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Essential Setup: Apps

Essential Apps

This is the first of a two-part series that outlines my essential setup. Part one focuses on the productivity apps that I use frequently both on desktop and mobile. The minimalist in me will try to use as few applications as possible, but I use a handful that help me work pretty efficiently when it comes to editing articles, creating designs, coding, editing photos, and communicating.

iA Writer
Used for both note taking and writing/editing articles. iA Writer is a hyper-focused, well-designed, and wonderfully simple tool that I use on a daily basis. The editor is in markdown, which makes it fast, clean, and portable.

Still my go-to for designing pretty much anything. A vector graphics editor, I use it to create simple images, icons, mock-up web designs, and basic image editing. It’s light, fast, flexible, and intuitive.

Probably the most common communication and collaboration tool around for teams, Slack is extremely useful to focus conversations as well as its ability to speak to other third-party apps. It is also the only app that I have set up on my phone for push-notifications. Just don’t use their extremely clunky Electron desktop app. Keep it in your browser.

Atom is an open-source text and source code editor that I use for all my front-end web development. Even though this is also built on Electron, Atom is really customisable, allowing you to configure it in the way that works best for you. I have considered switching to Sublime, which I might still do at some point, but I’m happy enough in Atom for now.

Clear is—by far—the cleanest, simplest, and most beautifully designed to-do app around. I rely on lists a lot, and although I have tried to work without them, it’s not healthy for me. To-do lists keep me organised, calm, and focused.

A cloud storage app, Dropbox works extremely well. It’s great for collaborating and sharing files, and it’s definitely worthwhile getting the premium storage.

That’s about it. What are your most essential apps for productivity? I appreciate that some apps may be essential in order for you to do your job in the first place—whether an email client, an FTP client, or an accounting service—but this is more focused on those you need, want, and enjoy to use.

Carl MH Barenbrug
Creative Director
Minimalism Life


I'm Carl MH Barenbrug, a multidisciplinary maker and creative director currently living in Edinburgh. I run a small independent magazine called Minimalissimo, which is dedicated to minimalism in design—a passion of mine that extends to a lifestyle. I strongly believe that better design is simpler design. From the approach, to the function, to the aesthetic.

I also run a couple of other collaborative side projects called Minimalism Life and Mnmllist, and I'm always open to work on something new.

If you’d like to hire me as a consultant for a particular project, please get in touch. Services include Creative Direction and Web & UX Design.