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Setting up a "Writing Mac"

I've got a basement full of Macs in various states of repair, which shouldn't surprise you. One of my hobbies is re-purposing those old machines. For instance, there's a G3 All-In-One on my workbench which runs iFixIt.com when I've got a project. Additionally, I use a G4 iMac as a Daylite server.

I've also had a G5 iMac for a while, but nothing for it to do. Earlier this week, I gave it a fresh install of Mac OS 10.4 and thought I'd use it for blogging and other writing. No web browsing, Twitter, iPhoto or the like. Call it a "Writing Mac." Here's how I set it up.

Reduce distractions


The Dock and drives are hidden from the Finder. No Twitter clients are installed, and only a few bookmarks are in place. The home folder contains only the default items and there's no music in the iTunes library. In other words, there's nothing to compete for my attention.

Streamlined for work


I've populated the dock with apps that support writing and nothing more. I've moved it to the lower left-hand corner by choosing "Position on screen > Left" from the Dock preference pane and this little bit of command line editing from Shawn Blanc:

defaults write com.apple.dock pinning -string end
Now I can have the dock tiny yet accessible as I run my writing software. Speaking of which ...

The software


You'll see a few icons in my Dock. After the Finder and Mail, is Scrivener. If you've got a large writing project to complete, Scrivener is the companion you'll want on your side. Research, outlining and organization is a pleasure with such a great application.

I've also got Apple's Dictionary in the Dock because, believe it or not, 'ol Dave isn't so good with the spelling.

Next is Yojimbo (I had to upgrade to 10.5.7 to get this to run. D'oh!). I only started using this app recently, but I can see the appeal. When running, it puts a small tab on the edge of the desktop. It's easy to drop bits of text, images or URL's in there to use as reference. The good stuff, once reviewed, gets moved into Scrivener.

Finally is my beloved ImageWell for editing images for use here on TUAW. It runs on 10.4 and is just the tool for quick-and-dirty cropping and resizing.

At last, iTunes streams Radio Paradise, my favorite Internet radio station.

The best part is that there's almost nothing to back up (other than Scrivener projects, which I drop in my Dropbox). If this machine's HD croaked tomorrow, I'd be able to pick up where I left off with minimal fuss.

So there you have it, my Writing Mac. Aren't legacy machines fun?

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