Macbooks for Academic Work

I’ve had a Macbook Pro for nearly 2 years now. Before that I was a PC user through and through. Having made the leap, I wouldn’t go back. What all those smug mac users say to you, PC user, is true.

In the same spirit of sharing that I indulged in in my workspace post, here is my Mac desk top.


My computer is a massive part of how I work in the modern academy. The amazing battery life of this (around 3-4.5hours) makes it ideal for an afternoon in the library.

The apps I use most are in my dock, and from from left to right they are:

Mac Dock

Finder: the Mac equivalent of My Computer.
Firefox: a stable browser with a nice tabs feature.
Thunderbird: where all my academic and non academic mail goes to – with tabbed viewing and useful search features.
iCal: my calendar – although I’ve started using a moleskine diary instead.
Spotify: one of my favourite music players, although it remains to be seen how the new streaming restrictions will affect me.
iTunes: all my saved music and with no ads!
Skitch: a great piece of software for capturing images of your screen. I used this to take the screen shot.
Evernote: a virtual notebook. I’ve blogged about it before.
Skype: I use this for chatting with friends, but I’ve used it for virtual conference committee meetings too.

Mac Dock 2

Cyberduck: An FTP – mainly used in my freelance web work. I like this one because you can drag and drop.
Word: where I spend large parts of my day.
Endnote: bibliographic software. I’ve blogged about it too.
Twitter: I find laggy, but this app is great. I follow some useful academic news feeds.
Alfred: Alfred is a catch all search engine. It searches all my own files, and opens to, google etc.
Sound Studio: I use this for editing audio – which is one of my freelance jobs.
Preview: an image and PDF viewer. I like that you can highlight and write on pdfs – including most journal articles.
Pagespinner: a handy html editor without too many frustrating frills.
AnyConnect VPN: This allows me to connect to the university networks from anywhere.

I carry all this precious cargo in a bottle green corduroy Cushcase.


2 thoughts on “Macbooks for Academic Work

  1. Great post, Alex. Really enjoyed it. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a while now. I might do a post like this next week. Would love to hear more thoughts on some of these apps, like into their functionality etc. Most specifically, ThunderBird, Cyberduck, Alfred, and Anyconnect.

  2. Hi Jonny,

    Thunderbird is built by Mozilla, so as you might expect it is just pretty intuitive and stable. You can get addons too, but the only one I have used is ‘send later’ (which… sends emails at a later time). The tabbed view is useful, it threads messages and the search is speedy, accurate and has a number of options as to how you can view the results (ie. from me/to me, by date, my relevance). I never really got into using the inbuilt Mail client…

    Cyberduck is no frills – and free. I’ve had some problems in the past connecting to my employers’s web space, and cyberduck hasn’t given me any bother. I just drag and drop the files on – so it is a tidy screen too.

    Alfred does what Spotlight does, essentially – and the same thing that Quiksilver did before Spotlight. It does sums and finds files quickly. I like that if it can’t find something it suggests places to look online – amazon, google, wiki. Just saves you turning to your browser.

    AnyConnect is a prerequisite to getting to most university resources here. I use it when I’m on the wireless – no need on my room’s wired connection. It basically identifies you by username and password once off and then you are in a virtual private network and you don’t have to re-identify for the meal booking system, database searches, etc. etc. I’m fairly cautious about it though – since a student was fined for watching a pirated movie at home because he left his VPN on… (

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