My daily software stack


This is a recurring question: “What soft are you using for your day-to-day activities ?”

First, “day-to-day activities” for me mean lots of different things as a freelancer, developer and CEO. So I will try to cope with each one of them.
Then my OS is Windows7 64bits. For some development tasks that are easier to handle on a Unix like OS, I use either Cygwin (less and less I must say) or an Ubuntu on a VirtualBox.
I also have an Android smart-phone.

Please note that I always try and encourage Open Source or free software when I am looking for a new soft. I also try to use cross-platform software, as I also want my soft to work on Unix and MacOS.

So here is my software task for day-to-day activities, in no particular order.


  • Administrative, writing and presentation tasks requiring documents: LibreOffice. This office suite is stable and efficient enough to cover all my needs. When I need to communicate with people requiring old legacy formats and software, it can also convert to Microsoft Office files format, and also in PDF. I also use it for my presentations: neat, simple, efficient. Used it (and its genitor OpenOffice) for more than 5 years now, and I never had to go back.
  • My browser: Firefox. Lately it has become really powerful: I browse regularly with at least 50 opened tabs, some of them using heavy Javascript and Flash, and it handles them in a good way (usually <1Gb memory, <10% CPU, responsive).
  • Editing graphics: I use Gimp. It is quite powerful for my needs.
  • Taking quick notes that should be deleted soon after: Windows Notepad is cool: quick and easy to launch. And if I need persistence for those notes, my Desktop is a cool place to save them: I hate having too much stuff on it ; so this pushes me to handle those notes quickly.
  • Using quick computations: Windows Calc. This is something I use very often (unit conversions, sums…).
  • Writing quick scripts for various tasks (bulk files renaming, web scraping, maintenance…): This I do with Ruby and its shell: irb. This is really my daily swiss knife tool.
  • My calendar is Google Calendar. This way I can also access it on my smart-phone, and I have it on my iGoogle page.

My work

  • Keeping track of my time spent: No need of a complex software or framework. LibreOffice Calc is more than what I need. I created a nice worksheet where I report all my activity spent in hours, categorized. Then lots of formulas will show me how much time is spent on each category, how it progresses over time and sprints, and all this with nice graphs that are really simple to maintain.
  • Storing my sensible working files: I use a home-made Ruby script that encrypts/decrypts the contents from a USB key using a password. This way, my data is safe and I can bring it everywhere as Ruby is cross-platform.
  • Dealing with software projects development: For this part I have setup a Redmine server, along with the Redmine backlogs plugin, running on Heroku. This way I have a great environment to track my agile developments.
  • Editing source code: I have 2 winners on this one. I was using Netbeans for more than 5 years, but its recent lack of support for Ruby made me first, keep the 6.9.1 version, and then look for alternatives. So I discovered a great editor, both lightweight and handling big projects: SublimeText. I am using it more and more, and I really think that it will replace Netbeans in the short and long run.
  • My favourite version control system: Git with a nice GUI integrating in Windows explorer: Tortoise Git. So easy to use, so flexible. I not only use it to deliver source code, but also any repository needing synchronizations between several places.
  • Storing my tons of passwords and accounts I have on the Internet (and banks…): KeePass X. It is a cross-platform passwords’ safe that also encrypts/decrypts its database using a password (also works on my smart-phone). I store it on the same USB key as my work files. I made a little script using AutoHotKey that opens KeePassX, looks for desired credentials and paste them in the current active form: this way it is really easy to use it in browsers and applications.
  • Accessing FTP, SFTP and SCP accounts is done using WinSCP. Manages a list of configured hosts, with key-based or password authentication.
  • Connecting using SSH: for a long time, I used the SSH terminal from Cygwin. Now that I am using less and less Cygwin, I tend to use Putty.

My social activity

  • Communicating with chat: I use Pidgin for most of it. It handles plenty of different protocols (GTalk, Yahoo, AIM, Facebok, ICQ, Sametime…), gathering all of them in 1 simple interface, cross-platform. For people used to Skype, I also use chat in Skype.
  • Communicating with video call: The winner is Skype. Easy to use.
  • Following Twitter: This I do using Twitter lists and TweetDeck. This way lists are managed correctly, and I can read structured streams in my browser and on my smart-phone.
  • Reading my email: Done using GMail. I use it to gather emails from my other email accounts all in one place. I use labels to sort them. Pretty efficient.
  • Reading some RSS news: Done using Google Reader. I can follow easily all my RSS feeds that I have categorized in folders, on my iGoogle page.

I aligned shortcuts for all those softwares in my task bar. Therefore it is very easy to get to them.

That’s it: I have lived for more than 5 years with this list, and I must say I am happy with it.

About Muriel Salvan

I am a freelance project manager and polyglot developer, expert in Ruby and Rails. I created X-Aeon Solutions and rivierarb Ruby meetups. I also give trainings and conferences on technical topics. My core development principles: Plugins-oriented architectures, simple components, Open Source power, clever automation, constant technology watch, quality and optimized code. My experience includes big and small companies. I embrace agile methodologies and test driven development, without giving up on planning and risks containment methods as well. I love Open Source and became a big advocate.
Entrepreneurship, My life, Ruby, Web development, Windows , , , ,

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