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Gordon McLean’s Mac, iOS, and Watch 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 Gordon McLean, I’m currently working as a Business Analyst by day, and by night I write and blog (something I’ve been doing for 17 odd years). I also maintain a few websites, and I’m currently in the midst of writing my first book (a novel of undetermined genre).

The bulk of my professional experience is with software companies, which matches my naturally geeky tendencies. My first experiences with a Mac were (a long time ago) with either a Classic or an SE (I was about 15) that my Dad brought home from the school he worked in. I spent many of the intervening years on Windows boxes (and one sojourn into OS/2), returned to the Mac about 10 years ago with a plastic white MacBook, and I’ve not looked back since (we will ignore the Windows 7 ThinkPad I currently have to use at work…ugh).

What is your current setup?

Gordon McLean's desk

I’m in the midst of downsizing and moving to smaller accomodations, so I no longer have a dedicated desk. The picture above is a year or so old.

I’m currently using my kitchen table as a desk, and on it is my 2013 MacBook Air. There is also an iPad Pro as I’m still trying to transition to going iPad only, but more on that later.

Where can we find your macOS wallpaper?

If you have a good camera, and don’t mind a trip to Jupiter, you can probably take a similar picture yourself. Or, you can get it here.

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

The following tried and tested suite of applications keep me productive, organized, and form part of a cohesive system that works for me. It’s also key that they all have ‘partner’ apps on iOS (the joys of cloud services):

  • Spark: Not as fully featured as Airmail, but it feels nicer (and it handles different email formats a lot better).
  • Fantastical: Others may have more features, but the natural language entry continues to delight.
  • Todoist: Probably my most used app. I’ve tried many similar apps, but this is the one that stuck (Remember the Milk and Wunderlist are close seconds). Current Karma just shy of 40,000!
  • Notes: Dropped Evernote for the built-in Notes app and haven’t looked back since.
  • Day One: I don’t “journal” every day (that word should NOT be a verb!), but I push a few things to it to give me a log of what I’ve been up to.
  • Spotify: Because Apple Music still doesn’t quite fit my needs.
  • Overcast: For my commute, podcasts are a must (I have some recommendations).
  • Byword: For writing blog posts or short stories.
  • Scrivener: For writing my novel.

I’ll also make honorable mentions for Dropbox, 1Password, Feedly, TextWrangler, Safari, and Pixelmator.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

A log cabin, a comfortable chair, a height adjustable desk, and a view from the window out over a quiet lake. Hey, I can dream, right?

And on the desk is probably the biggest, fastest, bestest iMac that money can buy with a Sonos speaker system nearby.

What iPhone do you have?

Gordon McLean's iPhone

I have an iPhone 7, and whilst I covet the camera capabilities of the Plus, I just can’t justify having such a large device in my pocket.

I opted for the space gray, largely because I always have a case on my phone, so the colour and finish don’t actually matter all that much to me.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

As mentioned above, I use the iOS variants of all of the applications I use on my MacBook, plus:

  • Weather Line: For weather forecasts.
  • WhatsApp: For numerous groups of chats, which is still a better experience than using the Messages app.
  • Reminders: Exclusively used for a Shopping List; it syncs to iCloud as well.

And a few dozen more I use occasionally, such as Workflow (for automation of some tasks), buddhify (guided meditation), LIFX (Wi-Fi bulbs), and IFTTT (for a myriad of little automated tasks). And that’s before we get to things like Facebook, Twitterrific, and Instagram.

Which app could you not live without?

Todoist. I’ve blogged about my struggle to find a to do list/task manager app that worked the way I worked for many years.

There are simpler apps (Reminders a good example), more complicated apps (OmniFocus) but Todoist lets me handle things without forcing me into a ‘system’ yet still has enough flexibility to be useful (repeating tasks, priorities, projects). I have looked at other apps recently, but I keep coming back to Todoist.

Which iPad do you have?

Gordon McLean's iPad

I have two iPads: a 12.7″ iPad Pro and an iPad Air.

I bought the iPad Pro with the desire to move away from my MacBook Air. It was part experiment, part “I’ve paid for this so I’d better use it” commitment. It is a wonderful device, and the screen is a revelation; I also bought an Apple Pencil, and whilst I don’t use it often, when I do, I always take a few seconds to wonder and admire the simplicity of it and just how well it functions.

However, I’m still not fully switched over. I think this is down to muscle memory and the speed at which I can navigate macOS using keyboard shortcuts versus navigating iOS using a keyboard (I have the Smart Cover at the moment). In that respect, I may be a little too power-user to go iPad only. Or, just less willing to compromise. I’m not sure. It’s a wonderful device, regardless.

The iPad Air is used largely for occasional surfing, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. It usually lives on my sofa, and is the one I take travelling.

What Apple Watch do you have?

I have a Series II space gray Apple Watch, currently sporting a 3rd-party milanese loop style strap. I use it mainly as a way to triage emails and selected social media notifications, and I have to admit that closing those Activity circles is kinda addictive.

How do you use your Apple Watch on a daily basis?

Complications used:

  • Activity Circles, top left
  • Carrot Weather (showing Feels Like temperature and conditions), top right
  • Pedometer++, along the bottom. (Previously I had Fantastical in the bottom area, but my current workplace doesn’t allow me to sync any information to my systems).

It’s also the place I use Siri the most. Admittedly, it’s almost exclusively for setting timers, which is invaluable when you are cooking or just need a quick reminder. The Camera remote app is also very handy when needed and is definitely one of those moments that impresses friends and family.

I’ve always worn a watch so making the “leap” to the Apple Watch wasn’t a big one for me, but it’s definitely not a device for everyone.

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