The Setup

Inspired by nearly 1,000 interviews at Uses This and the new user-generated site /, here’s what I’m using as of early 2020:


2018 13” MacBook Pro w/ Touch Bar – My 2018 version replaced a 2016 MBP that suffered endless keyboard failures and replacements until one managed to also take out the motherboard, power supply and battery. I’m really close to going with a Linux Thinkpad or something, but I’m so deep in the Apple ecosystem that it will take some effort to figure out how to do that without too many trade-offs.

iPhone XS Max – Unlike the lame MacBook, I have zero complaints about my iPhone. It’s wonderful, and the top-end models are good enough now that I only upgrade every two or three years.

LG UltraFine 5K 27 inch monitor – Although I certainly paid too much for this, it’s not a bad monitor. I think any decent 4k monitor would be a fine alternative.

WASD V2 Mechanical Keyboard – 87 keys w/ Cherry MX brown switches that sound and feel nice.

Apple Magic Trackpad 2 – Upgraded from the original Magic Trackpad just because of the space gray color.

iPad Pro (2016, 9.7”) – I should use this more, but really I only break it out when I’m traveling and don’t want to carry a full laptop. I dream of being able to move to an iPad full time, but it’s still a little too annoying to do any real development work on it.

Amazon Kindle Voyage – One of the absolute best things I own. By the way, if you didn’t know this already, your local library almost certainly has eBook loans that you can get delivered to your Kindle without ever having to step foot in the library. See my guide for getting eBooks from the Toronto Library onto your Kindle.

Uplift V2 standing desk – It goes up and down at the press of a button, and is incredibly sturdy.

Herman Miller Aeron chair – Bought this for $100 in 2007 from a guy in an alley behind a tech company that was shutting down. I’m fairly sure he worked there.

Schiit Modi & Magni – High quality, affordable headphone DAC and amp. I use these with Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 headphones at my desk.

Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones – The best Bluetooth noise cancelling headphones I’ve ever tried. When I’m working away from my desk, these are what I use.

Apple AirPods – Yes, I have too many earphones. These are great for when I’m walking around or don’t want to look like a goofball wearing giant over-ear headphones, and are always in my pocket.


Safari – I switched from Chrome a few years ago and haven’t looked back. It feels faster and doesn’t kill my battery. Tab syncing between Mac and iOS is nice too. I still use Chrome’s Dev Tools for development though.

1Password – Essential.

Visual Studio Code – What I code all of my React and Django in. It’s gotten really nice over the past year or so, although I still miss some of the React-specific tools Facebook had released for Atom, which I was using before this.

Soulver – This calculator/spreadsheet app probably gets used at least 20 times a day on my desktop and phone. Soulver’s killer feature is being able to type things like 18km in mi or use variables to adjust your calculations on the fly.

iTerm2 – Replaced my Mac’s default with iTerm2 because I saw more “legitimate” developers using it. I’m pretty sure I don’t really take advantage of the added features but it was easier to make the terminal window look nice than it was with so I kept it.

Spark – The best email client for Macs and iOS, but that’s not saying too much. I wish there was something better.

Fantastical – Also used on iOS.

Ulysses – What I write everything else in, including this post. Easily the best Markdown editor for the Mac, and the iOS apps are great too.

Notion – It’s 80% of what I want in a personal knowledge management tool, but I really do wish they’d improve on that other 20%. Will possibly be replaced by Roam Reasearch once it’s a little more polished.

Tweetbot – The only Twitter client that’s enjoyable to use, even if (or maybe because) it lacks some of Twitter’s newer features due to API restrictions.

Pastebot – I waited years to use a clipboard messenger, which was a mistake.

Overcast – The Smart Speed feature makes the speed adjustment features in other apps look primitave, and has saved me over 200 hours of listening time.

Spotify – I still miss Rdio.

Mark Allen

Written by Mark Allen, a product manager and designer currently based in Toronto. Say hello on Twitter.

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