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Andy Croll’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.

New setup interviews are posted every Monday; follow us on RSS or Twitter to stay up to date.


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Andy Croll, and I’m a designer and Ruby developer based in Brighton, UK.

I’m currently working remotely as a Senior Engineer at a travel company called HouseTrip. I have a background in design and worked my way to the ‘back-end,’ but these days I focus more on Ruby/Rails work. I’m the sort of person who has a lot of side projects — more ideas than time.

I run the Brighton Ruby Conference as well as a weekly bootstrapping newsletter (bootstrapping.io) and directory (buybootstrapped.org) as that’s where my eventual passions lie: small companies making cool things. I’ve done the VC startup thing as a founder, but it didn’t really agree with me. I occasionally blog at andycroll.com — a lot less than I should.

What is your current setup?

Andy Croll's desk
Editor’s note: You can find Andy’s screensaver here.

I have a work-provided maxed-out MacBook Pro 13″ Retina with 16 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD. I lived on an 11″ Macbook Air for a number of years, but the move to the MBP has been great.

The machine is plugged into my own Dell 27-inch monitor when I’m at my standing desk. Why did I wait so long for such a big screen? It makes so much difference.

I’m a great believer in having the right tools to do my work, particularly as a remote employee, so I like to spend money on things that make life easier. Hence, I have an absurdly expensive Elgato Thunderbolt Dock, the lovely BookArc stand, and noise cancelling Bose headphones with a microphone built in. All so I can plug in a couple of cables and be connected to power, external monitor, webcam, ethernet, etc easily.

I use Apple’s Magic Trackpad as mouse wheels make my arms hurt. I’m experimenting with the Logitech 811 Bluetooth keyboard, although I think I prefer the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. I may go back.

Andy Croll's standing desk setup

I also have a Synology 214play NAS (with 2x4GB WDD Red hard disks), which I can’t say enough nice things about.

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

I spend most of my work day in Atom or Sublime Text (you could consider me between text editors) for writing code, and Terminal for testing it. There’s also a healthy dose of Slack to stay in touch with (or annoy) my co-workers. There’s also Skype and ScreenHero for more synchronous conversations and pairing.

I try and use simple software where I can, so my personal email is in Apple Mail as I’ve never really got on with Gmail. I use nvAlt for text notes, and those all sync up via Dropbox. Safari is my browser of choice, and the keys to my life are in 1Password.

My appalling self-selected choice of music is from a mixture of Spotify and iTunes.

My menu bar is a treasure trove of cool little things like Bartender, Flux, Divvy, iStat Menus and Fantastical. I work in coffee shops on-and-off as a change in atmosphere, so I recently installed Cloak, which is a great and beautiful (and quite cheap) VPN that turns on when connecting to ‘untrusted’ networks.

Backups are a mix of Arq, just for photos, and a mix of Time Machine and SuperDuper! for ‘full machine’ backup. Everything also lives in Dropbox.

I like iA Writer or Byword for longer form writing, when I get round to it.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I have a massive crush on the Retina iMac because it’s beautiful. As soon as there is a MacBook that drives a future retina Thunderbolt display, I’m all over it. I fear that’s going to be a little while though.

I’ve always loved the designs of Apple’s desktop machines: my first iMac was the lampshade — I love the design of that thing. However, a desktop computer isn’t practical for someone who works away from his desk a fair bit. I tried keeping two Macs in sync, but it doesn’t really work for me, plus it’s crazy expensive.

I guess I’m lucky enough to be using the setup I’d choose for myself.


What iPhone do you have?

Andy Croll's iPhone 6 setup

I have a grey iPhone 6 with 128 GB of space. Always go big with storage.

I like the bigger 6 screen, as I’ve got biggish hands, but even I am terrified of the 6+. When I see one in the wild I’m afraid it’s going to fall over and crush someone.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

My favourites are Tweetbot, Instapaper, Reeder (RSS will never die), Overcast, Byword and Mail.

Simple. Do one thing well. Don’t be too fancy.

I also buy a lot of indie games; stuff like Threes, Space Age, and Monument Valley. I tend to play them on the iPad, though. I wish more games would sync progress across devices.

The second screen of my phone is dedicated to entertainment — a mixture of video (iTunes, Netflix, iPlayer) and audio (Music, Overcast, Spotify, and Sonos for when I’m at home). The third screen is useful other apps, and the fourth is games.

Which app could you not live without?

If I’m honest, with two kids under 2, it’s Camera and Photos. iCloud Photostream is great for family sharing of twin-based mischief.

Each year the camera gets better (whether by burst mode, faster focus, or just better images), is a year I’ll consider upgrading.


Which iPad do you have?

Andy Croll's iPad mini setup

The newly rechristened (retina) iPad mini 2 in Space Grey, 64GB.

And yes, my iPad and iPhone screens mostly include the same apps. I’m that guy.

How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?

I’d love to be able to code (and thus work) on my iPad, but we’re not there yet (despite the best efforts of Panic’s Diet Coda).

So, mostly it gets a workout as a watching, reading, and playing device with a nice sideline in email triage and writing.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

I’m in a fairly constant battle with my Instapaper backlog. But, Safari, Mail, Twitterrific (nice, but not Tweetbot) and Reeder get most of my iPad time.

It seems to be used for the sweet spot of reading magazine length content, but if I’m reading a book, I like a Kindle.

Which app could you not live without?

The iPad is a weird thing — I love it, but it’s the device I could (quite easily) do without. However, given a choice, it’s often the one I reach for.


There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.