I’m always curious about how people set up their computers and what software packages they have, so I thought I would share mine. So you know where I’m coming from, I use Windows, Mac, and Linux nearly every day. Part of my goal is to make transitioning between these systems as seemless as possible, but the exact setup varies by operating system. For those of you on Windows, many of these can be installed with Ninite. I do a pretty good job of keeping this list up-to-date, so it should reflect pretty well my recommendations for current software.

Table of Contents

Writing

Text Editors

Sublime Text

  • I absolutely love this. Use it every day
  • With package control
  • Be sure to include the Markdown Editor

Evernote (Ninite)

  • Really good but I just don’t use it that much anymore
  • Good for long-term memory stuff, storing pictures (like receipts)

Office Suite

Google Docs

  • Don’t love it, but great for sharing and multi-person editing

Google Slides

  • I prefer Excel, but it’s free and I don’t use spreadsheets enough to buy Excel

LibreOffice (FOSS, Ninite)

  • I prefer this to Google’s offerings so I don’t use this very much anymore.

LaTeX Editor

Texmaker

  • Requires a distribution with it. I like MIKTEX
  • I also recommend pdflatex (through miktex)

Spelling and Grammar

Grammarly

  • Very good. I hope it keeps getting better as natural language processing improves

Utilities

File Explorer

Commander One (Mac only)

  • Dual-panel file explorer
  • Much better than Finder

Path Finder (Mac only)

  • Dual-panel file explorer
  • Might become my new file explorer for Mac
  • You might need to customize the hot keys

png

Files (FOSS, Windows)

  • I recently started using this on Windows and like it
  • Good use of tabs and windows

Agent Ransack (Windows)

  • Perfect search tool. I strongly favor this over the (otherwise also very good) alternatives
  • No equivalent for Linux or Mac, although there are decent built-in options

Screenshots

Greenshot (FOSS, Windows)

  • This is a perfect screenshot tool. It does everything I want

For a mac I just use the built-in tool

  • Note that if you want to select just a part of your screen, you should use command + shift + 4, then if you want to copy it straight to your clipboard (so you can paste it), hold control while you draw the outline

Package Managers

Homebrew (Mac)

  • By far the best pacakge manager for MacOS

Unzipping

7-Zip (Ninite)

  • The clear winner for Windows

Checking disk space

WinDirStat (Ninite, Window)

ncdu

Web Browsers

I always have three or more web browsers on each computer. I use them for different things. All are very good.

Brower Extensions

New Tab Page

Start.me

Programming

Python Distribution

Anaconda (FOSS)

  • Now a no-brainer for data scientists

Mamba

  • This is a superior package manager to conda

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

VSCode (Ninite)

  • Right now it’s VSCode and I’m very happy with it. I have used many of the alternatives and, in general, I think there are a lot of good options, but I like VSCode.
  • Configuring your IDE that way you like it is essential, and VSCode is incredibly extensible.

RStudio

  • The clear winner in my opinion for R IDE, although I don’t use R much anymore so this could no longer be true

Version Control

Git

Hex Editor

Media

Spotify (Ninite)

  • Seems to have won the music player market for now

VLC (FOSS, Ninite)

Audacity (FOSS, Ninite)

Cloud Storage

Google backup and sync (Ninite)

  • Unlimited photos, very good app
  • They keep renaming it, and I expect that to continue. It’s Google

Dropbox (Ninite)

  • Poor website interface but other than that one of my favorites

Microsoft OneDrive (Ninite)

  • This does syncing very well

Yes, I do use many different cloud services. All for slightly different purposes.

Productivity

Rectangle (FOSS, Mac only)

  • Makes moving and resizing windows easy on a Mac
  • Here are the default hot keys

png

Alfred (Mac only)

  • In the running for one of the best productivity apps in existence
  • This is probably my favorite app for the Mac
  • Can be as simple or complex as you like

Todoist

Make macOS more like Windows

Karabiner-Elements (FOSS, Mac only)

Usually the apps you need to give permissions to pop up in the list when you look for them, but not everything for Karabiner did for me. So I had to click the plus sign and go find whatever was missing.

image

Scroll Reverser (FOSS, Mac)

  • Here’s how I set mine up

image

Witch

  • Switch between applications more like Windows

Terminals

Mac

iTerm2

  • The clear winner for Mac and my overall favorite. I wish Linux and Windows had this

Windows

In Windows, I use a mix, mostly because none of them are perfect. Here’s a case (unlike browsers) that I would rather just have one

Cmder

  • Allows Unix style commands, makes switching between Mac and Linux and Windows much easier

ConEmu

  • A top contender for the best terminal in Windows. This is a really good terminal

Windows PowerShell

  • Sometimes I like it and sometimes I don’t…

Anaconda Prompt

  • I only use this for Anaconda stuff

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

  • Promising, definite promising. Keep working on it Microsoft!

Ubuntu terminal

  • Still a work in progress. Gets better all the time but still has room for improvement.
  • Update: This has gotten much better. I’m now using this with zsh like I do on my Mac and am liking it a lot.

As you can see, I’m strewn across half a dozen terminals in Windows and have found the one on Mac. For me, nothing beats iTerm2.

Linux

Terminator

  • Favorite for Linux at the moment

Shells

Zsh

Terminal Add-ons

Pygments

  • Syntax highlighter
  • I use it so often I alias it to the letter “c”
  • it’s like cat but with colors

Autojump

  • This is the best way to get around a Unix terminal

Glances

  • A great system monitoring tools
  • Works across all platforms

tmux

You can also find a lot of great tools here: https://github.com/ibraheemdev/modern-unix

Security

Malware Protection

I have no loyalty to any of these. I usually just go with the top free one recommended. I’ve also used paid ones in the past but I don’t know if it’s worth it.

Malware Bytes (Ninite)

Password Managers

Bitwarden

  • I feel like I’ve finally found the password manager that I’ve been looking for. Does what I want without being obnoxious

Managing Updates

Patch My PC (Windows only)

  • I’m still looking for something to help me automatically update software on my computer. So far I’ve gone with patch my pc but there’s nothing I like

Social

Messaging

Discord (Ninite)

Slack

  • I can’t believe this took so long to be invented. This is how communication should be

Viber

  • Beware: has ads, though I don’t find them particularly intrusive

Video Conferencing

Zoom (Ninite)

Google Hangouts

Online Get Togethers

Gather

Databases

DataGrip

DBeaver (FOSS)

  • My current favorite open source database software

Images

Image Viewer

Xee (Mac)

  • I make this my default image viewer
    • To do so, right click an image file type in your window viewer (Command One in my case) and hold down option so “Get Info” turns into “Get Finder Info”. Then you can expand “Open with” and select your image viewer of choice.

image

You’ll have to go into preferences to change the way to scroll left and right.

image

Image Editing

Adobe Lightroom (Windows, Mac)

  • As much as I’d like to say GIMP is just as good, it’s no match for the features of Lightroom. For someone who spends serious time editing photos, I don’t think there’s a better alternative.

Paintbrush (FOSS, Mac only)

  • Simple image editing on Mac

Photography

Image Composite Editor

  • Free tool from Microsoft to stitch images for panoramas. Works better than Lightroom

StarStaX

  • Great for making star trails
  • A really nice simple piece of software that does one thing well

ISS Transit Finder

  • Online only, no download

Other

Google Earth (Ninite)

AutoHotkey

Speccy (Windows only)

Astronomy Picture of the Day

  • Get beautiful backgrounds every day

Inkscape (FOSS, Ninite)

Excalidraw (FOSS)

  • Can download it but also words directly on the website
  • Super simple to use
  • Can also make graphs with it

Docker

  • Still a pain on Windows Home. Wonderful for Linux and Mac

Wget for Windows

  • just stick in somewhere in your path, C:\Windows

Sumatra PDF (Ninite)

  • For reading pdfs
  • I mainly just my web browser now

Wireshark (FOSS)

  • The clear winner for free network protocol analyzers

Papertrail

  • Cloud-hosted logging

gpustat

  • Very nice tool to tracking GPU usage
  • Includes which user is user the GPU, significant upgrade to nvidia-smi

nvitop

  • Another nice tool for looking at GPU usage

QGIS (FOSS)

Research

Mendeley

  • The best app for keeping track of scientific papers
  • Definitely use the browser extensions as well

Evaluating

Belarc Advisor

  • Similar to Speccy

Sysinternals (Windows)

PowerToys (Windows)

Boop (Mac, FOSS)

GanttProject

Pixea - good for a scroll through images on a Mac

image

Static Type Checker - mypy

  • I put my mypy config in ~/.mypy.ini

Honorable Mentions

There are applications that were either neck-and-neck with other ones, or I use very infrequently, or I used to use but no longer do. I generally still think they’re worth checking out.

Azure Data Studio

  • Free and feels like VSCode in many ways
  • FOSS alternative to Navicat for PostgreSQL for me

Postico (Mac only)

  • Not free but still very good

GIMP (Linux)

  • The Paint program I like on Windows doesn’t exist for Linux, so I use GIMP instead.

Wox (Windows, FOSS)

  • Like Alfred for Windows
  • Default is Alt + Spacebar, which is a little different on the keyboard than Alfred.

CyberDuck

HyperSwitch

Navicat for PostgreSQL

  • Not free but this is my favorite for databases

muCommander

  • More lightweight than Commander One, so I sometimes use it
  • This website offers good tips on how to get started with it