What is a good workflow for working with a macbook plus a desktop mac ?

5 years ago from , Designer - Motion, Web, UI, Graphic

Hi, the short question is the title. Is one of you working with more than one computer (preferably Apple, because that is what I own) and what are your workflows for keeping your work up to date on both ?

I've been working on macbook pro for always, and now I'm looking to buy a desktop because I do more motion graphics. But I want to keep the mbp because I still use it while meeting client or working at home/cafe/etc..).

I have the 1tb at Dropbox and I image putting every current and recent client work there. Plus all fonts and ressources. But before diving into that I was wondering if other went through this and discovered best practices



  • Santiago BaigorriaSantiago Baigorria, 5 years ago

    If you own an old MacBook Pro (and you feel the need of more power), my suggestion would be to sell it and to buy the mid-2015 15" rMBP with Dedicated Graphics + an external monitor of your choice (Thunderbolt display for instance, or whatever... I just got the Dell U2515H). This way there's no trouble with file sync (and you avoid loosing time). You get portability and a great desktop experience. Plus the above mentioned MacBook's a monster... 16 gigs RAM, 4 cores (8 if you count Intel's multi-threading), an AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2 gigs... The SSD is blazing fast and I really can't feel any friction while working. The computer just flys...

    6 points
    • Ollie BarkerOllie Barker, 5 years ago

      I concur with this. A top of the line MBP with a decent external display is perfect.

      0 points
      • , 5 years ago

        I agree that my mbp, even the late 2013, with a ssd is almost all I need. Do you guys do motion graphics or 3D ? Cause in After effect, it's starting to take a bit too long for previews and renders. Prices aside, the latest iMac, boosted with the 4GHz, 32g Ram and the AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video is surely faster then the above Mpb, no ?!

        Plus the thunderbolt display is still 1200$ and doesn't compare the iMac screens I think..

        That's why I want to keep my late 2013 mbp that works perfectly for almost everything, but give myself a more performance machine for everyday use..

        0 points
  • Erik BeesonErik Beeson, 5 years ago

    I have a similar situation. My main machine is a recent higher-end iMac, but occasionally I have to work from my wife's MBA.

    I use Dropbox for smaller files (along with mackup), and BitTorrent Sync for large files.

    I make use of selectivesyncing so my projects don't chew up the disk on the MBA. It's great to be able to pull down my files when I need them and know they'll be pushed back to my desktop when I get back to it.

    1 point
  • William LeeksWilliam Leeks, 5 years ago

    I mainly work from an iMac, but occasionally need to sync up some files to work somewhere else on my MBA. I have found BitTorrent Sync to be a pretty fast and handy tool to just keep selected folders in sync over two machines.

    1 point
  • James StoneJames Stone, 5 years ago

    I work on a mbp 13" retina and a quad core i7 mac mini. Like others I use dropbox for all of my important stuff. I try and keep this trim. I have mostly the exact apps on both. I don't sync things like shell or other settings. The other thing I have in my tool belt is I run a copy of Team Viewer on the mac mini, so if I am ever out and about and forget something important, I can remote in. The other added advantage, if you are doing motion graphics (I do a lot of video + screen casting), is that you can remote in and set something else up batch rendering while you are away.

    If you are crazy about keeping prefs and other things synced, you can always accomplish this by creating a Library or similar folder in dropbox, move your prefs there and create symlinks on all machines to where those prefs are. Some apps work well this way others go crazy with more than one app accessing the same set of prefs and the same time.

    1 point
  • Daniel GoldenDaniel Golden, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Teleport lets you use a single mouse and keyboard to control several Macs. Mediocre website, very helpful software. (Disclaimer: haven't tried it on El Cap)

    1 point
    • Benoit Massé, 5 years ago

      Thanks Daniel for this. But I'm not looking to control both Mac, its more just a simple flow for when leaving my iMac at my office and continuing the work on my laptop at home without hassle.

      0 points
  • Florian RiederFlorian Rieder, 5 years ago

    I use BTSync for my multiple Mac workflow. All the Fonts are there that i need, all the sourcefiles are there. And on my Server i have BTSync running too, so it is all accessible on a 1Gbit line. The Server makes daily backups, so it is no svn or git but i can access most files previous versions. So all I need is CC, BTSync and Suitcase Fusion and i am set.

    1 point
  • Lauren DormanLauren Dorman, 5 years ago

    Have you considered working from a MacBook Pro + Thunderbolt display? If your intent is to work from a larger screen, and don't have a need for more RAM, that would be my recommendation.

    1 point
    • Cecil Lancaster, 5 years ago

      I have the same predicament as Benoit. However, more RAM is always desirable!

      0 points
    • , 5 years ago

      Hey, thanks for the reply. The idea is more power overall (RAM, CPU and graphic cards). So the new iMac are perfect for me as it combines all this plus the large screen.

      0 points
  • Brandon Jacobi, 5 years ago

    You can always build a Hackintosh there is more info on that here: http://www.tonymacx86.com

    0 points
  • Jan SemlerJan Semler, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    so when you want to keep your files in sync use dropbox, apple cloud or something. SO you have all your files on both workstations.Best 99$ i spended ever. I have more than 30 clients also animation works and massive UI Projects and i only use 15 % of the dropbox. thats my perfect way to go you already got a setup nobody want to use external harddrives n stuff.

    0 points
  • Rick LanceeRick Lancee, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    I use Github lfs for keeping projects in sync, might get pricy tho

    0 points
  • Namor VotilavNamor Votilav, 5 years ago

    Besides screen sharing and syncing there are also some little things in ElCap that make your life easier when working with two macs: if you use the same AppleID on both, you can drop webpages in Safari using hand-off. Also, if you use telegram, it uses hand-off as well.

    0 points
  • Alexander J. O'ConnellAlexander J. O'Connell, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    I've worked with two Macs for several years now. Currently a 13" MBA & a 15" MBP. And, yes, a Thunderbolt display.

    I've tried all sorts of things in the past, syncing everything via Dropbox - sometimes to good effect, other times a disastrous PITA. Often, it's just not worth trying to be so clever.

    You'll need to install your favourite software on both machines - which will take a while. With Adobe CC and the App Store it's easier than it used to be, though.

    If you store your work in Dropbox already, there's no reason (besides a dodgy internet connection) your work should ever be out of date.

    My top tips would be: - Symlink your Desktop folder on both machines to a 'Desktop' folder in Dropbox. - Do the same with your Downloads folder. - Make a few Alias links on your Desktop so you can drop stuff in the right places quickly.

    0 points
  • Laurens SpangenbergLaurens Spangenberg, 5 years ago

    If you have a thunderbolt cable, you could use the iMac as a display for your MacBook Pro. If you're crazy about having things identical, you could also put the MacBook Pro in Target Disk Mode and boot the iMac from the MacBook Pro's hard drive.

    0 points
  • David Holman, 5 years ago

    I've worked on multiple Macs for years now and found that I don't need to keep general machine settings in sync. There are a number of other items (such as WIP) that should be up to the minute.

    Every client project lives in a remote version control system. For the past ~5 yrs, Git repos on BitBucket interfaced via SourceTree has been the perfect solution. You get simple machine sync'ing plus full version history.

    Each project gets it's own repo, which gets archived when all is said and done. General working resources (fonts, graphics, templates) go into a resources repo. Scripts and other handy tools live in a utilities repo, with the applescripts directory sym-linked to the script menu folder on each machine.

    For everything else (pics, music, docs, etc) there's cloud storage. I use a mix of Dropbox and Drive (the latter mostly for docs). Evernote also fills a need here for things like meeting notes and project brainstorming.

    Thanks to the interwebs, there's no need to stress about multiple machine workflows any more.

    0 points
  • Nemanja NenadicNemanja Nenadic, 5 years ago

    What Lauren said.

    If you really have the need for iMac just setup a time-machine sync between the two devices. You will have everything the same on both Macs in theory atleast.

    0 points