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Alok Singh’s Mac and iOS 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?

My name is Alok Singh, and I’m a senior at UC Berkeley in Mathematics. I also like Computer Science, reading (a lot), and research. Currently, I read, write about, and do math. Ditto for CS.

What is your current setup?

Alok Singh's desk

I’m using a current-gen 15″ MacBook Pro Retina with a 512 GB SSD.

I use my iPad Pro for all math work that isn’t transcribing to LaTeX. I despise writing LaTeX as the syntax is so clunky and awkward to type. My Mac is for all text-related work and anything that can be done on the command line. I use the terminal for 95% of my work and am fairly happy with it. Its user hostility is counteracted by the power it offers.

I type on the Kinesis Advantage and feel crippled without it. I remapped the thumb clusters to switch apps, and along with Karabiner, I work 5 times as fast on it (I timed myself once).

Alok Singh's keyboard

With all the fancy configuration I’ve done, I don’t really use the
mouse (which is a Logitech M570). I once ran out of battery for my mouse and didn’t notice for almost 4 hours.

I hook into a 40-inch monitor. With good window resizing shortcuts, I think it’s more efficient to have a massive monitor rather than multiple smaller ones.

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

  • Neovim for all text-related activity, including writing this. I use its embedded terminal all the time.
  • Dragon for Mac for typing via speech. Hopefully, macOS Sierra’s Siri will beat them for recognition.
  • Dropbox for back-ups and sync.
  • Skim for PDFs for viewing PDFs, though the developer is astonishingly hostile to the idea of adding vertical splits.
  • Fantastical 2 for its natural language processing. I wish Apple would buy them and integrate their software into Calendar.
  • f.lux for the sake of my eyes.
  • GoodNotes, to integrate with iPad and search notes faster.
  • Karabiner for some very creative key remapping.
  • Seil, to remap Caps Lock.
  • Keyboard Maestro for app launching macros.
  • Reeder for RSS.
  • Instapaper for longer articles and its highlights feature.
  • Keyboard Settings (in System Preferences) for switching to Colemak.
  • 1Password
  • Anki for immunology flashcards.
  • Alfred mostly for clipboard management. App launching/switching is handled by a lot of hotkeys.
  • Pandoc for all conversion.
  • Calibre for eBook management.
  • Sourcegraph for Go documentation (waiting on Python).
  • Dash for regular API documentation.
  • Hoogle for Haskell code.
  • RescueTime to track what I do.
  • nvALT for short notes (currently writing shell scripts to replace it with nvim)
  • OmniFocus until I learn org-mode or figure out how to duplicate it in vim.
  • iTerm for vertical splits and true color.
  • Moom for “window management” (Xmonad is a window manager, Moom is a light version).
  • NeoMutt for mail.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Automatic handwriting to LaTeX and automatic note extraction to text would be nice. Short of that, a much better brain and more people to work with.

What iPhone do you have?

Alok Singh's iPhone

I currently use a 64 GB iPhone 6s.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

Which app could you not live without?

Google Maps. I travel a lot.

Which iPad do you have?

Alok Singh's iPad

I’m currently using a 12.7″ iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil.

How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?

I’m using it to completely replace paper. Over the last 6 months, I’ve logged more than 1,500 pages of notes. I import textbooks and research papers and mark them up in GoodNotes. It’s like having infinite paper, crayons, and a ruler at all times. My entire library (2,000 books) is on there and it’s great.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

  • GoodNotes, because I can search my handwriting and sync with Dropbox.
  • GoodReader to store my PDFs and export them to GoodNotes (no affiliation).
  • Dropbox (indirectly) to sync everything.
  • Instapaper for long-form text articles.
  • Reeder, for RSS.
  • Marvin (excited for 3.0), for ePub files.
  • Kindle, for MOBI files.
  • OmniFocus, to manage my life.
  • Skritter, to learn Chinese.
  • Anki, for working with flashcards.

Which app could you not live without?

GoodNotes by far. This app is essential to my iPad workflow.

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