What I Use

Along with the older articles that I'll be republishing here, I'll be writing new articles. A popular geek passtime seems to be publishing the tools one uses. I've been listening to the Mac Power Users podcast lately (almost caught up to current episodes) and a regular feature they have covers the workflows of prominent Mac users. David Sparks, one of the hosts of the podcast, does something similar on his blog by showing screenshots of iPad and iPhone home screens.

So, in the same vein, here's what I use, both hardware and software.

MacBook Pro 17” (2.53 GHz i5, 8GB RAM, 750 GB drive)

Since about 1998 I've only used laptops as my main computer, and I've had this one for about six months and love it. I bought it used from someone who got an i7 17", but this one does great for everything I need. I do plan two upgrades for it. First of all, I plan to replace the 750 GB drive with a 1 TB drive, and second, there's a kit out there that will replace the optical drive with a hard drive, and I plan to do that, adding a second 1 TB drive.

I honestly don't get the need for a desktop anymore. I know many programmers use a desktop as their primary system and have a smaller laptop to take with them, but I much prefer having everything with me all the time. Perhaps the cloud will change that for me.

Obviously the system has dozens, if not hundreds of applications on it, but the following programs tend to be running all the time.

  • iTunes — either it's playing music or it's hosting the sharing for my iPhone. Perhaps I'll write more about this later, but as much as I love using iBooks on the iPad, Apple really needs to add some basic features to help getting the right books onto the device.
  • Firefox — I change browsers a lot, moving between Firefox, Chrome and Safari every few months as they leapfrog each other, but Firefox's tab groups feature is currently indespensible to me.
  • Mail — I tend to respond to email immedately, despite the recommendations of some productivity experts. I've been using Mail since OS X was released, and haven't found any need to try anything else.
  • Messages — Still getting used to this as a replacement to iChat. No idea why there's a separate FaceTime app also, seems like they should be integrated.
  • TextMate — I'm currently trying out the alpha version of 2.0, after using MacVIM for a while. I still haven't decided if I'll keep with TextMate, which I've been using for five years or so, or return to MacVIM. I'm not looking forward to experiencing the lengthy vaporware of TextMate again, so I'm warry, but still stick with it for some things, such as using a FileMaker TextMate bundle I wrote to write complex FileMaker calculations.
  • FileMaker Advanced — I'll have at least version 11 or 12 running all the time, and often both.
  • OmniFocus — I'm still wavering between using this and Things, but currently it's OmniFocus. Look for an-depth review of both here in the near future.
  • Evernote — Where I keep all the little pieces of information that don't translate to a task I need to accomplish
  • Preview — Usually there's at least one PDF manual open there that I'm referencing.
  • Billings — Keeps track of the time I spend on client projects and produces the invoices I send out. While the desktop version does what I need for billing project hours, an iPad companion would be nice. They have an iPhone companion, but I haven't really checked it out much, and while it's free, syncing more than once requires a $15 in-app purchase. Perhaps MacFreelance will be good, but there doesn't seem to be a demo version.
  • Quicksilver — This is my launcher. Although I know it has many more capabilities, 90% of my use is pressing Ctrl-Space, typing a few letters and launching the needed program. This one, or something like it, should be built into the OS. Perhaps some consider Launchpad to fill that role, but I much prefer the keyboard access available with Quicksilver.
  • DropBox — I use this for a few things. All of my current projects are soft-linked to a folder in DropBox, which gives me access to all the project documentation on my phone and iPad. And when I'm working on a system that isn't on a server, I use DropBox to share the project folder with the client. Having incremental backups works nice too, although I have another backup system as well. I only have the free version with some extra space from referrals. I consider this another feature that should be built into the OS, and perhaps iCloud will eventually do that, like iDisk promised to.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner — Doesn't run all the time, but launches whenever I plug in my backup drive.

There are a few other programs that, while I don't use them all the time, come in handy periodically.

  • GraphicConverter — I keep thinking of trying one of the newer image editing programs, such as Acorn or Pixelmator, or the open source GIMP, but I've been using GraphicConverter since before OS X, and for the simple image manipulation I need, it works great. And the few times I've had trouble with the software or found a bug, Thorsten at Lemke Software has been very responsive.
  • Transmit — This has been my primary FTP client for quite some time, and Panic makes some great software. I've also used their Unison and keep meaning to check more deeply into Coda.
  • iWork — I write my design documents in Pages and use Numbers to build quotes. I don't use Keynote very often, but create perhaps a presentation every year or so with it.
  • VirtualBox — Runs Windows 7 and Ubuntu, pretty much just for testing cross platform web sites
  • NetNewsWire — I keep thinking of moving only to Google Reader, but still like the desktop app for reading newsfeeds.
  • Bento — I find this one quite useful for simple lists of things that don't fit as a task for OmniFocus or a note for Evernote, such as software serial numbers, wine tasting notes, or scout merit badge requirements, and its ability to sync with the iPad and iPhone come in really handy. The only thing that would be better is if syncing were automatic instead of manual.

Of course, not everything I do on the Mac is work, and for those other times, I'm probably running one of the following:

iPhone 4S (White, 16GB)

I upgraded from the iPhone 3GS about two months ago and love the new one, although I tend to use it much less now that I have an iPad. Whereas I used to use it for iBooks and Instapaper quite a bit, all of that is now done on the iPad, and the phone is basically relegated to a, well, phone. Most of the 16GB is taken up with music that I listen to while working, and the apps I use most are Music and Clock (to set the phone to go silent when listening as I fall asleep). With the iPad, I can't even find twelve Apps to put on the first home screen, and have three free spaces there.

iPhone Home Screen

There are dozens more apps on the other screens, but honestly, I don't go there. I use the find feature to get to anything not on the home screen.

iPad 2 (White, Wi-Fi, 16GB)

Finally, I got this iPad about 4 months ago when I finally got a client who wanted me to write software for FileMaker Go, and while I originally didn't really see the need given a laptop and iPhone, I can't see my workday without it now.

Most of the time I'm using the iPad it's testing FileMaker Go systems. Otherwise I'm probably reading from Instapaper or iBooks, browsing with Safari or my current alternate browser, Terra, or reading email on it.

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