Running on Air: Steven Bradley

Are you aware of any designers, web coders who run their businesses on MacBook Airs? I do, meet Steven Bradley. Steven came up in my research looking for people take full advantage of their MacBook Airs. Steven is incredibly busy (see below) so I was thrilled when he agreed to be part of this series.

1. Who are you? What type of business are you in, what do you do?

Vaneso Design Logo

Thanks for asking me to contribute Austin.

My name is Steven Bradley and I’m a freelance web designer and developer, building sites for micro businesses. Most of those sites end up on WordPress, though some end up on other platforms depending on the needs of a particular client or site.

In addition to the freelance design business I also own and operate a small business forum. And as if I wasn’t busy enough I blog regularly on my own sites and sometimes for others.

2. Which model MacBook Air are you using?

I have a 13 inch MacBook Air from late 2010 that I purchased in the spring of 2011. It’s a 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, with 4 GB of RAM, which was the maximum you could get at the time. It has the NVIDIA GeForce graphics card and is comfortably running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

3. Why did you select the MacBook Air over other Mac models?

Prior to owning the Air I had been using a MacBook Pro and had assumed my next Mac would also be a Pro. When the Airs got a refresh in 2010 I knew I wanted one. The hardware design was gorgeous and design is a big reason I use Macs in the first place. I was also attracted to the portability the Air afforded given its size and weight. And I especially wanted an SSD drive. My only question was would it be powerful enough?

When it came time to get something new I went back and forth between an Air and a Pro. The Pro was more powerful and the Air was what I wanted. Then a couple of things dawned on me.

First, even though the Air was less powerful than a new MacBook Pro, it was still more powerful than the MacBook Pro I had been using for a few years.

Second, I realized that despite thinking I needed the most powerful computer I could get, may day was mostly spent in and out of ordinary text files. Most of my day is in a code editor working on .html, .css, js, and .php pages or working in a blog editor. If anything the bottleneck for me would be reading and writing to the hard drive, in which case the Air’s SSD drive was the better option.

Air vs Pro Image

The old MacPro is still working and serves as a backup machine, which is hopefully not needed. It also has Windows 7 loaded under Bootcamp to allow me to test websites in Windows, specifically in Internet Explorer.

Most of my day is now spent working happily on the Air.

4. How are you using your MacBook Air to run your business ?

The entirety of my business is through the Air. Everything I do is on the computer. As a web designer/developer and blogger, everything I ultimately create ends up online. Like most people I use a number of basic programs both professionally and personally.

  • Mail - for email
  • Adium - for instant messaging
  • Safari, Firefox, and Chrome - General browsing and testing websites
  • NetNewsWire - rss feeds
  • iTunes - I usually have music going while working
  • iPhoto - to store my images

For blogging I use:

  • MacJournal - to organize notes and drafts
  • MarsEdit - to edit, add formatting, and images, and then publish directly to WordPress
  • Scrivener - for larger writing projects
  • WordPress - my site and blog are self hosted WordPress installs

For designing and developing sites:

  • Keynote - for wire framing
  • Photoshop - for image work and more complete design images
  • Pixelmator - I’ve recently started to use Pixelmator to see if it can replace Photoshop for me
  • ColorSchemer Studio - When it comes to most anything color related
  • Coda 2 - my primary code editor
  • Sublime Text 2 - the code editor I’m testing
  • Codebox - to store code snippets

For the project management side of the business

  • Things - my to do app
  • Billings 3 - for invoicing
  • Calendar - to hopefully remind me of deadlines and keep me on schedule
  • Contacts - to manage my contacts
  • Text Edit - mostly to make notes on anything

I’m slowly integrating Notes and Reminders into my routine and also use Numbers when I need to do anything spreadsheet related. I’m also in and out of vBulletin, which is what powers my forum and another I help administrate. There are probably more applications that I use here and there, but these are the ones that I use all the time.

You can probably guess I like to play with software. I tend to install and try a lot of things to see what they can do and if they would provide some benefit to my business or life. At the same time I tend to use only a few applications all the time. An app like Contacts might only be opened once every few days or a week. Similar for some of the others listed here, though looking up I do make use of many of these at some point each day.

5. Which has been the best thing about using your air to run your business/create your product.?

The experience. That’s what convinced me to move to a Mac a few years ago. I’d see other designers presenting screenshots and screencasts and all I could think was how much more enjoyable their computers looked than mine. When it was time to get a new laptop I bought a Mac (a MacBook Pro) and started enjoying along with everyone else.

That’s only continued with the Air. It’s a joy to use. I flip it open every morning and it stays open until it’s time to call it a night. I’m one of those people who uses a laptop on my lap. The portability of the Air for me is less about being able to pack it up and take it on the go. It’s more about me being able to move it around the house, shifting it from a coffee table, to my lap, to a desk. Still it’s nice to be able to drop it in a backpack and take it with me when needed.

Where productivity is concerned the SSD drive has helped considerably. What I was afraid I might be losing in sheer power is made up far more by the quick read write times. Everything opens and saves faster. Apps boot up faster. The Air itself boots up faster. It wouldn’t surprise me if I save a half hour or more a day by not waiting on something to open or close.

Something I often forget until times like these is the keyboard. I type much faster on the shallower keys. Along the same lines the trackpad is the best I’ve ever used and I find myself taking more advantage of gestures all the time. It helps a lot when you can be productive with the inputs into your computer.

web address: Vanseo Design My Small Business Forum forum twitter: @vangogh

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