Midwestern Mac HQ - The Workstation

So, what computers, peripherals, and software do I use to manage all the websites I create, fix all your Macs, edit photos, and design graphics? I think this is an important question to answer, for two reasons: 1) You can see what I use, and see that I don't take any project lightly; and 2) You can hopefully learn something from my setup that can increase your own productivity!

My Workstation

(Click on the image above for a larger version, complete with detailed notes). You can see two basic themes from a general overview of the picture: First, there is a major lack of space at my workstation. Second, the space I do have is optimized to its fullest potential.

My computers include:

  1. My 24" iMac, a.k.a. 'The Beast.'
    This iMac is what I primarily use when doing graphic design, video editing, web design, and most other work. It is 'fully loaded' with all the software and peripherals I need to design and maintain the best websites possible, and it's also arrayed with some nice amenities that make my work more enjoyable. Notice the large speakers on top of the desk? I think it's important to be able to enjoy some nice music while working—it's often a way for me to relax, and get the creative juices flowing.
  2. My Aluminum MacBook, a.k.a. 'Roadie.'
    My trusty MacBook tags along for the ride wherever I go; I often bring it with me to work with clients on-the-go, to manage and upload pictures to the web directly from certain events, and to work in odd places (the coffee shop, my futon, my car...).
  3. (Not Pictured) My Dell Laptop, a.k.a. 'The Necessary One.'
    I often use the Dell when I need to do extensive testing on certain websites, or when I am helping certain customers work through a problem they're having. It's important to know how to use both Macs and PCs, and particularly the differences between the two that matter—especially when designing accessible websites!

I have the three computers surrounding my chair, so as to allow me to test quickly and efficiently across a wide variety of web browsers, screen resolutions, and computer hardware. The Dell is a little older and slower, and it runs windows XP with Internet Explorer 6 and 7. It's a good tool for me to find out how my sites run on a little older computer with a little older software. The iMac is quite fast, and has a huge, high-resolution screen. It's great for design, but sometimes having all that space while I'm designing can be a problem. That's why I test from the start on my laptops—because most people who will be using the sites and graphics I design don't have such a luxuriously large display!

On my iMac, I typically run the Adobe Suite of applications (especially Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver) for graphic design and preliminary web development. As a website's design matures, I move it onto the web server either as-is, or modified into a template to run on a content management system (like Drupal). Finally, I will check every part of the design and layout on my other two computers (and usually on my iPhone and a few friends' computers) to make sure there are no problems.

There's even a little space in front of the iMac so I can have a book or two open (usually a programming reference book, or a notepad) and still have access to all the computer equipment.

You might also notice I have some nice speakers, and a surround audio system. To me, it's imperative that my workspace be comfortable, and one way to make it so is to have some nice tunes playing in the background (when necessary). It helps keep the creative juices flowing, and sometimes keeps me going during long coding sessions! Trying to make a project shine requires me to work at my best, and music can help me do just that.