Tools for research and publishing

I am often asked about the tools I use in my research and publishing. I have wasted a lot of time and energy trying to find the perfect technological solution. I love technology that makes work less tiresome and I hate technology that fails. I use more tools than I have listed here. These are the ones that I really like and recommend. This is not a static list but one that I will update as my needs and tools change – I will post updates on this blog.


Photo courtesy of ©


Remember, you do not need to use these tools… most of the professors I know successfully completed their doctorates with nothing more sophisticated than a typewriter!


Moleskine Pocket Reporter Plain Notebook [note books]: Don’t let technology get in the way of your thinking! I put this first for a reason. There is something special about making notes in these beautiful books. I love the reporter versions, which encourage me to produce diagrams.

Montblanc [pen and pencil]: I was given the pencil as a gift and had to buy a matching pen. Expensive yes, but quality. They haven’t improved my handwriting though!

Apple 13 inch MacBook Air (Dual-Core i5,1.7GHz,4GB,256GB Flash,HD Graphics) [laptop]: I changed from PC to Mac in early 2012. I absolutely love the Mac experience. Everything is superfast, intuitive and clean. I could never go back. The MBA is class (MacBook Air that is). I love the solid-state hard disk – it starts up instantly. 250gb HD is big enough. I do video editing and photo editing on her (must be female) and she never shows any sign of strain.

Apple Mac mini (Dual-Core i5,2.3GHz,2GB,500GB HD,HD Graphics) [computer]: After falling in love with the MBA I purchased a MacMini for my home office. I upgraded the RAM to 8gb via Crucial it cost less that £40 – a steal. Fitting it took 2 minutes. I do video editing and photo editing on the MacMini and with 8gb RAM it works perfectly.

HannsG HZ281HPB 28-inch Monitor [display/monitor]: I bought two of these for my home office – they both run off the MacMini. Two 28-inch screens make for an awesome set up. Each screen cost me about £250 – they are an absolute steal at that price. In an ideal world I would hook up two Apple 27 inch Displays
but at £799 each that can wait! I don’t think that Hanns G do the 28inch model anymore but they do a 27-inch for under £200: HannsG HL272HPB 27 inch Monitor

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 [instant PDF Multi Sheet-Fed Scanner]: Superb and really helps me to cut down on paper. Scans directly to PDF and integrates with Evernote (see below). So good I purchased an Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i for my home office.

Apple iPad 2 16 GB [tablet]: I have the first generation Ipad and love it. The new version is a bit faster, has a camera and retina display…. but I don’t yet feel the need to upgrade.

LaCie iamaKey 16GB [USB flash memory key]: Sturdy metal design. Looks like a key!


iAnnotate for ipad – [annotating PDF documents]: Highlight text and add notes then email a copy of the annotated document as well as a summary of the notes and highlighted text. Absolutely brilliant, £6.99 well spent.

Skim for Mac [a PDF viewer for Mac]: It makes highlighting and notating PDFs a breeze. You can export your notes and highlighted text to a text file. It is Free. There are alternatives, but I like the interface.

Mendeley [a referencing tool, PDF management system and more]: I have used various citation management systems. Mendeley is feature packed and it is free. I moved away from it several years ago due to stability issues. I believe that it is much better now. Download it!


Byword [a minimalist stripped-down word processor]: It isn’t obese like MS Word. It is great for free-flow writing. Only £2.99.

Word [word processor] MS Word is still the standard for hard-core word-processing. It is possible to get Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Student through our University.

OmniOutliner [outlining tool]: Getting the structure of a paper right is critical. I find it easier to work out the storyline before I start to write and I use this outlining tool before moving to a word processor.


Dropbox [cloud storage and synchronisation]: It totally changed the way that I work. If I had to get rid of one of the tools on this list – Dropbox would be the very last one. So simple, so awesome. Why? I have a MacBook, home office Mac, work office PC, ipad and iphone. It keeps all my documents in sync. I could be working on a document at home, shut down, go to work and continue to work on it. No more copying files from one machine to another. No more paranoia about backing up. I also set up shared folders with everyone I would with. I pay (personally) for 100gb storage. You receive extra space when you refer people.

Evernote [notes, web clipper and digital brain]: Capture, store and access everything: receipts, web clippings, papers notes, meeting notes, you name it. You can email notes to your Evernote account, use the webclipper to capture information from the web. I pay (personally) for the premium account.

Omnifocus [task manager]: I have only just started using this tool (used Things before) and my first impressions are that it is superb. Intuitive. Syncs perfectly with the iPhone and IPad apps. Love the Mail feature – i created a keyboard shortcut that send an email to the task manager. Very impressed. But expensive compared to the competition.

1Password [Stores passwords]: Never forget a password. Another gem that I cannot do without.

Firefox [web browser]: I have tried them all. I like the add-ons such as the Evernote webclipper, firebug, hootsuite and 1password – see below for all of these.

GoodReader [document reader / file manager]: Amazing application for reading and managing documents on the Ipad. Can read the files from multiple sources including Dropbox, has a very easy to use interfaces, and is very flexible.

Reeder [newsreader for Mac and Ipad]: Makes reading newsfeeds efficient, and it syncs with my Google Reader account.



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. Apple’s version of PowerPoint. It is easy-to-use and encourages me to be creative – PowerPoint doesn’t.


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. This is the only choice in many institutions. I ALWAYS create a PowerPoint version of all my presentations and save it to my LaCie usb key. I have lost count of the number of times I have arrived at a venue and they cannot let me connect my Mac to the projector and cannot cope with Keynote. It is possible to get Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Student through our University.

Timer Utility [countdown timer for Mac]: This is pretty much as the name suggests: it’s a timer for Mac. Useful for presentations and teaching.

TimeronFire [countdown timer for Ipad]: It has huge numbers so I can set up my Ipad on a lectern, desk or even on the floor of a stage so that I can keep an eye on my timing.

Graphics and video

Adobe design suite [Image editor]: I use Photoshop and Illustrator but I feel well out of my depth with both. Design suite comes with a full copy of acrobat.

Istockphoto [photo / image library]: Everyone else seems to steal photos from the web. I prefer to use IStockphoto. There are lots on free images and the costs of the premium images are reasonable. I usually make credit to the photographer as follows: e.g. Photo courtesy of ©

Handbrake . Free. Does everything that I need.

SnagIt [screen capture needs]: It is something I use daily. It has a robust set of effects tools, like borders, drop shadows, reflections, and perspective. It also has an amazing array of annotation tools. It can also do video capture of your screen (i.e., a screencast).

Final cut pro . It is the industry standard but is surprisingly easy to use. Expensive and heavy-duty and IMovie would probably be sufficient for 99% of my needs.

Social Media

HootSuite[twitter dashboard]. (It can also be used for Facebook, LinkedIn, too.) It allows me to monitor direct messages, mentions, and the tweets of those I follow. I use this tool to send messages and replies and to schedule individual tweets.

Buffer: [schedule tweets]. You add tweets to your Buffer whenever you want. It then spreads them out during the day according to a schedule you pre-determine, so it doesn’t overwhelm your followers.


BlueHost [webhosting]: Easy install of WordPress. Excellent customer service

StandardTheme (wordPress Theme): like the look of it and the support site is great.

Akismet [controls comment spam]: It works.

MarsEdit (word processor for bloggers]: Haven’t been using it for long but I like it.

Disqus [commenting platform]: Allows users to manage comments across many sites without having to sign in every time.

Feedburner [RSS subscription service]: Allows people to subscribe to my blog via RSS. Part of the Google empire.

Google Analytics [website analytics]: Tracks visitors, page views, bounce rate, and a host of other metrics. Also from Google.

MailChimp [build your own e-mail list]: I haven’t really sorted out how i want to use it, but it was easy to set up.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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