In the past several years I have adopted open-source terminal-based applications for most of the work I do on a computer. This post gathers up some of the great free software I use every day.
Vim is the application I use for writing and for any task that involves creating and editing text. It is where I spend most of my time. Markdown supplies the grammar. The Voom plugin provides an outline view of complex document structures and makes it easy to reorder an argument. Vim’s digraphs put many non-English and non-modern characters within easy reach.
git provides incremental persistent file history, useful in late stages of editing and for reacquainting myself with any document that hasn’t continuously been at the center of my attention.
Zotero is the bibliographic software I have used since 2007. Recently I have made my personal bibliography public. Better BibTeX writes the ligatures between Zotero’s bibliographic records and the documents I write, enabling citation.
Pandoc, with an assist from LaTeX, Citeproc, and Citation Style Language, turns markdown-formatted text into elegant pdfs. Pandoc also writes the Microsoft Word
docx files that most publishers in the humanities still expect.
That’s the general writing stack, but the writing would be harder without organized accessible research notes. Enter ZettelGeist, a brilliant program written by my friend George K. Thiruvathukal, to whom I owe much of the above.