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Dan Johnson’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 and what do you do?

My name is Dan Johnson, and I am a professional architect working in Alberta, Canada for an international firm. I immigrated to Canada from the UK five years ago and used to run my own architecture practice back in England. As a result I have amassed a lot of information, drawings, and photos that I need to manage and access.

I am also a keen blogger and maintain two main sites, one focusing on Architecture & Design (Architecture & Design Muse) and the other, my interest in all things Apple (How to…everything Apple).

What is your current setup?

Dan Johnson's desk

My desktop setup is based around a Retina 5K iMac using macOS Server. This is connected via ethernet to my older iMac which I use the 1TB HDD as a “library” for professional data and information that I don’t need to access frequently. I use the older iMac as a second screen using Display Port to the Retina iMac’s Thunderbolt port.

  • iMac27 Retina 5K, Late 2015

    • 4GHz Intel Core-i7
    • 16GB Memory
    • 500GB SSD
  • iMac27 Late 2009

    • 3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
    • 12GB Memory
    • 1TB HDD

I run Server across my network for my family’s use and more for controlling file permissions and drive access.

The Retina iMac is connected via Thunderbolt to a Western Digital external drive that provides two 2TB drives. I use one of these drives to store documents and my family’s individual documents and the second drive for sharing music, photos and videos. I have set up iTunes on the Retina iMac, but have the iTunes library stored on the external drive to save space. We use Apple TV and the Remote.app to access iTunes anywhere in the house. We also have a significant library of ripped CDs and DVDs and can access those in the same way.

Dan Johnson's network and storage rack

In addition, I have a Drobo 5N connected via ethernet. This provides archive storage and additional server back ups via Time Machine.

I run a 3TB AirPort Time Capsule as my main router coming off my incoming ISP router. This network is then “extended” via an AirPort Extreme and an AirPort Express on the other floors of our house. I have a stereo system connected to the Express and a Home Theatre setup connected to the Extreme so that we can wirelessly access media anywhere.

I use the 3TB AirPort Time Capsule as the principal backup drive to the Server, but also maintain two older Time Capsules to provide backup disks to the multiple devices in my family from 4 Apple users. These are all connected to the Time Capsule router via ethernet and a D-link Gigabit switch.

I also back up to two external Thunderbolt/USB 3.0 drives using SuperDuper! These drives are then stored in a fireproof safe for added security.

I also run a Retina MacBook Pro 13” (2.4GHz Intel Core i5, 16GB Memory, 256GB SSD) for recreation and blogging use. This used to be my mobile platform for my professional work, but I now use a 12.9” iPad Pro for that purpose.

Where can we find your macOS wallpaper?

I try and “theme” my various macOS and iOS devices based on the screensaver for personal or work-related use. I therefore use the “exploding paint” wallpapers from iOS and have saved the image to Photos for use on my Macs.

My personal space on my iMacs uses a variety of wallpapers from www.wallpapershome.com.

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

I tend to try out new apps on a regular basis and then I have a distinction between my personal and professional life.


  • Apple Calendar
  • Apple Mail – I have recently returned to Mail from Airmail to make use of it’s integration with DEVONthink
  • Reminders (for shared lists with my family)
  • OmniFocus – personal projects
  • DEVONthink – my information hub for “everything”
  • DayOne – journaling
  • MarsEdit – blogging


  • Fantastical – I track my billable time to the nearest 15minutes and the natural speech entry is a time saver!
  • Apple’s Mail – once again to make use of DEVONthink
  • Wunderlist – shared project-based lists with my design teams
  • OmniFocus – I manage between 20 and 50 professional projects using the Pro features and synced to my iPad
  • DEVONthink – my information hub for “everything,” including note taking
  • SG Project Pro – Gantt chart scheduling
  • SketchUp Pro – 3D CAD modelling
  • PDFpenPro – PDF management
  • Pixelmator – Image manipulation & presentation

I also use Moom, Hazel, and Copied across both set ups – all essential utilities!

These are only the main day-to-day applications.

My employer uses an Enterprise-based Windows system, and I run a Parallels Windows setup using my iPad Pro as the best way to keep it all in sync.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I am fortunate that my setup meets my needs currently, and I value having both the 27” screens for 3D modeling work and project management with multiple applications running simultaneously. I used to use a 27” Thunderbolt Display, but this ran into the infamous “sleep” issue, and I have not been able to get it working since. Having that additional screen real estate would be cool!

I use a standing desk at my work studio and often miss that when at home, so that would probably be what I would change in this current set up.

If I was to work for myself again, I would be tempted by the new iMac Pro so I could keep my personal and work setups distinct from each other. Maybe one day!

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