My Setup

As a technology minded person my tools setup is always in flux, but for those who a interested in what people use to get their work done it might be informative.

Tech

  1. 32 GB iPad (first generation). I do most of my reading and a some writing on my iPad.
  2. 32 GB black iPhone 3GS (soon to be replaced by a 32GB black iPhone 4S). I use this for Twitter, Facebook, email, games, quick photos, and more.
  3. Late 2008 15” MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM and a 300 GB Intel SSD I purchased to prolong its useful life. I usually have it in clamshell mode hooked up a 24” LED Cinema Display. I have several external hard drives attached for media storage, archives, Time Machine and SuperDuper clones. I use an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Wacom Intuos4 Small Tablet for input. I use the tablet because it feels more comfortable to use for prolonged periods than a mouse.
  4. I use a Panasonic GF1 Camera for photography and videos. I switched from a larger DSLR to micro 4/3 when I realized that the camera’s size was keeping me from using it. The GF1 is small enough to take almost anywhere, but still boasts manual controls and interchangeable lenses. I use the pancake 20mm lens.
  5. I output high quality prints on an Epson R1900.

Software

  • For browsing I use Safari or Chrome depending on my current tolerance/necessity for Flash.
  • For designing I almost always spend some time with pen and paper and then move to Adobe Illustrator. If the final product is going to be multi-page then I will go to InDesign (Adobe’s best product) instead. If it is destined for the web I will take my designs from Illustrator into Photoshop, although I have been using Pixelmator more lately. I have a feeling that with some dedicated learning time I could get away with using it instead of Photoshop. The textures on this site were created in Pixelmator.
  • For web based projects I try to get into markup well before the design is pixel perfect. I use Espresso for all markup and styling. If I just need to upload something and don’t want to set up an Espresso project I will use Transmit for FTP. I do Internet Explorer testing in a VMWare Fusion Windows 7 virtual machine.
  • I use Dropbox to keep most of the stuff I work with every day in sync.
  • When it comes to blog posts I use nvALT and Notesy on my Mac and mobile devices to brainstorm and outline. It is great because Dropbox keeps it all in sync. I will then move the outline into IA Writer on the Mac or iPad to finish writing it out in Markdown. From there I take IA Writer’s HTML output into Espresso to make sure everything is how I like it before pasting that into Wordpress. It seems like a lot of steps but it makes sense to me and gives me more opportunities to proofread and revise.
  • I have been trying to use Automator to regularly back up my website and database with mixed success. I need to keep working on that.
  • For photography I use Lightroom to process and color correct.
  • For motion work I use After Effects and Premiere.
  • My most enjoyable app on the Mac and mobile devices is Day One. It is a journal app that syncs between all your devices, via Dropbox. It has a lovely design and has done what I thought was impossible, kept me writing a journal. If I have something I would like to record at any time I can write it on any device and it will all sync up. It’s magic.

Future Possibilities

  • I feel like my external hard drive situation is getting out of control. I am thinking of replacing the whole tangle (or most of it) with a Drobo.
  • I will probably switch from Lightroom to Aperture. I have not used Aperture in the past because it was too sluggish, but it performs much better on my new SSD. I would like to have my photos synced to my mobile devices and there is no way to do that currently from Lightroom. I thought I was patient enough to export the best ones from Lightroom to iPhoto, but it hasn’t happened often enough to justify that plan. I am dreading the migration.
  • I am intrigued by the new Final Cut, might switch if I like it.
  • For my next computer I will probably want two computers. A maxed out iMac and the smallest MacBook Air available. I had a dual setup in the past and it was always a pain, but with software like DropBox and iCloud it is reasonable now. I do most of my work in clamshell mode so it would be nice to have a stationary powerful machine for the majority of my work. When I do want to be portable my current laptop is heavy enough that I always resist taking it with me, so an 11” Air sounds right.

As you can see, my setup is changing regularly and I don’t know if that will ever stop. There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution. I’m not sure there’s even a one-size-fits-one solution.