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.