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 seamless as possible, but the exact setup varies by the 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 my current recommendations for software.

Table of Contents


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)


  • Great for note-taking

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

LaTeX Editor


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

Spelling and Grammar


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


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


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


  • Command line tool that works on all platforms. Very fast


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 package manager for MacOS


7-Zip (Ninite)

  • The clear winner for Windows

Checking disk space

WinDirStat (Ninite, Window)

Disk Inventory X (Mac)


Web Browsers

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

Browser Extensions

New Tab Page



Python Distribution

Anaconda (FOSS)

  • Now a no-brainer for data scientists

Python Package Manager


  • Now the best package manager
  • Extremely fast and easy-to-use


  • This is a superior package manager to conda

Integrated Development Environment (IDE)

VSCode (Ninite)

  • Configuring your IDE that way you like it is essential, and VSCode is incredibly extensible. See how I customize it


  • 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


Hex Editor


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.


Rectangle (FOSS, Mac only)

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


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
  • cmd + option + c to open clipboard history


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.


Scroll Reverser (FOSS, Mac)

  • Here’s how I set mine up



  • Switch between applications more like Windows




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


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


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


  • 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.



  • Favorite for Linux at the moment



Terminal Add-ons


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


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


  • A great system monitoring tools
  • Works across all platforms


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


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


  • 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



Discord (Ninite)


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


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

Video Conferencing

Zoom (Ninite)

Google Hangouts

Online Get Togethers




DBeaver (FOSS)

  • My current favorite open source database software


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.


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


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


Image Composite Editor

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


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

ISS Transit Finder

  • Online only, no download


Google Earth (Ninite)


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


  • 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


  • Cloud-hosted logging


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


  • Another nice tool for looking at GPU usage




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


Belarc Advisor

  • Similar to Speccy

Sysinternals (Windows)


PowerToys (Windows)

Boop (Mac, FOSS)


Pixea - good for a scroll through images on a Mac


Static Type Checker - mypy

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

Honorable Mentions

Some applications 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

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.


Navicat for PostgreSQL

  • Not free but good tool for databases


  • Great for working with APIs

No Longer Used

LibreOffice (FOSS, Ninite)

  • I prefer cloud-based editors so I don’t use this very much anymore.


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

Postico (Mac only)

  • Not free but still very good