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David Robert Wright’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.

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Who are you and what do you do?

I’m David Robert Wright. I wear a lot of different hats. Right now, the main two I’m focused on are my church internship working toward becoming a pastor, and working as a private vocal instructor and performing musician. I also enjoy photography quite a bit, and get paid for the occasional gig—all my gear has been paid for over the years I’ve owned it.

What is your current setup?

I have a Mid-2011 MacBook Air with a 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of RAM. I use pen and paper for a lot of my sermon preparation and ministry planning activities, and most of my music is either playing or teaching, so the MacBook Air spends a lot of time sitting in its Rickshaw Bagworks sleeve. I like my stuff to be as compact as possible, which is why I went for the 11” rather than the 13” MBA.

David Robert Wright's desk
Editor’s note: You can find David’s background image here.

For my photography, I use a Canon Digital Rebel XTi and usually a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It’s been great for my needs. I have a Yamaha P-140 digital piano that I use to perform, write music, and practice. It sounds good overall, but they clearly recorded their piano samples from a slightly out-of-tune piano.

I have about 50 photos of friends, family, coffee, and places I love. I keep those in a folder, and my desktop is set to pick a new one at random every hour. The picture on my MacBook Air in the photo above is the one that is probably one of the greatest of general interest. I shot it driving home from work one evening on my iPhone 6 Plus using an app called HDR.

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

On a small screen, keeping windows organized is essential for my mental well-being. I use DoublePane for that. It’s a nice little app that allows you to set up keyboard shortcuts to make the active window fill exactly the left half or right half of the screen, or the whole screen without going fullscreen (I use Ctrl-Opt-←, Ctrl-Opt-→, and Ctrl-Opt-↑). It’s perfect for writing on one half of the screen and using the other half to display PDFs, notes, etc.

I do almost all of my writing in Byword. I love that it lets me choose my text column width, and its syntax highlighting for Markdown is great. I write a lot of essays and sermons, and I want those documents to be readable forever, regardless of software changes. If I need to write something with footnotes, I fire up Pages, but otherwise it’s Byword all the way.

To format documents for printing (mostly sermon outlines), I use Marked 2. I experimented with Marked a couple of years ago and it wasn’t quite what I needed to process Markdown for print output, but Marked 2 added some options for margins and that sort of thing. I created a custom CSS file that replicates the formatting I previously had in Pages and now it’s a dreamboat. I wish that there was a way to force a particular paragraph to the next page, and maybe there’s a way, but I value keeping my documents in plain-text more than I value moving paragraphs around.

I use Apple Mail for all my email needs. I don’t get a lot of email, so I don’t need anything fancy. I’ve tried other apps such as Mailbox and Spark, but I always switch back because I don’t need help keeping my email sane.

For my Bible studying needs, I use Accordance. I don’t need anything complicated out of it, but it’s a very powerful tool for surveying the use of a particular word across the entire Bible, which can be helpful. Mostly I just use it to show me the Greek or Hebrew texts and their English translations side by side as I write sermons, and it gives me easy access to the important lexcions for the New Testament and Old Testament.

I also use Eloquent for when I want to have a pile of different Bible passages open at once, especially because the ESV is available for it for free. Accordance feels very cluttered when you have many passages open at once, but Eloquent stays nice and compact. It’s also better for having big chunks of text open at once. For example, right now I’m working on a sermon series on Ephesians, and I’ll keep Accordance open with just the Greek and English for the small chunk I’m preaching on, but I’ll also keep all of Ephesians open in Eloquent.

For photography, I mostly use Photos these days. It gives me nearly all of the functionality I need to process my photos. I used Aperture for a long time, and I still use it occassionally when I want to brush effects in (for example, to brighten someone’s face relative to the background) rather than having effects apply to the entire photo. However, I’ll move to Lightroom the next time someone wants to pay me to shoot photos.

I use Finale PrintMusic when I need to arrange or transcribe music, and especially for creating exercise workbooks for my students.

I use Backblaze for automatic online backup and Dropbox to store all my current projects. It saved my bacon once in seminary when my MacBook Pro needed to go out for repairs for a week. I was able to keep working on assignments on a friend’s laptop because I could just download my files from Dropbox.

I also use f.lux so I can keep using my laptop in the evening to wind down, and Gestimer to remind me to take a break once in a while when I’m working.

Finally, for fun, I mostly either play Team Fortress 2 or my favorite Super Nintendo games using OpenEmu.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

I’m mostly happy with things the way they are now, but I’d like a different desk. As beautiful as my desk is, its pedestal drawers limit where I can comfortably sit, and therefore, where I can comfortably write with pen and paper.

Back when I had a 15” MacBook Pro (and its heft led to me taking it out only occasionally), I set it on a stand and hooked it up to a 20” monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Now that I have a MacBook Air, I find it advantageous to have the same computer setup no matter where I am. This is especially true now that so much of my work is done with pen and paper.

I would like a task light mounted on an arm so that its base wouldn’t take up so much desktop real estate, and so that I could direct the light away from my computer when I’ve got a notebook as well as my laptop open.

When I still had the 15” MacBook Pro, I used an original iPad for a while as a laptop replacement. It did fine as long as I didn’t need to refer to anything while writing, which is most of my writing these days. But with the iPad multitasking features that Apple released for iOS 9, it will be an interesting decision between the MacBook and iPad when I replace my MacBook Air (hopefully in another four years).

What iPhone do you have?

I have the iPhone 6 Plus, 64 GB. I don’t have an iPad, so I wanted the biggest iPhone there is. I made the right choice for me. I don’t miss being able to use my iPhone one-handed.

David Wright's iPhone 6 Plus

What apps do you use the most, and why?

I use Anki every day. It’s a great flashcard app. My favorite feature is that it keeps track of your progress on each flashcard. When you’ve got a card that you keep getting right, it stops showing it to you as often. It also lets you do more than two sides for each card, defying the laws of physics. It is worth every penny of its $25 cost. I use it to stay sharp on my Greek and Hebrew.

Reeder is my RSS feed reader of choice. I have it syncing with Feedbin, which has the closest functionality to Google Reader. I’ve been using Reeder for a long time, longer than any of the other third-party apps on my phone, except Wikipanion.

I usually use the built-in camera app, but I love HDR for shooting in low light. Even if there isn’t enough contrast in the scene to need HDR, combining two exposures really cuts down on the noise in low light.

I also use Overcast with all the features unlocked. I love that even within a Smart Playlist, I can rearrange the episodes as I wish. Generally, I want to listen to episodes as they come in, but sometimes there’s one I want to bump up to listen to next. I also love Smart Speed. I’ve saved about 35 hours since I got it. Finally, it’s nice to have podcasts in my list without automatically downloading every episode—there is a number of shows that I listen to often, but only if the topic of a particular episode looks interesting.

Check the Weather has my favorite design of any weather app, but I don’t use Idlewild, the default typeface. I use Futura instead.

Next is the simplest way I’ve ever found to keep track of what I spend over the month. Since I started using it, I’ve completely stopped having any surprises when I look at my bank account balance at the end of the month.

It isn’t on my first screen, but I use Capo to help me learn songs I want my band to cover. My singing range is a little lower than a lot of pop and rock musicians, so it’s very helpful to lower the pitch of a recording so I can learn it better. Slowing the recordings down also helps me learn to play the bass part better with my left hand on the keyboards. And looping sections helps me stay focused when I’m practicing keyboard solos.

Which app could you not live without?

I use Twitter all the time to plug lulls in my day with a joke or an interesting article.

There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.