Learn Ulysses: Video Course  →  Learn More

Mark El-Wakil’s Mac and iOS 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?

I’m Mark, and I co-own a software company. The primary software product I work on is a PHP-based content management system that schedules release of photos / videos, as well as convert between several different formats. For example, if a client uploads a 1080p WMV source file, the system will create several different MP4 and HLS variants, ranging from 144p to 1080p.

In my free time, I’ve been getting familiarized with Swift when I’m not playing Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.

My friend Richard and I have a podcast called Aliens Land Here, which we plan on getting back to shortly. We like talking tech, programming, Apple, and cars when we get around to it.

What is your current setup?

Mark El Wakil's desk
Editor’s note: You can find Mark’s desktop wallpaper here.

I have a 27-inch 2014 Retina iMac. I boosted the processor to 4.0 Ghz, the memory to 32 GB, the storage to a 1TB SSD drive, and the Graphics to the R9 M295X package. Basically, it’s a maxed out iMac Retina.

Next to the iMac, I have a Dell U3011 display that I have plugged into the iMac.

Mark El Wakil's iMac

One of the major components of the software that I write involves serving the end user different sized images based on whether or not the user is using a retina display. The Retina iMac is the first practical setup I’ve had where I can have a large retina monitor next to a large non-retina monitor. Doing this, I’m able to quickly test non-retina file delivery on one monitor, and retina file delivery on the other monitor.

Typically, when I don’t have to do this type of testing, the second monitor ends up keeping Spotify or YouTube open.

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

I use Coda on a daily basis. When I first moved over to the Mac, I was looking for something that would replace the hodgepodge of web development tools I had in place. On Windows, I was using CuteFTP for transferring / editing files remotely, SQLyog for connecting to MySQL, TortoiseSVN for committing files to our repository, and WinMerge to do file diffs. On the Mac, Coda masterfully replaces all of these pieces of software with one slick, easy-to-use development environment.

Besides Coda, I practically live in the terminal. If I need to do troubleshooting on a remote client’s setup, SSH is the tool of choice.

Parallels is a godsend. Whenever we do testing, we generally test between IE 8 and IE 11. Microsoft has done a really great job at providing test images of Windows along with versions of IE ranging from IE 6 to IE 11. They’ve made it easier to test on Windows without having to live in Windows.

Firefox is my browser of choice. While I love the idea of being able to sync my tabs between devices using Safari, there are certain things about Firefox that win out for my workflow. Tree Style Tabs makes it a lot easier to go through dozens of tabs. The Web Developer plugin makes it easier to do things like track down missing images, see cookie values, and view a document’s header information. Someday, I hope it’s possible for Firefox to get better continuity and sync support, but I get the feeling I’ll be waiting a while.

How would your ideal setup look and function?

Right now, 2x retina displays are only just now becoming available to desktop machines. This is a bit of an inconvenience, since we’re starting to see mobile devices such as the iPhone 6 Plus, which renders its assets in a 3x retina mode.

If I could, I would like three monitors (one non-retina display, one 2x retina display, and one 3x retina display). I know it’s going to be a long time until that happens on desktop computers, but I would be thrilled for even the iPad to go 3x next time around (3072 x 2304 instead of 2048 x 1536)

I also want a pony.

Seriously though, my current setup is pretty close to ideal for what I do work-wise. If the Mac Pro ever gets an option to have consumer video cards instead of pro video cards, I would seriously consider getting a Mac Pro once a 5K Thunderbolt display becomes available. This isn’t really because I need this for my work. Rather, I would like a really, really good gaming machine that plays modern games at 5K resolution. Someday…


What iPhone do you have?

Mark El Wakil's iPhone
Editor’s note: You can find Mark’s iPhone wallpaper here.

I have a 128GB iPhone 6 Plus. The main reason I got a 6 Plus over an iPhone 6 was the increased PPI and 3x retina display mode that is only on the 6 Plus right now. I wasn’t looking forward to the larger form factor, but it’s grown on me with time to the point that I’m using my iPad less.

I have a proverbial TON of music, videos, photos and apps on my phone. I used to have a 160GB iPod classic, and the 128GB iPhone is the first iPhone where I’ve felt I could have absolutely everything I want with me.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

I use Reeder to keep up to date with news. I have a Feedly Pro subscription, so Reeder ties in nicely with all the different sites I read.

I use Lose-it to track my meals. I’ve been trying to stay active. The app wants me to do 7,250 steps a day. It’s as good enough a reason as any to leave the house.

When I go out walking, I use Overcast. It’s incredibly polished and useful. I hope someday there’s a Mac app for it.

Fantastical is awesome. The calendar widget within the iPhone notification menu makes the purchase price worth it alone. I have four separate calendars, so it’s really, really useful to be able to browse events and scheduled work without even having to open the app.

Which app could you not live without?

In my case, 1Password. After the slew of Internet hacks over the past year, I got a lot more serious about not sharing passwords between sites. I went through and changed my passwords for the 120 or so sites I have login information on, and used 1Password’s password generation to make sure all of my passwords are randomized. I love that 1Password has support for up to 50 character passwords, but it’s a true pain if you ever have to type in anything by hand.

The newest version of 1Password just added support for One-Time passwords. I really wish more sites would use this form of two-factor authentication.


Which iPad do you have?

Mark El Wakil's iPad
I have a 128 GB iPad Air 2 with LTE.

How are you using your iPad on a daily basis?

In a work capacity, I generally use the iPad whenever we’re testing changes to our front-facing design. I’ve been using it a lot lately since much of my work has been front-end Javascript and CSS code.

When I’m not working, I find that I don’t use the iPad as often now that I have a 6 Plus. Previously, I’d take my iPad out of the house and use it for reading at cafes and downstairs.

Before this iPad, I had a 128GB iPad Mini 2 with LTE. Since the Mini didn’t get a hardware upgrade this year, I figured I’d try out the new, full-size iPad.

The iPhone 6 Plus approaches the size of the iPad mini.

For me, the iPad Air 2 usually stays by my bedside now. I use it for morning or evening reading.

Still, doing any sort of website browsing and reading on an iPad is still a vastly superior experience to that of an iPhone. There are still plenty of sites out there that either don’t properly cater to small devices or make reading content as painful as possible. Someday this will change, but an iPad is better equipped for websites expecting a desktop site than an iPhone is.

What apps do you use the most, and why?

I use Reeder 2 on my iPad exactly how I do on my iPhone. I love that what content I’ve read / watched is synced between all my devices.

Other than that, the majority of my time on my iPad is spent in Safari browsing websites during my downtime.

Which app could you not live without?

In this case, it would be Safari, no question.


There are more Sweet Setup interviews right here.