We sweat the big purchases, the Macs and iPhones and iPads and Apple Watches, but our technology-using lives would fall apart (or at least be a lot less pleasurable) without accessories. There’s not often much glamour in being the glue that holds together a workflow, the spackle that smooths over an otherwise ugly transition. So this Thanksgiving season I thought I’d shine a spotlight on some of the accessories that I rely on.
I’ve tried a bunch of iPad stands, but my favorite is still the Viozon iPad Pro Stand, which turns your iPad into a miniature iMac. The clamps are strong enough to hold my iPad securely and the hinge lets me position it either horizontally or vertically. I write thousands of words every week on an iPad clipped into a Viozon stand.
Once you’ve stuck your iPad in a stand, you’ll need something to type on. Keyboards are a matter of personal choice, but right now I’m using a Keychron K2 with brown switches. It works with Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, via USB or Bluetooth. I also like the Vortex Race 3, another compact mechanical USB keyboard.
To hook up a USB keyboard to an iPad Pro, you could use the USB cable included in the box, along with a USB A-to-USB C adapter. But why sit and lament the dongle lifestyle when you can buy new cables? I rarely ever use an adapter anymore, because I’ve got USB-C cables for Mini USB, Micro USB, and even USB-B. Replace those cables for your iPad or Mac that you keep connecting to adapters with native USB-C cables and don’t look back.
Speaking of USB, sometimes it’s convenient to have it nearby, either for power or to connect external devices. I recently got a new desk, and realized I wanted to get a whole bunch of USB cables off the top of the desk. I bought a cheap USB hub from Amazon, velcroed it to the bottom of my desk, and attached several USB peripherals there—and now only need a single visible USB cable to run to my iMac.
(Speaking of which, if you’re looking for ways to unclutter your workspace: buy a roll of Velcro and stick stuff to the underside and back side of furniture.)
Sticking to the uncluttering theme for a moment, it’s always nice to have power—but also have it out of the way. I’ve bought a couple of APC surge protectors, which are light enough to velcro under a desk. The battery in my uninterruptible power supply makes it way too hard to put anywhere but the floor, so I hid it in a corner, bought some short extension cords, and hid them under a cord cover velcroed to my office carpet.
I’ve got a few devices—a floor lamp and a dehumidifer to name two—that I’d like to be able to control remotely via HomeKit. The devices themselves are dumb, but now they act smart because they’re plugged into WeMo Mini Smart Plugs, unobtrusive little devices that can be remotely controlled to turn power on or off to an individual outlet. I’ve got my floor lamp connected to a battery-less Philips Hue Tap Switch, while my dehumidifier is part of several Home Automations in Shortcuts for iOS.
External data storage
I spent this summer testing the early beta versions of macOS Catalina not by installing it on my internal drive, but by booting my iMac off a Samsung external SSD. An external SSD is fast, tiny, and silent. You could velcro it to the back of your iMac and treat it as a second “internal” drive and nobody would be the wiser.
I stopped using a bedside alarm clock a few years ago, replacing it with Night Stand mode on my Apple Watch. I dock my Apple Watch in this Classic Mac-shaped Elago stand at night, but if you don’t love the original Mac design that much you can go with basic black.
While my Apple Watch charges on the little Mac stand overnight, my iPad Pro is plugged in to this Anker USB-C Charger, which sits on my nightstand and also charges my Kindle and any other USB devices I’ve got around. (I unplug this charger and bring it with me when I travel, too.)
Finally, when I’m working at my desk I’m usually listening to music via a very nice set of external speakers, attached via my iMac’s headphone jack. Unfortunately, these speakers are an accessory you can no longer buy—it’s the iPod Hi-Fi, a discontinued Apple product circa 2006. Thirteen years later, it still sounds great—and while its compatibility with iPods ceased only a couple of years after its release, thanks to its included auxiliary audio jack, it’s an accessory that’s still working more than a decade later. Let’s see where the HomePod is in 2032.