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My main computer is a Macbook Pro Retina 15” which I use every single day as a photographer and small business owner. While I do have an iPad, which I love, I depend on the laptop for all creative and productive tasks. Whether writing blog posts, managing my websites, brainstorming, or creating presentations, I need the control and power that I can’t get on an iPad.

I’ve tried and used many different applications over the years, but listed below are the ones I install on every machine I own. They allow me to use my laptop in ways I would have never dreamed of years ago, and let me wear many different hats in today’s media driven world.

Any business today, regardless of what you make, produce, or provide, is essentially a media company. That is the nature of marketing and advertising in 2015 and beyond, where Google is the doorway for people to find what you have to offer. And the only way to attract visitors, increase your search ranking, and leverage your brand, is by creating valuable content for others. Notice I didn’t say “make money” or “profit.” That’s important, but not the driving force. At least not for me.

A recent statistic I heard is that there are currently 1.5 billion people online, and by 2020, that number will double. Double! If you have something to share, something that is valuable to others, there has never been a better time to be a creator and an artist.

This is what I use to try and make stuff that is meaningful for myself and and others.

Photography and Media

Writing and Research

  • Evernote Premium – my digital reference library where I keep everything from receipts, pdf manuals, travel itineraries, journal, customer records, printing notes, and many, many ideas
  • Scrivener – where I do all of my writing – essential.
  • Curio – a digital whiteboard where I layout everything I work on, extremely flexible and adaptable to many scenarios and situations.
  • Scapple – great for brainstorming and idea generation
  • Pocket – I collect articles from the internet in Pocket for reading later and future reference.

Business and Productivity

  • OmniFocus – task and project management.
  • Apple Keynote – my favorite app for creating presentations for workshops, talks, seminars, etc.
  • Tweetbot – favorite Twitter client.
  • Transmit – great FTP client for my websites.

Utilities and Extras

  • Text Expander– text expansion utility I use daily to save time with commonly typed words, like my email and website addresses
  • Alfred – my preferred launcher for the Mac
  • Spotify – can’t live without music, and Spotify is the best IMO
  • 1Password – how could I ever remember all the passwords I use? 1Password.
  • CrashPlan – online backup storage, which I depend on every day.
  • DropBox – cloud syncing, photo sharing, document storage, Dropbox is amazing.

Questions or feedback? Join the discussion below…thanks for reading.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

    1. Hi Judith – I didn’t mention financial software because I wanted to focus on software I use for content creation and productivity. I do plan on doing another post soon to focus on the financial side.

      Until then, I use Wave Accounting for invoicing and accounting.

  1. Hi Robert,
    Do you backup your photos in CrashPlan too? Or is only a documents and system files thing? If so, where do you backup all your photos?

    1. Hi – Yes I do backup all of my photos to Crashplan for added security and convenience. But my main backup is dedicated RAID drive, as well as a Synology DS415+. The most important thing is to have redundancy – or don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket.

      I’ll write about my current backup strategy soon…

  2. Hey Robert! I have a little bit of an off-topic question for you, but definitely value your opinion and experience, so here goes:

    As a budding landscape photographer, I’m debating upgrading my tripod to something very legit (a RRS 24L). My current one is ok, but I continue to hear that upgrading to something carbon fiber and well-made is sort of The Best Thing To Do.

    However, I’m debating between this and adding a lens to my mix (only so many dollars, right?). I currently own a 24-105L, 70-300, and 14 (Rokinon) prime. The lens I’m considering is Canon’s new 16-35 f/4 L.

    In your opinion, does it make more sense to cover the focal length I can’t cover currently, or to improve my stability with the new tripod/head? I figure I can stitch in many situations, which arguably would remove the need for the 16-35.

    1. Hi Kenny – that’s a tough one because it depends on your goals and how you photograph. Do you do lots of hiking, carrying your gear around a lot, do you use a slower or faster type of approach? For example, having more lenses sometimes provides too many choices, and it’s with limitations that we can push ourselves creatively instead of reaching for another lens. I know I work with primes best because I look more closely at composition, and consider. That’s not to say having that lens is a disadvantage, just depends on what’s best for you. Certainly a good tripod is a great investment, one of the best for a landscape photographer IMO.

      BTW – I’m about to publish an in-depth review of a new tripod I got recently from a German manufacturer which you might want to consider before you make your purchase. I hope to have it up by the end of this week. (It’s not a Gitzo or Manfrotto)

      1. I’ll see if I can hold onto this money burning a hole in my pocket until your post lands. 🙂

        I do hike some, and also travel a good bit, so I’m sensitive to the bulk/weight issue. I think my goal for the 16-35 would be to replace the 14 in my bag on most trips (about the same weight), unless I’m specifically heading out to do milky way shots, which is mostly the reason I bought the 14.

        Thanks for the feedback. Your point about slowing down rings true with me. I’m am trying to be careful about not making this about the gear, but more about enabling a more creative thought process in the field. That’s why I’m leaning tripod: I think it would make me focus more on the process of setup of the shot, rather than focusing on focusing…

  3. Hello Robert and all, greetings from (an Irish one in) Istanbul, Turkey. This piece resonates with me, having myself been around the block over the past years with every kind of ‘must have’ gadget but now I am over the moon to have come home to roost with my Macbook pro with Retina and my iPhone and I need nor want no more for the same reasons Robert you so admirably outline. While I am here I would also like to add that I am an admirer of your philosophy about creativity, life and managing your ‘business’… my compliments. Have a GREAT day!! Peadar 🙂

  4. Robert – what does Curio give you that Evernote does not? It looks like a cross between Scrivener and Evernote. After looking at the website, I’m not sure it’s worth learning another piece of software (which is why I’m asking).

    Thanks for the list. I haven’t tried Adobe Illustrator yet, but that looks like something I should add in to my arsenal.


    1. Hi Nancy – sorry for the delay – busy with lots of projects. Curio is like a giant whiteboard that integrates text, images, mind maps, links, basically anything you can throw at it. Scrivener is for writing, and Evernote is like a digital filing cabinet. That may be all you need, but if you like working with things in a visual way, like a white board is used traditionally, then Curio might be helpful. I use to to lay out my presentations, workshops, new online courses, etc.


      1. I’ve been out of town also, so I apologize for not thanking you for the response.

        Thanks for this wonderful post. I’ve been slowly exploring some of the things listed here and am happy that you took time to share these ideas with all of us.


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