my ideal right now. If I could change anything, I’d have a view of midtown Manhattan out my window from 25 floors up and I’d have a 15″ MacBook Pro that wasn’t much heavier than my current Air but which did have a GPU. The former is a pipe dream right now. The latter might happen any month now. Hopefully.

I used to use two screens on my desktop, and I might consider do so again. However, I’ve found that using one screen increases my ability to glance up and look outside my window. A second screen cuts that down quite a bit. As well, I’ve discovered that parking my laptop on one side lets me keep various websites or other reference material in easy view while I work on the desktop.

Finally, a closer-to-ideal setup would include a data solution for my media files that was a bit less maintenance intensive. I think the best I’ll be able to do in the near future is consolidate my various hard drive arrays into two Promise Thunderbolt R6 arrays when I upgrade my desktop machine. That jump will probably happen sometime in the next six months.

More Sweet Setups

Duncan’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Pat Dryburgh’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I am a freelance designer, hobbyist photographer and musician. I am also the designer behind many ads found on the Fusion Ad Network. Recently I joined the team behind QuickCal as the app’s UI designer.

What is your current setup?

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

Pat Dryburgh's Sweet Mac Setup

I’m using a 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro I bought in 2009, with a 2.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of Ram, and the 500GB 7200RPM HD. At home, the Macbook Pro is hooked up to the 27″ Apple Cinema Display. On your recommendation, I recently purchased the OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 3G 115GB SSD. I’ve set up the SSD as my boot drive and use the HDD as my media/working files drive.

I’m using the short wireless Apple Keyboard for typing and the Magic Trackpad for trackpadding. I’ve tried numerous mice over the years, from the Mighty Mouse to the Magic Mouse and even a Logitech MX Revolution. The Magic Trackpad is the first input device that just feels right. For Wi-Fi and Time Machine I use the Apple Time Capsule.

I listen to music through an old Kenmore receiver I bought from a friend for $50 over 5 years ago. Listening to music through headphones for extended periods of time never felt right to me.

I take pictures with a Nikon D90 with a 50mm prime lens. My lighting setup currently consists of an Opus OPL-H250 strobe with a 48″ reflective umbrella, as well as a newly-purchased Nikon SB-600. I trigger my lights remotely using two PocketWizard Plus II transceivers.

Lastly, I can’t write about what I create without mentioning my music setup. I own two acoustic guitars: an old Cort acoustic I bought nearly 9 years ago and a Takamine Steve Wariner Limited Edition a friend gave me as a gift. For my Boss Rebel gig, I go between my white Fender Stratocaster and a custom Telecaster by “Ed’s Guitars”, both of which were purchased from Jonathan Steingard of Hawk Nelson. The signal is sent through my pedal board, consisting of the following pedals:

  • Ernie Ball Junior Volume Pedal
  • Boss TU-2 Tuner
  • Line 6 DL-4 Delay Modeler
  • Boss OD-3 Overdrive
  • Boss LS-2 Line Selector

The signal goes through the pedals to my Vox AC30CC. I use the LS-2 Line Selector to switch between the clean and dirty channels and the OD-3 Overdrive to add a little compression/crunch for solos.

Pat Dryburgh. Photo credit, Edward Platero

Pat Dryburgh. Photo credit, Edward Platero.

Why are you using this setup?

I purchased my first Mac while working at a church. When I started, I was given an old Toshiba laptop that didn’t have enough power to run PowerPoint (in fact, it had been discarded by the children’s ministry for being so terrible). About 3 months into my time there, I bought the 13″ white MacBook and instantly fell in love with the Mac ecosystem.

When I began working in design the MacBook was adequate, but surely not exceptional. I saved up and bought the 15″ Unibody MacBook Pro which was a huge leap forward.

The main reason I stick with the Mac setup is its ease of use and the quality of the software. Software from large companies like Apple and Adobe perform so well on the Mac, and obviously the Mac community boasts some of the best indie developers in the world.

What software do you use on a daily basis, and for what do you use it?

I absolutely love the Mac developer community and use a ton of different apps to make my work and play better.

Design work happens in Adobe’s Creative Suite. Development happens in Coda, though I have been flirting with both TextMate and BBEdit over the last month. Photo editing happens in Adobe Lightroom, which is the only Adobe product I have ever loved.

I write in nvALT, a fork of the brilliant Notational Velocity. This syncs with Simplenote on my iPad and iPhone. I also keep all of my notes as .txt files in a Dropbox folder. Dropbox is also where all of my work files live.

Tasks and projects are managed with Things. I’m still waiting for over-the-air sync.

I work with a great team of guys to develop an app called QuickCal, which lets you enter events and to-dos into your calendar with plain English, and then it gets out of your way so you can get back to work. The version I am working on will be out soon, but you are more than welcome to buy the current version now and receive the next version as a free upgrade.

I use Quicksilver to launch apps and trigger keyboard shortcuts. TextExpander expands common snippets of text. Droplr lets me share screenshots, images and bits of text with friends easily. Pastebot is an incredibly easy way to share text between my Mac and iPhone. Caffeine keeps my monitor awake when I’m watching video. Seamless helps me keep my musical groove when I leave my desk. Take Five pauses my music for a few minutes if I need to take a quick call. 1Password keeps track of my passwords and credit card info securely. RSS feeds are read in NetNewsWire.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

OS X strikes the perfect balance between giving you what you need to do your work, while also getting out of your way if you want to go a different route. The developer community that has formed around this platform is second to none and I owe much of my gratitude to them.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Other than anticipating what the next 15″ MacBook Pro will look like, I’m pretty happy with my current setup. Oh, maybe a Gibson ES-137.

More Sweet Setups

Pat’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Federico Viticci’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I am Federico Viticci, editor in chief of MacStories. I started MacStories in April 2009, and it’s become a place where I (and my team) can write about all things Apple including news, reviews, and discussion about Apple products. I also tweet as @viticci.

What is your current setup?

Federico Viticci Sweet Mac Setup

Federico Viticci Sweet Mac Setup

I switch back and forth between my office, and my “home office”.

Back home, I have a 21.5-inch mid-2010 iMac with 4 GB of RAM, and 3.06 GHz Core i3 processor. I’m not a fan of glossy screens, but I haven’t found the lack of matte finish on my desktop displays a huge annoyance as many others on the web would tell you. To back up my iMac, I use a combination of Time Machine and SuperDuper through a partitioned 1 TB Western Digital external drive. I have a simple white desk I bought from IKEA years ago (sorry, can’t remember its name), which makes for a good surface to host an additional Just Mobile Xtand and, occasionally, my Jawbone Jambox. My home network is powered by a terrible modem provided by Telecom Italia, which, fortunately, is slightly improved thanks to Apple’s AirPort Express. The AirPort Express used to be connected to some old external speakers to use with AirPlay and Airfoil, but last week I removed the speakers altogether as I’m planning on buying new ones soon.

The real office is where I spend most of time writing for MacStories. I’ve got a mid-2011 13.3-inch MacBook Air in there, connected to an AirPort Extreme which shares a single IP address from (another) terrible modem, this time from Fastweb. The AirPort Extreme (4th generation, not the latest one) allows for external disks, so I’ve taken advantage of such functionality to connect a 750 GB Western Digital drive for wireless Time Machine backups, and media archiving. I keep all my music, movies, TV shows and photos on that drive. Because the MacBook Air is so portable, I often find myself bringing it home for those times I don’t want to use an iMac (usually when I want to focus on writing a long piece — the Air keeps me more focused on the task). The Jambox travels daily from my home office to the “real” office, too.

Last, my iOS setup consists of an iPhone 4, and iPad 2. I like to keep my iPhone 4 “naked” with no case, whilst the iPad is protected (and propped up) by a polyurethane gray Smart Cover. I use my iPhone as, well, a phone and Internet communicator most of the time, whereas my iPad is mainly a writing and reading device. My girlfriend and I still prefer watching movies on my MacBook Air or, if it’s a really good one, on my Apple TV 2nd-gen, which I also own. I couldn’t live without my daily music dose, and for that I rely on AKG’s K390NC in-ear earphones, Black Mamba version. I like AKG’s noise canceling functionality, and the fact that these earbuds come with an iPhone-compatible mic and music controller also helps. To charge my iPhone, I use a first-generation Apple Dock (in which the iPhone 4 fits nicely) or the Powermat, according to my mood.

Why this rig?

Having to travel back and forth between my office and home, I needed two different setups. For as much as it’s lightweight and extremely portable, I don’t want to carry the MacBook Air with me all the time, nor do I want to see it on the driver’s seat every day. And because my workflow is heavily cloud-based, I can effortlessly switch between my two machines without losing the documents and data I work with. As iCloud approaches, keeping multiple devices in sync all the time is making more sense than ever.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

With my job, I test and fiddle with too many apps, so I’ll mention the ones that I really couldn’t work without.

  • Dropbox keeps my files, work documents, app libraries and preferences in sync everywhere.
  • Clipmenu is a superb addition to the Mac’s system clipboard that I’ve been using since 2008 on a daily basis.
  • Evernote: is my digital drawer. I store notes, thoughts, links, images, PDF…everything inside the app, and its recent updates both on iOS and OS X made note-taking incredibly better.
  • OmniFocus for task management. I’ve tried almost every “serious” (or you could say, “popular”) GTD-oriented application out there, but I keep coming back to the Omni Group. You just can’t beat it.
  • OmniOutliner for jotting down ideas, structure my thoughts, and track expenses. Combined with DropDAV and Captio (which I use to quickly email expenses to myself on the go), it’s become a must have in my dock.
  • Text Edit and Byword: I write in plain text using Apple’s default app, and proofread / check Markdown in Byword. Plain text files are stored in Dropbox, and accessed from my iPad and iPhone using Notely — again, I’ve tried many “writing apps”, but Notely impressed me for its reliability and customizable keyboard. This combination of tools is used for MacStories articles, not the stuff I keep in Evernote.
  • Spotify lets me listen to music on my Mac and iPhone. I’m trying Rdio this week, but I don’t think I’ll switch.
  • Google Chrome Canary is my default browser. I like Chrome better than Safari as it uses less memory, it’s got terrific support for extensions, pinned tabs, and free Google sync. The Canary build gives me early access to features I’d otherwise have to wait months for.
  • Day One is a new entry, but I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve never kept a daily journal, and Day One changed that.
  • CloudApp to share images, links and files with my Twitter followers or co-workers.
  • 1Password to securely store logins, credit card information and other private notes. I use AgileBits’ app on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
  • TextExpander for text snippets and automatic expansion because, really, you’d be a fool not to use it if you type a lot every day.
  • Reeder and Mr. Reader to catch up on RSS feeds on my Mac/iPhone and iPad, respectively. I like Mr. Reader because it’s fast and integrated with a lot of services, such as Evernote and Send2Mac.
  • Instapaper is where I keep articles I want to read later. I’ve been using it every day for the past two years, and I can’t wait for version 4.0 to be released.

These are the apps I use more frequently than others. It’s the software I immediately re-install when I set up a new Mac, or iOS device.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I write for a living, and Apple devices combined with the apps I use help me stay focused, connected and secure with a reliable environment I know I can trust. It’s not only about the “it just works” philosophy, it’s “it just works and lasts” for me. I haven’t looked back to Windows PCs since 2008, as switching to a Mac setup has been the best decision I’ve ever made — it got me where I am today.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

It wouldn’t be really different from today’s rig, except for a couple of additions. First, I really want new headphones. I’m torn between Sony’s MDR7506 and Sennheiser’s PX 360 at the moment, but I guess I’ll go with Sennheiser as the brand has served me well over the years. As I said above I also need new external speakers, and the M-Audio Studiophile AV40 look like a good solution. Thunderbolt was a big factor in choosing this year’s MacBook Air model, and I look forward to having a high-speed, relatively affordable external Thunderbolt drive soon (the current offerings are just too expensive and “pro” for me). My last summer vacation taught me that when you work with iOS devices 24/7 battery is never enough, so I’ll buy a JustMobile Gum Plus backup battery soon.

Other than these “accessories”, I’m very happy with my Mac setup.

More Sweet Setups

Federico’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Garrett Murray’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Garrett Murray. I’m the Founder and Creative Director of Karbon, where we design & build awesome, award-winning iOS applications. We’ve worked with Google, Yelp, Condé Nast and ING Direct, among others.

I’m also an actor and an award-winning filmmaker. You may remember me from Forever’s Not So Long or Maniacal Rage TV.

What is your current setup?

Garret Murray's Sweet Mac Setup

Garret Murray's Sweet Mac Setup

My primary machine is a 2011 Thunderbolt 27-inch iMac with 16GB of RAM and the SSD+HDD option (250GB/1TB respectively). It’s the best computer I’ve ever owned — it has only one cable, it’s beautiful, and most importantly, it’s amazingly, mind-blowingly fast. I use the standard peripheral fare (Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, Wireless Keyboard), and I play music at my desk through Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers. Everything rests on a Herman Miller Airia desk and I sit in a Herman Miller Mirra chair. When not at my desk, I use a 13-inch MacBook Air.

In the office I’ve got a nice comfortable couch (that folds down to double as sleeping room for guests), dimmable lighting via a floor lamp and a cube lamp (that also doubles as a table for the couch), as well as a book shelf with all my various testing iOS/other devices, a wireless printer, and my FW800 Drobo. My wife and I share this office space so we’ve also got her desk and Cinema Display, as well as a media center that holds a TV, video games, and a Mac Mini for TV and video streaming.

Why this rig?

I’ve struggled for years to decide whether I want a laptop or a desktop, and this year I finally came to the conclusion I need both. When I’m sitting at my desk, I want a fast, large-screened computer. The iMac is that and then some. But when I’m away from the office I want a light, capable machine. Thankfully, the MacBook Air suits those needs very well. These days I basically live off Dropbox, so sharing data between the two computers is trivial.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

  • I design and build iOS applications using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Xcode, Unretiner and Hues
  • I edit photos and video using Adobe Lightroom 3 and Final Cut Pro X
  • I develop web stuff using TextMate, CSSEdit and Transmit
  • I manage Karbon with GitHub, Basecamp, Campfire, Billings, TestFlight, Fantastical and Dropbox
  • I do everything else with Safari, Sparrow, Reeder, iA Writer, Alfred, Skype, CloudApp and Twitter for Mac

I recently reinstalled OS X from scratch and it presented a great opportunity to re-think what I installed. I kept the number of applications far lower than in the past and now my computer is less cluttered and faster.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I spend most of my time these days designing interfaces, so it’s very important that my work space be clean, well-organized and functional. There’s nothing worse for me than trying to make a pixel-perfect UI with a mess in my peripheral vision. I’m a bit obsessive, so order helps me focus. Of course, comfort is also very important. I like to play music while I work, so good speakers are a must. And I tend to spend the last few hours of the day listening to NPR while catching up on email and project management. It’s nice to be able to dim the lights in the evening and relax while closing out the day or working late.

When we moved to LA, we decided to make the larger bedroom a shared office, so now my wife and I can work in the same space and interact more during the day. That in addition to Campfire chat with the Karbon guys makes working from home feel surprisingly social.

Being surrounded by vibrant colors, art and prints, comfortable furniture — it all helps fuel my creativity. Whenever I’m stuck, I can usually look around the office and find some color or design element that will inspire an idea.

And it doesn’t hurt that the iMac is a fantastic beast.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Honestly, this is very close to my ideal setup and to how I imagine working for several years to come.

My pipe dream is an iMac with an external slot for an SSD drive and a MacBook Air with the same feature, so I could simply move one single drive between them easily. That would cut down on data duplication and make it effortless to work with either machine at any time. Thankfully, until that exists, there’s Dropbox and iCloud.

A 35-inch display might be nice, too. My eyes aren’t what they used to be.

More Sweet Setups

Garrett’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Daniel Bogan’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m a web dork living in San Francisco, avoiding the sunlight and working for Flickr (primarily as the dude who breaks the site most often – sorry about that). As a side project I interview all sorts of people about their hardware and software three times a week.

I live near a park with three dogs, two kittens and one wife. I like coffee. A LOT. And you. But not you.

What is your current setup?

Daniel Bogan Sweet Mac Setup

Daniel Bogan Sweet Mac Setup

Quad-core i7 15 inch Macbook Pro. My last Pro had issues with the NVIDIA card, so this is a very very new beast. It’s pleasantly shiny and speedy and un-kernel-panic-y, which is nice. A Nikon D5000 and an iPhone. ATH-FC700A headphones (I am constantly destroying headphones somehow, but these are both my favourite and also not broken, so). A Time Capsule for backups/wifi, an Apple TV and a Mac Mini for streaming/watching stuff. That’s pretty much it; I like simple and minimal.

At home I sit on the floor with the laptop in my lap. I should probably think about a desk and a chair or whatever it is people use.

Why this rig?

Truth be told, if I wasn’t such a tragic, obsessive video gamer I’d totally gun for an Air, but I need a decent enough graphics card (obviously) so I stick with the Pros. I also hate the idea of having multiple computers and I tend to use this one for both fun and for work (my actual work one is a very very very old Pro with the silver keyboard that lives a quiet life in a drawer in my desk at FlickrHQ), so I stick with laptops.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

Some sort of text editor, mostly. I’m actually having a bit of a crisis of faith over which one to use, which sounds a lot lamer when I type it out. TextMate, usually, though it likes to choke to death on enormous projects (like, say, seven years worth of Flickr code) when regaining focus. I’ve tried neckbearding in vim, but the whole home row key thing really messes with my head (I type like a mutant, I guess). Currently I’m sticking with TextMate because I have a nice custom bundle set up for work, and I’m so used to it.

Chrome for browsing, because I love the omnibar. Adium for annoying people online in real-time, because it’s multi-protocol and works well. The official Twitter client nee Tweetie for annoying people in almost real-time. Colloquy for IRC. Boot Camp and Windows 7 and Steam for gaming. So much gaming. Aperture for storing my photos and punting ’em to Flickr — it’s pretty good, though a little slow at times. I use the new Mail in Lion for work email, and it’s pretty awesome. iTerm 2 for nerding it up (mostly for committing code or publishing interviews).

Google Apps for email and calendar fun times, mostly accessed via the browser. And I use CalendarBar to — in theory — keep track of calendars via the menubar. I’m also using OfflineIMAP to slurp in all my mail locally, just in case. Not that I don’t trust Google, or anything. Yeah.

A tag-team combination of Time Machine and CrashPlan for backing up our laptops at home.

I keep my notes and to-do lists stored in SimpleNote, which is amazing – it’s syncing that actually, like, y’know, works. On the Mac I use Notational Velocity and on the iPhone I’m actually accessing it via Listary, which lets you interpret selected notes as to-do lists. I love it — I use it to keep track of who I’ve interviewed on The Setup and which groceries I’ve forgotten to buy yet again.

Oh, and LaunchBar for launching apps — I am so totally not taking advantage of all the power under that little popup bar, that’s for sure.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

Everything just works!

How would your ideal setup look and function?

This is pretty much it. Faster and faster Interweb pipes would be nice. I basically want less stuff, not more, so give me a laptop with power and Internets and some puppies and kittens and I’m golden.

More Sweet Setups

Daniel’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Thomas Brand’s Sweet Newton Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Thomas Brand, and I am technology enthusiast from Boston, Massachusetts. Before starting a career at Children’s Hospital I spent time behind the Genius Bar as a lead Mac Genius. These days I am known for my website Egg Freckles, which I write using an Apple Newton MessagePad. When I am not working or writing you can find me taking digital photographs, or preparing for the Boston Marathon.

What is your current setup?

Thomas Brand's Sweet Newton Setup

Thomas Brand's Sweet Newton Setup

Thomas Brand's Sweet Newton Setup

I own a handful of Newtons, but the one I like the best is my MessagePad 130. I prefer its streamlined form factor over other MessagePads, and its capabilities fall somewhere in between the mint condition OMP I am scared to touch, and the two 2×00 series MessagePads I leave at home.

My MessagePad 130 has a 20MHz ARM processor, 2.5MBs of RAM, a telescoping stylus, and a 320×240 pressure-sensitive monochrome display with electroluminescence backlight. On its own, my MessagePad 130 weighs one pound, but for most writing assignments it is accompanied by a Newton Keyboard that attaches via the 130’s sole serial port.

I carry my MessagePad and keyboard separated in two large jacket pockets, or sandwiched together in the Newton keyboard case. When I am writing I position my MessagePad in a landscape orientation with the keyboard in front, and my wallet underneath to give my Newton the desired viewing angle. My MessagePad can only display ten lines of text at a time so I tend to write in small paragraphs correcting my prose with the stylus as I go.

When I am finished writing I return home and transfer the notes from my MessagePad 130 to a MessagePad 2100 via infrared. I use a 802.11b wireless card to email what I have written from the 2100 to whatever modern Mac I am using at the time.

Why this rig?

My MessagePad keeps me portable and on target the way no modern computer can. I can’t browse the internet with my MessagePad, I can’t use Twitter, IM, or iTunes. There are no preferences to get in the way of my writing. With my MessagePad I don’t need to be sitting at a desk to be productive. If a thought compels me I can pull out my MessagePad and jot down the idea for later. I have written whole blog posts while standing on the subway with my MessagePad.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

On my Newton I use very little additional software. Most of my articles are written in the included notes application. When I feel I need more structure there is always Newton Works, an extensible word processing application. On my MessagePad 2100 I use SimpleMail to email finished articles, and Screen Shooter to capture screen shots. Just like on my Mac I like to keep the working environment on my Newton as simple as possible. You will not find any any replacement dashboard or backdrop applications on my MessagePad.

Some of the applications I use to publish Egg Freckles on my Mac include:

  • BBEdit for text editing and web page authoring.
  • Transmit for FTP and folder synchronization.
  • Since converting to an Adobe free workflow I do all of my image editing in Pixelmator, and all my image dithering in HyperDither.
  • Twitterrific is the only bird I trust these days for tweeting.
  • TaskPaper generates a nice todo list that is compatible with my Newtons.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

My Newton not only keeps me on task and portable, it also inspires. Using a MessagePad as my primary writing machine more than ten years after its untimely demise keeps my thoughts about technology in perspective. While staring into its monochrome olive colored LCD I can’t help but take a step back from the technology I am reviewing and decide wether or not today’s story is really such a big deal. Technology platforms come and go, but it is how we use them that makes a difference. My Newton has certainly strengthened my belief in open formats like like plaintext and PNG.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

What I wouldn’t give for a modern carbon fiber encased Newton with a capacitive E Ink display, and even longer lasting battery. The iPhone can keep its multimedia capabilities, and all too-colorful app store. What I want is the modern equivalent to the reporter’s notepad. A true getting things done machine built for writers, planners, and creative people that is easy on the eyes and always connected to my greater body of work in the cloud. Then again, who am I kidding. I would settle for any Newton I could comfortably fit into my pants pocket.

More Sweet Setups

Thomas’ setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Rogie King’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m Rogie King, a designer based in Helena, Montana. I’m a self-employed designer working under the company, Komodo Media. I love designing user interfaces, websites filled with character and spirited illustrations. I’m also a front-end developer specializing in JavaScript, CSS3 and HTML5 development.

What is your current setup?

Rogie King's Sweet Mac Setup

I’ve worked on nearly everything from old school pizza box Dells, to home made machines pieced together from Newegg parts; a Quad-Core Mac Pro to my current setup of a 2010 15-inch, Quad Core i7 MacBook Pro/8GB Ram/128GB SSD/Hi-Res Matte screen with an external 24-inch Cinema Display.

For the most part, I’m pretty pleased with my MacBook Pro.

Why this rig?

I’m really mobile. Last year I traveled for 2 months, this year nearly 4 months of travel. I work a lot from the road. However, I’m known to sit on the couch or bed with my laptop as well. A 17-inch monitor has always felt crazy big and seemed like a brick to lug around. 13 inches is too small. So, I opted for the 15-inch with the high-res monitor and matte display. I LOVE the matte display. I’ll never go glossy again. High-res is a bit teensy, but I still love the details and extra screen real estate.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I use Coda by Panic to code up HTML, CSSEdit by MacRabbit to create CSS. Terminal is always open committing edits via git. MySQL running natively to run all of my databases locally.

I use VirtualBox for running Windows 7/XP for testing. It’s still a pain and by no means ideal, but I just don’t have the will to own a Windows box and set it all up. I’d hardly use it so it’d be a waste.

For quick small screen recording sessions to explain something or describe a bug, I use Screeny by Drew Wilson. For screencasts, Quicktime. I use Sparrow for mail — it just feels simple and that simplicity drives me to want to keep it simple, to keep my inbox empty and tidy.

I’ve tried hoards of task-managing software, to-do lists, and attempted to use calendaring apps. None of them ever stuck. Except one. Fantastical. Yeah, yeah, I designed it blah blah blah, but I’ve been known to design things I never use, like whole websites n such. The magic of Fantastical isn’t so much its aesthetic (which was my part), but in the simple intuitive, natural language parsing part of it. Now, I add events to my calendar like a boss. I actually use this thing.

For rapid CSS3 production, I use Less.app. This year, I’ve been using SASS, however the more CSS-like syntax of Less combined with Mark Otto’s bootstrap.less and Less.app makes for lightning fast CSS production.

I’ve always struggled with the speed of development with editing a file, saving, going to my browser, reloading. It takes so long. Last year, I found ReCSS and it rocked my world. ReCSS enabled me to reload my CSS only and not the underlying code. Much faster. This year I found LiveReload which essentially monitors the file system, waiting for changes to underlying code, be it ruby files, CSS, or script files. When they are changed, the browser instantly refreshes. If the change is purely CSS, only the CSS reloads. Magic. So. Much. Faster.

I design all websites and user interfaces with Adobe Fireworks CS5 and until recently, I did all illustrations in Fireworks as well. Driven by a want to grow more as an illustrator (as well as the more powerful features), I made the jump to Illustrator CS4 about 2 months ago. Just last month, I purchased the upgrade to Illustrator CS5 for the refined web features.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

Two screens is huge. I split my cinema display with about 1/3 CSSEdit and 2/3 Coda and on the right display, my MacBook Pro on the left shows the current browser I am testing. I love not having to constantly minimize and maximize windows to reveal other programs — everything is right there.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I think I’ve finally figured it out. I think.

Next year, when the new iMacs are refreshed, I’m gonna grab the highest spec’d out model. No need for a SSD. I really like SSD’s but I’m not all that impressed like others. Sure, reboots and rapid file access are lightning fast. But when it comes to speed and snappiness, say in a design program, it does little for me. So I need more power, but not all the expense.

I still love my MacBook Pro, so instead of selling it, I’m gonna rock that spec’d out iMac with this couple year old, yet fully capable MacBook Pro running at it’s side. I’ll get a 27-inch Thunderbolt display to run as a secondary 27-inch monitor. Two 27-inch screens running side by side. Bliss. I’ll use the laptop for my travels or couch jam sessions.

More Sweet Setups

Rogie’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Steve Offutt’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Steve Offutt. I’m a father, wedding photographer, musician, and a staff member at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, a Christian Missions organization know as IHOP-KC. I work and live in south Kansas City. By day I co-lead and manage the goings-on within the IHOP-KC Marketing Department. On the side, I often find myself traveling and photographing beautiful weddings, couples, families, and occasionally rockstars and/or food.

I can be followed on as @steve_offutt and my photography can be found at stevenmichaelphoto.com.

What is your current setup?

Steve Offutt Sweet Mac Setup

Steve Offutt Sweet Mac Setup

Steve Offutt Sweet Mac Setup

At home I run a 27-inch 3.2 GHz iMac i3 with 1TB internal storage and 8GB of RAM. At the marketing office I pair my personally-owned 2007 MacBook Pro (2.33 GHz, Intel Core 2 Duo, 15-inch) with a department-owned Apple 23-inch Aluminum Cinema Display.

Other key players:

My home set-up sits atop a Galant series desk from IKEA that’s about 5’x3′. The iMac is flanked by two Lobbo series 40w lamps (also from IKEA). I have a knack for lighting, so I cant go without saying my current lightbulb of choice is GE’s Reveal series. They neutralize the typical yellow-ish tint from standard tungsten lightbulbs. Lastly, really nice chairs are cool, but I routinely spend my fun money on coffee and photography gear, so I’ve settled for the moderately priced Moses office chair (also made by IKEA).

For the photog nerds out there…the core of my photography set-up is this:

  • Canon 5D MkII and a Canon 5D original version
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
  • Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS
  • Canon flashes
  • Pocketwizard triggers
  • HPRC cases and ThinkTank bags
  • Orbis RingLight
  • Manfrotto mono-pod

Why this rig?

Well let me first mention how I came to this current setup. My pre-iMac setup was just the single 15-inch MBP mentioned above. It travelled to the marketing office everyday and was my main photo editing machine at home as well. I can’t believe that I used to do entire wedding edits on that 15-inch matte screen. However, as my photography has progressed so too has my post-production workflow and its demands. While processing a wedding or preparing a blog post I may have 100+ large files open at a time. Over the past few years the advancements of digital photography outgrew my MBP’s specs, storage space, and 15-inch screen. I found myself facing four challenges/requirements:

  • I needed a bigger screen
  • I needed an upgrade in processor, storage, and RAM
  • I needed to keep at least one machine permanently at home for my wife’s use
  • My budget was about $2,000

On paper it was pretty clear; I would keep using the MBP for day-to-day at IHOP-KC and add a powerful 27″ iMac on the homefront. Most of my friends stick with a laptop + cinema display set-up, so I wasn’t convinced at first, but after some initial research I realized that today’s all-in-one iMacs pack more-than-capable processors, huge internal storage potential, and ample hi-quality visual real-estate. I didn’t need another laptop and that option was mostly out of my budget range anyway. The iMac seemed to be the thriftiest choice of the entire Mac line. It met all my challenges/requirements and was within my budget.

The 2007 MBP is still in heavy use everyday. It gives me all the mobility and processing power I need in my Marketing Coordinator role. There never was any intent to retire or replace it with the newer iMac and thankfully maintenance has been minimal (one battery and both fans…thats it!).

My most recent and favorite addition to my home office set-up is a Canon MP560 wireless printer. For years I’ve hated the dust-collecting eye-sore that takes up two or three square feet of desk space and barely gets used. When my old gray box stopped working, it seemed natural to go wireless and free up some valuable desk space. My new printer now sits atop a 5′ bookshelf where it is mostly out of sight and more importantly out of the way! The biggest score is the happiness of my wife when she can now print things from anywhere in the house from our MBP without having to fire-up the iMac.

What software/apps do you use and for what do you use it?

  • Adobe Lightroom: for cataloging and culling photos
  • Adobe Photoshop: for the heavy lifting
  • Adobe Illustrator: for making shapes
  • TweetDeck Desktop: for managing twitter and facebook
  • ProPhoto3: WordPress theme customization for non-coders
  • WordPress: to make my website work and keep it current
  • CyberDuck: for FTP (I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed)
  • iLife: all of them all the time (except iPhoto)
  • Safari: compasses guide you but foxes trick you
  • SuperDuper!: for smart back-ups
  • My Publisher: for designing wedding albums and photo books
  • CrossProcess and ShakeItPhoto: my go-to iPhone photo apps

I also really like DropBox, Skitch, Awesome Screenshot Safari plug-in, Google Notifier for Gmail, MobileMe, and Cloud App.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I believe that a setup should facilitate an efficient workflow. I’ve noticed most of my Mac-using friends utilize a one-machine setup and it meets their needs — especially when the choice is laptop while on-the-go with a Cinema Display parked at home. However, I’ve found that investing in a multi-machine setup meets the needs of my family as well as my differing job descriptions and their requirements. With cloud-based apps and syncing technology, multi-machine setups are now easy to keep cohesive and consistent day-to-day.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

It’d be nice to add a Solid State Drive into both my machines, however I’m going to wait until the pricing comes down a bit. It’d also be nice to bring the online experience to my living room via AppleTV. All in all, I’m very happy with my set-up, though a set of pro studio monitors would be very nice.

More Sweet Setups

Steve’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Jorge Quinteros’ Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’ve always found the act of introducing yourself to be very intimidating because it’s something you often wished you had practiced more before being put on the spot but either way, my name is Jorge Quinteros. I’m an avid photographer based in Brooklyn who holds a BFA in Graphic Design and is employed as a manager for a major retail company. Try crunching that title into into a business card.

I’ve always been into the Arts and enjoyed documenting life through pictures and it’s that same natural interest that’s driven me to always want to travel and explore new places. While some prefer to enjoy experiences through their own eyes, I prefer to see it through my viewfinder firmly pressed against my face.

Once you’ve established what your passion is, you’ll find it difficult not using that as a source of inspiration for everything else you accomplish, hence my humble personal photoblog. This is where I share and sell some of my favorite photographs backdropped with a narrative of what when into capturing them. Equally exciting to curate is iPad Decór which is home to photographic wallpaper for your iPad based on personal travels and random outings of mine.

If a person’s stature as a photographer is dependent upon what they can do with any camera, in making the mundane appear interesting and using their imagination, then I confidently introduce myself as a photographer despite not having an official position in the industry. It’s the drive that will get me there.

What is your current setup?

Jorge Quinteros' Setup

Jorge Quinteros' Setup

Jorge Quinteros' Setup

Jorge Quinteros' Setup

Why this rig?

The last time I owned an Apple desktop was back when they were introduced in a variety of flavors. Mine was purple by the way and since then, I’ve happily been working with different laptop versions which began with a 12″ PowerBook to what I currently own now.

Everyone loves to be part of an environment where you have options and laptops offer that choice to pack-up and relocated to a nearest coffee shop for a change of scenery. With the configuration of my setup, I often forget that my computer is a laptop but the popularity of taking your work with you is a feature I’m not willing to give up by feeling tied down to a conventional desktop.

As a a retail manager, only 15% of my role includes working with a computer which has no internet connect and that’s shared by more than 4 people. My only connection to the web in those occasions is strictly through my iPhone 4. This is more of an incentive in takin g pride and effort in sprucing up my own computer space at home.

I’m seeing more photographs of people, specifically Mac users owning more laptops than ever before and utilizing them as if they were desktops by having a keyboard and mouse. I’ve yet to see this trait in PC laptop owners but for me, it’s an arrangement that carries a feeling of sophistication and although I might have added elements to work with, it’s an arrangement that feels as if I had taken something that felt uncomfortable in the first place. It’s probably the uneasiness of using a laptop keyboard and trackpad. I’m not a fan at all although during travels, these are the working conditions I put up with.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

Lightroom 3: The software was developed from the ground up as a tool for more serious photographers and it’s one that’s served as perfect transition when I felt that iPhoto wasn’t offering much. I think as comfortable as you’re likely to become with a camera you’ve had for a long time, the same goes with sticking with a logical workflow for managing your photographs and to not get excited when something new comes along.

Photographers have special needs when it comes to handling their images and Lightroom has been an invaluable software that’s kept me sane on those days that would have driven anyone crazy in dealing with hundreds of RAW files. As far as processing goes, it’s through experimentation that I’ve managed to generate a decent collection of custom presets that I use if it’s required.

Photoshop: Being a photographer and not owning Photoshop is comparable to a carpenter not having an assistant in that you don’t always need it but it’s at hand when you do. It’s literally used for minor touch ups on images but mostly when I’m resizing photographs to upload at iPad Decór. I almost feel like I’m cheating the software because of how rarely it’s launched. Lightroom is king for me.

NetNewsWire: Upon first learning about RSS feeds, I was entranced with the concept of having news, personal blogs, and other odds and ends instantly materialize in a standalone program and the deal was sweeten knowing that I can retrieve it all straight from my iPhone as well. Hands down a brilliant piece of software although I can’t speak highly of it’s coequal iPhone version because I prefer Reeder as a choice.

1Password: If I were held at gun point and asked to write down the passwords to all my online service accounts, I would simply fold. Who has time to memorize all of them? That’s what 1Password is for. Their slogan should be “Don’t think about it. Just buy it”.

Notational Velocity: Everything I write is written in this software. It’s widespread acceptance among Mac users could never go understated because it’s simply that good. You can’t say enough great things about it without sounding repetitive.

BBedit: I’ll admit there’s far better aesthetically pleasing coding software out there than BareBones’s BBedit. Coda, Expresso to name a few but very much like Lightroom, I’ve stayed with what I know and I haven’t found a need to retrain myself in what I’ve already grasp. I’m far from a coder but from what I recall from Introduction to Web Design in college and from pure allure, I’ve learnt the basics of what’s needed to manipulate HTML and CSS to prettify my site.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I wouldn’t say the setup itself induces a sporadic flow of creativeness because that type of feeling takes place when I’m out shooting, but it certainly helps translating the same comfort I have in using my camera to using my computer.

I don’t consider it something extravagant although friends would disagree but I’m finding that people who have similar configuration have one trait in common. They all have an affinity towards the arts, specifically graphic design, web design, music creation and of course photography. My response to the common question of why I use my laptop as a desktop is “It’s a creative thing.” Needless to say that among my social circle, there’s many that choose to work with what’s in front of them rather than configurate it and make it their own.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

At this point, I’ve learnt there’s no sense in believing you could have the latest of anything with regards to technology because every couple of months something smaller, sleeker and faster is released. With that in mind, I have my eye in upgrading to the newly-enhanced 13″ MacBook Air.

I’ve had my current 15″ MacBook Pro for 5 years and in the past I’ll admit that the ownership of several models of Apple’s top of the line laptop has always been driven in wanting to have the best of what they offer without necessarily having the justification to pay for all that power.

There sheer number of positive benchmark reviews from the new MacBook Air alone is what would make it an ideal setup to migrate to because it has sufficient powerful for supporting the type of work I do without having to pay extra the way I have been in the past for a MBP. I would imagine editing photographs on a 13″ screen could only be tolerated for so long so I would want to add an older generation 23″ Apple Cinema Display which I’m sure I could find for a bargain on Craigslist.

When I’m not managing my photographs in Lightroom, I’m going through NetNewsWire deciding which articles to quickly read or send to Instapaper and/or continuing to build upon the loose thoughts I began typing up on Simplenote for the iPhone to further finish in Notational Velocity while listening to some tunes.

And so, with the exception of dealing with a couple hundred RAW files, my computer usage is not that demanding that it would need a super computer. Which is why the new 13″ MacBook Air along with an external monitor would be an impeccable upgrade to what I have now.

More Sweet Setups

Jorge’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Aaron Mahnke’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Aaron Mahnke. I’m a freelance graphic designer in the Boston area. I work under the banner of Wet Frog Studios, focusing on identity and brand design, though I do a ton of print design and even a bit of web design as well. I blog sometimes at aaronmahnke.com, and share resources for freelancers on my other site, abetterfreelancer.com.

What is your current setup?

Aaron Mahnke's Mac Setup

Aaron Mahnke's Mac Setup

Aaron Mahnke's Mac Setup

My desktop computer is a 27-inch 2.66 GHz Quad-Core i5 iMac with 4GB of RAM. I recently made the switch from the wired Apple aluminum keyboard to the bluetooth version in order to allow my Bamboo Fun (1st gen, medium size) tablet to sit closer to the center of my iMac, eliminating some unnecessary strain on my right shoulder. I’ve found that the mouse that came with the Bamboo tablet is perfect for my work style, and I can easily switch to the pen when needed.

I have a secondary work station set up beside my red reading chair that consists of a newer 2.4 GHz i5 MacBook Pro (also 4GB of RAM) and a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display. I use it mostly as a hub for three Western Digital 1TB MyBook external hard drives that contain years of video production work, as well as an external Sony DVD burner for churning out multiple copies of client work while I read in the red chair.

When I’m mobile I rely on my iPhone 4 and a 32GB 3G iPad to keep me connected and creating. The iPhone is my main device for task capture (via the Things app), RSS feeds (via Reeder) and reading (via Kindle, iBooks and Instapaper). I rarely use it as a phone, though during the work day it’s docked beside my iMac with a pair of Apple in-ear headphones connected and ready.

The iPad is a fantastic work device for me. I keep it naked at home, but it travels in a DoDoCase outside the house. It goes to every meeting with me, and I rely on a combination of SimpleNote and Penultimate for capturing the information I need. I rely heavily on the Photos app to hold my logo design portfolio and digital samples of my print design work. And the Dropbox app is the perfect tool for presenting potential clients with my logo design service information, my contract and glimpses of in-progress work.

Why this rig?

Power and flexibility are my driving motivations, honestly. I put my iMac to work every day, sometimes running Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, VMWare Fusion and a handful of smaller applications all at the same time. I am in this eternal struggle between wanting to be parked at a desk with extreme power and screen space, and being able to pick up and work from anywhere, so this setup allows me to live with a foot in each world for now.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

The first piece of software I always tell people about is Dropbox. I have a 50GB account to hold all my design projects, which means I can work whether I’m at my desk or using my laptop away from home. The natural back-up that Dropbox brings to the table also helps me sleep easy knowing my clients’ work is always safe.

The applications I launch every day when I sit down at my desk would be Mail.app, Things, Illustrator, Numbers and Billings. On occasion I have to launch Pages, Keynote, Final Cut. Other applications are always running, though, like Notational Velocity, Yojimbo, MailActOn, 1Password, Littlesnapper and Tweetie. I have a few Fluid instances for things like Basecamp and Rdio, but prefer Propane for Campfire chats. And finally, my menu bar plays host to Droplr, which I use a few times a week at most.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I’ve tried my best to surround myself with tools that help me get the job done faster. I take notes in Notational Velocity, which is connected with SimpleNote, so that I never have to save, rename, or move the files again. I keep inspiration logged in Yojimbo and Littlesnapper, both of which sync across my computers. And I try my best to master hot keys to save time and effort.

Creativity is all about reducing the distance from inspiration to retention. I might not be able to react to a moment of inspiration right away, but if I can capture it properly (via screenshot, dragging into Yojimbo, or typing the idea out) I can come back to it when I’m ready. This isn’t multitasking, though. This is all about knowing your tools and having a solid system.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Honestly, the Apple ecosystem is getting really close to perfect for my needs. I would love to upgrade the RAM in both computers someday soon, and a SSD in the MacBook Pro would be next on my list after that. I can dream about better app syncing between the Mac and iOS devices, but Dropbox really gets the job done for me. My only other “fantasy device” would be a big fat Drobo, but I think that’s because I’m an external storage junkie.

More Sweet Setups

Aaron’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Nicholas Felton’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

Nicholas Felton. (Photo by Ellen Warfield.)

My name is Nicholas Felton. I am a graphic designer based in New York City. I focus primarily on data visualizations… making charts and graphs and maps for print and online. I also run a website called Daytum that I founded with Ryan Case to help people count the big and little things in their lives and compile these statistics into pages like my own Annual Reports.

What is your current setup?

Nicholas Felton's Setup

Nicholas Felton's Setup

My work machine is a dual quad-core Mac Pro with a 30″ Cinema Display. Away from the office, I use a 13″ aluminum Mac Book.

Why this rig?

The first Mac I owned was a Quadra 840AV and I’ve used Mac towers continually since the G3 days. I may migrate to an iMac for the next office machine, but I like having lots of internal drives in the tower. The internal drives are cheaper and seem to last longer than external backups. I also like how easy it is to upgrade the memory, and that I can hang onto the monitor when I swap the computer out.

My favorite laptop was the 12″ G4, so when Apple did the aluminum MacBook refresh, I bought the 13″, and it still holds its own for travel and home use.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

  • Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign CS3 (with occasional excursions into CS5) for design.
  • Textmate or Coda for web work (css and html).
  • I use Processing to make little data visualization and mapping applications that I output to pdf and import into Illustrator.
  • I use Apple’s Numbers and Pages as Excel and Word clones.
  • I also use TextEdit all the time, for writing notes or answering interview questions and saving data sets. It’s remarkably useful.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

In plain terms, it’s fast enough, doesn’t crash too often and tends to not get in the way of what I want to do. Fundamentally, it lets me do my best work because I am familiar and comfortable with the way everything is set up, so I spend very little time looking for things. If it weren’t for email, I would be a very productive person.

Nicholas Felton. (Photo by Ellen Warfield.)

Nicholas Felton. (Photo by Ellen Warfield.)

How would your ideal setup look and function?

If Adobe would kill the feature creep and focus on software that’s fast and doesn’t crash I would be most of the way to an ideal setup. Apart from that, I just need a big monitor, a CPU that can keep up and some decent speakers to be happy.

More Sweet Setups

Nicholas’ setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

The three photos of Nicholas were taken by Ellen Warfield.

Iain Broome’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Iain Broome and I write fiction. My first novel is called A is for Angelica and is represented by Tibor Jones Associates. They’ll be sending the novel out to publishers soon and I’ll be keeping various things crossed, especially my fingers.

By day I’m a copywriter for The Workshop, a leading UK design company. It’s a little more than writing copy though. Yes, I can give you a tasty strapline or plain English paragraph, but I also work on usability, accessibility and wireframing clients’ websites.

I have a couple of blogs. Write for Your Life offers writing advice for all types of writers. It also has snazzy illustrations provided by the marvellous Matt Pearce. Broomeshtick is my personal blog where I talk about writing, design, technology and, well, more writing.

What is your current setup?

Iain Broome's Setup

Iain Broome's Setup

Iain Broome's Setup

Iain Broome's Setup

I bought my first Mac in March 2008. It’s a 20″ iMac which gets backed up wirelessly to a 500gb Time Machine, which in turn connects to an Xbox 360 in the lounge. Or at least it did before the 360’s second bout of RROD. Microsoft, eh? *spits*

I also have a 16gb iPhone 4 and, when my piggy bank is finally full, I’ll be getting a 16gb, wifi-only iPad. I intend to use the iPad for creation as much as consumption.

The idea that you can’t use an iPad to write anything of substance seems ridiculous to me. All you need is a keyboard and a blank screen. The iPad provides both and I can (will) take it anywhere (everywhere).

Finally, I have a Sony A200 Digital SLR camera. One day I will learn how to use it properly.

Why this rig?

The iMac provides all I need and more as a novelist and blogger — let’s face it, words are pretty easy to process. But I also use it to edit images, record podcasts and put together video blog entries for Write for Your Life. The iMac has all the power and storage I could ever want for those things too.

Sometimes I think I might have been better off with a MacBook or MacBook Pro, but the extra screen size comes in handy for watching movies, viewing pictures and having multiple windows open. Truth is, it’s become the hub of our home. CDs and DVDs? Long forgotten. This is streaming central.

My iPhone 4 stays with me throughout the day. I primarily use it for email, Twitter, my todo list and reading articles through Instapaper. We also use it to play music and podcasts wherever we are in the house.

Truth is, it’s the perfect techno-companion and unless something catastrophic happens, I can’t see me using anything other than an iPhone for quite some time.

Oh. I sometimes make phone calls.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

Okay, this is the important bit. Having a Mac has changed the way I work, that’s for sure. But really, it’s down to the software.

I explained this in a recent post, which I might as well quote:

Drawn by the bright lights and Apple’s promise of all-the-cool-things-I-could-do, I expected dazzlement and wonder with every mouse-swish and keystroke.

But something strange happened. Instead of reveling in the glitz and relative glamour of iMovie, iPhoto and the multimedia posse, I found myself enjoying quiet nights in with my new best friends, strong and silent types like Finder, TextEdit and, more recently, Simplenote.

And the reason was this. I am simply a writer. I don’t need all that other stuff. Or at least, I don’t need it to do what I do best.

So once the dazzlement wore off, what I found was a computer – a word you hear less and less these days – that gave me tools to do things quicker, more efficiently, perhaps even better.

The technology disappeared and left me alone with my words. Just me and them.

That said, my novel was written in Microsoft Word. I know. But only because I had zillions of drafts and edits left over from my pre-Mac days. I use TextEdit for most other writing and have enjoyed WriteRoom on occasion.

In other news: it’s iTunes and Spotify for Music. Safari for browsing. Transmit for transmitting. Acorn for pretty pictures. Adium for chit chat. Simplenote for todo lists and ideas. Alfred for launching. Then 1Password, my trusty online bouncer.

Finally, there is DropBox. The key to it all.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

It’s a pretty time-consuming this writing novels, running two blogs while having a full-time job for a design agency business. It means I have to do things whenever and wherever I can. My setup is designed – well, it’s evolved, more accurately – to allow me to do that. It’s all about the sync.

With DropBox, Simplenote and an iPhone 4, I can access everything I need at all times. I can edit files on my work PC at lunch and know they’ll be there when I get home. I can approve comments, make notes or catch up on some reading on my phone while I’m waiting for the bus. And again, when I get home, my Mac is up-to-date.

Novel number one was written on no less than six different computers – a combination of desktop PCs, laptops and my iMac — in even more locations, using goodness knows how many USB drives for transferring and backing up.

Novel two will be written on just my future-iPad and my iMac. That says it all, really.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

It’s just the iPad, I think. Everything else works just as I need it to. I might be tempted, when the time comes, to replace the iMac with a MacBook, but it won’t change the way I work. And that’s the most important thing.

It takes a while to get a setup that you’re happy with, but after two years together, me, my Macs and a few third-party apps are getting on tremendously.

Frankly, we don’t need no one else.

More Sweet Setups

Iain’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Dave Caolo’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Dave Caolo, a married father of two, a New Englander and a drummer. I work as an editor and writer at The Unofficial Apple Weblog. I also curate and publish 52Tiger.net.

What is your current setup?

Dave Caolo's Mac Setup

Dave Caolo's Mac Setup

My main computer is a well-worn, 2GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook Pro with a 15″ display. This machine has been in 5 US states and three countries; it’s missing three keys and the bottom is badly scratched. It’s also the most reliable workhorse I’ve ever owned. I’ll continue to use it until it dies or refuses to run essential software, whichever comes first.

When it’s on my desk, it rests in a Radtech Omnistand and connects to a 17″ Viewsonic display, a Mighty Mouse and an old Apple Extended Keyboard II with the help of a Griffin iMate. I back up to an external Western Digital drive via Time Machine. I also use SuperDuper! to create a bootable backup to a LaCie drive which lives in my wife’s classroom Monday – Friday, and comes home on weekends. I back it up each Saturday and send it back to the classroom each Monday. Finally, a 2nd LaCie drive holds “archive” material in cold storage.

Finally, a G5 iMac acts as a media server, storing iTunes purchases and feeding our Apple TV.

Why this rig?

It’s part nostalgia, part reliability and part being satisfied with what I have. When I bought this MacBook Pro nearly five years ago, I was darn proud of it. Just like my father with is 1989 Buick LaSabre, I feel a keen sense of pride in keeping it running. As I mentioned, it works beautifully despite the years of use and abuse, and that’s a testament to the high-quaility products that Apple produces. People balk when they see my computer, but I see an old friend.

Sure, it’d be awesome to own a 17″ MacBook Pro with an i7, but it’s not necessary.

I added the 2nd display years ago when I was spending a lot of time with Dreamweaver, and now I dislike working with one display. I typically keep Colloquy open on the left and a browser open on the right.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

First and foremost is Safari. I’ve tried nearly every browser I could and always came back to Safari. I spend most of my day writing for TUAW, which I do directly through our CMS, Blogsmith.

Colloquy is another constant for me. My TUAW colleagues and I communicate via IRC all day, and Colloquy is my preferred client. I’ve got it running on my Mac, iPhone 4 and iPad. It’s very Mac-like in its UI and looks great on the iOS devices. Colloquy is our virtual office.

Twitter is also a necessary part of my work day. I use Tweetie on the Mac and Twitterrific on the iPad and iPhone to interact with it. It’s amazing how frequently I communicate through Twitter. It’s completely replaced instant messaging for me and nearly replaced email. When a breaking story hits that we want published right away, the fastest way for the team to communicate is IRC first and then Twitter. I’ve set things up so that direct messages are pushed to my iPhone, so I’m notified right away, even if I’m off doing something else. Email and IM offer the same “bloop” no matter how urgent or silly a message is. Conversely, when I get a push notification from Twitter, I know it’s a direct message that I ought to attend to. I certainly use Twitter for fun, but it’s also become an essential part of my professional life.

OmniFocus keeps my “stakes in the ground” as David Allen would say. I’m one of those annoying GTD guys, and OmniFocus is the project management app that best suits my interpretation of David Allen’s methods. I’ve got a hotkey combination set up to produce the quick entry window and I use it all day long. Also, the iPad and iPhone apps are stellar.

I would not want to work without David Seah’s Printable CEO forms. They’re not software, but they are absolutely essential to my daily routine. Every morning, I grab a fresh Emergent Task Planner and do three things. First, I list the tasks that must be completed by the end of the day. Next, I write “Inbox” at the top of the notes section. Any “stuff” that comes at me during the day that can’t be quickly copied and pasted into OmniFocus (like phone calls, requests from real, live people, etc.) goes there. Then I write “Support” below Inbox. This is free scratch space for me to work out problems, write down reference information (“Width on those images = 720” for example), etc.

Finally, I write my “hours of operation” in the right hand column and track exactly what I’m doing, hour by hour, in 15 minute increments. That sounds insane, but it helps me identify when I’m efficient and when I’m slacking. At the end of the day, I can see that it took me much longer to complete a certain task than it should have, and I can analyze why. Too much goofing around on Twitter, perhaps?

David’s Task Project Tracker is another essential form that I use daily. I subscribe to David Allen’s notion that a project is anything that takes more than two steps to complete. The Task Project Tracker lets me break a project down into its component steps, track how much time is spent on each, tick them off as they’re finished and monitor my progress towards completion.

I often joke that the 8 years I spent as a special needs teacher prepared me for GTD. Part of my role as a teacher was to break educational goals down into empirical, concrete tasks that could be observed, measured and built upon until a new skill was learned. For example, a shoe tying lesson might include steps like place foot inside the shoe, grasp the tongue with one hand, pull the tongue until taut, grab one lace in left hand, grab one lace in right hand and so on.

The work I do today can be broken down much the same way. For example: acquire software, install software, test x, y, and z, compile notes, outline post, write and review. David’s Task Project Tracker, and GTD, is perfectly suited to this.

I also use Simplenote as storage for reference material and Yojimbo to keep research material in one place. Finally, Billings keeps track of any client work I do.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I trust it. When you’ve got a trusted system in place, your mind stops bugging you about “we ought to be doing [X]” and lets you focus its resources on the task at hand. I know that OmniFocus and the Printable CEO forms will capture anything important so that I won’t miss it. With that off my mind, I can get down to writing.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m less concerned with the look (as my keyboard indicates) than I am the function. What’s most important to me is to reduce friction. When I’m working on “Task A” and something new demands my attention, I want to capture it with as little disruption as possible. I needn’t attend to every little thing upon arrival once I trust that I’ll be able to retrieve it easily when the time is right.

I also enjoy a quiet, tidy room. I rarely work with music playing. If I’m writing I want quiet. If I’m doing something that requires less creative thought, I’ll listen to a movie soundtrack. Clutter distracts me and I can’t have it on my desk. This is making me sound like Felix Unger, isn’t it?

More Sweet Setups

Dave’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Brett Kelly’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Brett Kelly and I’ve got a pretty full hat rack. By day, I’m the Technical Communications Manager for Evernote Corporation where I split my time pretty evenly between doing web development and writing user documentation. The rest of my time is spent doing freelance web development and writing for my blog. My current claim to fame is being the author an ebook called Evernote Essentials, which people seem to like. I live in southern California with my first wife and our two kids. You can also find me oversharing and making awful jokes on Twitter as @inkedmn.

What is your current setup?

Brett Kelly's Setup

Brett Kelly's Setup

I work exclusively from home, so my setup is a mixture of my professional and personal equipment. My employer-issued computer is a 15″ unibody Macbook Pro and my personal computer is a very new quad-core 27″ iMac. When I’m doing day job work, the iMac pulls duty as a secondary display for the Macbook Pro. The third display on my desk is a 22″ Acer LCD that serves as a secondary to my iMac when I’m doing “evening” work. Up until very recently, the Macbook Pro sat atop a couple of large hardcover books to elevate it to something resembling eye-level, but a few days ago I purchased a laptop stand which hoists the laptop nice and high next to the iMac.

I use a standard Apple keyboard, but have been flirting with the smaller Bluetooth model for the last couple of weeks and may switch to that. When I got the iMac recently, it came with a Magic Mouse that I’ve come to like and will probably adopt as my permanent mouse, but before that was my old Microsoft two-button mouse which has served me reliably for going on six years now.

You’ll also find a smattering of backup drives littered around my desk, as well as a Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner, which I absolutely adore (and that works with Evernote). Music is a pretty important part of my working effectively, so my gobs of music is output steadily through a set of humble-yet-reliable Altec Lansing desktop speakers that I bought at Staples about a million years ago or my trusty Sennheiser HD 202 headphones (for when my kids are sleeping or my wife just isn’t in the “speed metal mood”).

I have an iPad (the WiFi-only model) that I use around the house for reading things and maintaining my task lists. I’ve done some light writing (read: typing) on it, but it hasn’t really found any sort of imperative place in my workflow. My kids like to play games on it, so that’s cool.

Why this rig?

I’m a complete glutton for screen real estate. Both my work and personal configurations offer me ample space to do just about anything I need, and I always have sufficient room to tile different windows according to the task at hand. I’ve also found it quite awesome that I’m able to incorporate some of my personal equipment into my daytime work, which allows me to avoid having two discrete working configurations and, thus, an obscenely full desk.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I spend the most time writing either code or prose, so the application you’ll find me staring at the most is my text editor of choice, Vim (the MacVim build, specifically). It’s insanely powerful and is absolutely great for writing just about anything. Bonus nerd points because Vim is almost 20 years old and it’s still the finest text editor available (unless, of course, you’re talking to an Emacs user). It’s infinitely configurable and scriptable, has an active and vibrant community and is lighting fast. I’ve been using it almost exclusively for about 7 years now and I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what it can do.

As you probably could have guessed, I also spend a good deal of time in Evernote. It serves as my filing cabinet, digital notebook, idea log, photo album, temporary clipboard — all sorts of things.

Everything else:

I’m also a big fan of Keyboard Maestro, Concentrate, Skitch, Dropbox, TextExpander, Path Finder, iStat Menus and MarsEdit.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

The combination of lots of display space and powerful hardware that can (most of the time) keep up with me make it easy to dig into the current endeavor. When I can comfortably view 4-6 source code files on the iMac and have my browser open on the second display, it requires me to do a lot less remembering. I don’t have to switch away from the current buffer to look up the correct parameter order for such-and-such function, I can just open it right next to where I’m working and see both side-by-side.

I liken my working style to the way my children play with toys: they don’t put away each toy as they finish playing with it (as much as I wish they would), so we have a great big cleanup party each evening where everything is organized and stowed in its right place. When I’m ready to wrap up the current day’s work, I’ll spend at least 3-4 minutes closing a dozen Safari windows, Firefox Downloads windows, Evernote notes and such. I like that I have the canvas and the horsepower to work that way without it getting bogged down or looking cluttered.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m pretty happy with what I use, but I would change a few small things, particularly with respect to my current quiver of input devices.

First, I’ve grown to actively dislike the use of a mouse over the years, so I’d love to foster my own fu with tools like Keyboard Maestro to the point that I’d have to take my hands from the keyboard only occasionally, if at all. I’ve written about this in the past and I’ll admit that I’m a little militant in my position regarding “the rodent”, but the problem lies more with my ability to sharpen the metaphorical knife than with the knife itself. Mac OS X is incredibly friendly to keyboard lovers, I just need to quit whining about it and learn more.

Second, I’d really like to get my mitts on another Kinesis Advantage keyboard (which I used for several years but sold because of an obvious mental deficiency). It’s one of those absurdly ergonomic keyboards that looks like a pair of soup bowls lined with keys, but man is it nice once you get used to it. The downside is that you’re basically all thumbs whenever you sit down at a “regular” keyboard, as most of the meta keys that are normally struck using your little finger (Ctrl, Alt, Cmd) are positioned under your thumbs. That, and people seem to be unable to resist commenting on how the Starship Enterprise seems to be missing a keyboard. Oh, and they cost like $300.

More Sweet Setups

Brett’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Mike Rundle’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I’m Mike Rundle, a designer & developer living in Raleigh, NC. I’ve been designing for the web since before people used CSS and am currently a User Interface Architect for a marketing software company in Durham, NC. For the past 2 years I’ve been working on Mac and iPhone apps in my spare time and am the designer & developer of Digital Post, a news app for the iPad.

What is your current setup?

Mike Rundle's Mac Setup

Mike Rundle's Mac Setup

I have a 24″ aluminum iMac (bought it right when they came out), a 15″ 2.53Ghz MacBook Pro, an iPad, a first-gen iPhone and an iPhone 4. On my desk at work is a 27″ Core 2 Duo iMac which is the best computer I’ve ever owned. I’ve got a Logitech MX Revolution mouse which is fantastic, and under that is an XTracPads HAMMER mousepad which is gigantic and totally awesome. I highly recommend it. I also own a Rain Design mStand laptop stand which is built as if Apple made it. It’s the best laptop stand out there, hands down.

Why this rig?

The 24″ iMac replaced my aging PowerMac G5. The iMac is a great computer, but I just don’t use it anymore now that I have the MacBook Pro. When I work on my iPhone apps at night I’m usually on the couch so the MacBook Pro is just more versatile. I’m currently planning to sell the iMac that I don’t use and buy a new 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display for when I need extra space that a laptop can’t provide. I’m also planning to buy a new Apple Magic Trackpad to replace a mouse at home but I want to try one first.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I have Adobe CS4 at home and CS3 at work; I actually prefer Photoshop CS3 due to how it handles windows and its speed on Snow Leopard. For web coding my tool of choice is TextMate, the finest text editor on the Mac right now. For Cocoa development I use Xcode 3 but have recently been playing with Xcode 4 since it’s the new kid on the block. The new interface is really nice but there are still some quirks that I’ll have to get used to. I use Bjango iStat Menus 3 for putting interactive graphs into my menubar and CloudApp for sharing screenshots and shortening links to post to Twitter. For email I’m a Gmail guy and have been a Mailplane user for awhile, also I use Safari 5 for web browsing.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

TextMate is really the key part of my workflow when working on the web. I have dozens of macros that help me write HTML, CSS, Javascript and PHP faster. I actually do something quirky with TextMate: I wrote a macro that maps the 7 key to the Escape key so I can access code completion faster without moving my hands from the main part of the keyboard. I also mapped Ctrl-7 to output the normal 7 key in case I actually have to use it. Crazy, but it’s great!

How would your ideal setup look and function?

My ideal setup would still involve my MacBook Pro but it’d have 2 fast SSD drives in a RAID-0 configuration plus maxed-out RAM. I don’t have a terribly ergonomic office chair so an Aeron would be a must. I have typography and design posters all over my walls so I’d probably just buy more and more till there’s no more paint showing.

More Sweet Setups

Mike’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Justin Blanton’s Sweet Mac Setup

Justin is a patent attorney in Silicon Valley, but don’t let his job title fool you, his life isn’t all fun and games. When he’s not working on law-related stuff, he’s turning down requests to do stand-up comedy, and eating, or thinking about eating. He likes to eat.

He feels it’s his lot in life to stay abreast of the latest in tech and science, and has run a moderately popular, tech-centric site since 2002. He’s neurotic, obsessive, sarcastic to a fault and obviously great looking. He gifts the world a constant stream of wit and satire on Twitter (@jblanton), and recently started answering questions on Formspring. He’s also very serious about his photography.

What is your current setup?

Justin Blanton's Setup

Justin Blanton's Setup

These days my only machine (apart from an iPad and an iPhone 4) is the latest (mid-2010) 15″ 2.66GHz Core i7 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM (and the new, “hi-res,” 1680×1050 display). Internally, it’s rocking a 256GB Crucial RealSSD C300 solid-state drive. The whole thing is stupid fast. I love it.

My precious usually is plugged into a 24″ Apple LED Cinema Display, and resting comfortably in Twelve South’s BookArc (which I love). (Relatedly, if the MBP is closed, you can bet there’s a RadTech ScreenSavr wedged between the screen and the keyboard.)

I sit in an all-black Herman Miller Embody (which last year replaced a Human Scale Liberty). It’s the best chair I’ve ever owned, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially for sitting.

Coincidentally (or not!), my desk also is from Herman Miller. I picked it up late last year after struggling for a very long time to find exactly what I wanted; this came real close, so I decided to pull the trigger. (If money was no object, I’d probably buy BALMUDA designs’ Aero desk.)

Earlier this year, a pair of B&W MM-1s replaced my beloved, if large, Audioengine A5s. I absolutely adore the B&W’s, and feel fairly comfortable saying that they probably are the best built-for-the-desktop speakers on the market today. They’ve their own DAC, which eats up one of the two USB ports on my MacBook Pro (the other is used by the external Apple display, which has its own USB ports and thus acts as a hub).

At one point I claimed that the Griffin Powermate (the round, metal thing to the left of the iPhone in the above pictures) was my favorite computer peripheral of all time, and I still stand by that. I use it 1000x a day to globally pause, play and go to the next track in iTunes, and to control system volume. I love its design, its not insubstantial weight and the satisfying thud you hear when you “bop” it. All computer peripherals should be built with such care.

I tend to use mice that aren’t built for a particular handedness because I generally prefer them to be symmetrical. My daily driver, and the one mouse I truly love, is the Razer Diamondback 3G (I have three of them!), which runs around on a Razer Destructor pad. Despite the fact that I turn the tracking speed up so high that typically I don’t need a lot of wrist-motion space, I quite like the large surface area of the Destructor. Speaking of tracking, the Diamondback 3G has some of the best I’ve seen on the Mac. (Every time Apple comes out with a new mouse I give it a shot, but I’ve yet to come across one I enjoy using. The tracking speed is never fast enough (even with third-party software) and I feel like right mouse-clicks always require a conscious effort.)

For typing, I make a racket with the Matias Tactile Pro 3, which I very recently switched to from a Das Keyboard Ultimate. If I need to type in secret I use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

Other doodads on the desk include a Unite SmartBase (which I discuss here; the iPhone 4 fits it relatively well, but I’m looking for a new solution), a carbon fiber drink coaster (is there any other material?) and an IO Gear multi-card reader/USB hub (it’s nothing special, but it’s the heaviest, least ugly one I could find).

Under the desk you’ll find a Webble. No, really, it’s called a Webble — look at the site! At $150, this one may be a tough sell to some, but to a constantly-moving spazz like me, it’s an automatic buy. It’s incredibly well made, and with materials I’d have chosen myself had I designed it.

For backup, I use a pair of 640GB Seagate FreeAgent Go drives, each of which sits in its own stand located behind the external display. One is sync’d to my MacBook Pro’s internal disk using SuperDuper (every day at 3AM), and the other is sync’d to the same internal disk using Apple’s Time Machine software (every day at 4AM, thanks to TimeMachineEditor). Super-critical stuff is double-encrypted and backed up daily to one of the network-based backup services currently available. (I’ll eventually get a Drobo. I’ve been saying that for years. But I will get one.)

I currently shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, which I rarely use without BlackRapid’s R-Strap or Canon’s E1 hand strap. I just sold my Canon S90 because the camera in the iPhone 4 is so competent.

Why are you using this setup?

Did you not understand everything I just said? Why am I using this setup?! Because I’m crippled by an unyielding desire to experience excellence.

Seriously though, I’m happily and forever wedded to Mac OS X and so my options are limited with respect to the hardware I can (legally) use. Lucky for me, Apple’s MacBook Pros are incredible machines, and for the past few years have come strapped with more than enough power for my needs. (Also, have you handled/cradled/slept with one of these unibodies? They’re freakin’ brilliant.)

I used to go the Mac Pro + MacBook Air/Pro + sync route, but it became something of a chore and certain things always seemed to break, and so I currently am a notebook-only operation (and don’t see that changing any time soon).

Overall, this setup (the room, desk, chair, peripherals, etc.) just feels very natural to me; everything has its place, and nothing is superfluous.

What software do you use on a daily basis and for what do you use it?

  • LaunchBar — I hate using the mouse if I don’t absolutely have to. (I know, I know, I ended a sentence with a preposition. It’s OK as long as you acknowledge it, right?) Surely this is a holdover from my early Linux days when I literally lived in a terminal, and kind of loved it. With LaunchBar there’s very little I can’t accomplish via the keyboard alone. (I used to use Quicksilver, but eventually was turned off by instability and lack of development; it just hasn’t been the same for years.)

  • OmniFocus and Things — I’ve gone back and forth with these task management apps so many times that the only tasks in each of them are, “Try Things again, you insatiable masochist” and “Try OmniFocus again, freak!” As far as I’m concerned, The Hit List was the perfect to-do app (and I really liked its design), but then its developer fell. off. the. face. of. the. earth. I gave up looking for him and grudgingly started cycling between OmniFocus and Things again. Currently I’m using OmnifocusThingsOmniFocus and for the most part I’m content. Functionally, it’s second to none, but its look definitely could stand to be updated (that said, I’m constantly theming it, so it’s not so bad). Also, its iPhone counterpart is wonderful. (If you haven’t already, now might be a good time to read Shawn’s review of Things. Well, not right now; finish reading this first.)

  • TextMate (together with MultiMarkDown (an extension to the ubiquitous Markdown) and the IR_Black theme) — Quite honestly, if I’m typing anything other than an email or a blog post on my Mac, I very likely am typing it into this app. (Actually, I hacked up a way to use it for blogging at one point too, and, truth be told, I sometimes find myself using that method because it just feels good.)

  • MarsEdit — 99% of the words found on my site were sent there using MarsEdit. (The developer of MarsEdit, Daniel Jalkut, also makes FastScripts, which I use for this and this, among other things.)

  • Lightroom — Lightroom may be my favorite application ever, on any platform. It’s just a pleasure to use. It’s a great photo organizer, and an increasingly competent post-processor. I find myself going into Photoshop much less frequently these days.

  • Default Folder X — I’m not quite sure how to even describe this software, but I can say that I never again want to be without it. I especially like that it allows me to set a default “working” folder for each application, and that it remembers recently-used folders when I go to save something, etc. Basically, it saves me time that I didn’t even realize could be saved. (Full disclosure: the developer gave me a free copy of the software.)

  • Evernote — I recently migrated to Evernote, from Yojimbo. Again. I definitely have some niggles with it, but it syncs across everything and is fairly stable.

  • LittleSnapper — I use this any time I need a screenshot or want to save an entire webpage (usually because I see in it some potential inspiration). I go back and forth between this and Skitch when I need to quickly (and usually roughly) annotate an image.

  • Mint — Is there anything better for web stats? Even if there is, I probably wouldn’t use it because I’ve long had a kind of geek-crush on Mint’s developer, Shaun Inman.

  • Soulver — Allow me to quote Jonas Wisser: “As far as I can tell, Soulver is the only real advance in calculator technology since calculators were invented. It’s a fundamentally different—and cleverer—way of doing math.” I tried to come up with a better description, but failed. As another indicator of my love for this app, it also owns a spot on my iPhone’s first and 20.

  • 1Password — Um, just buy it. You have no excuse.

  • iStat Menus — I couldn’t function without having information regarding network speed, memory usage, processor utilization and various internal temperatures available at a glance. I’ve been looking at this kind of information every day for 15 years, and at this point I have a kind of sixth sense about my system’s internal operations. What I’m trying to say is that I keep iStat Menus around just to double-check my gut.

  • Instapaper — Where to begin? I never shut up about Instapaper on Twitter, and I know real-life friends are sick of hearing about it, but it really has changed my life and I’d be remiss to not mention it here. I definitely owe Marco a few beers. (If he’d give me control over .htaccess files on Tumblr accounts, I’d probably give him a baby, at the very least.)

  • Dropbox — Blah blah blah. Who doesn’t use this?

  • Path Finder — I almost left this out because it’s become such a natural part of my workflow. I really dislike the Finder. Always have. Path Finder fills in the gaps, and then some.

  • TextExpander — I’m a whore for efficiency, and TextExpander just makes me feel good every time I use it. It’s like I’m doing myself a little favor 1000x a day.

  • Cinch — I use this to quickly maximize a window or to cause the window to take up exactly half the screen. It’s great.

  • Tweetie — Despite the fact that it’s still lacking native retweet functionality, it’s the best Mac Twitter client available. Every time a new client is announced I try it out, but it’s usually just a few minutes before I’ve switched back to Tweetie.

  • Pester — This is a fairly recent addition to my day-to-day workflow (thanks to Wolf Rentzsch, but I’ve a feeling it will forever be a staple. For more immediate reminders that I know I won’t/can’t snooze, I continue to use my LaunchBar timer script, but for everything else I now use Pester.

  • Safari/WebKit nightlies — Once Flash became relatively stable on Google Chrome’s developer channel (and there were extensions to block it) I gave up on Safari; Chrome was just too fast (and, well, new and different, so I had to use it). However, I’ve found the recent release of Safari 5 to be mind-bogglingly stable for me, super fast and I’ve been impressed with the extension community that immediately grew up around the new framework.

  • Little Snitch — This Provides me with added peace of mind.

  • iTerm — The best terminal program I’ve found for the Mac. I spend a lot of time in this app.

  • Notational Velocity — I find myself using this application more and more; in fact, I used it to draft these very words. It couldn’t be more minimal (e.g., there is no notion of “saving,” search/create are kind of the same thing, etc.), which really attracts me to it. My only real wish is that it would let me define background and foreground colors; it’s rare for me that black on white is an optimal color scheme for writing.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

It doesn’t. My best work is done while grocery shopping. I’m just kidding, I don’t shop for groceries.

I think the biggest piece of the creativity puzzle for me (apart from being comfortable with, and having confidence in the tools I use; e.g., Mac OS X, etc.) is simply having my own space — the “bitcave” is my room. (See what I did there? Instead of “bat,” I used the word “bit,” because I’ve an affinity for computers, and zero qualities of a bat.) It’s important for me to have a familiar, comfortable place that’s mine alone, where I can blast tragic, melancholic music and just brood. Or, I guess, work.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Is this thing on?! I just spent 2200+ words explaining why my setup was the best thing since sliced bread, and now you want me to describe something better? Impossible.

OK, fine, I’ll bite.

In a perfect world I’d like everything that’s currently in my MacBook Pro squeezed into the body of a MacBook Air. Also, I wouldn’t mind putting the external display on a floating arm so that I could move it more freely, and hell, I’ll probably swap my 24″ Apple LED display for the just-announced 27″ model. Finally, I’d kill for a minimalist desk (not unlike the one I have now) that could raise and lower itself under its own power, so that I could stand for half the day. (Yes, these exist now, but I’ve yet to see one I really like that isn’t unreasonably expensive.)

More Sweet Setups

Justin’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

David Chartier’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

I am David Chartier, an Associate Editor at Macworld. I write about all things Apple, its products, and the third-party ecosystem that helps to make its products great. I also write about tech news and culture at onefps.net, and tweet at @chartier.

What is your current setup?

David Chartier's Setup

David Chartier's Setup

My primary machine is a late 2009 27-inch 2.66 GHz Core i5 iMac that could eat small family pets alive if left unchecked. I have a wireless Apple keyboard and a Magic Trackpad which is probably going to replace my Magic Mouse. My iMac’s partner in crime is a mid-2009 17-inch 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro. I have a 64GB iPad WiFi + 3G that I am increasingly using to write pieces (like this one), and an iPhone 4 that is almost never out of my arm’s reach. I also have a 2TB Time Capsule, an 802.11n AirPort Express, a 160GB Apple TV, a Logitech G9 mouse for gaming, and my wife has my old late 2008, first-gen aluminum unibody MacBook (before they went “Pro” and got an SD slot). I know, we’re the shrink-wrapped Apple family. I’ve had to find a way to live with it.

Why this rig?

I love screen real estate. I rarely full-screen apps, so when I’m writing I’ll give my browser, word processor, a chat window or two, any e-mail I need for reference, and other things as much balanced screen space as possible so I don’t need to switch between them to move information back and forth. Some techie friends consider the 17-inch MacBook Pro to be the aircraft carrier of Apple’s portables, but I love having all that space on-the-go when I need to use all those resources for pseudo-multitasking.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I have a ton of third-party apps, many of which I use infrequently for tasks like video transcoding or uploading photos to multiple services at once. But if I had to start with the fundamentals for writing at Macworld, I use MacJournal for almost every post, Skitch and Acorn for editing photos, and Safari. For communication I use Mail with MobileMe and Macworld Google Apps accounts, Adium for when I’m not slingshotting back to iChat (until I give in and want to use Facebook or Yahoo chat again), and Propane for the Macworld chat rooms that run on 37signals’ Campfire.

To keep track of story ideas and leads I use a mix of OmniFocus (after my nearly finished exodus from Things), Evernote, and Mail. I also have a few menubar utilities, though I’m trying to be a little more discerning about those lately. I use LaunchBar for lots of productivity stuff like launching apps and creating new e-mails and iCal events, CoverSutra for controlling iTunes, and Divvy for keeping all my windows in their places.

I’m trying to work LittleSnapper into my Macworld process so I can keep original images around for when editors need them for print. I use Time Machine to backup my Macs and my wife’s MacBook to the Time Capsule, ChronoSync to backup key files and media to a secondary external 2TB drive, and CrashPlan as a third layer of remote redundancy.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I love to look at the big picture whether I work at home or on-the-go, which is why I keep lots of resources available at a quick glance and why I use MacJournal. It’s the only Mac word processor I can find which lets me draft in rich text, but copy to the clipboard as the perfectly formatted, plain HTML that most CMSes want. Lots of my peers pen in HTML or Markdown, but I don’t like to look at code or URLs when I write. To me, code is code, and prose is prose. I want to draft, re-read, and continue drafting a piece as the reader will see it, watching for things like the visual flow of text and too many concurrent links that can weigh a paragraph down.

With a desktop, a notebook, and now a tablet, I have a good array of choices between power and portability. I can bang out work and pseudo-multitask at home with my iMac and on-the-go with my MacBook Pro. Or I can bring my iPad out for the day and weekend getaways and focus on one task at a time while lying on the couch or in the middle of Millennium Park.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I hope this doesn’t mean that I fail the Shawn Blanc Geek Test, but excluding my desire for the latest and fastest hardware, I’m not itching to make major changes. However, now that the 15-inch MacBook Pro has a higher resolution display and can switch graphics cards on the fly, I’m going to downsize and save some weight. I had a Mac Pro with dual Samsung displays for a couple years (22-inch and 24-inch), and while that was a sweet setup, I find that I like having one large, high-res workspace better.

As for the iPad, OS 4.0 and multitasking cannot arrive soon enough, but it really needs at least 512MB of RAM, if not more. I’ll probably upgrade immediately when (but only if) Apple revs the RAM (though possibly at a smaller storage capacity; I’m barely pushing 32GB on this one), because I’m not that desperate for a camera.

Speaking as a reformed mobile phone junkie, the iPhone 4 is the first phone I’ve been thoroughly happy with in years. The antenna thing doesn’t really bug me because I don’t hold it that way. The iPhone 5 will have to have some serious unicorn tear polish to get me to upgrade.

The only other changes to my setup would be more gear mostly for pleasure, not business. Mobile is exploding right now, so I’d love to pick up some Androids and Pres so I could learn a lot more about what they’re up to, but mostly for curiosity and work purposes. I’m also a frequent PC gamer, so I hope to build a dedicated PC again in the next few months. Boot Camp is wearing on me, and Steam for Mac seems like it’s going to need some time to pick up… momentum.

More Sweet Setups

David’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Jonathan Christopher’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, etc…?

My name is Jonathan Christopher, and I’m a Web developer/designer from Albany, NY. I currently spend my days filling the role of Development Director, surrounding myself with writing code, discussing design, site evaluations, and a bit of managerial material along the way.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself at some point reading Monday By Noon, my weekly publication focusing on Web design and development? If not, we’ll need to have a talk.

I try to take photos as much as possible and I’ve got an obsessively long wish list full of gear I’ll never be able to afford, but enjoy thinking and talking about.

I’m recently married and loving every minute of it so far. I’m completely thrilled to be stepping into the next phase of life with my wife. I still get a kick out of saying ‘my wife’ — you can understand.

I also watch at least one episode of Seinfeld per day. Almost.

What is your current setup?

Jonathan Christopher Mac Cetup

I’m currently using a 15″ unibody 2.66 GHz Intel Core i7 MacBook Pro with 4GB RAM. At home I’m externally connected to a Samsung SyncMaster 205BW, but I wouldn’t mind a 27″ Apple Cinema Display.

  • I key with a full-sized wired Apple aluminum keyboard
  • I mouse with a Logitech MX Revolution
  • I back up to a series of 2TB Western Digital My Book Elites (photos and videos) and 640GB Western Digital Elements (Time Machine)
  • I shoot with a Canon 7D (50mm f/1.4, 35mm f/2, 17-85mm f/4-5.6)

Why this rig?

My first Mac was a black MacBook sometime around 2006, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve chosen strictly notebooks since then simply because I work in an office and I truly prefer to be in the same environment both at work and at home. I use external peripherals at both desks which I prefer, but having the ability to go mobile has come in handy on more than one occasion.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

  • Mail.app for all things email.
  • iTunes all day every day.
  • OmniFocus (and on iPhone) for task management and getting things done.
  • 1Password for password management.
  • TextMate for every bit of text, code, markup, style, and script I write. I’m even writing this very content in it. I’ve tried everything and always come back to TextMate.
  • Fireworks CS5 when designing my own stuff, Photoshop when cutting up everyone else’s. Acorn when I don’t want to wait for Photoshop to start up.
  • Yummy FTP when moving sites and assets. Seriously great app; fastest FTP available. Promise.
  • ExpanDrive for wonderful network mounted TextMate projects.
  • Safari
  • Versions for SVN (source control)
  • XAMPP for my local development environment.
  • Skitch for taking and annotating screenshots. There are lots of apps but Skitch fits my workflow the best.
  • Aperture for photo management and post processing. FlickrExport for publishing straight to Flickr.

There’s a bit more but I’m honestly shuffling through these applications every day of my life.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

With the combination of mobile hardware along with a tried and tested arsenal of chosen applications, I’m able to focus on the work itself instead of figuring out how I’m going to do it. Not having to worry about software or hardware problems alone helps me get things done, and that can be attributed to being on a Mac running OS X and the software built for it.

The software environment itself also caters to a creative mind. The attention to detail Apple puts forth (as well as software developers) is truly inspirational and sets the bar quite high out of the box. When you’re staring at that in everything you do, you’re inspired subconsciously all day long.

I also try to keep my work environment inspirational as much as I know how. The referenced photo includes a shot of my home office, which I try to keep organized and a bit private. There’s always music playing and it’s always better when heard over speakers instead of headphones. There are two book cases flanking the desk full of not only Web related books but also other books great for leafing through from time to time. Banksy’s Wall and Piece for example is a great piece to revisit from time to time for me. The posters in the background are prints from Joshua Davis, an artist I’ve followed and looked up to for quite some time.

I hope to spend more time on the home office, specifically with my wife as she also has her workstation on the other side of the room. It’ll be a great project for the both of us as time goes on.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

My ideal setup would definitely be in my current home office space, but include a few more details I haven’t had the time (or finances) to pull off quite yet. My wife and I moved into the house (our first home) about a year ago and the office is the last to get attention. It was recently painted Elephant Skin gray and I really like the color, but if I were to change one thing about it I would have to start with the lighting. Lighting is a big deal in an office environment and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for a set of lamps to replace the extras I’m currently using.

On a technical level, my ideal setup would include a 27″ LED Apple Cinema Display, completely wireless connections for everything, and wireless electricity. I don’t like wires. I’m supremely happy with my current MacBook Pro and wouldn’t trade that in, but I’d love to see it house a speedy SSD drive should the option come up.

Last, I’d love to have a new series of applications in which to work. Don’t get me wrong, aside from all the quirks here and there I totally love working in Fireworks and TextMate. If I absolutely had to choose two applications to use while stranded on a desert island, they would be it. The issue though, is that the industry has outpaced their development.

TextMate is an open and shut case. The application is truly fantastic but it’s now the job of another publisher to take the torch and continue on. So far, no one has stepped up to the plate as a major player; I’m anxiously awaiting that.

Design software, though, is a different story altogether. Beyond the heated battles surrounding which existing app is better than another, the truth is that no application in existence has been designed to meet the needs of modern Web design. Without getting too philosophical, I’m hoping over the next number of years we see a change in the thought process behind facilitating Web design from the ground up.

More Sweet Setups

Jonathan’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

Leo Babauta’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, and etc…?

I’m Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, mnmlist.com, and The Power of Less. I write about simplicity.

What is your current setup?

Leo Babauta's Desk

For a couple years, I’ve been using a combination of a 20″ iMac and a first-generation MacBook Air (yes, the ones with heat problems). Since our move to S.F. last month, I’ve been going with just the MacBook Air — I gave the iMac to my wife Eva.

I love using the MacBook Air as my full-time machine — it’s light, simple, and meets all my needs.

I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad, though both are drool-worthy.

Why this rig?

I’m a bit of a minimalist. I like to keep things as simple as possible, without sacrificing the essential functions.

I’m a writer, and all I really need is a browser and a text editor. The MacBook Air does those two things perfectly.

I don’t need a big monitor, as cool as they are. I don’t need a powerful CPU. I like lightness and simplicity and portability and focus.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

I’m currently using Chrome and Notational Velocity, but sometimes I switch to TextMate or TextEdit or Omm Writer, depending on my mood or need.

Notational Velocity is lightweight, simple, fast. I’ve been doing all my writing in it — from todo lists to notes to full articles and blog posts. This way everything I have is instantly findable, it’s all stored in text (simple and accessible), and backed up via DropBox.

Chrome is lightning fast with a minimalist interface. I’ve tried all the other browsers but they just seem slow and clunky next to Chrome.

Other things I use regularly: LaunchBar for everything, 1Password, Transmit for FTP. Sometimes I also use WriteRoom, Scrivener, and MarsEdit for different writing needs.

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

I like focus — simple software that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles helps me find that focus. I like things that do very little, very well. I try to cut out distractions — Tweetdeck or Tweetie, iChat or Skype, these things distract me.

Notational Velocity is the perfect writing app. All it does is write text, and it stores everything in text files, and you can find them instantly. You don’t need to file, and you don’t need to look for things.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m content with what I have. I love the simplicity of the MacBook Air — when I have to use someone else’s MacBook Pro, it feels heavy and clunky. Don’t get me started on how it feels to use someone else’s Window machine. It would be nice if my Air lasted for 20 years.

My only improvement would be to have the perfection of Mac OS combined with the openness of Linux.

More Sweet Setups

Leo’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

John Carey’s Sweet Mac Setup

Who are you, what do you do, and etc…?

My name is John Carey. I am a photographer moonlighting as a live audio engineer or the other way around depending on what day you ask me. I also run the website fiftyfootshadows.net on which I provide many images from my photographic work as wallpaper imagery for my readers. I have done this for somewhere around seven or eight years now and I feel it is just starting to pick up momentum. There is a significant update to the site currently under construction which I hope will help it grow beyond where I have taken it to this point, but more on that when the time comes…

I started out with drive to become a designer, but over time my desires shifted toward photography. I love the honest nature of it, the compromises within it, and the fact that I can bridge a very tangible art form using traditional film cameras with a highly digital one using digital cameras and computers to create images and share the world as I see it with others. I have grown very passionate for the art of photography and the places it takes me, and I am anxious to see where I end up with it next.

My secret double life as a live audio engineer is equally fulfilling and rewards me with the same sort of satisfaction photography does in the way that I am using both analog tools as well as digital ones to get the job done. I love my work and often wonder if I could live without either of these sides of my professional life because they fulfill my lust for adventure in such unique ways.

What is your current setup?

John Carey's Setup

John Carey's Setup

I have been a Mac user my entire life. Honestly, I have been using them since the Apple II days and every iteration they have come out with along the way. I remember shooting with an old Apple Quicktake digital camera along side an old film Canon when I was just starting to get into photography and design. I followed the digital photography revolution very closely as it crept into the minds of skeptical photographers.

My current set up is simple and built from a combination of necessity, luck, and (like any self-respecting geek) an unhealthy desire for new tech.

That said I currently have an old black MacBook which at home is paired with a Cinema Display, bluetooth keyboard, Magic Mouse, Griffin laptop stand, 8 or more hard drives, and a pair of powered studio monitors because I simply need a nice pair of speakers around for my sanity. I also use a 64GB Wi-Fi iPad, and a 32GB iPhone 4.

If anyone is interested in what I shoot with, I use a Canon 5D paired simply with a 35mm f/1.4L lens, a Hasselblad 501cm with its standard 80mm lens, and a Voigtlander R3M 35mm rangefinder with a 40mm f/1.4 Nokton Lens.

Why this rig?

The core of what I use revolves around the MacBook, the last generation of the black plastic bodied ones. At the time it was the top of the line and it has proven itself to be more than capable through its years of use and certainly the most stable and dependable Mac I have ever owned. I will admit that it’s probably seeing its last good year in use and may need to be replaced sooner or later simply to keep up with newer tech and the demands of the work I do.

But the question is WHY. Yes… well, the true nature of my life is pretty nomadic as I am constantly on the move either traveling for work or traveling for pleasure around the world whenever possible. My office is anywhere and everywhere it needs to be so my portable tools are as important to me as the modest space I have at home for computing. My real office is carried in bags with me wherever I go, at times two or three even. I always have my cameras with me, if not all of them at least one, and I usually carry my laptop for work but also simply out of necessity because much of my blogging and internet life I squeeze into down time at work or while traveling and so I often need to have these key things with me wherever I go.

Also I have a small bunch of tools that I always carry for work, as well as a blank notebook or two and a couple nice pens (because nothing beats pen and paper for sketching out ideas, no matter how many apps you have for it) and other sorts of little things depending on what I need on any given day.

My bags of choice are made by an amazing bag company called Spire. I swear by them and their amazing customer service — you really can’t go wrong with those guys. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with next, their bags have traveled the world with me.

John Carey's Sketchbook and iPad

When I do set up office away from home I have my iPad to handle more and more of my day-to-day internet shuffle, and I will have to admit at this point the 3G option sure would have been nice at times. It has allowed me to leave the laptop at home more often which is nice. I use a wonderful little stand, the Compass, and it has been more than helpful in giving my iPad a home while out on the job or in a coffee shop working on ideas.

To protect the iPad while out I use a simple fabric sleeve I had a friend make for me to my specifications including a thin piece of wood to protect the screen which was sewn into the fabric and padding. (I actually do this to my laptop bag as well, a worthwhile customization for anyone wanting to really protect their screen.) I also have a Speck candyshell case for it which I use while I am on job sites to keep it safe.

The last piece of the puzzle is my iPhone 4 which I admit I bought into because of the camera and display. Its a wonderful device and the controversy surrounding is just way out of control. It’s a brilliant phone plain and simple, and it holds all the little things in my life together.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

My favorite applications on the Mac which I use most often are:

  • Aperture: I love Adobe’s take on raw photo management as well as Lightroom being faster overall in its performance, but I greatly prefer the workflow of Aperture — both in file management and editing. I find it is easily worth the compromise.
  • Photoshop: It’s just unavoidable in my photo and occasional design work really. I have been using it since version 3, just before layers came on board and changed everything. My use of the program is admittedly very minimal as I have long since moved beyond my days of over manipulating images (it just got old after a while).
  • Illustrator: I have been using Illustrator for what seems like forever as well. I remember messing about with it when I was very young, making overly complex blends between objects that the poor old computer running it at the time took forever to render. I use it for layout mostly — this and many other design needs. It’s just as relevant to me as Photoshop really.
  • CSSEdit: I love working with websites. I have been making them since the late ’90s to share my design and photography, but the problem is I never REALLY learned how to do it. My knowledge of making websites has been pieced together out of necessity. And I learn as I go, so an application like CSSEdit that helps me simplify editing style sheets is a wonderful thing indeed.
  • Espresso: Any HTML or PHP editing I have to do I reach for Espresso simply because I love its approach to interface design. Simply brilliant.
  • Things: Again with the interface design. I looked for years to find an elegant solution to handle my task list and notes, and this hit the nail on the head. It’s the glue that holds my ideas and projects and jobs together. Now if they would just hurry up and get cloud syncing in there!
  • MarsEdit: The newest member of the family. MacJournal was my go-to, local blogging tool for a long time, but it started to get frustrating with its half-way support for uploading. So I made the switch that was a long time coming.
  • The rest: Then there are all the other in-betweens. iTunes, CoverSutra, DropBox, DeskShade, Safari, Mail, Transmit, and not to mention the iPad and iPhone apps that have made their way into key parts of my workflow. I also create electronic-fueled music with a good friend of mine and have for years. And for that I use Reason and Ableton Live, whereas he uses countless other applications as he is more the musician that lives and breathes electronic music.

John Carey's Music Mixing

How does this setup help you do your best creative work?

Well, as I mentioned, my life is always on the move and these tools allow me to easily and elegantly glide between tools needed to accomplish the many projects I juggle at any given moment. It can be stressful trying to do so much at once and being able to quickly and confidently jump between tasks allows me to focus less on messing about with my computer and focus more on simply getting things done. For me the tech I use should actually make my life easier to manage, not get in the way of the process. I am not a super geek by any stretch of the imagination, I just learn the tools I need to know to accomplish what I want to.

It’s amazing the amount of mileage I have gotten out of this simple old MacBook over the years. It’s not always necessary to constantly have the latest and greatest unless you really have a need to. I do my best to stay relevant in this unbelievably demanding world we live in, but most of the time less is defiantly more.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

My money-is-no-object, ideal setup would be a large 27″ iMac at home for all my heavy lifting and data management, then a MacBook Air for travel. Only I want one that Apple has yet to make — one slightly more capable, and who knows if that will ever see the light of day. This paired with an iPad for presentations and casual use and my iPhone simply because it easily syncs information together with the rest of Apple’s universe.

The last addition would be a hefty RAID Server for hard drive/data management. It’s exhausting having to juggle all of these hard drives!

Also, an oversized desk with plenty of workspace would be nice. One that I could build a light table into. I like the idea of having a lot of extra space… breathing room for my mind.

More Sweet Setups

John’s setup is just one in a series of sweet Mac Setups.

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