Matt Gemmell’s iPad and iPhone 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 and what do you do?

I’m Matt Gemmell, and I’m a novelist. I’m Scottish, and I live in the city of Edinburgh with my wife. My action-thriller novel CHANGER was released this summer, and I’m currently working on a new book. My site is at mattgemmell.com, and you can find me on Twitter as @mattgemmell.

Editor’s note: We interviewed Matt back in 2013 as well, so be sure to check that out to see how his setup has changed over two years.

What is your current setup?

As of quite recently, I don’t actually use a Mac anymore — I’ve decided to go iPad-only, as much as possible. I’m actually writing a series of articles about this particular journey; I wrote about my motivations for the switch here.

I do still have my gold 2016 12″ MacBook with retina display, but it sees very little use now.

Which iPad do you have (color, size, etc.)?

Matt Gemmell's iPad

I have a gold iPad Pro 9.7″ (128GB, Wi-Fi). I also have an Apple Pencil, and I use an Apple Magic Keyboard with the iPad.

My current case is a third-party brown leather cover, with a slot for the Pencil, magnetic wake/lock, and the ability to prop the iPad up at a couple of different angles.

Matt Gemmell's iPad in action

Where can we find your wallpaper online?

It’s just a solid shade of purple, my favourite colour, but you can get it here.

How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?

My iPad is my full-time work machine, so I use it for pretty much everything. My job is writing novels, so my workhorse is the recently-(finally-)released iOS version of Scrivener. It’s a beautiful distillation of the essence and power of the Mac version, and I find it even more productive than its big brother because of how focused it is. I felt immediately at home with it, and I was also fortunate enough to use beta versions for months before the public launch. It’s where I spend the bulk of each day, work-wise.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

Besides fiction, I also write articles for my site at mattgemmell.com, which I’ve been updating for more than twelve years now, using Editorial — an amazing text editor with extensive automation features. I wrote about how I use it for blogging, and I also use it to write the weekly newsletter for my site’s members. Here’s an article about that too.

When I want to tweak the site itself, I mostly use Coda. It’s a desktop-class web development environment, with most of its sister apps (Transmit and Prompt) built-in. Shockingly, I wrote about that.

I manage my schedule (including the shared calendar that my wife and I use) with Fantastical. I find it much easier to read, and more intuitive to use, than the regular iOS Calendar app. It’s also nicer to look at, and the animated parsing of natural-language events is satisfying every time.

For graphics work for the site and such, I’m a big fan of Autodesk Graphic (formerly iDraw), and I also love using the Apple Pencil with Adobe Photoshop Sketch. It was the app that made me buy the Pencil, after trying it out in our local Apple Store.

I have various utilities too, and the most indispensable of them are Dropbox — which is my file system — and of course 1Password.

Which app could you not live without?

It’s got to be Scrivener. It’s how I get the words down, organise projects, and edit drafts. I could limp along with a stock iPad for most things, under protest, but Scrivener is non-optional.


What iPhone do you have (color, size, etc.)?

Matt Gemmell's iPhone

Currently, I have a gold iPhone 7 (128GB), in a simple, translucent soft TPU bumper case.

Where can we find your wallpaper online?

It’s a photo of my wife, so I think I’ll just keep it for myself!

What apps do you use the most, and why?

My iPhone is mostly an ancillary device for me (and my Apple Watch is ancillary to that), so my most-used apps are for communication, social media, and photography: Messages, Twitterrific, Instagram and the stock Camera app, Slack, and the newly-redesigned Gmail app.

I do also have a host of utilities and productivity applications that mirror my iPad, but I really only use them in a pinch.

Which app could you not live without?

I’m pretty obsessed with Twitter, so Twitterrific… but I also live in Scotland, so I check Dark Sky (a weather app, which aims for highly accurate short-term forecasts) a dozen times a day. It still can’t cope with the notoriously changeable Scottish weather, but it makes a better attempt at it than most apps I’ve tried.

Thanks very much for the opportunity to talk about my setup, and to the Sweet Setup audience: thanks for reading! I’d be glad to take any other questions on Twitter.


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