Uses This

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A picture of David Pierce

David Pierce

Editor-at-Large (Protocol)

in editor, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is David Pierce, and I'm the Editor-at-Large at Protocol, a new publication launching next year to cover the tech industry. I'm still not sure what that title means.

What hardware do you use?

For a long time, a big part of my job was testing and reviewing new gadgets, so the answer to this question changed constantly. Recently, though, I've stopped switching between review units and have actually had to settle down with a few devices I like best. Which turned out to be, somewhat disappointingly, mostly Apple products.

At home, a Mac mini (the base model but with more RAM, which is the only upgrade most people need) hooked up to some 24-inch Dell monitor I found on Amazon. I have a Logitech K780 keyboard and a M705 mouse, both of which I love. I even have Logitech speakers, because apparently I love Logitech products? For work I have a 13-inch MacBook Pro, which doesn't last long enough and boy I hate that keyboard, but it's what they gave me at work. I travel everywhere with the most recent iPad Air hooked up to a Brydge keyboard. I have an iPhone 11 Pro, about which I have no feelings. It's a phone. Every phone is a phone. I also have the new Google Pixel 4, in that awesome orange color, which is... also a phone.

Other miscellaneous things: I have Bose QC35 headphones, plus a pair of Sony's MDR-7506 headphones that are the best price-to-quality pair of headphones I've ever used. I use an Audio Technica ATR2100 mic for podcasting, which is equally great for the price. I have a Sony ICD-UX560 voice recorder (Sony, the names, come on), because the Wirecutter recommended it and the Wirecutter is never wrong. I use PowerBeats Pro headphones, except for when they're dead, in which case I use my old and rapidly deteriorating AirPods. (I'm suddenly realizing I have too many headphones.) There are also a half-dozen UE Boom speakers of various sizes and colors floating around my apartment, because they are the best and apparently because I love spending money on more ways to play music?

My favorite recent purchase is a Jabra Speak 510, which is a big round speakerphone that looks like something you'd find on a conference room table. It connects to my phone and computer via Bluetooth, and I use it for all my calls and meetings whenever I work from home. It's so much easier than wearing earbuds or holding my phone to my ear, and sounds better too. Big fan.

I read on a Kindle Paperwhite, because reading books on phones is the worst. When I write with a pen, which is rarely, I write it in Studio Neat's wonderful Totebook notebook, and carry everything around in an Away Daypack that I just bought and still have mixed feelings about. (I should have bought the Backpack, which is bigger.) I have bags and drawers and cabinets full of dongles and USB cables.

I just read that again and boy is that a lot of Apple stuff. It kind of happened by accident. I'd rather use a Chromebook - the keyboard on the Pixelbook is the best one in the universe - and I even really like Microsoft's Surfaces. But I'm sort of stuck with Apple, because so many of the apps I love and rely on exist only in the Apple ecosystem. Also people bully me when I'm a green bubble.

And what software?

I live most of my life out of three apps: a calendar, a to-do list, and something for taking notes. Which apps I use changes constantly - I used to think I was always searching for the best thing, but I've figured out that I genuinely enjoy tinkering with process and tools for this stuff. Which feels like a weird personality quirk, but I'm going to avoid any introspection on that one.

Right now, my tools of choice are: Fantastical for calendar; Things for to-do list; and Bear and Drafts for note-taking. Fantastical wins purely for the natural-language input - write "Lunch with Emily noon Wednesday at Burma Superstar" and the event magically appears. Things is the most beautiful, thoughtful app in the universe and it makes creating and completing projects a joy. Bear's my most recent conversion. I've been a Notion user for the last couple of years, and love so much about the app - but it's so slow! The distance between "I need to write a thing down" and actually writing that thing down in Notion is like a half-hour of taps and waiting for pages to load. Bear, on the other hand, is fast and simple and full of delightful design touches.

Drafts is kind of the translator between all those apps, and I find I'm using it more and more. Whenever something, anything pops into my head, I just open Drafts and type it - then figure out where it goes. Intellectually it sounds sort of pointless. Just open your calendar for calendar events! But now that I have a single super-fast place to jot down a phone number, email address, book I heard about, person's name I really ought to remember, or story idea, actually feels like how everything should work.

I've tried to use so many powerful, functional, versatile apps, and find I get way more out of apps that are less of all that but much faster and easier. Craig Mod wrote a great piece about what he calls "fast software," and I agree with it completely.

Beyond that, I basically live in Chrome. Which is great, except it's slow and bad and sucks up all my personal data. But otherwise, you know, great. The OneTab extension is the only reason Chrome is usable at all. I should switch back to Firefox.

Other software: Cardhop for contacts. Spotify for music, Pocket Casts for podcasts. Airmail for email, except on my phone, where it's Spark. Descript and Audition for editing audio. Instapaper for saving articles I may or may not ever read. Dark Noise for drowning out the world around me, and Oak for the occasional moment of meditation. Twitter for quickly killing my phone's battery. Feedly for RSS feeds, Apollo for Reddit, Flipboard for news, Bleacher Report for sports. All my passwords live in Dashlane, and all my travel plans live in Tripit. Every streaming service you can pay for, I somehow pay for.

What would be your dream setup?

Hardware-wise I'm pretty happy. I wish the MacBook keyboard were better, and in general I wish for more battery life on everything I use. Oh, and I'd give anything for a Kindle-like e-ink device that I could use to read web articles. But for the most part, everything is fast and light and simple and way too expensive but generally fine.

What I really want is for all my stuff to work together better. The fact that there's no easy way for me to manage my calendar and my to-do list in a single place, where I can move around times and deadlines and order my day coherently, is crazy. (I've tried Todoist syncing, I've tried dealing with Google Tasks, I've tried everything, none of it works.) When I open Google Maps, it should immediately prompt me to navigate to my next meeting. And it should do all this without requiring me to give up every ounce of my privacy and personal data, please and thank you.

I want it to be easier to get a file off my phone and onto my computer - or from my phone to someone else's. The little things that should happen across devices and apps to help make my life a little easier, by and large just don't happen. Mostly I just want to say "what's up?" to my phone and have it tell me the answer.

Mostly I'd like to get rid of the infinite rat's nest of cables that I know will someday swallow and kill me. All wireless everything, always and forever.

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