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Brian Renshaw’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 Brian Renshaw. I’m originally from Springfield, Illinois, but now reside in Louisville (that’s LOO-A-VUL), Kentucky. My main priority is my doctoral studies with a focus on the New Testament at Southern Seminary. I also work full-time as an Instructional Designer at the seminary. My main responsibilities are to work with the faculty to create online courses, but I also provide technical help with the LMS (Moodle) by answering questions, creating screencasts, and developing interactive tutorials. I also blog at my personal site with topics related to biblical studies, and also recently launched a site called Techademic. The latter site is my recent endeavor to create a reposity of helpful articles and screencasts related to technology, productivity, and academics.

What is your current setup?

Brian Renshaw's desk

I use a 2014 13″ MacBook Pro Retina. I recently upgraded from a MacBook air due to an increase in screencasting and video/audio editing. The retina screen is beautiful, and using a laptop that is nonโ€“retina is shocking now. I’m a big fan of Twelve South’s products so my computer sits in the BookArc, which is technically for the MacBook Air, but this still fits snuggly.

My iPhone rests on the HiRise, and the iPad is generally propped up by the Compass 2.

Brian Renshaw's desk

My keyboard of choice is the Das Keyboard 4 Ultimate (Cherry MX Brown switches since I am in an office with other people). Like a retina screen, once you use a mechanical keyboard, it is difficult to go back. Many people give me a hard time about the “naked” keys, but I find that it makes me that much more focused.

My mouse is the Logitech Performance MX. I prefer the Magic Mouse because of the shortcuts you can do with it, but began developing wrist pain and had to switch to a bigger mouse (I’ve supplemented the shortcuts by using BetterTouchTool). For backups, I use a 2 TB WD MyBook along with Backblaze and Time Machine. I use a dual monitor setup with Asus MX259 monitors.

For screencasting I use the Blue Yeti Microphone with their pop filter and shock mount along with the Rode PSA1 Boom.

For audio editing, I prefer to use Sony MDR-7506 headphones, but when I need to block out noise and focus on the tasks at hand, I plug in my Bose noise cancelling headphones. I also have a Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speaker setup for when no one is in the office.

Brian Renshaw's desk

Where can we find your OS X wallpaper?

I’ve been listening to the excellent new podcast, Cortex, with CPG Grey and Myke Hurley. In one of their episodes, they talked about wallpapers so I downloaded the one they linked to and have been hooked since for all my devices.

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

This could be a huge rabbit hole as there are many small utilities that I find invaluable along with larger apps that I need for both work and research.


TextExpander makes school, work, and blogging so much easier. Keyboard Maestro houses my keyboard shortcuts and macros that I’ve created for repetitive tasks. Droplr to share images and videos. Screenfloat is a handy utility when you need a screenshot for reference (work mode is a neat little feature you should check out). I’ve remapped my keyboard to make a useful caps lock key (per Brett Terpstra) with Seil and Karabiner. Caffeine keeps my screen awake when I need it. FruitJuice keeps my battery in check since it is plugged in most of the time. The only reason I have iStat Menus is for the fuzzy clock feature. Annotate (previously GLUI) is my app of choice for screenshot markups. DaisyDisk keeps my hard drive space in check. BetterTouchTool is for shortcuts on my mouse, and BetterSnapTool keeps my windows organized. PopClip is mainly used for copy/paste, but I use some of the other shortcuts as well. SwitchResX aids in providing the correct resolution for screencasting. And finally, to keep all my utilities in check, I use Bartender to hide almost all of my menu icons and just open it up with a keyboard shortcut.

Apps for school:

I keep all my research in DevonThink. Some like to use Evernote to archive all their PDFs, but the power of DT is just uncomparable in my opinion. I keep quick notes in nvALT and longer notes I write in Byword or by hand. Any notes I take also get sent to Evernote because I can combine handwritten and typed notes while still being able to search them. Unfortunately, with footnotes and formatting for papers, I have to use Microsoft Word. I usually use this in the last stage of the writing process as I hate actually writing in it. For keeping track of bibliographical information I use Zotero, which links beautifully with Word. I also find the Highlights app useful for extracting highlights from PDFs. As a biblical studies student, I need Bible Software as well for research. I prefer Accordance Bible Software for most things, but still use Logos Bible Software for resources that Accordance does not have.

Apps for work:

Developing courses is mostly online work, so my browser of choice is Safari. I also use the Apple suite for Word documents and spreadsheets. For screencasting, I use Screenflow; for interactive tutorials, I use Adobe Captivate, and for audio editing for both I use Adobe Audition. For some photo editing, I prefer Pixelmator.

And finally, to keep my life sane and together, I don’t know what I would do without OmniFocus. This app organizes all facets of my life. The app for both Mac and iOS is put together extremely well and syncs perfectly. Not sure how I would make it without it.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I would say this is my ideal setup. The only thing that I would maybe change would be to go for a 27-inch iMac with Retina 5k. But honestly, who sits at a desk most of the day and doesn’t want that?

What iPhone do you have?

Brian Renshaw's iPhone
Editor’s note: You can find Brian’s wallpaper here.

iPhone 6 Plus (64GB). Yes, Myke is right. The iPhone 6 Plus is an amazing phone. I love the larger real estate, and now other phones just feel way too small. As a side note, after listening to episode 3 of Cortex, I tried putting all my apps that don’t fit on the homescreen in one folder, and I have to agree that having one screen on the iPhone is fantastic. It is faster to search for apps anyways.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

I use Drafts to start almost any text on my iPhone. It is really handy when reading or on the go to quickly dictate a note and send it off to a Dropbox folder. Also, if anything needs to go in OmniFocus, it starts here. I listen to podcasts whenever I can and my app of choice is Overcast. Smartspeed and voiceboost are brilliant.

I actually prefer reading articles in Instapaper on the iPhone. Before the 6 Plus, I always used the iPad for this, but the bigger screen on the iPhone is just perfect for articles. I waffle between RSS readers: Reeder and Unread. I like both of them, but each has very small annoyances so I end up switching between them when I get tired of one. I used to do the same thing with podcast apps until Overcast came out. I really want to find the perfect RSS app. And, of course, OmniFocus, for which I explained my reasons above.

Which app could you not live without?

I kind of answered this already for the Mac section, but I would have to answer OmniFocus because it helps me keep track of everything in my life. I can always tell if I am not using it properly because everything in my life (organization- and productivity-wise) seems to fall apart.

What iPad do you have?

Brian's iPad Air 2
Editor’s note: You can find Brian’s wallpaper here.

I have a Space gray iPad Air 2.

How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?

I pretty much use my iPad as a consumption device. Although, after receiving the BrydgeAir Keyboard over Christmas, I have been writing more on it. I am really looking forward to iOS 9 and split screen apps. That is probably one of the biggest hindrances for me because when I am researching and writing I find it better to have a reading and notes open at the same time.

So, with that being said, the biggest use for my iPad is reading and annotating PDFs. Being a doctoral student, I am constantly reading and marking up PDFs. After getting the iPad, I hate reading PDFs any other way. Along with that, I use both Accordance Bible Software and Logos Bible Software often on the iPad.

It also works fantastically as a second screen to watch my favorite baseball team on the MLB app, the St. Louis Cardinals.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

Since I am constantly reading PDFs, I think that PDF Expert is open most of the time on the app. I have tried many other PDF apps, but always come back to this one. It is powerful yet simple, and I have never had any major bugs or issues with it. Evernote is also another heavily used app on the iPad for research. When I am writing, I use Drafts to send shorter notes to Dropbox, and Editorial for longer writing.

Which app could you not live without?

For the iPad, it would have to be PDF Expert for reasons I have explained above.

There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.