How we work on our Macs, iPhones, and iPads

Here’s how the iMore team uses their Apple products for daily productivity.

Though we all use Apple’s Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch in our day-to-day work lives, that routine varies from person to person. We got the iMore team (and bonus guest, iMore contributor Rich Stevens)together for this week’s editors’ roundtable to talk productivity and workspaces: what we like to use, how we like to use it, and how we’ve built it.

What hardware do you have?

Ren: I’m constantly shifting between an 2014 11-inch MacBook Air and my 21-inch iMac, depending on whether I’m working at my standing desk (iMac) or curled up somewhere in my apartment or a coffee shop trying to write (Air). I’ve been doing this dance between portable and desktop computers for years, but Apple’s Continuity has made especially easy this year. Between Continuity and Dropbox syncing, I can pretty much pick up where I leave off in any application.

On the iOS side, I use my iPhone 6 throughout the day as my Twitter connection — I took a page from Paul Kafasis and started keeping it off my Macs, and the result gives me time to take occasional breaks for reading and replying to Twitter without having it be a constant nagger throughout the day.

My iPad Air 2 lives on my desk largely as a photo-editing machine and occasional doodler. I’m sad to say that I don’t use it as much as I should.

Ally: I use a 27-inch iMac when I’m at home and a 13-inch MacBook Air when I’m traveling or posted up at a coffee shop somewhere. I’ve also got an iPad Air 2 and use an iPhone 6 Plus as my daily driver.

Rene: I have a 27-inch Retina 5K iMac in my studio that I use for podcasting and video work. I typically use a 13-inch MacBook Pro for everything, but I’ve been testing the 12-inch MacBook lately and enjoying it quite a bit.

I’ve been using an iPhone 6 Plus almost exclusively since September, since the bigger screen is choice. I have an iPad Air 2 that I use for watching video and reading comics, and browsing the web when I want to disconnect from my Mac.

And, of course, I’ve been using the Apple Watch a lot lately, which has proven even more valuable to my daily activities than I imagined.

Peter: My daily driver is a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and I almost always carry an iPhone 6. I’ve recently resurrected a Retina iPad which I plan to use for mobile work in the coming weeks, too.

Rich: I’m kind of an eclectic mix these days. Non-Retina 13-inch Macbook Pro as a desktop, 12-inch Macbook as my carry-around, hacked up 2011 27-inch iMac in my shipping office, iPhone 6.

Show and tell us about your office setup!

Ren: I’ve been working out of two offices lately, so I have double the setup fun! My home office in Boston uses a highly hacked-together IKEA Galant desk with A legs as a standing desk coupled with a Highly Important Balancing System for my iMac (random sturdy books) and an old USB riser for my keyboard and trackpad.

I’ve also got a Rode PSA1 boom arm mounted to my desk with an Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid mic hooked in — it’s an old workhorse of a mic I picked back up in my radio play days at college, but a great one.

Underneath my desk, I’ve got a series of $10 Target clear drawers for cables and such, and a set of random stools I picked up at a tag sale back in 2012.

My other office sports an IKEA Kallax 1×4 bookshelf mounted to the wall, with a bunch of miscellaneous IKEA shelves (and various goodies on those shelves) surrounding it.

Ally: In my home office I have a standing desk — it’s the Jarvis model from Ergo Depot for anyone wondering. It’s great and I spend most of the day standing. I rarely use a chair but when I do, it’s just a generic brand chair that’s supposed to be good for my back. Spoiler: it sucks.

I have an Everdock Duo by Fuz Designs sitting to the left of my iMac. Best dual dock I’ve ever used. All the way to the right I’ve got a 42-inch plasma that I sometimes AirPlay my Mac to, but most of the time it’s just used with an Apple TV. It comes in handy during Apple keynotes while writing, or for watching a movie while working.

Underneath the TV you’ll find a dresser that is littered with iPhones, iPhone parts, and whatever accessories I’m currently working my way through testing and reviewing.

Rene: I have two main setups. My podcast studio has a standing desk made of IKEA shelves with a Mac Pro doing server duties and an iMac perched on top of it. It’s surrounded by old gear, packaging, and Lego. Because.

I also have an old Pier One desk in my living room with a Thunderbolt Display, propped up on a Twelve South HiRise, that I connect to with my 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Peter: Over the winter I scavenged parts from an old equipment rack I wasn’t using and turned it into platforms for standing desks which I use around my office. Most of my work gets done in front of the MacBook Pro, however. I love Twelve South gear: I use a HiRise for MacBook, a HiRise Deluxe for my iPad and iPhone, and a BookArc for iPad. I also use a Das Keyboard 4 and an Apple Magic Mouse.

Rich: I’m a monster: I’m currently using three different desks for three different tasks. I have one I use at home in the evenings to draw comics, one at the office for brain work like writing and podcasting, and another one in the office just for shipping packages from my store. I tend to just float equipment from one desk to the next when I get bored.

The only consistent thing on all of them is a left-center-right setup of Magic Trackpad — full-sized keyboard — Evoluent Vertical Mouse 3. I’m currently on a single external monitor at a time kick: The most interesting is one of those weird LG Ultrawide monitors. It’s the cheap member of that family and it is great and terrible at the same time. The 2560×1080 appears completely pointless at first, but then I realized it was great for 50-50 side by side apps. (I like the Mac menubar app SizeUp to throw windows around.)

I think having all these desks is how I compensate for a short attention span. My brain associates different tasks with different locations and it helps to pick up and work elsewhere when I get unproductive.

How do you use your Mac and iPad throughout the day?

Ren: As much as I try to force myself to use the iMac as my primary machine, the Air is my true workhorse. I’ve been using varying models of the 11-inch + Mission Control to write for the last five years, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. (Unless they kill the 11-inch Air. Sniff.)

I’ll use it to catch up on things in bed or on the couch, while I’m cooking, while I’m out at a coffee shop, next to the iMac on my desk… for such a little computer, it can handle a lot.

My iMac (and my desk) are my go-tos when I want to chat with my co-workers on Skype, podcast, or host a Google Hangout. Otherwise, I can probably be found wandering with the computer from location to location.

Ally: My primary work device is my iMac. When I want to hit up a coffee shop or work outside on our patio, I use my 13-inch MacBook Air. I much prefer working in Photoshop on my iMac. When I’m out working on my Air, I’ll typically wait until I get home to edit and work with images.

As for my iPad, I am currently using the ClamCase Pro for iPad Air 2 when I need to get some serious writing done. I also have been favoring my iPad when it comes to editing my personal travel photos. I love Pixelmator and the default Photos app is great for minor edits and tweaks.

Rene: If I’m home, I’ll grab the iPad when I wake up and catch up on social and news. More often than not, though, I grab my iPhone 6 Plus these days and don’t think twice about it.

I typically start off on my MacBook Pro and Thunderbolt display, because it’s near the kitchen and I can walk around, make tea or a shake, and ease into the daily grind.

I’ll transfer over to the studio and iMac for any conference calls or podcasts, which happens almost every mid-morning or afternoon.

If I can head out of a change of scenery, I’ll take the MacBook. It’s just so portable and the battery lasts more than long enough.

At night, I’ll carry the iPad around to read or watch stuff, again while I cook or clean up, or just relax.

Peter: Probably 90 percent of my work is done on my Mac, just from sheer force of habit. I stay in touch with the social networks and colleagues using my iPhone while I’m out running errands. I’m also doing more light typing work on my iPad, now that I’ve resurrected it following problems with iOS 8.

Rich: I work on my Macs constantly. I don’t really use an iPad anymore. Every time I think about a new iPad, I wind up buying a lightweight laptop. My machines are mostly hooked up to big wads of USB cables and monitors and big keyboards. The only untethered laptop is mostly on reading/homework duty.

How do you augment your work with your iPhone and Watch?

Ren: The iPhone is essential for iPhone-writing tasks (say, taking screenshots for a how-to or an op-ed), and I’ve also found myself using its camera more and more for quick hero images when I don’t have my DSLR around. It’s also been incredibly helpful for shooting my weekend Instagram videos; I shoot and edit those almost exclusively on my iPhone, now.

For non-photography tasks, I tend to use my iPhone to check Twitter, as mentioned above, or as an occasional distraction device when I need to take a second and think about an article.

My Apple Watch Sport has become my de-facto notification wrangler, keeping me in the loop on the things I care about and letting me dismiss the ones I don’t. Currently notification alerts don’t sync perfectly between mobile and desktop systems, which is kind of a pain, but c’est la vie.

Ally: During the work day I really only use my iPhone for screenshots and to reference anything I need to while writing. I take calls and respond to most messages on my Mac, it’s just easier.

As for the Watch, I only let the most important notifications show up. If I’m focused and I feel a notification hit my wrist, I know something needs my attention. The Apple Watch has been great as a gatekeeper and I find myself getting less distracted by notifications that I don’t need to bother with until later.

Rene: I can do almost everything on my iPhone 6 Plus now, and sometimes do. When I’m on my Mac, my iPhone used to be a second screen for alerts and quick info access. Part of that is now being done by my Watch.

I use Siri on both a lot, and sometimes that’s even faster than typing on my Mac.

Peter: The iPhone comes in handy when it comes time for screenshots or to take the occasional product image, but it isn’t really part of my actual workflow to get things done. I’m a Mac person through and through, and that’s where I do the vast majority of my work.

What other must-have accessories do you use?

Ren: The winner of this category is my trusty Canon DSLR Rebel XSi with 40mm pancake lens; it’s helped me take untold number of great photos for iMore. When it comes to moving around, my Osprey Pixel backpack can easily transport all my stuff (and then some) without feeling overly bulky. And I wouldn’t be able to do a thing without background music — that’s where my trusty Sonos speakers come in (or Fugoo Sport, while traveling).

Ally: I rotate through lots of laptop bags but when it comes to carrying around my camera gear and iPad, I love the Lowepro Passport Sling III. It’s a great size, distributes weight well, and can be carried around all day with no discomfort.

As mentioned previously, the Everdock Duo is a staple on my desk. It supports two devices and uses tiny air pockets to adhere to virtually any surface without causing any damage.

I’ve also got a Rodes podcasting mic, which I use to record podcasts for iMore. Other than that, you’re always sure to find random zombies, birds, and unicorns. Because, why not?

Rene: I use a Heil mic and boom for podcasting. I have Tom Bihn and Tumi bags for my basic gear, and an Incase for my camera gear. That’s currently a Canon 5D Mark III. I must have a dozen Hue lights by now, about half of which I use for the podcasts. I also have Sonos, because music and home theater audio controlled by my iPhone and iPad!

Peter: I adore my Waterfield Staad backpack. It looks great and has held up superbly. I use a Rode Podcaster mic (standard issue for iMore podcasters) and a Logitech C920 webcam, because the built-in webcams on Mac laptops stink.

What’s your go-to “can’t survive a day without it” software?

Ren: Unsurprisingly, I think most of us rely a lot on the same core groups of software. For me, it’s BBEdit, Pixelmator, Napkin, 1Password, Dropbox, and Fantastical. BBEdit is my writing workspace, and I love that it uses Dropbox to sync across all my computers. Pixelmator’s repair and image editing tools are crucial for dedusting photos of iOS devices, while Napkin makes iMore’s screenshots look shiny and new.

1Password keeps my brain focusing on writing rather than remembering obscure passwords. Dropbox syncs everything between any number of computers I use, letting me jump from laptop to desktop with ease. And Fantastical makes sure I’m up-to-date on the day’s activities and tasks, preventing me accidentally missing appointments, podcasts, or important events.

Ally: Photoshop and Napkin are the two apps I spend the most time in for work. I use Photoshop to edit all the pictures I take for iMore on a daily basis. Napkin is my go-to tool for creating all the fancy screens you see in our how to’s.

I do a little bit of consulting on the side as well. I find myself using both Napkin and Omnigraffle to help visualize things for clients from time to time.

Rene: Photoshop, Napkin, BBEdit, Slack, Fantastical, Messages, Tweetbot, Safari, Mail, 1Password, and Dropbox are pretty much in constant use on my Mac.

Peter: Napkin for iMore how-tos, BBEdit for big text projects, Typed for creative writing, Aperture (yes, Aperture, still) for image cataloging and editing. I still read a lot of news on the web so I depend on NetNewsWire to stay up to date with RSS feeds. TweetDeck is my Twitter client of choice. I also rely on MacTracker to fill in the blanks I have on Mac specs, especially older gear. And I hammer on Spotlight to find stuff on my Mac and on the web.

What do you want from Apple in the future for your daily productivity?

Ren: More Continuity features, both for Apple’s stock apps and third-party programs. Music handoff would be huge, as would being able to use the Watch to unlock my other devices.

Ally: I’d really like some of the Continuity bugs worked out, such as my iMac and iPad continuing to ring for minutes after I’ve already answered a call on my iPhone. I’d also like AirDrop to become more reliable. There are many instances where my iPhone takes several minutes to see my iMac, and vice versa.

As far as new features go, I’d really love to see Apple push harder for Handoff in third party apps. I love the convenience it provides and it’d be nice to see more developers take advantage of it.

Rene: I’d like them to continue on the same path, where each device is true unto itself, but works great with every other device. I dream of the day where my Apple Watch, because it knows I’m the one wearing it, just unlocks everything within reach. Where ambient Siri can launch and control things on any of my devices. Extensibility and Continuity, as introduced with iOS 8, have changed everything. Now that change just needs to roll out.

Peter: Handoff has already changed the way I work by making my workflow seamless from iOS to Mac and back again. Its reliability has been a stumbling block for me, so I’d like to see Apple work that out. Having Siri work on the Mac would be a game changer, especially for users with limited mobility who are hampered by the limitations of what Mac voice control can currently accomplish.

Rich: I’d really enjoy being able to tie an Apple Watch to a Mac!

Source: iMore

About Bhavesh Rabari

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