Every so often, I like to take a step back and chart the technology I use every day at my desk. This ranges from the desktop itself to new Mac apps, new Apple hardware and so much more. I’ve made quite a few changes over the last year in my setup, so read on as I share a look at the tools I use to work from home.
Desktop: VertDesk v3 Electric Sit Stand Desk
Two years ago I went through the Uplift standing desk as part of my tour behind the office 9to5Toys. Since then, quite a bit about my setup has changed, including a cross-country move that resulted in me finally being able to get a room in my house as a dedicated office, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have been working from home for years because 9to5Mac is a completely virtual company, so not much about my work habits has changed due to the pandemic, except that my boyfriend now also works from home. This quickly necessitated that we get a new desk so that we could both have our own work areas.
After some research, I landed on VertDesk v3 as the best choice. I was enticed by a few different features, including the butcher block surface option, shortcut integration, and the fact that VertDesk was the only company that was not ordered for several months.
This meant that Uplift Desk was relocated to our living room as my boyfriend’s desk, and VertDesk V3 would be my new desk in the office / extra bedroom. I chose the 72 ”by 30” desk with the butcher block surface, paired with the black frame. I also added a Qi-enabled power penetration that allows me to wirelessly charge iPhones or AirPods by placing them on the penetration. There are also three USB-A ports on the side of the bushing.
Building VertDesk V3 was very easy and straightforward, thanks to excellent included instructions and more videos on YouTube. All in all, the process took about two hours to complete. The wire management box that you can add to VertDesk is very useful, and it makes it easy to hide your wires.
The butcher block surface of the VertDesk V3 that I chose is especially beautiful and without a doubt my favorite feature on the desk. It is solid, light and smooth to the touch.
There is also a VertDesk application for iPhone that lets you control your desktop via Bluetooth. This is very nice, but in practice the most useful aspect is integration with the Shortcuts application. This means you can add VertDesk actions to raise and lower your desktop to other shortcuts.
An example of this is a shortcut I created that automatically raises the desktop to a vertical height, starts a timer for 15 minutes, and starts playing a specified playlist in Apple Music – my personal Apple Music Get Up mix. I also have a shortcut at the end of the day, which automatically lifts the desk and turns off the office lights.
HostDesk v3 is not perfect, but I have not yet found a standing desk that is perfect. I have two main grips with VertDesk v3. First of all, the crossbar that sits under the desk can sometimes obstruct your legroom. I’m about 6’4 ”tall, and there are probably times when I hit my knee on the crossbar.
Secondly, the lifting mechanism on the VertDesk v3 is higher and a touch slower than the Uplift Desk I had used before. This is by no means a dealbreaker, but it is something to keep in mind if you want the quietest solution. Otherwise, it is completely stable and reliable, even at the highest height of 47 inches.
Overall, I am very happy with VertDesk v3. The ingenious cable management drawer, butcher block design option and shortcut integration make it a compelling alternative among the growing sea of standing desk choices on the market. My configuration sells for just over $ 1100, and you can learn more on the VertDesk website.
Stolen: Uplift Pursuit
One thing that is unchanged with my desk compared to my trip in 2018, is the desk chair. I still use the Uplift Pursuit Ergonomic Chair, which is available for $ 329 in black and white.
The hunt is incredibly versatile, with angle adjustment, height options, the ability to raise and lower the arms and headrest, and much more. The versatility meant that I was able to fine-tune the chair in a week or so, and found the best settings for my comfort.
16-inch MacBook Pro, 24 ”LG UltraFine 4K and Mac mini
I used an iMac for several years and paired it with a 12-inch MacBook and finally a MacBook Air for use while on the go, but when I graduated and no longer needed a small laptop that could fit on tabletops for the lecture hall, iMac and MacBook Air in favor of a 16-inch MacBook Pro.
This layout provides an insane amount of versatility, which I love. The 16-inch MacBook Pro can be disconnected and taken on the go without any problems, or my girlfriend can even add her 15-inch MacBook Pro and use UltraFine when she needs a little extra property on the screen.
The 24-inch UltraFine has mixed reviews, but it has always been rock solid for me. I really appreciate the two Thunderbolt 3 and three USB-C ports you find on the back, which makes it easy to connect a single cable to the MacBook Pro itself. The UltraFine design is certainly out of this world, but it is practical and does the job.
My 16-inch MacBook Pro is anchored to the Twelve South Curve so that it is elevated to the same level as the UltraFine. Other peripherals on my desktop include the Logitech MX Keys wireless keyboard, an Apple Magic Trackpad, and the Logitech MX Master 3 wireless mouse.
For my 9to5Mac Daily podcast I use the Audio-Technica ATR2100x microphone, which I am a big fan of, thanks to the USB-C connection, with this shock mount and window screen combination. It is mounted on the desk using the Heil Sound PL-2T boom arm which is completely overkill for my needs, but incredibly solid and reliable.
Just below UltraFine is the Nomad Base Station Stand, which is the wireless charging stand I choose. You can read my full review here for more
Finally, a Mac mini from 2012 that I have turned into a Plex server, inside a non-entertaining entertainment center. It will not win any awards for speed, but it is a solution outside the media that is available from anywhere. It is wired directly to my Eero Pro router.
Other odds and ends
There are some other odds and ends you will notice on and around my desk. Above the desk are Nanoleaf Aurora light panels, which have been a staple in my work area for years. Nanoleaf light panels can be disgusting in certain situations, but when you put them in a solid color, they are a great way to give some light to your room.
My audio needs are met by two space gray HomePods on each side of the screen. How the upcoming HomePod mini will be integrated into my setup remains to be seen, but ultra broadband features almost certainly mean that I will incorporate at least one way or another.
BenQ ScreenBar Plus is mounted on top of the screen itself, which is a light bar that can be attached to the screen and shines down on the desktop. It’s an expensive solution to make your workspace as bright as possible, but I’m a big fan of it.
Other knick knacks:
Over the past few months, I’ve also been working on integrating a number of new and different Mac applications into my workflow.
The Tabs to Links app is an app created by 9to5Macits own Benjamin Mayo, and it lets you turn a browser full of tabs into a properly formatted list of links for show notes and roundups. Funny fact: Although I work closely with Mayo every day, I did not know that Tabs to Links existed until a few months ago.
I use the Marco Arments Forecast app to code 9to5Mac daily episodes like MP3 and add chapter marks and other metadata details. The sound itself is processed in the Auphonic Leveler.
I’m a big fan of Tot, a minimalist text editor created by Iconfactory. It’s a great way to keep quick notes and bits of text on your Mac, with built-in restrictions so it’s never a cluttered collection of files. I use Tot to work with headlines, take notes during a conversation and more.
My to-do list app selected is Things, and I write all my stories and 9to5Mac daily script in Ulysses using Markdown. My RSS app is NetNewsWire, which has gotten even better with each recent update. I track my time by using Toggl, which makes it easy for me to see how much time I spend on different projects.
TextExpander is easily my most beloved app on Mac, and I use it for so many different things. I have TextExpander excerpts for 9to5Mac Daily show notes, ad copy, email invoices and more. Speaking of text, I also use the Rocket app to bring Slack-style emoji shortcuts to macOS.
Soulver is my favorite calculator app for Mac, and it’s actually a sort of hybrid between calculator and notepad.
You will also notice both Spotify and Apple Music in my macOS dock, and I can not really explain this. While Apple Music is my favorite streaming service, I also like some of the playlists and features in Spotify as well.
It’s my desktop layout and some of my favorite Mac apps. What about you? Have you made any recent changes to your layout? I would love to hear your tips, tricks and recommendations down in the comments!
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