Critical Programs for "Getting Things Done"

by Mike Shea on 6 July 2006

I love the idea behind the Google Pack, a collection of useful applications that "makes your computer just work". I subscribe to Don Norman's concepts behind the "invisible computer", a computer that stays out of the way and lets you do what you need to do. Yet I spend a huge amount of time just dorking with things for the sake of dorking with things. I am a gnomish tinkerer at heart, I suppose.

Anyway, while I love the Google Pack, it doesn't really have the software I most require and most care about. So today I am releasing "Mike Shea's List of Software for Getting Things Done". This list contains the applications I most require to do the important things in my life that require a computer. Most of the applications are opensource and all of them are free. There is at least one package here likely to send me to the fiery pits - iTunes - which, while free, is considered quite a despicable package by most opensource nuts. Still, its good software and its free so why not have it on the list.

These packages don't include fluffy fufu pieces. Its just software that lets you get done what needs to get done. These applications make your computer useful. They help turn a computer into a mini-server so you can fetch and push files to it remotely, they help you read and write and learn, they help you communicate with other people, and they help keep your computer safe from evildoers.

So without any more fanfare, here is Mike Shea's List of Software for Getting Things Done:

Basic Programs

Firefox Web Browser: Best web browser ever!

VLC Media Player: The only media player anyone needs.

Notepad2 Text Editor: Simple and powerful notepad replacement.

Google Desktop Search: Screw folders, screw "find", use the power of Google to actually find the files you want. I actually used it to locate a lost copy of this article.

Irfanview Image Editor: Small and powerful image manipulation. Even has an emergency "here comes the wife" escape to desktop key.

Openoffice Office Software: Opensource replacement for Microsoft Office.

iTunes Digital Jukebox: Yes, I'm going to hell for putting this on the list but its the best music player I've used and it lets you buy the daily show for a lot less than the cost of basic cable.

GAIM: Multi-account chat client. Connect to ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Google, and AIM with a single ad-less program.

7Zip: Powerful compression program that supports zip, tar, gz, and can make self-extracting executable. Also supports strong encryption.

Clamwin: Opensource antivirus without ads and with an online virus definition update.

Thunderbird: Just in case you don't use gmail, Thunderbird is the best email client available.

Geek Programs

uTorrent: A single executable Bittorrent client. Very useful.

Python: The only scripting language real people need.

Filezilla FTP Client: The FTP client of the gods.

Putty: An excellent single executable secure shell for encrypted connections to your telnet accounts.

Truecrypt: The best encryption program I have found. Scary powerful.

Set Up a Miniserver

Apache Webserver: Set up an Apache webserver on your home machine, poke a hole in your firewall, and access your favorite files from anywhere in the world.

Filezilla FTP Server: Upload and download files directly from your home machine.

So there it is, the complete list of software to make computers useful again. Yes, you might be able to get all of these on a single bootable Linux CD but installing Linux is a pretty horrifying pain in the ass. In the mean time, we pay for our OS and get our software for free. I can live with that.