Robert Anderson's ones and zeros

My Essential Applications

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This is the first in a series of posts where I list the applications that I use and enjoy the most. See part 2) and part 3.

A bit of preamble, my most powerful machine is a Windows-only desktop with lots of RAM and an SSD drive. I use it almost exclusively for development.

I also have a Macbook Pro which is configured to dual-boot Windows and MacOS. The Windows machine is more or less a mirror of my main development machine. The Mac is where I do all my document editing, Word, blogging, etc. I also use it for my occasional forays in to iPhone development or other non-Windows experiments.

When I upgrade my development machine, I reconfigure the previous system for Linux, currently Ubuntu.


In Windows, Chocolatey is a very convenient way to install programs. Just go:

C:> choco install nodejs


Even better, create a powershell script with all the applications you want to install and run it with boxstarter. Repeatable and reboot-resilient environment installations using chocolatey under the hood. For several years now, I have maintained a script for installing my entire development environment (and the build server) from scratch. Works whether it’s a physical or a virtual machine.


BeyondCompare is the best file-comparison tool I’ve found. Cross-platform too, I have it installed on my Mac as well.


Synergy allows me to share one mouse and keyboard across all my machines. It works just like dual monitors, except when the mouse moves onto the next screen, you’ve actually changed computer. I don’t have multiple monitors any more, I just switch the input on my giant curved 34” Dell monitor via a keyboard shortcut.


Nothing to say.

VS Code

First class support for .NET and C#, Typescript in particular, but VS Code is also extremely good with Javascript, Powershell, Python, Markdown, etc. Multiple cursor support. Cross-platform. Extensions. I’m writing this blog post in VS Code.

Visual Studio

My daily workhorse. I’ve spent more screen time here than anywhere.


Keep track of academic papers. Download them for offline reading. Handle citations and bibliographies effortlessly from within Word. Zotero.

Next up

More on Visual Studio in the next post where I go through my essential extensions and tools.