Rezaf Diary

I'll write about my daily life, as a PhD Student at the University of Illinois. I'll put some photos from my town, Urbana, and some music.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Software I cannot live without

As a graduate student, there are a few software packages I cannot live without. They do an impressive job in organizing my tasks and projects, helping me in research and organizing my life in general. 

They are also all Mac OS X applications. Some of them come pre-installed with a Mac, some you have to buy. Fortunately they are usually not expensive, and are really worth every dollar. 

So, without further ado, here they are:

  1. Apple Mail. Comes with Mac, integrated with everything else on the Mac. If you are a Mac user, you just "have" to setup Mail. I have set it up to connect to gmail servers using IMAP (DO NOT USE POP3, it is "inferior"!), and it works handsomely, almost like a poor man's exchange server! Also can read RSS feeds, which is invaluable.
  2. iCal. Again a great application. Integrated with Mail. And everything else on Mac. 
  3. Preview. Great FAST application to work with PDFs and images.
  4. Safari. I left firefox and became a safari user. It does have its quirks, but it has PDF viewing integrated at its core, and for a graduate student, nothing is more important.
  5. OmniFocus. I "LOOOOOVE" this app! Cannot live without it. I got it as a gift from a friend (thanks Ellick!), but it is worth every single dollar. Gets your life organized. iCal is cool and everything, but it is only a calendar, and a calendar can go only so far. It is designed based on GTD (Getting Things Done) principles, and does a great job doing it.
  6. Papers. Creates a catalog of papers you have downloaded on your computer. Great searching functionality. Costed me $25, and is worth it. 
  7. Microsoft Office 2008 suite. Well, I use them, and they do the job. They are clunky compared to other Mac apps, but with docx and pptx files being sent around (and virtually being the standard formats), there is no other choice. I've heard good things about the new iWork 09, but for now I'm sticking to MS Office. Costed me $50 with educational discount, and I'm generally happy with it. Note: Word, PowerPoint and Excel are the standard ones, but Entourage is also useful as a newsgroup reader. I don't use it for its mail and calendar functionalities, Apple Mail and iCal are better integrated.  
  8. MacTeX. Great app for LaTeX users. Comes with great front end apps like TeXShop, LaTexIT (Mathematical Expression editor), and of course the TeX engine. 
So here you go. There are other features in the Mac OS X itself that make life easier for me, but that's a different story. 

P.S. Apple Mail (in IMAP mode) works great with iPhone's Mail. Same with iCal, and OmniFocus. 

Note: Click on the photos to enlarge them.

If you feel interested in any of them and want to get the original file, please don't hesitate to email me!


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