My perfect computer

Few weeks ago I posted a link to Michael’s blog post about his perfect setup.

I’ve been thinking about  this topic little further and realized that many of us would have two or more computers to consider in their setup. It’s often the case, that the setup is very different between each of the machine. One computer would be in the office, second is a home desktop or a laptop as it is in my case.
The former is a device managed by company’s IT team subject to various policies and restrictions. It has custom build applications and a predefined set of programs that can be used. If you want something new that is not on a company approved software list you have to go through a lengthy process. Most likely ending with "no go" response. They have their reasons.  Getting this machine to the state of being perfect is difficult. The scope is very limited and you need to learn all the tricks possible to make the most of this setup.
On the opposing end there is a home machine which, with a little tweaking and good and simple software lets you get job done, the way you want. But it’s not only about the job being done. What’s also important is the style, easy of use, friendliness and all encompassing cool factor of the application you’ve selected.

Freedom to  hack, experiment is the best way to find this perfect mix of various tool and utilities which make your computer life easier. There is no single list of ideal apps different people, different jobs will require something different. For me, at this moment the perfect computer looks like this.

Web browsing

Firefox/Chrome – Firefox remains my main browser due to a set of extensions I’m accustomed to it. I also use Chrome to check email and for other tasks where I use Google services.

Writing

Evernote – Evernote is my Swiss army knife. It’s a primary tool for writing, storing ideas, managing projects and reference information.

UV Outliner/Freeplane – Non-linear thinking gets done in Freeplane, which is an excellent mind mapping tool. For more structured outlining and thinking I’m using UV Outliner which is often called OmniOutliner for Windows PC.

WriteMonkey – I use it when I need a so called "distraction free" writing environment or simply black screen and white text. The beauty of WriteMonkey is its versatility, you can use the bare bone elements to just write or take advantage of all the different options available like bookmarking, versioning, referencing, multi-markdown.

Time Management

Remember the Milk  – I’ve settled on Remember the Milk as primary task management tool almost 3 years ago. It’s been serving me well. Although there are certain limitations, versatility and ubiquity of this app are it’s best features.

Google Calendar – gives me access to appointments everywhere I need. There is hardly a better calendaring solution.

Other essentials

Dropbox – for syncing and keeping backup of current work, for sharing files with family and friends.

PhraseExpress – this a fantastic piece of software that allows me to automate a lot of my typing. I have text snippets for almost anything from email addresses, mail addresses to numbers, tags, keyword combination and even few paragraphs. If you type a lot and prefer keyboard as main tool this program is definitely worth trying out.

Thunderbird – email client from Mozilla, I’m using it to keep a backup of all my email.Run it once a week or so and all emails will be pulled for storing on my laptop. This gives me access to my email on and offline.

Lastpass/Keepass – password management becomes critical, using easy memorable words is no longer an option so best way to solve this is to resort to an application that can store this information securely and generate passwords for you. Keepass is an standalone open source application whereas Lastpass is web app with Firefox and Chrome extensions that lets you sync passwords on all your computers. I’m using two programs solely for backup and security purposes, having two encrypted copies gives me a safety net and ability use my data regardless of the situation.     

Notepad++  – This is very powerful text editing application with syntax highlighting, making coding a great experience. Although I don’t use it very often it’s indispensable at times when I need to update WordPress theme files or edit a piece of CSS code.

So this is my current setup and as I’ve been finalising this post I realised that almost all of the above tool have been in my arsenal for a good while. I take it as an indication that majority of my computer needs are now solved. Although it’s more than likely I will be looking at other tools and introduce new tweaks the skeleton  of my perfect setup is here.

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