March 31, 2017

What's in my toolkit?

Taking a closer look at the stuff I use to do journalism

I spend a lot of time in front of my machines -- both at work and at home -- personalizing them with tools that make my job easier and my work more effective.

The list below is an attempt to catalogue what I use in my work on a regular basis. I'm not a power user in all of these tools -- some I might only dust off every month or two. But it's helpful to get a sense of the full scope of everything I've installed for the purpose of journalism.

If you've got a brand new machine, this post on setting your Mac up for development is a great start (The NPR visuals team actually updates it from time to time). Another useful one is here (although I don't use all of these things in either).

I'll add new stuff here as I install it.

Command-line tools

ffmpeg for making GIFs and working with video

PDFtk server for working with PDFs

Wget for downloading files recursively

Curl for downloading files, not recursively

Homebrew for installing programs for Mac

Python for running code

virtualenv & virtualenvwrapper (with pip) for creating virtual environments

Git for version control and Github interface

SSH for Github

MySQL Server


Tabula for converting PDFs to spreadsheets

Sequel Pro for working with large databases and MySQL files through MySQL

LICEcap for creating GIFs from screen captures

QGIS for mapping

Excel for working with spreadsheets

ImageOptim for optimizing images for the Web

RStudio for working in R

Cyberduck for FTPing files

GIMP for editing photos

Audacity for editing audio

Slack for communicating with teams

SublimeText for editing text and writing code

Chrome for Web browsing

Firefox for specialized usage

Arduino IDE for working with hardware

Dropbox for file storage (paid subscription)

OpenRefine for cleaning data

Jupyter for sharing live code

Browser extensions

Pocket for saving articles (Chrome)

Scraper for capturing simple tables on Web pages (Chrome)

JSONView for looking a JSON files (Chrome)

OneTab for storing all my tabs from a browser session in one place (Chrome)

DownThemAll to easily download all links on a page (Firefox)

VideoDownloadHelper to download videos from the Web (Firefox)

Code libraries

Wireservice for data analysis and tools to work with CSVs

Django for building apps quickly


Tor for browsing anonymously

HideMyAss for encrypting network traffic via VPN (paid subscription)

Server-based tools

PANDA for storing data

Klaxon for alerting users to changes to Web pages (forthcoming)

Online tools

DocumentCloud for storing, annotating and sharing documents

Overview for exploring huge document dumps

Mapshaper for optimizing and converting shapefiles

ColorBrewer for selecting map colors

DiffChecker for checking the differences between two texts

Mr. Data Converter for converting spreadsheet data into JSON