December 7th, 2012

The Stuff I Use

Though we hate to admit it, we’re all, in some way, defined by the tools we use. The stuff we do and the things we love and the legacy we create is all deeply tied to the tools we use to get the job done – to embrace our inner neanderthal and the extensions we pick up.

Tools are specialized. They are created as a response to a problem, and they solve a very specific issue. Plumbers have specialized tools, and if you use those tools on a regular basis you are more likely to be defined as a plumber. Even those of us who use tools with wide use – laptops, or pen and pencil – are further subdivided by the solutions we use within that larger tool’s ecosystem – apps, programs, styles, brands.

I think the differences in toolsets – and the reasons why we choose them in the first place – is really fascinating, and for that reason I’ve always been drawn to The Setup – a site that focuses on what people use to get stuff done. There’s a definite focus on tools, here – equipment, apps, hacked-up solutions – over method, which, admittedly, can be dangerous. (There’s nothing worse than those moments when you realize you’ve spend hours getting a THING set up so you can actually begin doing the STUFF you want to do.)

Some of my favorite people have been featured, including:

Knowing I’m just some punk web strategist, I’m making the assumption that I’ll never be asked to submit to the site and, instead, I’m going to just lay it all out right here. This is my bootleg version of The Setup. (Without the cool URL, unfortunately.)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Corey Vilhauer. I am a web strategist who still pretends he’s a writer. Sometimes I take pictures. I also blog about beer.

What hardware do you use?

I’m currently on a year-and-a-half old 15″ MacBook Pro. On the go, it’s just the laptop, but when at my desk at work it’s accompanied by two Samsung SyncMaster PX2370 23″ monitors – the better to cross-reference spreadsheets and style guides with, of course. My backups are also all handled at work through a 1TB Western Digital My Book external hard drive. I have a Magic Mouse, and my keyboard is wired.

My second screen is an iPhone 4S, which is what I now use as an iPod despite also having an older Classic 80GB iPod. I used to use an iPad 1, but ours has gotten so slow it’s difficult for me to use if for anything but reading from the Books app.

I write in a Moleskin because they’re wonderful. I use Energel Liquid Gel Ink pens. It’s all contained in Incase products – an Incase iPhone 4 Slider Case, an Incase 15″ MacBook Pro messenger bag that they don’t sell anymore – because I like Incase a lot.

There was a time I fashioned myself as an amateur photographer (I’m really just a hobbiest now who takes fancy pictures of his kids) but I still use an older Canon Rebel XTi (a.k.a. the EOS 400D) which is an entry level DSLR released in 2006. I’d guess 95% of the time I’m using our Canon 50mm 1.4f prime lens.

And what software?

This is where things get fun. I’ve already posted about how I write, but since then the tools have changed slightly. I write in Markdown using BBEdit as my text editor for posts that will end up as HTML, and I’ve begrudgingly turned back to Pages for documents and deliverables that require an extra level of formatting. (I used to be a MS Word guy, until it started taking minutes to open up.) My files are sorted by a weird combination of client, deliverable and version number – CLIENT DELIVERABLE YYMMDD. This helps my computer keep different versions of a document in chronological order.

To organize my life I use a sync of OmniFocus across my iPhone and my laptop. I use and often hate BusyCal when it comes to calendars, and the revolving door of calendar apps on my iPhone has landed – for now – on Fantastical. I still use Sparrow both for Mac and iOS, even after the Google purchase. I no longer know where things live on my computer because I’ve become an Alfred devotee. I also can’t remember a single one of my passwords because I use 1Password.

At work, we use a combination of a time-tracking system called Redmine and an newly minted intranet built on EPiServer. File sharing and internal discussions happen almost exclusively over Skype. When I need to edit graphics I’ve got a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 4, and when I need to mark things up and illustrate problems I’ll snap a screenshot with Skitch, which I’ve just learned is a part of Evernote.

Most strategic deliverables, as mentioned above, happen in Pages, but wireframes are created in OmniGraffle and presentations are hammered out in Keynote. In the rare case that I’m fooling around with code on one of my three WordPress blogs, I turn toward Expandrive and Smultron.

I’d talk about browsers, but my allegiance changes based on how much trouble I have with the current one. I love things about both Firefox and Chrome, and find myself ditching one for the other every four or five months. It’s a problem.

When I’m not doing work things, my software skews almost exclusively toward iOS. I use Tweetbot for Mac because I love Tweetbot for iOS, and the same is true for Reeder as an RSS channel on both devices. I use Instacast for podcasts, Pocket for time-shifted content, Lose It! and Runkeeper for the times when I’m trying to be healthy, and I use the official apps for Facebook, Instagram and Foursquare.

I read in Books because that’s where all of my books are. I listen to music with iTunes because I have a lot of music there, and when I do it’s with Bose AE2 headphones. I use Adobe Lightroom for editing pictures, and they all end up on Flickr because Flickr is the best place to host images for Much More Sure.

What would be your dream setup?

I don’t know that there’s more I’d need compared to my current set-up, though I imagine someday I’ll get the upgrade to a retina display. My work is a lot of meetings and documents, so as long as I have a fast text editor and a way to export documents to .pdf I’m set. I love the idea of the MacBook Air, but I also cherish a larger screen – when the two become more viable, I’ll jump toward that.


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