What I Use (Software Edition)

Inspired by a number of others (historians and coders mostly), I offer the following “what I use” post. I write less to advertise and more as an example for any other community college faculty who are working in digital humanities.



I do most of my short writing in nvALT. I use to keep almost all my notes, academic and personal. It stores all files in .txt files, which I can access anywhere with almost any software. It’s no longer updated and there are some other good substitutes that have emerged (see The Archive, but I work with what I know.

Sublime Text 3

When I need to write longer pieces, such as grant applications or articles, Sublime is great. I like that I can make it do whatever I want, look however I want, and it never taxes my computer. I’ve worked with Atom as well, but it’s a memory hog on my office PC.


More than 90% of my writing I do with Markdown. It’s a format that saves in .txt files, so I’ll never lose any work to new software versions, and it lets me focus on writing, rather than formatting. For a great introduction see the Programming Historian. My words shouldn't be trapped by software, and I teach my students the same.

Marked 2

Brett Terpstra is a bit of god to me, and his work, free and paid, has made my work so much easier. Marked 2 lets you preview, live, Markdown from oodles of different apps, and then convert it to one of the standard formats (html, pdf, word, rtf. . .). I love the idea of Pandoc and it does far more than Marked 2 can. Still, I get cleaner conversions with Marked and I can see what’s I’m getting before I convert/save it.

### Software ###


It works, doesn’t suck memory, and respects privacy. I don’t trust google (Chrome), Safari bogs down with a privacy blocker extension, and Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave aren’t as robustly built for my needs. Firefox also works with Zotero which manages my research materials.


Twitter teems with terrible people writing vile nonsense. Yet it’s also how I’ve been able to claw my way into the digital humanities. Some folks vex themselves mightily finding the best Twitter interface: I don’t. This works well enough and helps avoid Twitter’s terrible website.


I’ve only been using Setapp for a couple weeks. That said, I already used 8 of the 100 or so apps included in this app subscription. If you work in OS X, you should check out Setapp. It includes sufficient apps that you could give a gift subscription to a high school grad and that grad would have most of the software they'd need for their college degree.


We all need checklists to keep us on task. In keeping with my .txt-focussed world, I use TaskPaper, which save files as .txt files, but let’s you organize tasks by projects, with due dates.

R Studio

R Studio lets me work in R, which is increasingly important for historians doing statistics and data visualization. It can be used simply, as I do, or with incredible sophistication.

Clipboard managers

I use two clipboard managers right now: Tyke is just a place to hold text until I can stick it somewhere permanent. The app strips formatting, which I love when working with the web.

Unclutter allows me to save text, notes, or files, though I only use the text function. It keeps a list of your clipboard history, which is the main feature I use.


For writing assignments for my students, I need to quickly put text and screen shots together and export for the web. Clarify does this faster and smoother than other apps I’ve tried. I particularly like that I can save the full document in markdown with associated images files, and then upload that to GitHub. Unfortunately, the app is only issuing maintenance updates and no new licenses, if anyone knows of a great alternative, please drop me a line.

As with all such lists, I’m leaving many applications and all of my hardware off. For those deep in the world of digital humanities, my list will seem mainstream and uninteresting, the Toyota Camry of software lists. Even so, if you’re an emerging digital humanities teacher, I hope you can find one recommendation that makes your work easier and your time freer for our students. In the end, it's not the softare, but the human running it that matters most.

Safe home.

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