Workflows and Software

Workflows and Software

This post has nothing to do with coffee. It is all about software, and how I work. If this is not of interest then stop reading now. You’ve been warned!

I like technology, I like software. Often, when chatting with various people in the coffee industry the subject has ended up on software, tools and productivity. I usually rant for a bit, and afterwards several people have told me that I ought to write a blog post on this stuff. I have avoided doing it for years, but I figured I will do it now. So, here is a blog post about software I like and how I use it day to day.

I should make clear from the start that for the last seven or eight years I’ve been using hardware from Apple. I’m aware of the downsides of their walled garden approach, I’m annoyed also that their software quality has undeniably been declining over the last couple of years especially. Nonetheless I’m happy enough with the software people are writing to stay for now. As such links will be to iOS and OSX software.

The outboard brain

I’m a big believer in the outboard brain – a place to store all the things you need to do, to remember, to research etc. I find getting as much of it out, onto paper or into software, to reduce my stress levels and ultimately make me happier.

For this I use OmniFocus. OmniFocus is expensive, painfully so – though I see it as less expensive than most of the mistakes I’m likely to make (and what price is happiness).

It kills me that the iPhone app is separate to the iPad app, which is separate to the OSX app. However, they all sync together well.

At first glance it is a glorified to-do list, but it goes a bit further. You can add key bits of metadata to each task – Project (what this task is working towards or part of) and Context (where you will be to perform this task). That way I can look at my to-do list different ways very easily, for example I have a context of “amazon” for everything I must remember to buy the next time I’m shopping on there. Or I have different contexts for colleagues, so I remember what I need to talk to them about when I next meet with them.

Increasingly I try to block out certain amounts of my working day to focus on specific projects, so looking at a specific to-do list for things like Coffee Jobs Board or this blog is great.

The app has a section called the “Inbox” where you can dump in ideas before you add the relevant data to it. This is great for moments of inspiration, things to research, recommendations (restaurants, bars, books, films, music) etc etc… You can add images to tasks too, which I use quite a lot when I see inspiring pieces of design.

I’m really only scratching the surface here – there’s a lot more you can do if you’re willing to invest some time into this stuff. As I said – £63 ($96) for all three apps is a lot of money in the software world (these days anyway) but I love it to death. (I will spare you the rant about how I’m anti free software, and believe strongly in paying for things.)

Omnifocus 2 iPhone – £13.99
Omnifocus 2 iPad – £20.99
Omnifocus 2 OSX – £27.99


I hate email, I really do. I’ve been campaigning for years to convince people it should cost money to send emails (we’d all send and receive a lot less, and yet we’d communicate everything necessary and ultimately be more productive…)

Anyway – they’re not going away so I look for as much help as possible managing them.

On the phone:

For quite a while I was using an app called Dispatch that I think is great. There’s lots of genuinely useful functionality (I like all things like Text Expander though I never did quite get my head around their iPhone app). Recently my main email address has switched to using Google Apps which means I’ve been trying out a few new apps. Mailbox is easily the best (though only works if you have a Gmail backed account)

On the iPad:

Before using Mailbox for the iPad I was actually just using the default Apple Mail client. Software development rates and releases for the iPad are pretty depressing in a number of fields.

On the Mac:

I’m using Mailbox on there too for now but only to play around with (as it is still in Beta). I’m mostly using a rather lovely client called MailMate that is super geeky and wonderful. It is expensive, it isn’t pretty, it is incredibly powerful (especially the search – should you, like me have ludicrous numbers of emails) and it lets me write emails in Markdown (which is hopefully the nerdiest thing I will write in this post).


I’m a big fan of Pinboard, when it comes to boookmarking. I love TextExpander for helping me with all sorts of things – I use stock email replies a lot less, but it has a million other uses. I’m painfully reliant on Alfred for doing or finding anything on my mac.

Prey Project was also recommended to me a few years ago, and there is an iOS app now too. I’d recommend people install this as its a useful piece of antitheft software. It’s clever, unobtrusive, free and I hope never to have to use it.

Other apps I think are good


Tweetbot 3 – Best iPhone and desktop app for me. I like the iPad one too, but it hasn’t been updated for ages and looks pretty dated. Tweetbot 3 is intuitive, pretty, I don’t see sponsored tweets, mute is a great function etc etc.

Reeder 2 – I’d used this app for ages, then I went through a phase of post-GReader experimentation and ended up using back here using this as the front end of a Feedly account. I keep an eye on a lot of RSS feeds, which probably makes me a bit old school, but this is a great way of managing and consuming them.

Byword – I use this for writing blog posts and drafts of talks. It syncs across iOS and mac devices through iCloud so something I start writing on the bus gets finished on my laptop at the dining room table. Simple, wonderful.

VSCOCam – easily my favourite photo editor, though I prefer the functionality of Manual for actually taking photos.

Day One - I find writing a journal very rewarding, and it’s something I wish I did better. I love that this syncs between all devices and the desktop so I can write things in the back of taxis, on planes or sat in bed.

1Password – I don’t know most of my passwords, and that’s how it should be. Not enough people take password security seriously enough, and I certainly didn’t used to. Now all my passwords are all held in this app, synced everywhere and secure. a Most people’s password security is pretty terrible (great article on passwords here) so I try to do a little better.

I’ve held off writing this thing because I’ve always thought it wasn’t interesting to most people reading here. However, after enough requests I have given in. I will probably come back and update this from time to time.

  1. Or as secure as one might hope these days.  (back)