The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).
Note: Each link will take you to a more detailed post on how I use each application. You can find direct links to the apps in those posts.
After last’s weeks post on building the perfect computer, it seemed appropriate to share my current setup. It’s also an ideal way to offer an overview of I’ve been (and will be) sharing in the Techie Scheky series. While I’ve talked about my undying love for my MacBook Air, I’m actually referring more to way I setup the machine and the apps I use to accomplish my work. I split my time between the Air and the 27” iMac at my office. My goal is to have these two machines as in-sync as possible in order to 1) allow me to make the most out of my workflows and 2) do my work anywhere it needs doing.
So much of a great system depends on a great foundation. For me, this a combination of the Lion OS and the array of invisible apps that allow me to move across my system faster, seamlessly share information between my computers, and stay on top of how I’m doing.
Here is my current list of secret weapons:
- Dropbox: Dropbox often does the heavy lifting by providing a folder system that automatically syncs between all of my devices.
- 1Password: Provides secure access to all of my passwords across all of my devices.
- TextExpander: Allows short snippets of text to expand out to larger ones (e.g. mS expands to Michael Schechter).
- LaunchBar: Quickly launches applications, opens files in certain applications, sends things to email or accesses previous clipboard entries.
- Keyboard Maestro: Lets me create my own workflows that can be launched with custom keyboard shortcuts. Simply put, it can string several manual steps (e.g. copy text, open a specific application and paste text).
- RescueTime: Tracks how I spend my time across all of my Macs.
I go out of my way to keep appointments and tasks separate. I find it is the best way to keep things organized while never missing a specific commitment.
- Appointments: If something has a specific time tied to it1, I use Fantastical (greatest quick calendar entry application EVER!) to add it to iCal which syncs up to my Google account making it possible to see all of my upcoming events on any device.
- To-dos: Essentially anything I am looking to do but don’t have an exact time tied to them, are all handled in Omnifocus. For the longest time, I held off from using this application thinking it was more than I needed. It’s certainly robust and the learning curve is steep, but it is easily the best application I’ve ever used for keeping myself on task.
Much of my time at the computer is spent writing and much of the time I’ve spent figuring out my workflows has centered around finding the best applications to get this done.
I’ve tried quite a few, but here are the ones that I love:
- nvALT: This is where I do most of my free-form writing and where I capture ideas. It syncs with Simplenote on my iPhone for seamlessly continuing projects on the go (update: I’ve abandoned Simplenote in favor of Notesy) .
- Byword: This essentially serves as a full screen writing mode for nvALT for me and has great support for Markdown.
- Scrivener: This is where I handle most of my more structured writing. These posts often start out as a mind map in iThoughts HD on my iPad or Mind Node Pro for the Mac.
Keeping all of the crap you come across in your day can make or break any system. While I use things like iPhoto, iMovie and iTunes to keep personal pictures, music and movies organized, just about everything else has proven to be a challenge.
I keep everything else organized using a mix of the following:
- nvALT: Anything that is strictly text based goes in here.
- Evernote: Pretty much everything else goes here, including PDFs, files under 50MB, images, scanned documents, screenshots from Skitch, web clippings and essential emails.
- Dropbox: Larger files go into these folders so they can be accessible from any device.
These days, I use Safari, mainly due to the fact that your bookmarks can quickly be triggered by keyboard shortcuts (Command-1 for your first bookmark, Command-2 for your second and so on). I use these to quickly send articles to Instapaper, to share quotes to Tumblr, to check my Google Reader account or clip things to Evernote.
I use and love an application called Mailplane that essentially takes the Gmail web interface and makes it feel more like an application. This works exceptionally well with both Evernote and Omnifocus for saving reference material from emails or creating tasks from a specific message.
So there you go, my perfect computer, at least for now anyway. If you want to learn more about how I’m using any of the apps mentioned above, click the links to check out their individual Techie Scheky posts. I’m always looking for tools and tricks that remove friction and make things easier and would love to hear more about what is working for you in the comments below.
- Although the occasional all-day event does sneak on there. [↩]