Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Two Macs

For years, I’ve been the user of a single Mac. I subscribed to the idea that the best setup was the most MacBook Pro I could afford, coupled with a big screen on my desk. When I needed to work elsewhere, I’d undock the computer and have my entire setup with me on the go.

I recently threw all of this out the window. I wanted a Retina screen on my desk, and a smaller, lighter notebook to carry with me out of the office.

I picked up a refurbished 27-inch 5K iMac to use in my office and studio space. Refurbished Macs come with the same warranty as new computers, and I was able to save over $500 on this particular machine.

When it came in, I sold my 15-inch MacBook Pro to a buddy and ended up with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar.

The MacBook Pro is for when I work out of the office, and I do need my podcasting software (Skype, Audio Hijack, Logic) on it for when I travel and need to work.

Like the iMac, I’m really enjoying it, but I have been forced to deal with aspects of my setup that are different now that I have two Macs. Thankfully, that’s easier to do than ever.

Almost everything on my iMac is saved in my Dropbox folder. I’ve paid for Dropbox Pro and the 1TB of storage it affords for a long time. With selective sync, I can have a subset of these files on my MacBook Pro’s much smaller SSD, and just log in to Dropbox on the web if I need something that I haven’t synced down. Because the bulk of my working files are already there, I can start an article or work on an agreement with a podcast sponsor on one computer — or even my iPad — and pick it up on any of my other devices.

Dropbox also serves as the backend sync service for several apps I use, like Alfred. My settings for that utility are the same on both of my Macs, which goes a long way toward my sanity.

iCloud is another huge part of this setup. While I don’t use iCloud Drive for file storage, my contacts, calendars, notes and bookmarks all sync with the service.

I recently imported my photo library into and turned on iCloud Photo Library. I have my iMac download the full-res version of everything, and my MacBook Pro just downloads on demand like my iOS devices. It works really well; I can have my entire library on my desktop (and back it up there) and anything I need is just a click or tap (and a quick download) away on the go.

Beyond Dropbox and iCloud, Gmail has my personal and work email in, so that’s sorted pretty easily. 1Password for Families and Teams means my personal and work passwords are everywhere I am. My task manager, Todoist, comes with its own sync, as does my RSS service of choice, Feedbin.

Of course, there are things that just don’t sync. Most programs have preferences that are just local, so there were some things I had to manually set up on the new notebook to match my iMac. Now that they are done, I don’t have to worry about it.

All in all, this hasn’t introduced as much friction as I thought it might. I can work at either computer, and enjoy the best desktop Apple has for sale, as well as a thin and light notebook when I need it.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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