Uses This

1251 interviews since 2009

A picture of Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram

Writer

in mac, windows, writer

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Thursday Bram and I do a lot of different things. When I absolutely have to narrow myself down to a job title, I use "writer." Here are a few things I've worked on:

What hardware do you use?

One of the reasons I consider myself a writer more than anything else is because most of my work starts as written notes (even if we're talking about design or tech). I use a Remarkable eInk tablet (first generation) and it's changed my life. I used to go through notepads and notebooks and pens and ink like water - and then still need to convert those handwritten notes into something I can manipulate digitally. With the eInk tablet, I write everything and then can export in a number of formats, including plain text that's been OCR'd from my writing.

I have tried many many many tablets and styluses over the years, and the Remarkable is the first that's really replicated the feeling of writing on paper for me. I still break out the actual paper and pens for a lot of projects, though. Laying out a zine is so much easier for me with a physical mockup!

Print supplies (a very abbreviated list):

  • Pilot G-2, mostly in 0.7 mm and in a variety of colors
  • 3x5 index cards, unlined
  • Ruler magnifying glass

My primary work computer is an iMac. I also have a Windows setup, which mostly is for playing media and gaming, but comes in handy when I need to troubleshoot, test projects on multiple systems, or run something that's Windows-only. I have two monitors in addition to my iMac's screen. One is usually for my PC, but depending on what I'm working on, I'll switch that screen over to the iMac so I can have extra screen space. I have an older Mac for when I need to work away from my home office, but I've only needed it a handful of times during the pandemic.

I'm on an iPhone, mostly for ecosystem convenience. I almost never use my phone to make calls, though... Instead, I mostly use it for taking photos and playing terrible little casual games.

One of the driving forces behind which input devices I use is how many buttons can I squeeze onto my desk at one time. Ideally, those buttons are nice and clacky.

Input devices for iMac:

  • Keyboard: Moonlander with a mix of Astrolokeys and a Sailor Moon keycap set whose origins are lost in the depths of time
  • 10-key: Ducky Pocket numpad that's both awesome for data entry and doubles as a calculator
  • Mouse: Anker Vertical Wired Mouse because it's ergonomic, gives me even more buttons, and can be found again when one of the cats decides to knock things off my desk

Input devices for PC:

Do cats count as hardware or software? I'm managed by three of them. They provide reminders to step away from the computer, chaos generation, and substantial entertainment.

And what software?

If there's one piece of software I use more than any other, it's probably Signal. I do a lot of texting and calls with folks, whether I'm brainstorming ideas for a new zine, raising bail funds, or collaborating with a writer on a political article. I'm slowly working to get everyone I know to use Signal, not necessarily because of any particular feature but rather because I do enough work with activists that I think it's better to just make sure all of my conversations are private. Lose the signal within the noise, and all that.

I use both Google and Proton's suites of email, calendar, and related tools. I have little love for either set of tools, but apparently I can't quit using email. I keep certain parts of my work siloed in specific systems. Separating out work is especially important in my volunteer work - being able to hand over emails or even an entire email account without having to sort out what material is relevant or personal is really helpful.

Most of my writing starts on my Remarkable tablet as notes or outlines. From there, I'll pop it into an Obsidian note. I do a lot of my writing in Obsidian, maybe with a little Markdown if I'm working on something where formatting matters. Where text goes from there depends on what I'm working on.

  • If I need to collaborate, write, or edit with someone else, I'll usually bring my text into Google Docs. I've tried to switch away several times, but I keep getting sucked back in. For the record, I still miss Editorally terribly.
  • I also use Cryptpad for collaboration on projects where security is a concern. I don't enjoy using Cryptpad, but it's significantly better than other secure word processing options.
  • Most of the sites I manage / publish to are built in WordPress. I have tried to move away several times (I should clearly be using a Python-based CMS!), but WordPress is easy to work with and I can get someone else up and using it in a couple of hours, even if they aren't technical.

I also make tons of spreadsheets, mostly in Airtable. I love Airtable. I love how many things I can make Airtable do without needing to actually program anything and I love how many absurd things I can make Airtable do if I'm willing to break out a little code.

I still lament the sunset of Google Reader. My current RSS reader is Feedly, but it's not a perfect replacement. It does integrate easily with other tools, which is nice, but there are honestly too many features that change too frequently for me to really get full use out of Feedly.

For design work, especially ebook and zine layout, I use Adobe Creative Suite. I use the Middle Eastern version, because that's the only way to get support for Hebrew, which I need for my zines on Jewish topics. That's mildly absurd to me because only around a third of Jews live in the Middle East.

What would be your dream setup?

I'd be absolutely thrilled if some code necromancer wanted to resurrect Google Reader and Editorially, maybe with a few updates.

I could be persuaded to pay an absurd amount of money for a secure word processor that is user-friendly, transparent about its security, and makes collaboration easy.

I'd also be pretty excited about some sort of magic button I could press to get everyone I work with to switch tools to what I use. I feel like a lot of my time is spent reformatting data for different systems or training someone up on a new tool.

Other than that, though, I'm pretty content with my current setup. Of course, it's very possible I'll be using an entirely different set of tools if you check back in a couple of years.

Uses This is supported by ZSA, makers of the Moonlander, ErgoDox EZ and Planck EZ keyboards. They also publish an awesome newsletter.