The people who use our boards.

Rankin Johnson

Writer and Editor

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

I am Rankin Johnson. I was a criminal defense lawyer for twenty years, mostly handling appeals, post-conviction relief, and habeas corpus. Now I’m a freelance legal writer and working on a novel or two. I’m also the fiction editor for The Timberline Review, a literary journal.

In my off hours, I like to cook and to bake (I make excellent pizza), I’m a coach and judge for high school debate, and I love three-cushion billiards, an obscure game played on a pocketless pool table. Two of my kids will be off to college next year, with the third close behind, and my wife and I are considering where to go when the house is empty of kids.

Rankin Johnson's pizza
That pizza does look good!

What hardware do you use?

Moonlander with Kailh Copper switches. Clicky switches are too noisy; my office is next to my and my wife’s bedroom.

A Macbook Pro, usually hooked to two monitors using a CalDigit TS3 dock to control the endless tangle of cables, and an Magic Trackpad.

My desk is a tall red oak thing with an enamel surface at a fine height for writing but a terrible height for typing, so I keep my keyboard and trackpad on a lap desk.

Rankin Johnson's setup
A lap desk works as a keyboard tray

I sit in a Herman Miller Aeron chair.

My iced latté goes on a navy-blue felt coaster by Graf Lantz.

And what software?

Scrivener, for fiction, and usually Mac Pages for legal writing. I use MS Word when I have to; there are a few functions that aren’t otherwise available for a Mac, but I don’t like it much. Scapple when brainstorming or structuring. Aeon Timeline to keep track of times and relationships between events. Lightroom and Photoshop on occasion.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I use a Minimak layout. It took me a few months to get used to it, but it’s a lot better than QWERTY and similar enough that I can switch back and forth without trouble.

I have a layer which, combined with the app TextExpander, speeds up writing legal citations. I tinker with the layout from time to time, but I’m happy with the arrangement of the letters and numbers, and fiddling with other stuff is a way to spend endless time without making much difference.

I use the stock keycaps, except I used glue-like stuff to add tactile dots to the N and R keys, where my index fingers rest. Also, my son gave me a bronze-colored keycap in the shape of a skull.

What would be your dream setup?

Dark and quiet. I find music distracting when I’m working, and I rarely have to look at any books or other physical documents, so I only need to see the computer screen.

Nearly all my time at the computer is writing, or maybe reading, neither of which are hard on the computer, and since switching to Mac I spend less time updating and fixing glitches and restarting. I’ll probably be happy with this computer for several more years.

I always want more monitor space. Maybe it’s my eyes, which, alas, are nearly fifty, but I often refer to two or three documents and web pages as I write. Right now I have a landscape-oriented 27” and a smaller portrait-oriented one, both of which are several years old. My next upgrade will probably be a bigger monitor. I do a little photography and attendant photo editing, so I’d love a superwide with high resolution and good color accuracy.

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