My essential software

Once in a while you install a piece of software because you read a review online, a friend recommended it, or you just stumbled upon it and want to try it for a short time. A lot of those packages I remove after some time, while others, I start to love. Whenever I use a computer of someone else, I can’t help but miss those pieces of software and I wonder how other people can feel at home on their computer without it.


I use a linux distribution for my daily work (and spare time)  for around 8 years. I started with Ubuntu, tried Fedora, used Mint and openSUSE  for a while and finally fell in love with archlinux. When using a computer with Windows installed, the things I miss the most are the very fast and useful (terminal) tools. I rely heavily on tools like find, ssh, grep, cat, vim , diff, …. to complete almost any task.


At first I was skeptical: it didn’t seem very safe and reliable to use a tool to save all your passwords, sensitive files, … in the cloud. Pass, a linux tool that saves everything in a folder-like structure with each file encrypted using gpg, was my solution for all the generation and storage of all the passwords a modern internet user needs. I knew my passwords were safe, but it was unusable for passwords I needed on different computers. After LastPass solved the problems google found after a thorough review withing a minimum of time (I don’t remember how many days) and the recommendations of a colleague, I gave it a try. From that moment on, no more weak passwords for me!


I stumbled upon Vivaldi after some random IT-related browsing. “How can a new browser compete with Firefox?” was my first thought. In the past, I was a very satisfied Opera user, until I was disappointed with the new direction of the browser after it was sold to a Chinese company. When I read that Vivaldi is a new project from some of the people that developed Opera, I wanted to give it a try. Immediately I loved some of the unique features of Vivaldi (page tiling for example) and all the features keep on getting better (download panel, screenshots, history, …)! There are some disadvantages of course: Vivaldi uses a lot of RAM and doesn’t have a syncing feature (yet). Knowing that Vivaldi values its users and make sure to protect their privacy, makes it only better.

drop-down terminal

It does’t really matter which drop-down terminal it is, I just want to have one!


Ok, everyone who codes will know this one, but I use it for almost everything: config files, latex projects (papers, thesis, …) Combined with bitbucket, github or a repository on dropbox, you have immediately a backup.


If I need to share a file quickly, or make an emergency backup of something, dropbox is the software I use. The support for linux is probably a bit less extensive compared to Windows, but everything does what it is supposed to do. For running multiple instances of dropbox, you will need to do some manual fiddling for example, but it will work eventually.


11 thoughts on “My essential software”

  1. You wrote – “I rely heavily on tools like find, ssh, grep, cat, vim , diff, …. to complete almost any task.” That’s why UNIX was so excellent. 🙂
    But they were created to put them in a pipe like:
    cat data > x | y | z > result
    Make a complex task with dozens of many CLI commands! Quick, precise and easy to correct. But they demand to read MANs. Hurdles not for everyone. 🙂

    But you missed scripts in those sentence. Instead of pipes there are shell script which can bring a lot of satisfaction.

    BTW Well wording thoughts of yours. Nice to read. Thanks. You earned a follower. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your nice words!
      You are right, I should have included pipes and scripts.
      I also don’t really enjoy reading man page after man page, but the satisfaction once the pipe or script works, is well worth the effort.

  2. Opera was acquired by a Chinese company called 360. Chinese think that company is a scum. So Chinese do not want opera to be acquired.

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  5. I’m a Windows user for 17 years now, started with 98, switched to XP right before SP2 has been released and was forced to switch to something newer by the lack of gpu drivers.
    Thats the essential software I’ve collcted during my journey:

    – Irfran View (some hardcore old 16bit version of ~1993): This viewer is the fastest thing I’ve ever seen. In fullscreen mode with low resizing quality I was able to highspeed-scroll through ~10 images per second by keeping space pressed. I was able to find an image thats shape i vaguely remember by this method in very large image dump folders. Every newer version also stops at videos and mp3 files, is more blown up and slower, so I abandoned them and keep this software as my default image viewer since win98. Always with the knowledge that some manipulated image could exploit my pc, but ye, I think I’m more a usability-over-security-guy. only for some of those high res images that old piece of software cannot handle, I got other image viewers.

    – Launchy: I’m using it for ~10 years to launch my applications without using my eyes. Hitting [Alt]+[Space], followed by [O], [P] and [Enter] to launch Opera trickled into my DNA. Or [Alt]+[Space], [D], [O], [Enter] to open my Downloads folder.
    Or [Alt]+[Space], [Tab], [Y], [Ctrl]+[V] (to paste the previously copied youtube-video-id, [Enter] to launch youtube-dl.exe and download a youtube video.
    Or [Alt]+[Space], [E],[T], [Tab], [Ctrl]+[V] (to paste the previously copied et-server-ip from some chat window), [Enter] to start Wolf:ET and connect to the desired server in one simple step.
    Or simply to highspeed-search for remaining folders of programs I’ve uninstalled (correct indexing options needed).
    IMO this software is superior to microsoft’s start menu search introduced somewhere between vista and 7.

    – MS Paint (xp version): the first thing I do when setting up a new 7/10 machine for my own: I create a folder called “xp system apps” and copy the old ms paint (and pinball) into it. It’s jut for comfort and lazyness, but when I take a screenshot, crop, resize it and draw lines into it, I want to do it quick and how I’m used to it and don#t want to have to search the known functions on and on again.

    – KPF – Kerio Personal Firewall: It does alot of tasks for me that are not the primary tasks of a software firewall at first sight. I hate it to work on a machine where every application (pre-installed by the operating system or installed by myself) can transmit to any server in the world whenever and whatever it wants (–> it can block it). I also like a quick overview which application has created a listening socket on which port, which is transferring with which speed to which ip, etc. (–> KPF has it). And I totally love to be asked whether I allow a transmission or not (–> KPF does so). It grew to one of the most important tools for me when working in a network.

    – MS Office XP: Go home with your ribbon menus. I want to interface and look I know.

    – MPC HC (Media Player Classic – Home Cinema): After Microsoft removed the known direct show system which I maintained so long on my installations and which grew over decades, this is an easy way to get back compatibility of most video file features I’ve used.

    – MyTheatre (3.6x): When working with TV cards and want a good interface to be controlled by a remote.

    – WinRAR: Just the known interface to deal with archives.

    – Alcohol 120%: When you’re working with cds, images and got sick of dealing with copy protections. Possibly illegal in your country.

    – AHK – AutoHotKey: Whenever a software I have to use pisses me off by its strange behaviour so much, that I take the effort to automatize the way I’m dealing with its shit, I use autohotkey to write a small script. May it be a game thats developers forgot to add a custom keybinding feature (imo such games should be banned from every pc games store, no matter if digitl or not!) or a database editor which requires me to perform the same 10 keypresses/clicks for every entry I’m doing, autohotkey is my answere to deal with annoying stuff.

    – Notepad++ and WinMerge

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