Uses This

A collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.

A picture of Colleen Wainwright
Image by Chris Glass.

Colleen Wainwright

Writer, speaker, consultant

Posted in mac, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

For love, I keep a blog called communicatrix where I write about fear and change, and occasionally proselytize for the lifesaving Specific Carbohydrate Diet (like Paleo, only with less CrossFit and more fun).

For money, I write and speak about marketing. But if you've got something else...

What hardware do you use?

My main rig is a 15" 2.8 GHz, matte-screen MacBook Pro from late 2009 maxed out with a 500GB hard drive and 8GB of RAM. But it's an all-new hard disk and RAM, as both went kaput on me last fall. (Right between two ginormous projects. Thanks, Universe.)

So I panicked and bought a 13" 1.8 GHz MacBook Air (4GB of RAM, 300MB drive). I don't really need two laptops, but is way easier to leave the MBP hooked up to the Cinema Display, and as a tiny person, it's way easier to tote the Air. (I'm shoulder-carry all the way, on my second (and, it looks like, my last) Baekgaard messenger bag with an Acme neoprene sleeve for the Air and peripherals, and a 10-year-old Victorinox duffel for everything else. I believe one should not carry on luggage one cannot heft into the bins by one's own self.)

I have a few assorted LaCie hard drives for backup - two 500MB for bootable clones, and a 1TB for Time Machine. Really crap sound pours forth from a cheap set of Altec Lansing speakers and subwoofer. I have an Airport Extreme for the network and a 13-year-old HP 2100TN that still prints snappy copies, bless its heart.

Phone-wise, I finally replaced my ATT iPhone 3G for a 4S with Verizon back in May because I was tired of paying $90/month for what was essentially an iPod Touch. I also caved and bought the iPad 3 with (unactivated) Verizon 4G. So far, I barely use it. I vastly prefer reading dead-tree books where I can, and where I can't, on my Kindle 3G (books are heavy!), but the possibilities for digital publishing on the platform were too tantalizing to forgo any longer. (See: The Wasteland and Paperless, the latter being the item that finally made me do it. Plus, hey, streaming Netflix in bed!

I record the odd podcast or song on a Blu Snowball mic, and scan drawings with an Epson Perfection V30. I take photos for presentations and the blog with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4; it's outfitted with a 4GB Eye-Fi card and more than any other gadget I own, every time I use it, I feel like I'm living in the future.

You will pry my Logitech presentation remote from my cold, dead hands.

For drawing and notetaking, I favor PITT Artist Pens and a whatever's-on-sale 6x9" spiral-bound sketchbook. (I had a brief infatuation with Sharpie non-permanent pens when they came out, but the points smoosh too fast and the waste was making me crazy.) I keep a handwritten journal in the cheapest wide-rule spiral notebooks I can find, using a Waterman Phileas: red, medium-nib with blue ink. I also burn through a prodigious amount of old-school Sharpies and 3x5 index cards, both ruled and blank varieties. And I am almost never without a battered, beat-to-hell Field Notes notebook.

Oh, and I'm a firm believer in the adoption of an "analog desk" - a surface where one noodles or doodles or even writes, but never, ever on one's digital devices. Mine is a dining-room table fashioned from repurposed Indian railroad ties and the world's most shoddily soldered steel. Occasionally, I use it as a dining-room table, as well. (My actual desk is an ergonomic nightmare for a person my size - two file cabs and an IKEA top, plus a dining-room chair tricked out with cushions and a box on the floor to boost up my stubby legs. I am an uneasy mix of tightwad and spendthrift.)

I also make a half-gallon of outstanding full-fat yogurt (SCD-legal!) every week in a Yogourmet yogurt maker. And eat it all. My colon is populated by the happiest, healthiest legion of good bacteria you'd ever want to meet.

And what software?

I'm running Lion on the Air, because I'm lazy. The MBP is still on Snow Leopard because it was hard enough getting the HP to print on that, and because I steadfastly refuse to upgrade from Adobe CS3. (I mostly only use it for Photoshop these days, but I like having the other apps JUST IN CASE. I mean, what if I woke up one day and wanted to design another logo and make it move or something? It could happen!)

For writing, I create drafts for almost everything - blog posts, essays, my marketing column for actors - in MarsEdit, although I'm revisiting Scrivener for long-form writing, since using it to write a couple of chapters for an upcoming book. If I need to blather or copy/paste something quickly, I'll open a text file - TextWrangler for my HTML needs, TextEdit for anything else. I use Word for the tracking feature and because everyone else does, but I hate it; Pages is far nicer to work in, as full-on word processors go.

For email, it's gmail plus Mailplane. My calendars are Google, too, except for the birthday calendar generated by Address Book; I corral them with BusyCal.

I came up on PowerPoint (for Windows!) back in the late '90s and stuck with it because my presentation workflow involved such a heavy use of Photoshop, I thought I didn't need the superior design features of Keynote. And also, because, hey - the devil you know, right? But after the second time a show quit midstream because it had gotten too big for PPT to handle, I forced myself to switch last fall. Holy mackerel - what a difference! I feel like I should hold a funeral for all that dead time I'll never get back. Also, I no longer have to worry about my laptop bursting into flames from processor freakout.

I pay for Evernote, as I did for Skitch, before they bought it; it's a killer combo for clipping examples of social media done right (and, too often, egregiously wrong) for presentations, as well as saving and/or quickly resizing almost anything else.

My default PDF application is PDFPen Pro; once you've lived with the highlighting and signature features, it's hard to go back to Preview, and I gave up on Acrobat years ago. I use VueScan for scanning, without which I would have hurled something through a wall long ago.

Internet-wise, I'm a Chrome gal; fell in love with that omnibar, and that was that, although I do use Safari to watch streaming Netflix. Still, I reserve my deepest, fondest, sexytimes Software Luv for TextExpander. I would run off and marry TextExpander, if only it would ask.

Rounding out the desktop experience, I use QuickBooks for invoicing and because it makes my bookkeeper happy and hoo BOY, do I want to keep her happy. And I am as good at adding things to OmniFocus as I am bad at following through on them. However, I am bad ubiquitously - on the desktop, iPhone, and now, the iPad - which I feel counts for something.

On the iPhone, I'm mostly about native apps: Mail, Phone, Messages, and Voice Memos, which reside in my menu bar, and the Music, Calendar, Maps, and Photos apps. Although I have an inexplicable fondness for, god help me, GroceryIQ. (Oddly, I rarely use Safari; I've thought about moving it deeper into the phone, but it feels like sacrilege.)

I also love love love Instapaper; I have a bunch of RSS readers, but don't like any of them, so I wait to read in Google Reader at home. I take notes in Simplenote and have, like, eleventy-billion timers and alarms in Due. I've tried a number of photo apps, but usually end up using the plain, old Camera app.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd love to get back down to one computer and a phone. And I'd like the computer to be keyboard-sized and light as a feather, but I'd like for there to be a big, beautiful screen to plug into anywhere I went.

Mostly, though, I'd like to have a more organized brain and streamlined, efficient work system. The older I get, the more I see that any problems I have lie (or is it "lay"?) within myself.

But just so I don't go out on a totally squishy note, I'd like my one computer and one phone to live with me and a friendly, medium-sized dog in a tiny house on the Central Coast of California.

There - I'm right back to being as big a selfish, materialistic jerk as anyone who ever drew breath.