Macademic on Mac Power Users. Second-guessing.

Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest on MacPowerUsers, my favorite Mac podcast. Frankly, I was quite nervous before the show as I had never before spoken on air. But it turned out surprisingly relaxing. Katie and David felt like a couple of old friends. I could just sit back and talk about my favorite topics. Time flew by! Immediately afterwards I could only think of how much I enjoyed it, not how well it went. Soon, however, I started second-guessing one of my answers. (After all, second-guessing is what I am paid for as a professor, isn’t it?). But it was too late to change anything. Sometimes, you only have one draft, not three. On the other hand, why not use Macademic?

I was re-thinking my answer to Katie’s question of why I use Mac instead of a PC. When I bought my first Mac (simply because my non-Mac laptops kept crashing), a friend told me: it will feel like interacting with a human, not a computer. I did not really know what she meant and initially working on the Mac did not feel particularly different or exciting. But gradually I got to know Mac enthusiasts, geeks and developers through MPU, Macademic and other contacts. Many of these people were amazing in their focus on doing things in a smarter, smoother and more elegant way. It’s what I explained in an old post “Arranging the Flowers. Why Mac?” So yes, my Mac does feel more human, because whatever I do I always feel connected to real humans whom I like and admire.


About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
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12 Responses to Macademic on Mac Power Users. Second-guessing.

  1. Joel says:

    No need to second-guess your answers, Aleh: you *nailed* it. I thought it was one of the most useful MPU podcasts I’ve ever heard (and, like you, I’ve been listening from the very beginning, so that’s 200+ shows). Part of why it’s such a useful episode for me (and other macademics) is that you focus on research-related workflows, but what really stood out is both how many of the apps and techniques you discussed were unfamiliar to the hosts (quite an accomplishment) and how good you are at explaining your approach. Great job!


  2. grhafer30 says:

    I enjoyed it immensely; in fact, I was listening to the podcast in bed on my iPhone and couldn’t sleep! I use many of the apps you do for my academic workflow, but I still found it insightful. I’m wondering what you use for an electronic gradebook? All the useful Mac ones in the States have been swallowed up by Information Technology System companies and have been dumbed-downed or lie dormant for individual users. I do standards-based grading (or criterion-referenced) and I hate to go back to spreadsheets again. I used to use Easy Grade Pro but it’s aged ungracefully, is no longer supported as a standalone zoo (Blackboard now owns it).


  3. Chris says:

    Aleh, I switched to Mac/iOS about the same time as you, after having been a Windows user for my entire adult life. When friends and family ask me why I switched, or why I am so in love with the Apple ecosystem, I have struggled to find an eloquent explanation. Your “Arranging Flowers” post is the perfect answer!

    I don’t often re-listen to podcasts, but I have already queued up your MPU episode for another go. I’ve also added your blog to my (small and highly exclusive) collection of RSS feeds. I see a lot of value in the information you’re putting out there. Thanks!


  4. Andy says:

    I have just walked the dog, and listened to the podcast. Thank you it was very useful. I have never heard of foxtrot which I will have a look at. It seems to me that if you are mainly using the mac why not just use Devonthink for everything? I have used a lot of software over the years but Devonthink is my most used app. It is not as pretty as papers but is incredibly functional and useful.


    • Aleh Cherp says:

      Thanks, Andy. I did try to use DevonThink and every time gave up because it was just too overwhelming. Do you use it to capture, organize or work with your content? I’d be very interested to hear more if you have time.


  5. Neal says:

    Your podcast was fantastic! Thank you.


  6. Stephen Chakwin says:

    Aleh –
    I just finished listening to your interview on MPU and have to say that I enjoyed it and (probably unlike you) wished it went on longer. I do want to point out something that I’m sure you understand but didn’t get to articulate clearly in the podcast. Circus Ponies Notebook is really as good as it is because it is an outline of outlines. It is almost an Escher picture of outlines. The first layer of outlines is the tabs, which you can see as the Table of Contents. This behaves very much like an outline with heads and subheads. You can turn the tabs themselves into a different sub-outline by color-coding them. Then each tab page is itself another outline because it lists the pages (or sub-tabs) that it contains. The pages themselves are – or can be – outlines. And then you can create form-free outlines using tags or badges on the different notes on the pages and then finding them through the multidex that lets you search them. And you can do other kinds of tagging/grouping with highlighting, capitalization, etc. also searchable through the multidex. It’s really an extraordinary – and elegantly simple – setup of metadata that you can do all kinds of things with. The only limit is your need for particularity or perhaps your imagination. I have come back to Notebook after a few years away from it and amazed at how powerful and flexible it is.
    Thanks so much for your ongoing work. I love your blog, though I am no academic. Perhaps you will take a look at Tinderbox, another amazingly powerful application, some day.
    Best wishes,



    • Aleh Cherp says:

      Stephen, thanks so much. I actually wanted it to go for longer too ;-). And so true about CircusPonies Notebook. In contrast to my OmniOutliner outlines it keeps all my outlines in one place and helps me to further hierarchically organize them. I hope to have a post on it soon. With respect to TinderBox, I tried it in the past and could not get past the learning curve. Now just listened to a podcast about it (on Sources and Methods), bought the book and will try again. Hope to blog about it as well. Btw, if you have any experience with any of these apps, why don’t you write a guest entry here?


      • Stephen Chakwin says:

        Would be happy to. Let me know (can be off-list) what e-mail address to use and what would make this easiest for you to process (format [plain text, RTF, Word, etc.], suggested word count, anything else you think I should know.

        All best,



  7. drsanjuuk says:

    Great podcast. I am a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and I found your exposition of research and academic workflows to be one of the best, if not THE best! Thanks so much. I had not heard of your website before, but now you have an ardent reader of your views!


  8. Dana Lamm says:

    Hi Aleh,
    I am catching up with MPU feed and heard your podcast yesterday. Timing perfect for me as I am. P.T. going back to grad school second time around. I too, thought your was one of the most helpful MPUs and I’ve been listening for years as well. I’ve been trying to find he best PDF ref manager. I had a recommendation back in Sept that due to the bugs in Papers 3 I should try Mendeley which I have been doing. It’s ok but seems to lack something. Considering giving Papers3 a try. I plan to purchase Scrivener after listening and further reading on your blog. Again, I’ve heard David and Katie and others mention but you made the distinctions more clear. I, too use Evernote for my personal life and am looking for the right tool to take notes and store like-minded material, be it PDFs, audio, video, pics, etc. would Circus a ponies Notebook fill that role?

    Thanks for your generous sharing of thoughtful and valuable information!



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