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Blog // Thoughts
October 10, 2011

The Software I Use

At least once a year I like to audit the my software. This week I’m been going through that exercise; deciding which programmes to upgrade, buy or ditch in the coming few months. Given that I’ve been asked in recent weeks about the applications that fill my hard drives, I thought it made sense to […]

At least once a year I like to audit the my software. This week I’m been going through that exercise; deciding which programmes to upgrade, buy or ditch in the coming few months. Given that I’ve been asked in recent weeks about the applications that fill my hard drives, I thought it made sense to lay it all out here for you.

This list isn’t everything, just the most used, “go-to” applications. In each category I’ve listed things in order of use, starting with the most frequent.


Sibelius – Every day I spend in the studio, I use Sibelius. While I still like to write with a pen & paper, occasionally dream of putting a tape machine in the studio and might, one day, try shooting with film again, I will never go back to notating music with a pencil. Sibelius allows me to notate music faster and more accurately than I ever could “the old way.” With each new version I’ve also been able to engrave richer and more beautiful looking manuscripts.

Amazing Slow Downer – My guitar practice routine is built around learning, transcribing and playing along with solos and performances. Every practice time I’m using Amazing Slow Downer for Mac OS X to slow down (while retaining correct pitch) pieces of music, loop sections and really get inside the phrasing and articulation of great players.

iTunes – It’s kind of unfashionable for musicians and tech-heads to admit any love for iTunes, but, what can I say – I’m a fan of iTunes, use it every day and, for the most part, am happy with the programme.

Logic Pro – My DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice. Every recording session, music project and piece of sound design I do goes through Logic Studio. I started using the programme just after version 7 came out and it has improved a lot since then. While I still use the effect plugins that come with Logic, apart from Ultrabeat and Sculpture I hardly ever use the bundled soft-synths.

EZdrummer – For me, drums are the holy grail of soft-synths and sample players. My first electronic instrument was a Mattel SynSonic drum set. I soon moved onto Alesis and Roland drum machines and eventually programming drums on computer. EZdrummer is a great solution for me because it combines ease of use, great sounds and some really usable MIDI patterns (played in by real musicians).

Kontakt – I use a lot of orchestral and world music samples and they all run within Kontakt. It’s a solid programme, has great memory management, the scripting keeps getting better and there are many amazing libraries built to run within it. My most commonly used libraries are SonicCouture’s GuZheng and Novachord, Soundiron’s Requiem Light and Native Instrument’s own Session Strings.

UAD Plugins – There’s a UAD PCI card in my Mac Pro and I love using it to run Universal Audio’s plugins, especially their compression, reverb and tape delay effects. There’s a little bit of UAD magic in every project I work on.

LinPlug relectro – This one is a new addition to my arsenal and a lot of fun. I use relectro to mangle and repurpose the thousands of Apple Loops that would otherwise lie unused on my hard drives. It’s a niche product, but in that niche it does amazingly useful and fun things.

Reason – I started out with Reason back in 2004 and in recent years I’d almost stopped using the programme. But version six has reminded me how much I love the Reason interface and with the ability to record audio finally brought into the programme, I’m thinking that 2012 may well be the year I get back into using Reason – in a big way.


Scrivener – Pretty much everything I write starts out in Scrivener. Like a lot of people, I tumbled along with the development of Word Processors, only to realise some years ago that programmes like Microsoft Word are a pretty solution to my needs as a writer. Scrivener doesn’t just let me write and edit in a smart way, it also gives me a great environment within which to organise my work – and, the fear that emerges from being disorganised and unfocussed has always been, for me, the biggest source of writer’s block.

WordPress – I’ve been blogging since 2001 and using WordPress since 2004. All the things that made WordPress attractive then are still in place, while the programme has become more powerful and flexible for users and theme designers.

Hootsuite – All my Twitter interaction goes through Hootsuite, regardless of the device I’m using. Otherwise, I simply wouldn’t be able to use Twitter the way I do, or control the amount of time I spend interacting with people via the service.

Google Chrome – My browser of choice is Safari, but I use Google Chrome because it has a nifty feature for editing CSS (in particular, identifying CSS tags). I would have struggled to customise my website without it.


Lightroom – Every photo I take ends up in Lightroom and 90-95% of what you see from me (apart from iPhone images) is processed solely in Lightroom. This really is the complete package; import, sort, select, edit, process, collect, export, archive. And, nearly two years in use with no glitches or crashes.

iPhoto – Since adopting Lightroom, why do I still use iPhoto? Well, iPhoto is still a great way to share your best photos, partly because it’s still one of the best ways to get photos onto the iPad or Apple TV and partly because non-geeks can navigate iPhoto libraries with minimal handholding.

Photoshop – There are certain kinds of tasks, like stitching together photos for panoramic images, that demand Photoshop. There’s an awful lot that I don’t know about Photoshop, but the things I’ve learnt have proved invaluable in creating some of my most memorable images.

Nik Software – I’ve been testing out Nik’s various plugins for a year and recently dove in and bought the complete collection for Lightroom. In particular I’m uaing Colour EFX, HDR Efx and Silver Efx. Amazingly powerful (and highly respected) tools.

Spike 13 years ago

On the one hand, iTunes is an overgrown beast, made to do a hundred things that it was never originally intended to do and almost as buggy as Windows, and it makes me wonder what the underlying code looks like.

On the other hand, I’ve yet to find another piece of software that does what it does as well.

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