Koen Adam’s Mac setup

Every week we post a new interview with someone about what software they use on their Mac, iPhone, or iPad. We do these interviews because not only are they fun, but a glimpse into what tools someone uses and how they use those tools can spark our imagination and give us an idea or insight into how we can do things better.

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Who are you what do you do?

Hi, my name is Koen Adams. I work and live in Belgium as a freelance cartographer and graphic designer, and I am also running One Stop Map. This is an online shop for printable and editable vector maps. I have been doing this kind of work for more than 20 years now and I am always on the hunt for the right tools to make my work both better and faster, and easier to accomplish.

Actually, my sweetest setup of all time would definitely be the one that I have with my wife and my two wonderful children, but I am here to talk Mac :-)

What is your current setup?

Koen Adam's Mac setup

I made the switch to Apple about 7 years ago. I was a Windows addict, assembling my own computers, programming some software, trying out lots of software, nagging about Apple, etc. Then I bought an iPhone out of curiosity. I was so pleased with it that not long after, I decided to make the switch to a Mac.

Currently, I am working on an iMac 27-inch, late 2012, running 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7 with 24 GB Ram. My beloved old Dell 22-inch monitor, which I have used as a second monitor for more than 10 years, died last year, so I was in the market for a replacement. I wanted to go with a new Apple Thunderbolt display to match my iMac, but curiously Apple has yet to refresh their last display from 2011 with a new one. After a long search, I finally ended up with an iiyama XB2779QS 27-inch. It fits harmoniously with my iMac: the same bezel, same colors, same height, same resolution and same screen size.

I definitely could not live without a second monitor. It is a huge productive upgrade, and workflows are so much better and faster than without.

My iMac and monitor are placed on a raised plank of wood. Underneath there is space to slide in my Wacom Intuos3 tablet. Wacom tablets are really well-made and seem to last forever. Mine works and looks like new after using it extensively for many years.

Koen Adam's desk

An iPhone 6 Space Gray 64GB keeps me company all the time. I love the iPhone and everything on it.

I have a ScanSnap S1500 to digitize all my paperwork. It works fast and almost flawlessly.

Audioengine A2+ powered desktop speakers are playing music all day. They look and sound just great.

I am using an Apogee Mic as a better replacement for the iMac built-in microphone. When I have some spare time I play the guitar that is connected to my iMac with an Apogee JAM guitar interface. Underneath my desk, I have an M-Audio Keystation 61es keyboard.

Printing and copying are done on a Samsung Xpress F2070FW.

A Synology DS214+ NAS is connected to my network. Last year I needed to replace the old Qnap, which had served me great for several years. I am very pleased by the simplicity of the Synology software.

Where can we find your OS X wallpaper?

I use a lot of these landscapes on my map shop. I change my wallpaper quite often with these beautiful views of our earth. Most of them I have found on bigstockphoto.com.

The left monitor shows a view on the Joshua Tree National Park in California. You can find it on Bigstock by entering this ID number: 70991158.

On the right monitor, I have a view at the Mont Saint-Michel in France. Just search for 72807991 to find it on Bigstock.

What software do you use and for what do you use it?

For my main work, cartography and graphic design, I heavily rely on the Adobe Creative Cloud. Most of my working time I am making maps in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. For the graphic design part, I also use Indesign.

I make maps in Illustrator and Photoshop using my Wacom Intuos3 tablet and two plugins from Avenza: MAPublisher for Illustrator and Geographic Imager for Photoshop. Both are awesome plugins. MAPublisher gives you all the important map-making tools right in Illustrator. I use it quite a lot. Geographic Imager is more or less the Photoshop counterpart of MAPublisher. These two in conjunction is just gold to me. I know there is a lot of other good and popular software available for making maps, like ArcGIS from Esri, but the Avenza plugins just give me all the tools available right in the software I care for the most. It is an absolute winner for me.

Fonts are an important part of graphic design, as they can make or break your design. That is why I have quite a lot of them. Over the past few years, marketplaces like Creative Market and GraphicRiver, to name a few, have grown a lot and give access to some very nice assets (including fonts) to use in design. To manage all the fonts I have, I use FontExplorer X. It is a simple tool for managing fonts into sets or client projects and activating them when needed. You can, of course, preview every font you like.

For several years now I am a premium member of Evernote. I rely heavily on Evernote for all of my notes, thoughts, paperwork, new projects, songwriting, and so on. Evernote is just great. I scan all my paperwork, invoices, and everything that matters right into Evernote. Evernote makes it all searchable, thus finding a particular document can be accomplished very quickly. When I come across an interesting web site, I let the Evernote plugin for Safari or Chrome snap the things I want. If I see something I want to remember, I just take a photograph of it and place it into Evernote. If I am playing guitar and come up with an idea, I make an audio note in Evernote. I can give a ton of examples where Evernote can come in handy.

I am still on the hunt for a good task manager to get my things done. I tried OmniFocus and I liked it. Unfortunately, I still have to use a Windows-based computer from time to time and discovered there is no decent way to access your tasks from another platform other than Mac or iOS. It surprised me a bit that The Omni Group still doesn’t have a web-based solution for OmniFocus. Everything should be accessible from anywhere, anytime. From all the other alternatives I tried, I have settled myself in using Todoist. Todoist has lots of options and is available on nearly every platform you can imagine.

I regularly have to send large files over to a client. Droplr gives me the opportunity to do just that. Drag and drop the files you want to send over onto the icon in the menu bar, and go on with whatever it is you are doing. Droplr meanwhile puts a link into the clipboard and that link can easily be pasted into my email. It’s just plain simple and it works.

With OS X Yosemite, I have tried the Apple solution called Mail Drop a few times. But, unfortunately, it was very unreliable at the time, so I stuck with Droplr.

About a year ago, I finally began using a password manager. I went for 1Password and it is a great product. I never have to remember any password, and they are all difficult to guess and different from each other. Before using 1Password, I was using the same fairly difficult password for all my services. If there was a problem, I had to change every single one of my logins. Currently, I have 617 logins in 1Password, so you can imagine the kind of work that would be.

With OS X Yosemite, a new Finder came along, together with tabs and some other enhancements. But I still find it lacking some important stuff, like cutting files to the clipboard. That is why I am still using TotalFinder for my file needs. Cutting files (CMD-X) just works, folders can be placed on top, and you can place two Finder windows side by side. Most importantly, it is easy to assign a shortcut to open the Finder window. Mine always slides up from beneath, and when I am done, it just disappears automatically.

Unfortunately, I find TotalFinder a bit buggy lately. Is this related to my setup or is the software a bit buggy? I don’t know who to blame.

For picking colors on my screen (when doing web design for instance), I use ColorPicker. I have assigned it a keyboard shortcut. It is always there and works perfectly. For on-screen size measuring, I am using SnapRuler.

With Apptivate, I have assigned some shortcuts to quickly open software I use the most: Apple Mail and Safari. Together with the TotalFinder solution, I always have the most important software at my fingertips.

Apple Notes is where I enter my quick thoughts. When I am working on a project for a client, for instance, and have some questions along the way, I just note them in there. When the work is finished, I prepare a new email, copy/paste those notes into it, and I am done.

I am currently trying out some new software called Unclutter. It is very promising. Basically, it is a note-taking app, clipboard manager, and file drop zone all in one place and one shortcut away. The note taking app will replace my workflow when taking notes on a project. The clipboard manager is good, but it does not work with clips from Illustrator. And organizing clips can only be done by a favorite list. The file drop zone has come in handy a few times. I use it when I have to gather files from several folders before sending them over to a client. Just drop a copy into the drop zone and from there I can send them to Droplr in one package.

It would be a disaster for my business if I were to lose the content of my hard drives. That is why I have several backups in place. Of course, I am using Time Machine as my main backup. Time Machine makes an incremental backup both to my Synology NAS device and a Seagate Backup Plus Fast 4TB directly attached to my iMac.

I also have an account with CrashPlan, so everything gets backed up automatically off-site. I am very happy with CrashPlan — it works as advertised and is not that expensive.

Being a freelancer, I regularly need to know exactly how long I am working on a project. For this and for my invoicing, I have usedbillings Billings Pro from Marketcircle for several years now. There are plenty of alternatives out there though.

As I have started a map shop and have to do a lot of writing, I am trying to get into the Markdown thing. I have tried Typed, Byword, and a few others.

Unfortunately, not one of these software solutions does the trick for me. I would really love to have an uncluttered and beautiful writing experience. But the thing is, my native language is not English. I have to rely on good grammar/spelling software. Typed or Byword combined with Grammarly would be the solution I am after, but it is not there. Currently, I am writing directly into the web app of Grammarly.

I have done some web design over the years, but for One Stop Map, I needed to be serious about it. I started my first design in RapidWeaver about two years ago. Realmac Software makes awesome stuff for the Mac, and RapidWeaver surely is one of them. You can make beautiful and professional websites with RapidWeaver. I spent an awful lot of time in this app and got really good at it. But running a shop with hundreds of products became a daunting task. I realized that for this type of website I needed to have a database behind it all. I tried several solutions and finally settled on WordPress and WooCommerce. RapidWeaver is still in my heart, though.

For my web design coding needs (CSS, jQuery), I opened an account at Codeanywhere. It is a cross-platform cloud IDE and is exactly what I need. All the stuff, always available anywhere.

Running an e-commerce shop also means working with a lot of images. For quick batch-processing these (resize, watermark, etc.), I am using Resize Sense and Watermark Sense from VeprIT. You need to spend some time with the software to get the hang of it, but when you do, it works like a champ.

I am following the news all over the world through RSS feeds. Reeder has always been my software of choice. When Google Reader was discontinued, I moved my feed subscriptions over to Feedly. I am very happy with that.

When I need to uninstall something from my Mac, I always use AppDelete to do so. It works great and is an invaluable piece of software for the job.

A hobby of mine is music. I’ve played the guitar since I was a teenager and slowly moved everything to digital. Right now, my guitar is attached to my computer through the Apogee JAM guitar interface. The guitar amp and effects studios I am using are AmpKit Mac and Garageband. All sound comes from the Audioengine A2+ powered desktop speakers, which sound great.

I usually play along with songs I stream from Spotify. Spotify also has a lot of backing tracks available, so I use them too.

I learn to play piano on the M-Audio Keystation 61es. I still have a lot to learn.

When I have plenty of time, and that is not often, I try to record some songs into Garageband. It is one of those magical pieces of software that made me fall in love with Mac OS X. It is always a lot of fun to poke around Garageband, both on Mac and iOS.

To learn and to be in the right place at the right time, I Lynda.com from time to time. It has all sorts of video tutorials about a huge range of topics. Together with everything I find on the internet, these videos are a valuable asset to keep me on top of the things I want and need to know.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I would like to have a huge, and most importantly, affordable SSD device. A 3TB SSD device would be sufficient for now.

I am also looking into the Retina 5K iMacs. My new one will definitely be one of those. And a blazing fast iMac is always welcome. One where you just wait a second and Illustrator is loaded, for instance.

An e-reader that syncs with the content I have in iBooks — that would be awesome. That is because reading outside during summer on an iPhone is not always a pleasant experience.

I have not talked about my iOS setup, but user accounts on one device is a thing Apple should definitely look into.

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