My Home Screens

Slacktacular August continues as I soak up some R&R following a harrowing month of personal tragedies and my annual Giant Project (the Games Magazine Games 100 guide). Today I have to break from my break to tackle some curriculum writing, but not wanting to leave a me-shaped hole in the blogosphere, and indulging the narcissism implicit in blogging, I give you these glimpses of my work space.

I’m oddly fascinated with what people put on their home screens, partly because most people don’t spend precious moments of life tuning their devices to a fare-thee-well and thus their home screens are offensively disorganized.

I know this will seem like a pointless post to some, but many people also are oddly fascinated by this kind of thing.

I work among three devices: laptop, iPad, and iPhone, with a desktop PC for gaming. Here’s the iPad : 

Left to right, top to bottom, I have:

  • Work Folder: Various text editors, scanners, cloud storage, etc.
  • Media Folder: Streaming media, photo and video editing, and media guides.
  • Words Folder: Book apps, social media, news, etc.
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Settings
  • iAWriter: Plain text editor: very simple, very zen.
  • Dropbox: The heart of the system.
  • Notability: I use this for recording interviews and taking notes, as well as for marking up PDFs.
  • MagicalPad. Mind-mapping. I haven’t gotten in the habit of using it yet, but I keep it there as a prompt, and you can use it for straight-up outlining. 
  • Photogene: My preferred photo editing, for the moment.
  • Recorder Pro: Voice recording for notes.
  • 30/30: Time management software. It’s hugely effectively for getting things done in tiny slices. I keep settings for 15, 30, and 60 minutes and just rotate through them as I need.
  • Disqus: Comment management page in Safari, since Disqus has no app.
  • Instapaper: I push stories to Instapaper for reading later.
  • News360: A decent way to get a selection of stories on pre-set set topics.
  • IMDB: You know that guy who was in that thing? Yeah, what’s his name?
  • Verbum: Indispensable Bible software.
  • Universalis: My Liturgy of the Hours. 
  • Kindle: Obviously
  • Dock: Chrome, Mail, Newsify (the ONLY RSS reader), Evernote, Toodledo (task management), Drafts (text capture)
  • Wallpaper: Rotating. This is Gyro Gearloose. Because.

A note about Drafts: This has become key to my work. It’s not quite as good as iAwriter for long text writing, but I use it for taking quick notes, which I can enter using voice. (I gave up on Dragon after it crashed too many times with completely dictated article drafts left unsaved.) The beauty of Drafts is that you can push text anywhere: Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook: any place at all. It can append text to a file, create new files, and do all kinds of magic. I love it.

Here’s the iPhone:

This duplicates the iPad more or less, with a few iPhone-specific things:

  • gMusic: A really awful GooglePlay streamer that I have to use as I wait impatiently for Google’s native app.
  • CFSAC: Flashlight.
  • VSCOcam: Camera. I’m trying this out for a little while, but I’m not sure I’m keeping it. Camera+ is my standard goto for pictures.

And here’s the desktop:

PC taskbar, left to right:

  • Postbox: Mail software.
  • Chrome: Browser.
  • Open Office Word: I’m done with Microsoft Office products, but I still need to use Word.
  • Scrivener: I’ve been using this as my main word processor for almost a year. A sheer delight.
  • Evernote: Obviously.
  • Verbum: Bible software.
  • Folder: Root directory.
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro: My preferred photo editing for a long time now.
  • Kindle: For cutting and pasting citations.
  • Calculator
  • iTunes: I really, truly hate it.

Here’s my desk at the moment:


Why Obama Was Wrong About The Crusades
Embracing Mystery
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My Favorite Game of 2014 Was …
About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    At least you have ONE non iOS device.

    I really must examine my prejudice against Apple one day. A long time ago, when I was a whiz of the 8- and 16- bit world, Apple broke my heart with the MAC I and its hardware abstraction layer. I haven’t programmed on anything of theirs more recent than the Lisa for that reason.

    Now of course everything (including Windows) has a Hardware Abstraction Layer, and I still consider it a rotten design. But for that reason, I’ll work in Windows, Linux, or Android happily, but will *STILL* avoid iOS and OSX like the plague.

  • victor

    Wait. Judging from the number of folders we can see, are we REALLY to believe that you have fewer than 120 apps loaded on your iPad? I would have thought you’d have at least that many Reiner Knizia tile games alone.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    If someone ever created a mobile experience as good as iOS, I’d switch, but Surface and Android just don’t cut it.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I rotate through them. And there’s always the second page …

    I like to keep things pretty lean on the pad. It’s a work surface for me. I shuffle other stuff off to page 2 but it’s only a 16GB pad since I’m just a poor boy.

  • victor

    That makes sense. I keep my games folders pretty dynamic in terms of what I keep in there. However, I do have around 100-120 music-making apps (multi-track recorders, MIDI sequencers, four folders full of synthesizers, two folders of just drum machine and loop-building apps, various audio-sharing utilities, etc.) that I just cannot bear to delete.

  • victor

    Fortunately for Apple, developing low-latency audio drivers has never been a priority for the Android OS devs. If the day ever comes when Android does get some decent audio drivers, though, I’d expect Apple to lose a large chunk of their audio/music creator base.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I’d love to see somebody create a mobile experience as good as a TI-99/2.

    Doubt it will ever happen- for exactly the reason of those hardware abstraction layers. They eat up so many clock cycles that a 2Ghz CPU feels slower than a 1 Mhz CPU with dedicated single-function co-processors.

  • Will Duquette

    Tom, how do you do voice dictation with Notes? There’s no mention of dictation on the Notes web page. Are you linking it with some other transcription app?

  • Will Duquette

    Oh, and for mindmapping/outlining, I like iThoughts/iThoughtsHD. It’s got good integration with DropBox, and can sync with FreeMind/FreePlane, which is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    iPhone 4S or higher has native voice recognition in the keypad. It’s pretty good, too.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I still haven’t figured out how to really mind-map. Everything just winds up as an outline.

    I read good things about iThoughts, but I thought (seewhatIdidthere) they were a bit pricey.

  • Will Duquette

    I use it for outlining mostly. It works, the developer is responsive, and it’s an open format. What’s not to like?

  • Will Duquette

    Interesting. I hadn’t turned Siri on, so I hadn’t seen the little microphone icon.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Then you’ve never asked Siri how to hide a body?

  • Will Duquette

    Just tried it; got nothing back.

  • Maggie

    I gosh darn LOVE YOUR PC WALLPAPER. I didn’t know you were an MST3K fan! Actually, I love all your wallpapers.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    I’ve even introduced my kids to MST, so another generation is tainted at well.

    If you have Hulu, don’t miss RiffTrax shorts.

  • Maggie

    Ooh! Thanks for letting me know.