Chris Gonzales' writing setup

Big ups to the massive to Chris Gonzales for sharing his writing setup with us. Nice to see some good Windows usage and suggestions.

Who are you and what do you write?

My name is Chris Gonzales, and I write a blog called Unretrofied where I talk about technology, writing, simplicity, photography, and a number of other things. I also have a part-time writing gig over at Shawn Blanc’s Tools & Toys site, where I post at least one neat thing a day, Monday through Friday.

Where do you write?

Lots of places!

Believe it or not, I get most of my writing done during my day job whenever I’ve got some downtime. It’s a tech support call-center type of job, so I just squeeze in some writing between phone calls as I’m able.

I also do some writing at home in the evening, typically on the couch, but that’s only after my wife and 14-month-old son go to bed. I try not to even think about writing until that point because I only get a short amount of family time each night, and I want to make the most of it. As I’m sure other writers will agree, this can be hard sometimes, as one never knows when inspiration will strike.

Speaking of which, when article ideas suddenly come to me while I’m out running errands or whatever, I will find a place to sit–whether it’s in my car, on a public bench, in a coffee shop, or at a restaurant–and quickly capture as much as possible on my phone before I forget it. Which is highly probable thanks to my godawful memory.

What hardware do you use?

At work, we use Windows 7 Dell desktops. Meh.

Outside the office, I use a combination of my brand-spanking-new iPad and my trusty iPhone 4S. I love that no matter where I am, I can capture my thoughts in text form and have it all synced to the cloud, where it can be accessed from anywhere later. It’s magical.

I hope to invest in a new iMac sometime this year, which is exciting for me because it’ll be my first Mac ever.

What software do you use?

As far as the Dell machine goes, I tend to stick with Notepad (the default text editor in Windows). It’s about as simple as it gets, but I don’t require a lot of additional features anyway since I write everything in Markdown. Unretrofied runs on Squarespace 6, so I also use its back-end editor often.

There for a while, I was using a Windows app called MarkdownPad that allowed me to see my Markdown output in real-time, but eventually I found this to be distracting and don’t use the app much anymore.

Most things I write are synced with Dropbox. It’s basically the default folder for all other things in my life, and many of the best writing apps interface with it, so it seemed logical to set things up this way. I’ve also been known to keep drafts in Evernote, but Dropbox is really the best tool for such things.

On my iPhone and iPad, I’ve got several different apps I enjoy using. When I want to quickly jot down an idea, I use Drafts. When I really want to hunker down and hammer out a full post, I use Byword (which is what I’m using to write this). When I want to publish to Tools and Toys, a Wordpress site, I use Poster. It’s a beautiful app that supports our custom fields, which makes my life a lot easier.

Last, but not least, is TextExpander. This one is a big time-saver. It allows you to create “snippets” of text, usually items you have to type repeatedly, then assign an abbreviation to each snippet. Simply type an abbreviation, and TextExpander will expand it into the appropriate snippet of text for you. Extremely useful, especially now that any iOS writing app worth its salt comes packaged with TextExpander support these days.

What’s your dream writing setup?

I live in a pretty small house that was built in 1950, and we don’t have a whole lot of extra space (meaning there is no such thing as an office in my house), so my dream is this:

Someday in the distant future, I hope that my family and I are able to move into a larger house where I can have my own office area with a nice, big, clean desk and one of those gigantic windows with a pillowy windowsill seat I can stretch out on. An office where lots of light streams into the room during the day. Hopefully the big window overlooks some nice scenery or a beautiful cityscape.

You see, my goal is to someday be a full-time writer, so I have this vision of waking up early in the morning, making some breakfast and coffee, walking into my office, and sitting down to get some work done as I watch the sun rise through that big window. Makes me smile just thinking about it :)