The software that I use to run this blog

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 11, 2014

It has been a while since I last mentioned the programs and devices that I use for blogging.

Today, I'm publishing a list of the core programs and apps that I use on a day to day basis to run Ghacks Technology News.

Some of what I'm about to list may be surprising, as I prefer minimalism wherever possible. What does it mean? A basic example is that I prefer to write my articles directly on the WordPress website and not in a third-party editor that is connected to it.

It also refers to the number of programs that I use on a day to day basis, and if you want, to my writing as well.

Lets get started, shall we?

1. Firefox

I use Firefox, not Google Chrome, Opera or Internet Explorer as my main go-to web browser. I have several reasons for that, and while having used it as my primary Internet browser for so long does play a role as well, it is the browser's openness that makes it attractive to me.

I can modify toolbars, icons and other elements of the interface, something that you cannot do at all in Chrome or the new Opera, and only in a limited fashion in Internet Explorer.

On top of all that, the best security extension ever created -- that is NoScript by the way -- is also only available for the browser.

In addition to all that, I trust Mozilla when it comes to privacy, something which I cannot say of many other companies and organizations.

2. Thunderbird

Thunderbird is my email program of choice. I prefer desktop email programs as they offer several advantages over online services.

I'm again able to customize the interface the way I want it to be. Do not need the chat button in the interface? Removed. Want a different font size for emails? Done.

I can add as many email accounts as I want to Thunderbird, and access them all while I'm offline. I get better backup options because of that, as I can simply use third-party tools like Mailstore Home to do so.

In the end, it comes down to control again. With Thunderbird, I control most of what is being displayed on the screen, and what is happening in the background.

3. QuiteRSS

Since I'm only working on my desk, and not while I'm on the go, I do not need programs that sync data to the cloud and other devices.

QuiteRSS is probably the best RSS reader available for Windows at the time of writing. I like that it is fast and powerful, but minimalistic at the same time.

It puts the focus on the news, and not on fancy stuff like different display styles that slow me down when I try to find out what is new and interesting.

The program is excellent, and if you do not require synchronization to mobile devices, should be taken for a test ride.

4. KeePass

I have used online password managers for a long time. They are very convenient, as you can access your data from any device, provided that you can remember your master password or account credentials.

It also means that you are trusting a third-party to keep your information safe. You have no control over their infrastructure, and do not really know how well your data is protected on company servers.

That's the core reason why I prefer to use KeePass instead. It is a desktop password manager that supports all the features that I require. I can store passwords and other information in it, and use the handy global shortcut to sign in to any website using any browser available for the operating system.

5. TrueCrypt

The encryption software TrueCrypt is not really something that I need to run this blog. But, it adds a level of protection to the data that I store locally, which makes it one of the essentials on my system.

I use TrueCrypt to protect the KeePass password database for example, and also other data of importance. Without it, that data would be accessible to anyone with local access to the system (for instance someone who breaks in, snags the PC, and tries to harvest data off of it).

6. SnagIt

The only paid application that I use regularly. I'm still running version 10 though, which was last updated in 2011, and have not upgraded to a newer version of the program.

I do not really need all the fancy new features and tools that newer versions ship with. What I like about SnagIt is the worflow, that it takes little time to take a snaphot, edit it using the basic editor that the program ships with, to upload it to the blog afterwards.

I suppose I could use an alternative such as Screenshot Captor instead, but since I have been using SnagIt for some time now, I'll keep on using it until it no longer works or something better comes along.

7. WinSCP

I use WinSCP to connect to various (s)ftp servers, for example to edit php files manually, to update plug-ins or scripts, or to download files for backup purposes.

While I could edit some files directly from within WordPress, I prefer to not do so for two reasons. First, if something goes wrong, I cannot recover a previous version of the script. Second, I prefer to use a better editor when editing source code files, and the editor that WordPress itself offers lacks in several regards.

Closing Words

As you can see, I prefer to use desktop apps instead of online services, and if available, Open Source instead of closed source applications.

I have optimized my workflow quite a bit over the years to suite my work environment and habits. This works well for as long as I do not start blogging on the go, as I'd have to find new tools to do so.




Tutorials & Tips

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  1. sarin said on April 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    FTP Manager Lite is one of the best freeware FTP and SFTP client software. The clean interface is super easy to use. It will perform your files transfers quickly and efficiently. It is one of the best freeware FTP clients that also supports FXP.

  2. jfjb said on January 21, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    thanks, Martin for the tip about the more versatile portable KeePass, not sure if I need TrueCrypt — as you say, for KeePass password database protection — nor how to use it… let’s say I’ve had ‘situations’ with other encryption products in the past.

  3. Ken Saunders said on January 15, 2014 at 2:51 am

    “I prefer to use desktop apps instead of online services, and if available, Open Source instead of closed source applications.”
    Same here.
    And you use two of my most used and favorite programs (Firefox, Thunderbird).
    And, we like portable apps.

    Brothers from a past life?

  4. Don said on January 13, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Martin, since KeePass is already an encrypted database, why does it need to also be encrypted by TrueCrypt?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 14, 2014 at 8:30 am

      I have all of my disks encrypted, so, that is that.

  5. Horsebadorties said on January 12, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Martin, you mentioned that you haven’t upgraded SnagIt from version 10 to 11. That’s probably a good thing. As of version 11, SnagIt no longer supports changing the image’s color depth while capturing or editing. This feature is extremely useful for reducing the bandwidth required by large captures.

    I upgraded from version 9 to 11. When I discovered that the color depth feature had been dropped, I promptly downgraded to version 10. It’s too bad that TechSmith added so many marginally useful features while dropping this indispensable one.

  6. irfan ali said on January 12, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Its interesting to find out that I also use almost same number of softwares/tools to run my blog.

    I used Snag It basically to capture screenshots when I had Windows XP installed on my system.Though never tried TrueCrypt and WINSCP .

    Good to know you like to keep the things as simple as possible with minimalist approach

  7. tPenguinLTG said on January 12, 2014 at 4:24 am

    For more serious screenshots on Windows, I use ShareXmod. It’s free and open-source (GPL 3) and it handles Aero’s transparency and round corners properly.
    For password management, I use Password Safe, another open-source project. It may be somewhat simpler than KeePass, but it works for me.

  8. Bobby Phoenix said on January 12, 2014 at 1:56 am

    And of course Windows 7 is your OS of choice since all your screenshots are in it, so why? I mean there is OS X, and Linux. Actually Ubuntu just was named most secure OS in the UK.

    1. Swapnil said on January 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      With no disrespect to the Free Software Foundation, or Linux distro developers, I would like to state that I have used Ubuntu 12.04 for sometime, and tried to use it as my default OS (but still keeping Windows installed in dual-boot). I returned to Windows. Why? Because it’s quite simpler. I don’t know if that’s because I have gotten used to Windows a lot. I know software incompatibility is a software developers’ fault. But I am not even talking about that. Let’s talk about installing drivers. Ubuntu 12.04 failed to install my WiFi driver – even Windows 8.1 Preview failed to, fine. But what about installing this driver? On Windows, it’s as simple as getting the driver and executing the setup. On Linux? The story looks different, with I having to enter commands like sudo apt… This might look insignificant at first, but it’s the same user-friendliness factor that Ubuntu lacks. And that’s where Windows wins. Apart from troubleshooting or performing advanced tasks, you never need the Command Prompt. Apart from this, I love Windows’ usability – but that’s debatable, so I will leave it.

      As for OS X, what’s the point using it? It’s expensive (you need a Mac = overpriced notebook) and offers lower functionality than Windows.
      This is my opinion. You ask, why Windows? I say, why Mac/Linux?

      1. Bobby Phoenix said on January 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm

        I’ve been using Ubuntu for about eight months now. I started using it because I didn’t like where Windows was going. I don’t like Windows 8 at all. I’ve kept using it because from the moment I used it I liked it. It’s free, it’s easy to use, I found all my programs I used on Windows for Ubuntu in one form or another which makes me not miss Windows at all, I don’t have to worry about malware, and it’s fun to use. Those reasons right there are why I recommend it to friends. So far those who switched like me are very happy they switched. To each their own.

  9. Maelish said on January 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Why do you like WinSCP over other free transfer clients like FileZilla?

    1. Zeus said on January 11, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Because he’s a member of the SCP Foundation. ;)

  10. exrelayman said on January 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I use gmail. The reason is how I deal with malware and uninstalling programs that I don’t like. I make weekly full external backup images. I keep them 5 deep, because sometimes a bit of malware can go unnoticed for quite some time. When malware is observed, or when I decide I do not want a program I have just tried ( and maybe had on my pc for a week or two), I simply restore to a full backup image using Macrium ( I used the free for a while – after it saved my bacon a few times I decided they deserved to be paid and bought it).

    This way of changing my mind about undesired software and/or going back to a pre-malware state means that my pc does not get cluttered with detritus over time (even using Revo to uninstall and Search Everything to find and delete any remnants, there are still sometimes remnants in the registry that registry cleaners do not remove).

    So what has all this to do with gmail vs Thunderbird. Well, with Thunderbird on my desktop, all emails sent and received in the time since the backup I choose to restore to are lost. This loss doesn’t happen with the browser based email service. I respect that there may be disadvantages to gmail that bear more weight to others, but in my way of doing things this advantage is very nice.

    There is one other item I would like to share with you and your readers. For years, spanning Windows 7 through 8.1 which I now use, I would always experience a crash of Windows Explorer two or more times a week. I cleaned/repaired my pc the best I knew how with Glary, MalwareBytes, Advanced System Care Pro, and SuperAntiSpyware, as well as keeping good antivirus in place. With all these measure, the problem persisted. About 2 weeks ago I tried the free version of System Mechanic and have not had a Windows Explorer crash yet.

    1. p3t3r said on January 14, 2014 at 7:35 am

      Have a look at
      The (imho) perfect solution for backing up and restoring e-mails. Free for private users. It works much better as mozbackup, because you have direct access to archived mails without the need to unpack an archive.

  11. said on January 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Why don’t use a clipboard manager?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 11, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      No need.

  12. y0himba said on January 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I am trying out QuiteRSS now. So far it is wonderful. I wish there were something like this for Android.

    I never use a passkeeper. I keep all of them, and there are quite a lot, in my head. Most secure storage ever. Since Win95 I have never stored a password that I could avoid storing.

    I am also a die hard Firefox user, although I am sad to say I am also an Outlook addict.

  13. GK said on January 11, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    Desktop apps FTW! :)

  14. Sandra said on January 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Greenshot is a great tool for screenshots. IMO it is better than Snagit. I am hesitant to useTrueCrypt because of all the accusations recently (about not being audited and such).

    1. Lanny said on January 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Greenshot is powerful and open source, but unfortunately one feature is missing “scrolling window”. Therefore I use PicPick (also Portable, free for personal use)

  15. Armond said on January 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Thanks for this nice post. I personally like all those ideas though.
    The only complain about Thunderbird is: How to get rib of this “Local Folder” folders? I looked a lots but could not find a permament way to do this. Wondering why Mozilla is not removing it because it’s really useless.
    So is there a way to remove the Local Folder from Thunderbird?

    1. Zeus said on January 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm
      Reply recommends not getting rid of them, but hiding them with MailTweak —

      Happy to help!

      1. Bill Blagger said on January 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        Interesting article (I use Firefox, largely becasue of NoScript and a few other add-ons I really like). I also have the Local Folders stuck at bottom of Thunderbird. No idea what use it is, I just ignore it.

      2. Armond said on January 12, 2014 at 2:55 am

        WOW! Thanks a lot!

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on January 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      What do you mean by local folder?

      1. Ken Saunders said on January 15, 2014 at 2:49 am

        I never have any issues with Thunderbird and I’ve been using it since 1.0.
        I saw that you prefer something else, but there is the following if you’re still interested.

        Hide Local Folders
        Hide/remove the “Local Folders” entry from the folder pane.

        Thunderbird is just about as customizable as Firefox.

        And for for support (connection failures, etc)

      2. fokka said on January 14, 2014 at 2:29 am

        that was one thing i didn’t like using thunderbird, too: too many folders. i never understood why there were extra folders for my gmail account, but my gmx account was fine. maybe it had to do with using imap for gmail and pop for gmx, i’m not exactly a power user when it comes to email.

        i’m just surprised that of all the mail clients i tried, windows live mail is the one working best for my needs. it’s not perfect by any means, but at least it doesn’t nag me with connection failures all the time like thunderbird, opera mail, simple mail etc before it did.

      3. Armond said on January 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm
      4. Martin Brinkmann said on January 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

        Still, I do not have a local folder in Thunderbird, no idea how it got there.

      5. Armond said on January 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm

        Well, I mean the last folder in Thunderburd main Window. Its name is “Local Folders” and contains a Trash and an Outbox folder. Thanks for the fast reply, and Sorry for the confusion.

      6. Martin Brinkmann said on January 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

        I do not have that folder, sorry.

  16. Michael Fisher said on January 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Martin

    After reading this I’m trying out QuietRSS with Firefox set as my viewer for articles that interest me.
    What procedure do you use for opening articles in Firefox?

    I prefer to use the keyboard keys and not the mouse/cursor…
    Do you know a simpler way to open an interesting article in firefox other than “Ctrl+O”?
    This is difficult for me to achieve due to RSI
    Using my keyboard down arrow to scroll through the articles & hitting “Enter” to open in Firefox would be ideal, but I don’t know if it’s possible to change keyboard commands on an application basis…


    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 11, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      You can modify all keyboard shortcuts in the options. Just replace Ctrl-O with return for opening news in the external browser, and make sure you modify Open News from return to another shortcut, as you will have a conflict otherwise.

      I double-click on titles to open them in an external browser.

  17. Karl J. Gephart said on January 11, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Nice article, Martin. I like the free NetDrive to power my Sublime Text with my Windows folders/files in my FTP. Plus Sublime has tons of awesome addons, making it tremendously customizable for coding. I’m going to take a look at QuiteRSS – haven’t heard of it. So far, I haven’t used an RSS client that wasn’t a resource hog. I use Feedly in an app tab in Firefox. I have Snagit, I just need to play with it. And I got Outlook 2010 at academic pricing. WP Editor is a nice coding WordPress plugin. Take care!

  18. Dwight Stegall said on January 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

    My favorite RSS reader has always been Firefox Live Bookmarks. It is faster and easier to add new feeds to it. When you backup your bookmarks you also backup your feeds. Other readers have more info about each feed article. But that slows me down too much. I have feeds to about 150 tech blogs and don’t need to be slowed down. I also do all of my searching in the awesomebar. When I backup bookmarks and feeds I also backup my searches.

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