June 27, 2014

Cool software

(Updated: Sunday 10 February 2013)

So I am a Apple Mac user…

Below is a list of software that I use and rely upon most days.

For the academic or PhD student…

For editing this website

  • MarsEdit. Totally great. And great support. See my dodgy HTML tidy script here.

For managing and searching large quantities of PDFs

  • I would recommend investing in Papers. This application is amazing for controlling and searching vast quantities of PDFs, and provides bibliography exporting for LaTeX.

For writing

  • TexShop by Richard Koch et al. is a solid tool that I have used for several years.  (I heavily recommend downloading the full Mac-Tex rather than the smaller cut-down version.  It’s huge, but worth it, and contains all the nice tools and nice installer.)
  • Mellel is a super slimmed-down word processor that fills the gap between too simple (TexEdit) and too bloated (MS Word). (I hope to release some Mellel templates with a LaTeX styling in due course — for now, please contact me if you want them.)
  • I have found Apple Pages to be surprisingly good.  I think it hits the sweet spot between Word and Notepad.

For managing bibliographies

  • BibDesk is an excellent tool with easy citation copying into LaTeX.
  • Bookends is another bibliography program I now own.  It apparently works well with Mellel, but I have not tried it yet.

For writing in LaTeX

  • MacTeX
  • Typinator greatly speeds writing by removing the need to repetitively enter LaTeX syntax.
  • Write LaTeX is a totally online editor + previewer with pre-built templates
  • Latexian is a superb editor.  It is not quite there yet, but most of the basics work really well.  I use a complete MacTeX install for the backend.
  • Free LaTeX Templates at LaTeXTemplates.com (very nice website!).  I especially like the lab book templates.

Data visualisation 

For backing up and file sharing

  • Dropbox is invaluable.
  • Mac’s brilliant built-in Time Machine is a no-brainer.  Just buy an external hard drive (e.g. a Seagate eGo or a Western Digital 1GB) and Time Machine does the rest.

For getting things done

  • Things or OmniFocus are invaluable. I use the latter and Omni’s WebDAV sync is great.
  • Clear is really nice and fast.  I have begun using it a lot as the UI is just so fast, and iCloud syncs between devices.

For storing almost everything

  • DevonThink. I just wish it had much better syncing between desktop and iPad.

For optimizing images

  • ImageOptim is a brilliant small free image compressor

Utilities I use to improve my workflow…

  • Google Chrome web browser (IMO no other browser except Safari 5 comes even close)
  • Cinch from Irradiated software.
  • Forklift FTP from Binary Nights.
  • SizeUp from Irradiated software (see also Divvy and Cinch)
  • Dropzone for quick access to a few often used utility apps
  • PopClip for iPad-like copy/paste and lots of other cool things
  • BetterSnapTool for Windows-7-like window control
  • 1Password is an expensive app that I use multiple times each day, and via dropbox to my other iOS devices

To use a FDTI device to send AT commands over a mac serial port

First you need a terminal program. On a PC, you could use PuTTy. On a Mac there are a number of programs to choose from:

  • CoolTerm
  • goSerial
  • iTerm2
  • MacTerm
  • zterm

You need to install the FTDI Mac drivers. I have tried CoolTerm, goSerial, and iTerm2. They all work. To quickly set up iTerm2 I used this page and then used this command in the settings to activate the configured iTerm2 profile:

screen /dev/tty.usbserial-A400h7ml 230400

where tty.usbserial-A400h7ml is the FDTI serial device.

Helpful LaTeX books

latex document preparation user guide templates
[Amazon link]