GTDA Poll: What software are you itching to learn?

May 11, 2008

I have two. I have gone as far as buying phone-book sized manuals. They stand on my desk, mocking me, exuding their “new, unused book smell”.


Yes, I know it is high-end, extraordinarily flexible, and doesn’t suffer from the bloat and baroque passive-agressive coding of SAS. But I know SAS. I learned SAS using punch cards. And I don’t want to sound like a pirate.

Dreamweaver CS3

Gawd I hate web design programs. It used to be MS Frontpage. An abomination. Currently I use Adobe’s Go Live! CS2. That program!, and the people behind hit!, are personally responsible for the collective loss of about 4 cm! of my stomach lining!. Now Adobe has bought Dreamweaver.  Do I have any reasonable expectation for things to be better? No. But it is integrated with all the other Adobe stuff that I do use.

So have at it. What software do you feel compelled to learn, through some combination of peer-pressure (yeah, Aaron, I’m talkin’ bout you), slick marketing (Oh! A piece of candy! Oh! Another piece of candy!), and serious issues with procrastination? Leave your approach-avoidance conflicts in the comments.


Mac apps for various academic tasks

May 11, 2008

From Kerry Magruder\'s web pageThe software one uses is typically some combination of what you were trained on, what you can borrow…erm…afford, and what you, on a wild hair, decided to try out.

New software cries out like a siren. It offers new features. It will allow you to finally drop that klugey program that annoys you daily. Like the guy in the adjacent cubicle who is way too fond of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors.

But new software is also a seductive opportunity to avoid working on that manuscript. Software invariably has some incompatabilities that are not trumpeted on it’s homepage. And finally, all software has a learning curve. Before you hit that “download” button, ask yourself, “Do I really need this, or do I just really want it?”.

With that warning, if you are a MacHead, take a look at Kerry Magruder’s list of cheap effective mac apps that take on and, in his mind, supercede Microsoft Office, Endnote and a host of other programs that have been around since the Cold War. Magruder, who is a science historian, makes a compelling argument:

Are you accustomed to using one application for everything? A single “kitchen sink” application that tries to do everything usually ends up doing nothing well, while locking you in and preventing future migration to new and better tools. On a Mac, things are different. The best applications tend to be small and agile, optimized to do a small number of taks extremely well. These apps work well with others, and pass information back and forth so that you can put together your own favorite, customized suite of applications that work best for your writing and research needs. Mac users work in many different ways; the abundance of high-quality Mac software may surprise you. Also, don’t let their relative affordability fool you: these are superb apps. Rather than buying Microsoft Office, try Neo-Office and invest in some of the following instead. Soon you’ll be wondering how you ever got anything done without them.

Magruder also has an excellent page on his paperless workflow. It leads you, step by step, through the programs and protocols that start with reading and proceeds through analysis, writing, onto publication.

Go ahead. The sirens are calling.

See also:

On leaving MS Word for greener pastures

Second brain software

5 steps to capturing and storing your ideas