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Danny Ngan’s Mac 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.

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 Danny Ngan (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and I am an art producer at Glu Mobile. I work out of Glu’s Bellevue, WA, office where I manage multiple teams of artists in the creation of games for iOS and Android devices. I spend most of my days scheduling tasks, coordinating work between artists and other disciplines, making sure everyone has what they need to do their jobs, and various other business-y stuff (email, meetings, weekly reports, etc.). For projects with smaller staff, I’ll also work as the art lead to provide art direction, offer feedback and critique on work, and create reference images for artists. Occasionally, I’ll create artwork that actually goes in the game. I don’t do much of that now that I’m on the management side of things, but it’s nice to get my hands dirty once in a while.

I am also a freelance photographer (website, Facebook, Flickr) in my spare time. I photograph a wide variety of subjects including portraits, events, landscapes, and food, but the vast majority of my work revolves around roller derby. I volunteer for several local leagues (Rat City Rollergirls, Jet City Rollergirls, Tilted Thunder Rail Birds) providing coverage of their events and shooting portraits and team photos for their websites.

What is your current setup?

Danny Ngan's desk

For my game development work, I use a mid-2014 15” MacBook Pro Retina. I tend to bounce between my desk and conference rooms pretty regularly, so I keep a very minimal setup. The only accessories I use with my MBP are headphones and a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet.

I have a stack of iOS devices for testing purposes. Currently, I have an iPhone 5, an iPhone 6, an iPhone 6 Plus, and an iPad Mini. Because each device has a different screen resolution, it is important that I play our games on each device to make sure everything looks OK. I love Apple products, but the sheer number of different resolutions to support has been kind of a pain.

I keep a Moleskine notebook, a stack of blank paper, and lots of pens and Sharpies at my desk. As much as I like to keep things digital for archival and sharing purposes, there are times when it’s much easier to just doodle things on paper. I can always take a picture later if needed.

I also have four Nerf guns on my desk. You never know when a Nerf battle will happen, and I have to be prepared to fight back.

For my photography work, I use a late-2011 15” MacBook Pro. Even though it isn’t the latest and greatest computer, it still handles everything I need without too much fuss. I don’t have a “proper” desk because we don’t have a lot of space in our small apartment. I just work from the couch most of the time and move to the dining table if I need more space. I also work on location a lot, so a MacBook Pro is ideal for me.

I have a stack of external drives to back up and archive my freelance work. I’m not married to any particular brand, but I do tend to go with G-Technology and Western Digital portable drives. I use Zenfolio to back up my photos online.

My daily carry-around bag is an ancient Timbuk2 messenger bag that I’ve had for over 10 years. It is totally beaten up and ragged (my cat likes to use it as a scratch post sometimes), but it has served me incredibly well. As much as I’d like to get a newer, fancier bag, this one suits me just fine. It has character.

I also carry my Fujifilm X100T with me everywhere. It is my all-time favorite camera (which I’ve written about here). It’s not for everyone, but it suits the way I photograph things. It’s also much lighter than my massive Nikon DSLR setup.

Where can we find your OS X wallpaper?

I use a slideshow of recent photos I’ve taken. The wallpaper shown in the photo was taken just before sunset at Ocean Shores, Washington, in late spring earlier this year.

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

For my work at Glu, we use Outlook for emails and calendars, Excel for high-level scheduling and planning, and Slack for team communications. We also use Jira for bug tracking, Confluence for team documentation, and Perforce for version control. Unity is our game engine of choice. Maya and Photoshop are our primary art creation tools. All of this is pretty standard for the game industry.

I use Chrome as my primary web browser at the office. The main benefit over Safari (which I use at home) is being to have each window signed in as a different user. This allows me sign into the same service under multiple accounts and to separate work and personal browsing settings on my work computer.

I use OmniPlan for detailed task management and planning. The information I have in OmniPlan is mostly for my eyes only and really only useful for planning out different scenarios (i.e. how will removing a team member affect the overall project schedule) and figuring out budgets. I will take a summary of the information in OmniPlan and enter it into our master team roadmap in Excel as needed. This process is a little extra work on my part, but it allows me to adapt to each team’s slightly different work processes and tools.

For my freelance photography, I mostly use Photo Mechanic and Lightroom. All of my photos start in Photo Mechanic, where I will make my selections and add metadata. Final selections will then go into Lightroom for adjustments and final exporting. Those two packages handle about 99% of the work I do on a regular basis. Sometimes I’ll bounce into Photoshop for bigger retouching jobs or compositing work, but that’s rare nowadays. With event and sports photography, I don’t need to do much retouching at all.

I use Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs for personal stuff and freelance work. Simple and free are always good things to me.

Carbon Copy Cloner is essential for backing up my files. I run triplicate backups for all of my projects, and CCC helps me manage various backups across multiple drives.

Dropbox is a key component of my daily work. I use it for syncing settings between computers (for apps that allow it), sharing files with clients, and a simple backup of current work files.

I use Ulysses as my primary writing and note-taking tool. It is setup to sync files via Dropbox, which keeps my files accessible by apps other than Ulysses. I can also add files to Dropbox and have them show up in Ulysses without any crazy importing process. Everything is just a text file, so it’s very simple. The writing experience in Ulysses is absolutely wonderful. Clean, simple, fast. I also really like Markdown — so simple.

OmniFocus is my über to-do list app of choice. It’s expensive and can take some time to learn, but it is incredibly powerful. I particularly like the ability to defer tasks or projects to a later date so I don’t have to look at them until it’s time. The quick entry popup is probably one of my favorite features.

I do my daily journaling in Day One. I use it primarily for brain dumps, vents, random thoughts, and free writing. Most things in Day One don’t see the light of day, but sometimes a few items turn into blog ideas.

I use Feedly to keep up with blogs and news sites. It’s a great way to manage a large volume of articles without having to visit each site individually.

One tool I often forget that I have installed is Spectacle. It’s an awesome little utility that I use to juggle windows around using keyboard shortcuts. I like how fast it is to set any window to fill the left half, right third, top half, full screen, etc. without taking my hands off the keyboard. This is the sort of functionality that I wish was integrated into OS X.

The one app that I have running pretty much all the time on my home computer is Safari. It’s faster and more energy efficient than Chrome (very noticeable on my older MBP with its aging battery). It also has a much smoother browsing experience.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m actually very happy with my setup for both game dev and photography. I’ve considered getting a 13” MacBook Pro for my freelance work so my location kit is lighter and more compact. I would love it if Apple made an OS X tablet similar to the Surface Pro. I like the idea of the iPad Pro, but I want to be able to use my main OS X apps. I can dream, at least.


What iPhone do you have?

Danny Ngan's iPhone 6 Plus

I have a white iPhone 6 Plus. When I upgraded from a 5s earlier this year, I was a little worried that the 6 Plus would feel too big and clunky. Turns out, it’s the perfect size for my needs. Everything is so much easier to use on the big screen.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

For my day job, I use Outlook to manage emails and calendars and Slack for team communications.

I use Apple Mail.app for personal and freelance emails. I don’t need anything fancy, so Mail works just fine for me.

Sunrise is my calendar app of choice on my phone since it can pull in calendars from everywhere (Google, Facebook, Exchange). However, knowing that Sunrise will go away at some point, I’m considering other options. Fantastical is the front-runner right now.

I use OmniFocus to manage my to-do lists when I’m not at my computer. The Today Widget and Forecast views are incredibly handy for planning out my day. Syncing with the desktop version is pretty much seamless.

I use Drafts for quick note-taking when I don’t have my MBP with me. I like that it starts up immediately with a document open and the keyboard ready for typing, and it’s super easy to send the notes to Dropbox, email, text message, OmniFocus, and other services when I need to.

Google Maps and Waze are essential for my daily commute. I live near the stadiums in Seattle, so I need to know what traffic is like when I’m heading home for the day. Both are also incredibly useful to figure out travel times to photo shoot locations.

I have the usual bevy of social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). I tend to use Facebook and Instagram the most since most of my friends are on Facebook and, as a photographer, Instagram is my favorite photo sharing site, both for the ease of use and the inspiration I get from other artists sharing their work. Twitter is mostly used for breaking news and for following people who don’t use Facebook.

I use VSCO to edit photos on my phone. Sometimes, if I’m lazy, I’ll just use the filters and built-in editing tools in Instagram.

For entertainment, I use Apple’s Podcasts and Music apps for all of my listening needs, Feedly for my blogs and news sites, and the Kindle app for e-books. I also play a lot of Candy Crush when I need to relax my brain.

I use Messages and Facebook Messenger for all of my real-time communications with friends and family. Several of my freelance clients will message me on Facebook as well, because it’s just so easy and convenient.

And, of course, Safari is the go-to for everything on the web.

Which app could you not live without?

Safari is probably the only app I would absolutely need on my phone. I can access email, calendars, social media, and Dropbox from the web. The dedicated apps make for a better user experience, but, if needed, I could just use Safari for everything.


There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.