My office setup and the app and services I use day to day, inspired by the great Wes Bos.
Home office #
In 2022 I switched to the MacBookPro M1 14”, after my 15” MacBook Pro (Mid 2015) finally gave out. The M1 is a beast. I haven’t heard the fans spin once since making the switch. I went for the base model which is more than enough for my needs.
My laptop sits on a Roost Laptop Stand, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I picked mine up during the Kickstarter, so it’s an early model, but it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed much since then. It’s strong, collapsible and super light, so you can take it everywhere.
I’ve been using an Apple Magic Keyboard and Apple Magic Trackpad 2 combo for years now, and I’m happy with both.
My Dell P2415Q Monitor I don’t have much of an opinion about. It’s certainy not the best out there, but it gets the job done.
I’ve had Logitech x-230 speakers since what feels like the beginning of time. I remember using them when I made music at university back in 2006. They’re still going strong and kick out a good bit of bass, so I’ve stuck with them.
My phone is an Apple iPhone X. I’m not much into phones, so I have no plans to upgrade any time soon.
My Apple AirPods Pro were a more recent purchase, and I only have good things to say–one of the best Apple product releases in a good while.
I work at a 606 Universal Shelving System Desk Shelf. Combined with the rest of the shelving, this the most expensive piece of furniture I own. But I use it everyday, and it’s home to many of my favourite books, so it was well worth the price.
I sit on a Herman Miller Aeron Chair which I found on eBay for a decent price.
Figma† is my go-to design tool. I find myself using it for all sorts of design related work, not just UI. However, since the Adobe takeover, I’ve been looking into using Penpot**, an open-source competitor, particularly for use with personal projects.
Affinity Photo has replaced Photoshop as my choice for photo editing and creating raster based graphics. Affinity software is fast, intuitive to learn and you can’t beat a one-off payment over a monthly subscription.
Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher are also installed on my machine. I use these two apps less so than Photo, but they’re handy to have for vector illustration and creating print assets, respectively.
Glyphs is my choice for designing typefaces and icons. It’s super intuitive and a lot of fun to use.
Inkscape** has a feature called Trace Bitmap which does a great job of replacing Adobe Illustrator’s Live Trace, so this is what I use it for.
Web development #
Hyper is my go-to terminal. I use it with a couple of plugins installed–hyper-night-owl theme and hyperborder–to improve the visual apperence.
VSCode is my text editor of choice. However, I also use Typora when writing markdown for its seemless preview.
Git is a key part of my workflow. Working with static site generators and CI/CD it’s hard to avoid. I use Github to host all my code remotely.
In 2021 I committed to using Hugo to build content based websites. I use it for both client projects and all sorts of personal projects. Having worked with a bunch of different tools in the past – WordPress, Jekyll, Gatsby and Eleventy to name a few – Hugo is hands down my favourite to work with.
I use Cloudcannon for any client project which requires a CMS. Unlike most content management systems, Cloudcannon was built with Hugo in mind. Having worked with both Netlify CMS (now Decap) and Forestry (now discontinued) in the past, it’s the best I’ve found for websites built with Hugo.
For hosting and deployment I currently use Cloudcannon (which uses Cloudflare under the hood) for client sites and Netlify for personal projects.
Cloudinary is a digital asset manager which I use to generate image transformations (various image sizes, formats, styles and so on) on the fly. It’s handy for larger sites, where you’d like to remove media files from your Git repo to improve your build times.
In 2023 I switch my clients from Google to Fathom Analytics. Fathom respects vistor data and privacy and can be installed on up to 50 different sites. Perfect if you build a lot of websites. I also run a self-hosted instance of Umami Analytics for certain personal projects.
Codepen is where I test ideas with code in a self contained environment. It’s a helpful tool if you want to try something out or work on specific feature without the distraction of an entire codebase.
Learn about the tools I used to build this website.
Privacy and security #
I use Simplelogin to generate email aliases for all the accounts I create. If you’re new to email aliases, I’ve written all about it in Masking email.
Bitwarden** is my prefered password manager and I’ve tried many over the years. It integrates nicely with SimpleLogin, which means I can generate email aliases, along with passwords, from directly within the app.
I have NordVPN set up to open at login. If my laptop is on, then NordVPN is running. It masks my IP, protects me from trackers and malware, and when using the internet on public Wi-Fi.
Signal** is the open source messaging app we should probably all be using, though I find myself mostly using Whatsapp.
I made the switch from Dropbox to Sync at the beginning of 2021 after researching secure, end-to-end encrypted cloud storage providers.
I switched from Google Workspace to Tutanota** at the beginning of 2022 and haven’t looked back. I’ve written about my experience with Tutanota in detail. I also use Tutanota’s encrypted Calendar.
Raivo OTP** is a fantastic open source authenticator app which I use to generate one-time passwords. It seemlessly handles back up and sync across iOS and MacOS devices. Since the suspicious circumstances surrounding the Raivo takeover, I’ve switched to using 2FAS, another popular open source one-time/2FA password generator.
Jitsi Meet** is another fantastic open source tool, which I use for video calls. Calls are encrypted and you don’t need an account to use it, which is a bonus.
Tresorit Send is brilliant for sending big files, end-to-end encrypted.
Malwarebytes is a lightweight anti-malware and virus removal software which quietly runs in the background, performing a daily scan of your system to keep it protected.
NetNewsWire** is my RSS reader of choice. If that doesn’t mean much to you, then think of it as curating your own feed of content from people or websites that you want to follow. But without some algorithm controlling how you receive content. Content arrives chronologically and it couldn’t be more simple.
I’ve recently started using the Kindle app to read ebooks. Very handy when I’m not with my Kindle Paperwhite.
Bookmarking and highlights #
Readwise and Reader are quickly becoming my favourite two tools. The latter I use as a “read it later” app — for saving long form content like blog posts and YouTube videos — though it can also be used as an RSS reader. I use the former to save highlights from my Kindle, which are then rolled up in a daily review. Any highlights made from Reader or using Readwise Highlighter will also end up in the daily review.
I recently discovered Anybox, an incredible little macOS app for managing bookmarks that works with iCloud. Previously I was using Notion for this purpose – saving web pages using the Notion Web Clipper – but Notion databases are really clunky when you’re dealing with thousands of entries.
Typora allows you to write markdown in preview, so it feels more like working in Google Docs and less like a code editor. Typora has a great outline panel which helps you structure your articles. These days I’ll create a markdown post with Hugo, then open it in Typora and work on the content from there. Before now I would have composes drafts elsewhere, then copy them across to Hugo. This new approach is seamless and allows you to version control your work.
Obsidian** is my note taking tool of choice. I’m not yet using it to it’s full potential as a second brain, but this is something I plan on working on in the future. I’ve also started using it for journaling and planning OKR with Quarterly, Weekly and Daily notes.
I use Grammarly with caution. It’s helpful for picking up typos, bad grammar and so on, but use it too much and it strips the personality from your writing.
Hemmingway I find helpful for cleaning up lengthy sentances and spotting passive voice.
I’ve been using Mailchimp for my mailing list for years, however these days it often feels overkill for my needs. With that said, I decided to give Buttondown a go for the Practical Hugo mailing list – only positive things to say so far.
Project management #
I recently switched to Obsidian for personal project management (using the P.A.R.A method) after falling out with Notion. What I like most about Obsidian is that it’s text-based, fast and self-hosted. Ultimately, it’s just a bunch of markdown files, so it works great without an internet connection. This also means content is highly portable, should I wish to move tools in the future.
I’ve returned to Trello for client projects that require collaboration. It’s simple to onboard clients with and easy to understand.
PandaDoc is great for collection e-signatures on proposals and work agreements. I like to design these docs in Figma, then upload them to PandaDoc to collect the signature. It’s a nice feature which means you don’t have to use a pre-built template.
Screenity** is a great tool for async video communication. Record quick videos via a browser extension, get a link to the video and share the URL with clients or colleagues. It’s a great way to get out of unnecessary meetings.
I use TinyStopwatch for time tracking tasks that typically get billed to clients.
I use Starling* for my business bank account.
I use Freeagent* for accounting and have done for a number of years. My accountant uses it too, which makes the process straight forward. If you run your own business and you’re not using a digital accounting tool, then I highly recommend looking into one.
I use Wise* to collect payments in foreign currencies from international clients. With Wise you can set up a local bank account and receive payments much faster than with a domestic bank account.
Gumroad is the tool I use to handle online payments for things like fonts or themes.
I also use Buymeacoffee for donations.
I use Strava to track running and the Apple Watch Activity app for tracking yoga sessions and workouts.
I recently switched from Notion† to Obsidian for habit tracking.
Having tried many of the meditation apps out there, my current favourite for guided meditation is Balance. For unguided meditation I use Insight Timer.
I use the Zoe app for logging and scoring recipes and meals.
Numi** is my go-to calculator app. It looks and feels more like a terminal and you can write commands in a natural way. For example: “1 inch in cm” will return
1 inch in cm.
Noisli is a great little app that helps you stay focused by allowing you to mix and match different background sounds. I use the iOS version mainly, but there’s also a web app.
Rectangle** is an application window manager that helps you neatly resize and organise open windows using keyboard shortcuts. It’s great for resizing your code editor and a web browser side-by-side.
Maccy** I discovered recently. It keeps a history of all the things you’ve copied to your clipboard to make them easier to access. Very handy, particularly for web development.
CCleaner is a handy tool for finding large files and freeing up space on your machine.
I use IFTTT to send emails to myself, reminding me to do things that happen periodically. Things like updating the masked email address I use on this site. Or sending out my newsletter. Both of these things I only do once a month, so they’re easy to forget without IFTTT.
I also use Zapier (similar to IFTTT), mostly to pass form submissions to spreadsheets.
QuickTime Player seems to be the most stable app for creating offline screen recordings I can find.
* This is an affiliate link, meaning we’ll both get a small reward if you click the link and sign up.
** This app is open source.
† Looking to replace with an open-source alternative.