Chris Coyier on Life, Work and Eighteen Years as a Mac User
Chris Coyier is an active and very well known-member of the web development community. He single-handedly built one of the best CSS advice websites around, CSS-Tricks, and has embarked on several other successful projects including a book on WordPress and an awesome new podcast. Join us as we sit down with Chris and discuss how Macs play a role in his daily life.
My first Mac was the Performa 636CD that I got in 1994. Since then, I’ve never owned or used anything other than a Mac.
You've had quite a crazy year! Tell us a little about what you've been up to.
Yep, it's been fantastic! Just in the past few months I left my full time job to focus on my own projects. It's really three things:
CodePen - Launched that with my partners Alex Vazquez and Tim Sabat. We're working like crazy on it to make it a go-to place for playing with front end code and ultimately education and inspiration.
CSS-Tricks - My site that is also geared toward web design education and inspiration, but through other types of content (articles, forums, videos, etc). I'm spending the next few months deep into a redesign that will hopefully usher in a new era of awesomeness for the site.
ShopTalk Show - A podcast I do with Dave Rupert. We're just going to keep on keeping on with that show, bringing on great guests, keeping a steady schedule, a new site design, and hopefully some updates to how we run the live show.
It feels great having a tighter focus on the things I work on lately.
How long have you been using Macs?
I had a few computers prior, but my first Mac was the Performa 636CD that I got in 1994. Since then, I've never owned or used anything other than a Mac. Eighteen years now.
Why do you use Macs and how have they played a role in the creation/running of your various projects?
I've always just found them pleasurable to use and was never compelled to switch away. Macs are at the heart of everything I do. I design on them, I write code on them, I communicate on them.
They travel with me. My Mac is even my entertainment hub. Other than brief in-person meetings, 100% of my "work" is done on my Mac.
Other than brief in-person meetings, 100% of my “work” is done on my Mac.
What's your Mac hardware setup like?
At this second it's a 2.2 GHz MacBook Pro, 4GB Ram, 120 GB SSD. I work about half the time from a desk where it's plugged into a 27" Thunderbolt Cinema Display and where I use a Microsoft natural ergonomic 4000 keyboard and a Kensington trackball mouse. I also have a Drobo there for mass storage and backups.
I work another quarter of the time lazily sitting in a chair or couch, and another quarter while travelling. Those times, I use nothing but the MacBook Pro itself.
Briefly walk us through a day in the life of Chris Coyier
I'm in front of the computer quite a bit. I pretty much wake up and work all day. Lots of email, lots of GitHub issues, lots of writing, lots of coding, lots of social media dinking around.
I break up the day with little get aways. I'll stop for meals. I'll stop and go see a movie. I'll stop and go play with Digby at a dog park.
What are some of your favorite Mac apps right now and why?
It's a lovely minimal interface that mostly stays out of the way, expect for little planned intrusions, which I find interesting.
I like Day One, a really simple journaling app that sits in the menu bar and reminds me to take notes on the day once in a while. I think that will be really interesting years down the road. It's a lovely minimal interface that mostly stays out of the way, expect for little planned intrusions, which I find interesting.
I don't use too much fancy software. I browse and develop in Chrome but I have a full rack of browsers in my Dock for testing web designs. I write code in Sublime Text 2. I use Git Tower for version control. I have Adobe Creative Suite 6 for designing. I use CodeKit to help with development (might be a bit too nerdy to discuss here). I use LittleSnapper to save little bits of visual inspiration I see around the web. I use ScreenFlow for recording screencasts. I work on presentations in Keynote. All of those are fantastic examples of good software.
How do you test the websites that you build on Windows?
It used to be virtual machines. I've literally used Parallels, VMware Fusion, and VirtualBox all at different times for various different OS testing. Now it's all BrowserStack. I do have a little crappy 10" Acer laptop running Window 7 and IE 9 for "real" machine testing.
Tell us about your podcasting setup and what the learning curve was like to master all of those skills that really aren't related to your main focus.
You might think I have some deep set of knowledge there, but my audio/video knowledge and setup is pretty weak. I have a Rode Podcaster that I set up on a little mini desk boom stand and shock mount. That way I can position the microphone right in front of my face for the podcast and for screencasts. That's really it, equipment wise. I could probably stand for an upgrade one of these days but I feel like the step up from there gets complicated quick.
I have a Rode Podcaster that I set up on a little mini desk boom stand and shock mount.
ShopTalk we do over Skype and I'm not in charge of recording it, Dave Rupert is. We're always tweaking quality stuff. We have some work to do there but I feel like it's fairly decent.
You can easily make a whole career out of being a good audio/video guy. I find it all extremely interesting but I have yet to go down that road.
What will your next Mac be and why?
I have one of them brand new (are we calling them "first gen"?) Retina MacBook Pros on the way. I wanted to hold off at first because 1) they are kinda expensive and 2) they might have issues; you never know with brand new stuff. But I just couldn't wait anymore.
I have one of them brand new Retina MacBook Pros on the way. I wanted to hold off at first... but I just couldn’t wait anymore.
They look so fantastic and my current MacBook Pro is a little underpowered. I've been doing some video work lately and some other various intensive tasks and I can feel the slowdown. I got the fastest processor, most ram, and largest hard drive they would possibly put in it. I'm hoping to get at least a couple of years out of it.
I'm kinda glad I have that crappy Acer laptop, because I'm worried that this MacBook is going to be so awesome that I'll stop understanding what it's like to use an average or crappy computer. Part of my job as a web designer is making sure the things I build work no matter where and how people encounter them, so cracking that thing open occasionally will give me a nice taste of reality.
I'm personally a huge fan of pretty much all of the projects Chris has been working on in the past few years and I know that he's a busy guy, so I'd like to send out a huge thanks for taking the time to sit down and go through these questions.