I imagine this will only be of interest to ridiculous geeks like me, but I thought I’d share anyway. I’ve enjoyed reading about others’ setups for years, though I’ve never actually managed to write about my own until now.
I use a late-2016 15-inch/38-centimetre MacBook Pro. Because this model has had some keyboard issues, I’ve been using the Apple extended keyboard to type. (I have AppleCare, but I haven’t taken my computer in for repairs yet because I would rather not go without my working machine for a week if I can reasonably avoid it.) I set up a makeshift bedside desk to use while lying down, using two horizontal 79-centimetre/30-inch-long stand-alone shelving/organising units. The units are placed back to back so they can work as a low-rise table that’s flush with the top of my bed. I use a tilted laptop stand that I received as a birthday present last year. I am admittedly one of Those People who exclusively uses Apple hardware; in addition to my computer, I have an iPhone 7 and a first-generation iPad Pro. I’m just not very fond of Windows or Android.
I’m currently running the MacOS Mojave public beta, which I installed a few days ago. Though it’s a beta, I haven’t had any major issues with it. My iPhone and iPad run iOS 11; I didn’t bother installing the iOS 12 beta. I’ve primarily used Macs for eight years.
On the Mac, I use both Firefox Developer Edition and Chrome for different reasons. On the iPhone and iPad, I just use mobile Safari. I haven’t used Mac Safari as a primary browser in years; I prefer the extensibility of Chrome and Firefox.
- I typically write essays and long-form articles in Ulysses, and blog entries in either MarsEdit or Ulysses. Note that Ulysses has an unavoidable subscription system. I’m opposed to subscriptions for software that isn’t prohibitively expensive or highly specialised in general, but it had become an important part of my workflow by the time the developers announced the change in late 2017. I ended up signing up for Setapp – a sort of Netflix for Mac applications – to continue to use Ulysses’ updates, since I would have access to other programs, too.
- If I need to have more precise control over the layout of a document, I use Pages.
- I only use MS Word to write or edit work-related documents that other people will also edit, or to ensure compatibility when I export from another program. Otherwise, I avoid it, since I find it unbearably clunky. The same applies to the rest of Microsoft Office except for Excel.
Social-media and chat clients
- On the iPhone, I use Tweetbot, though I find it less useful these days thanks to Twitter’s hostility towards third-party developers. I’ve also tried Twitterriffic. I’m unsure which client to use on the desktop these days.
- I won’t use Facebook’s data-hogging mobile app and just use the website to post.
- Flume is my go-to desktop Instagram client.
- Adium is my favourite chat client, but it doesn’t seem to work well with certain modern messaging clients like Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger.
Design and development
- I do most of my design and layout work in Photoshop and Illustrator, with some help from Keynote, Preview and Pages. I’ve tried alternatives to Photoshop like Pixelmator and The GIMP, but I really depend on Adobe’s handling of type.
- I write HTML and CSS in Panic’s Coda 2. I used to use Smultron and its fork Fraise, but they stopped working after the MacOS El Capitan update. I think it was El Capitan, anyway.
- I do all my presentations in Keynote, though I’m experimenting with using reveal.js to make HTML-based presentations that I can host and load online. I’m very particular about typography in my presentations and don’t want to be limited to system fonts or Google Docs freebies because a computer I’ve loaded my presentation on doesn’t have my fonts installed. If I self-host my presentations I can use embedded web fonts from Typekit or Cloud.Typography.
- I make custom WordPress localisations using the excellent Poedit app.
- I use the MacOS colour picker as an Automator app, so I can put it in my dock and use it to sample colours and get their hex codes when I’m coding.
- For tweaking XML in desktop programs and files, I use BBEdit. Both the free and paid-for versions have worked well for me.
- I use self-hosted WordPress installations for most of my websites, typically with the Genesis Framework installed. Sometimes I’ll just use plain HTML/CSS, though, if I need a site with less overhead.
- I’ve used DreamHost to host sites and register domains for the past eight years, and have been pretty happy with them as a company.
- aText is a $5 text-expanding app that allows users to type in abbreviations of commonly used words, code snippets or other text to save keystrokes. aText is similar to TextExpander and other apps, though unlike TextExpander it’s a one-time purchase and doesn’t require a subscription. I’m not anti-subscription, but I have more than enough subscriptions (Adobe Creative Cloud, Setapp, iCloud, Netflix, Amazon Prime, a few newspapers and magazines, &c.) and am not keen to add another one if I can avoid it. It seems to work well on the Mojave beta, too.
- Calcbot is my preferred replacement for the official MacOS/iOS calculator, mostly because it keeps track of calculations and expressions in a way that I don’t have to hold all the numbers I’m working with in short-term memory.
- I use Be Focused, a Mac- and iOS-based Pomodoro timer, to keep track of my time sometimes.
- I take notes with the built-in Apple Notes app to ensure they’re synced across my computer, iPad and phone.
- I use a simple Mac app, Alarm Clock 2, to wake me up every morning. I’m annoyed that Mojave is the last OS it’ll work on, though, since I believe it’s 32-bit. I’ll have to find a replacement unless Apple adds the alarm/stopwatch app from iOS to the Mac in a future MacOS release.
- I’m still in search of the best to-do/reminders app; none of the ones I’ve tried have worked well with the way I think. In the meantime, I just make lists on paper or use the built-in Reminders and Calendar on my computer, phone and iPad.
- I primarily use iCloud for online storage, but also use Dropbox, Box and Google Drive to share files with other people.
- I like to have my user interfaces set to English (UK), French or German; if a desktop program doesn’t come in one of these languages, I’m likely to make my own custom localisation. I use logical date formats (day-month-year or year-month-day) and the 24-hour clock.
- I don’t do Windows, at least not as my primary operating system. Nothing I’ve seen in recent Windows releases has made me interested in going back after eight years of being a nearly exclusive Mac user.
- If I were to switch away from Apple, I’d probably use Linux, but there are too many applications that run only on the Mac, or on the Mac and Windows, that I’d have to replace. The GIMP is an inadequate substitute for Photoshop.
- I’ve removed the DRM from ebooks I legally own so I can read them using Apple’s Books instead of other proprietary apps.