September 2, 2011

What I did on my summer vacation – the office reset.

I’m starting to feel old.

While the personal odometer turned over to 40 this year, I didn’t give it much thought. But as I started to see that milestone in my rearview mirror, I began to realize I was having trouble viewing what was up ahead. Literally. My eyes were getting a little worse.

Over the past few years, I’ve cobbled together a pretty smart little office space for my life as a freelance writer and photographer. Laptop next to external monitor so I effectively have two monitors at which I can work. The second best laptop I could afford. Little extras like card readers ready and plugged in.

With my eyes the way they were, I thought – maybe it’s time for one of those office resets, the kind where you rethink everything to become more productive. It also helps that i love m sparkly new gadgets.

Here’s what I bought:

The biggest monitor I could find – Dell 30” IPS
The screen is massive and gorgeous. A friend tipped my off to a sale Dell was having, getting me the monitor for about $1100 and it’s been worth every penny. I now have enough screen real estate to host three Word documents at a time (yay!), use two complete browser windows or review dozens of photos at a time. If you’re ever in the market for a new monitor, skip the small fries and go for this one.

Extra Tip: if you want to run this thing on a Macbook Air, there’s an annoying trick to get it running. Avoid the mess of DVI cables and buy yourself a mini Display Port-to-Display Port.

The fastest, slimmest computer I could buy -- Macbook Air with Second Generation Core Intel i7
True, I just bought myself a Macbook Air back in January, but Apple products hold their value and I had no problem selling my original for a decent price. What I got in return was wonderfully surprising – my new machine tears through Lightroom. I have noticed a slight lag when I have a bunch of apps and Lightroom open at the same time, but I’m pretty happy overall.

Extra Tip: I’ve been using the BookArc stand for the Air to keep my desk nice and tidy and “Cordies” from Quirky to hang onto my cables when I need to take the laptop on the road. Both save time and keep the desk looking goodly.

The most important accessory I could use – two Magic Trackpads
Computer mice are great, but trackpads can be even better (save for precision Photoshop work). Combining Apple’s Magic Trackpad with the new Lion operating system is already saving me a bunch of time every day. I tend to keep multiple desktops open at a time (one for writing, one for communication, one for Web and one for media). With the trackpad, I just three finger swipe to get to the next desktop.

I love the trackpad so much that I actually use two of them. That way I just have to reach over – left or right handed – to do everything I need to do. I’m looking into software like MagicPrefs to customize some of my actions and get even more out of this wicked little slab.

I combine all of these things with just about the best thing I ever bought – a headset. I’ve probably gone through a half dozen of the things over my career, wearing them out taking copious notes during meetings. If I had to turn in all my productivity boosters, this is the last thing you’d get out of my hands.

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