I don’t feel like I’m qualified to give anyone advice on what software to use, there are a few reasons for this:

  • I’m me, no-one else is me. With this, I mean that I have numerous preferences, opinions, and idiosyncrasies + some work tasks, probably in a unique combination. No other person has this combination, so why should anyone listen to me.
  • I switch software once in a while, I can use some application for a couple of years, and then switch to another application—in other words, I’m jumping around between applications.

Anyway, what I can tell you is that I have many tools I use to get my stuff done in a way I like, here goes.

Text editor

My work requires me to write a lot of email, text files, code, messages, etc. I’ve done this on various platform Unix, Linux, whatever the OS the computers by Norsk Data had, and various other platforms. But I’ve spent at least 30–35 years using Macs.

I’ve used various text editors and word processors, for example vi, vim, emacs, ted, nano, word, word perfect, nisus, write now, claris works, etc. Once I got a Mac my main writing tool was nisus, but I stopped using word processors because I felt they were too fiddly, and I spent too much time trying to get a good-looking result. So, plain text files are my thing.

And as I’ve hinted to above, I’ve tried many text editors, but to me, there is only one that works the way I like BBEdit. I’m not saying it’s perfect, it’s not, but it’s the best editor for me. And since I’ve been using it for close to 30 years, I feel confident to say that it’s very, very good. And rock solid, I’m happy when I manage to crash BBEdit because then I can write an email to BareBones Software and say “guess what I managed to do??”.

I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I get to write these emails very, very rarely.

Document format

When I started to write stuff on a computer I used formatting languages like roff, troff, nroff, and a few others that I don’t remember the name of. I then used the formats offered by Word (bad idea since it happened that one version of Word couldn’t read the files of a previous version!!), WriteNow, Nisus, etc. As I mentioned above, Nisus became my write tool of choice and I had almost all of my documents in that format.

However, I like text only, so when I started to write more serious stuff I switched to TeX and LaTex (and hated the way how you were supposed to change the layout). I kept using it for much of my text needs until Markdown was first released. Now my writing is almost exclusively in one or the other version of Markdown. Unless I need to write a serious article, then it’s LaTeX—it doesn’t happen that often anymore.


I’ve only used my current mail client (MailMate) for 5–6 years, perhaps more. It’s good by my favourite was Mailsmith, originally by BareBones Software. It had an excellent text editor (no surprise since they make BBEdit), and the best filtering system I’ve used. Unfortunately, it is/was POP3 only, so when I needed to use IMAP I had to stop using it. I played around with all major clients, but ended up with MailMate.

An essential part of email management is the handling of spam, and there is only one tool to care about SpamSieve. It’s one of those programs that you don’t notice until you don’t have it. It works with most email clients and … just buy it, it’s worth it!!

Bibliographic references

I’ve used EndNote, it’s crap. I’ve played with others like Zotero, Mandalay, Papers, etc. but they are not for me. Once again, I like plain text, so I use the BibTeX format. My research references are all in BibTeX format, and I use various command line tools (bibtools) and the macOS app BibDesk to manage them.

Privately, more for fun, then I use Bookends, I’ve been using it now and then since it was a HyperCard stack.


Due to my work, computer science teacher at a university, I’ve tried a fair number of programming languages. I liked Modula-2 and ML, sometimes writing C code can be relaxing, Haskell is neat, Java … well, it used to be fun, etc. But the language I, personally, find most useful is Python—it’s certainly not the best language for all problems, but for me, it’s the most useful one.

The short version of all this

  • Text editor—BBEdit, if I can’t use it, then it’s vim.
  • Text format—Markdown, until I need something complex or good-looking
  • Email—MailMate, however, at work I need to use Mail, so I can use the stupid Exchange stuff.
  • Spam management—SpamSieve, nothing more need to be said.
  • Reference management—data in BibTeX + a collection of suitable tools
  • Programming—Python

I, of course, use a fairly large set of applications daily, but the stuff above is what I’ve been using for at least 5–10 years … and for some reason they get installed on every Mac I get my hands on.