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Kyle Plattner’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 Kyle Plattner. I work with a really great team in Central Illinois developing an iPad app that maps real-time field data for farmers called FieldView Cab for a company called The Climate Corporation. Our app seeks to provide real-time visualization of planter performance, harvest productivity, and other types of field maps that help growers understand and improve their yields.

Any spare time, apart from work and church activities, is spent enjoying time with my three favorite girls in the world, my wife and our two daughters. We love reading books, cooking together, spending time outside, finding unique local outings, and just talking with each other. I really treasure my time with them.

What is your current setup?

Kyle Plattner's home office

I use a 2013 15” Retina MacBook Pro connected to a 27” Apple Cinema Display and a 24” Display at home. The Rain Design mStand props up my MacBook as a second screen and allows me to quickly see what things will look like at Retina resolution.

I transitioned to a standing desk at both work and home several years ago and never looked back.

My home office, pictured above, was a project taken on to make working from home easier. While the bulk of my time is spent at an office working with a team, I knew I needed time to work outside of the office environment to accomplish what Cal Newton calls “Deep Work.” My early attempts to work from home were quickly rendered ineffective by not having a clear separation between work and family. Trying to focus in the same space where my wife and daughters were going about their daily activities wasn’t working well for anyone. Work and family rarely can both be served effectively in the same time and place.

Kyle Plattner's home office

So, I put together an outdoor office by walling off a room in our garden shed. I added a heating and cooling unit to it so that it could be used throughout the year with Midwest weather. Wood from old palettes were nailed to the walls, a standing desk built right in, and I added some storage and bookshelves. Lastly, I spent effort personalizing the space to make it a place where I’d want to be.

Kyle Plattner's home office

My current schedule is working Monday through Thursday in the office and spending each Friday in my outdoor shed office. Of course, this is flexible and some Fridays this doesn’t work because of meetings or events. However, Fridays have generally become a day for focus and deep work since all interruptions are channeled through Mail and Slack. The change of context and the clear separation between work life and home life has been extremely positive so far.

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

Most of my day is spent bouncing between Safari, Mail, Xcode, Photoshop, Sketch, Tower, and Slack.

I’ve always found Safari to fit my personal tastes and have rarely been tempted to switch to Chrome or Firefox. The same goes for the Apple Mail app. I hear of people who either just manage their mail in the browser, use some tailored productivity mail app, or worse, use Outlook. Neither of those approaches have ever worked for me.

As for doing real work, I generally do my quick, low fidelity wireframe type work in Sketch, higher fidelity mockups and icons in Photoshop, and then refine the UI in Xcode. And Slack is our chat tool of choice for work. I’m not in love with it, but it works great for what it is. Tower is a really simple Git tool. I’d recommend it.

My dock also gives home to Reminders, Evernote, Pocket, and Reeder.

I’d be lost without the Reminders app on my Mac and iPhone. It manages all that needs to get done in my life. Every time I think of something that shouldn’t be forgotten, even trivial things, it gets added as a reminder with a due date. When the reminder goes off, whether on my phone or Mac, I’ve had to remain very disciplined about either completing it or rescheduling it to make sure it doesn’t fall through the cracks. Keeping lists keeps that vague feeling like I have a lot to do from clouding my mind. Having a finite, prioritized list reduces anxiety and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. Not to mention that the satisfaction of clicking or tapping Complete never seems to wear off.

Evernote keeps my life organized and in sync between my iPhone and Mac. I snap and archive paper documents with my iPhone camera and keep articles that I’ve written but know I want to refer back to later.

Pocket collects all the links and articles I want to read during lunch breaks or down time. Any time I see something I want to read but don’t want to distract from what I’m currently working on gets added to Pocket. And the sync between my phone and Mac is invaluable.

It seems that in the post-Google Reader era, RSS has been unfairly forgotten. I still find RSS to be the most effective way to stay on top of news from only sources that I really care about. And I’m convinced that Reeder is the most well-designed RSS reader. I love its simplicity, the quick keyboard shortcuts, and the integration with Pocket and Evernote.

Other honorable mentions of services I love on my Mac include 1Password, Dropbox, and CloudApp.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

The improvement I’d like to make more than any other to my current setup is having a Retina Cinema Display as my primary monitor. It’s unfortunate that our app is used on Retina screens but developed on monitors with an inferior resolution.

What iPhone do you have?

Kyle Plattner's iPhone

I just switched to the iPhone SE after using the iPhone 5s for three long years. I resisted the upgrade to a larger phone hoping that Apple would release another 4” iPhone. When they announced another 4” phone with updated components, I felt like my patience was being rewarded.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

The most used app on my iPhone, besides Mail and Messages, of course, is Overcast. I love podcasts, and it’s the best podcast app I’ve used. My commute each day is made more tolerable by listening to podcasts like ATP, The Talk Show, Core Intuition, Debug, old episodes of Hypercritical, and similar shows.

Pocket, Evernote, and Reeder have a very virtuous relationship to each other and it makes transitioning between my Mac and iPhone invisible. All of these services are cross platform, work well with each other, and all have a sync service. Reeder collects the news I care about, Pocket keeps the things I want to actually read in length later, and Evernote stores anything that I want to archive and possibly might want to search for in the future. The Evernote app for iOS is also great at getting paper documents into the app for storage and OCR.

Slack is just for work chat when away from my Mac.

Automatic makes me a more fuel-efficient driver. Trust me, it pays for itself just by bringing more awareness to your driving.

Runkeeper is where I track my weekend runs, and I find that recording them keeps me more accountable to running.

Nest controls my thermostat.

Twitter acts as a place to post articles and thoughts that seemed important at the time, as much for myself to refer back to later than anyone else. I’ve tried other third-party Twitter apps, but the standard one seems to work fine for my use.

Dark Sky is the best weather app.

Fantastical is my calendar app.

Reminders, as I’ve said, is essential.

Which app could you not live without?

I couldn’t live without Reminders or the Camera. Reminders helps me keep organized and focused on the right things. Without it I’d be constantly forgetting things completely unable to prioritize my day effectively.

And, I’m always taking my phone out, launching Camera from the lock screen to take quick photos of our daughters, documents for Evernote, or just snapping something to remember later.

We develop our app exclusively for iPads today, so I use a variety of models for development and testing. I’ve never really found a place in my personal life outside of work to use them in everyday life. If I’m near my Mac, I’d rather use it, and if I’m away from it, I’d rather use my iPhone.

However, after using nearly every model of iPad, I’m convinced that if I did have to use one day-to-day, the 12.9” iPad Pro would be it. It’s a really great device.

There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.