How I work

The list below is an attempt to catalogue the tools and techniques I use in my work on a regular basis. I'm not a power user in all of these tools -- some I might only dust off every month or two. But it's helpful to get a sense of the full scope of everything I've acquired or installed for the purpose of journalism.

If you've got a brand new machine, this post on setting your Mac up for development is a great start (The NPR visuals team actually updates it from time to time). Here's another from The New York Times. And another useful one is here (although I don't use all of these things in either).

I'll add new stuff here as I install it.


Tascam DR-05 recorder for capturing interviews

VEC Phone to PC Audio Adapter to connect my desk line to a recorder

Command-line tools

ffmpeg for making GIFs and working with video

PDFtk server for working with PDFs

Wget for downloading files recursively

Curl for downloading files, not recursively

Homebrew for installing programs for Mac

Python for running code

virtualenv & virtualenvwrapper (with pip) for creating virtual environments

Git for version control and Github interface

SSH for Github

MySQL Server

Postgres for performing advanced SQL queries


Tabula for converting PDFs to spreadsheets

Sequel Pro for working with large databases and MySQL files through MySQL

LICEcap for creating GIFs from screen captures

QGIS for mapping

Excel for working with spreadsheets

RStudio for working in R

Cyberduck for FTPing files

GIMP for editing photos

Audacity for editing audio

SublimeText for editing text and writing code

Chrome for Web browsing

Firefox for specialized usage

Arduino IDE for working with hardware

Dropbox for file storage (paid subscription)

OpenRefine for cleaning data

Jupyter for sharing live code

Browser extensions

Scraper for capturing simple tables on Web pages (Chrome)

Fireshot for taking screenshots of webpages or selections of webpages (Chrome)

Wayback Machine for archiving pages on the fly and searching for older, archived versions of a current webpage (Chrome)

Facebook Political Ad Collector for tracking advertising and targeting info posted to Facebook

JSONView for looking a JSON files (Chrome)

OneTab for storing all my tabs from a browser session in one place (Chrome)

DownThemAll to easily download all links on a page (Firefox)

VideoDownloadHelper to download videos from the Web (Firefox)

Code libraries

Wireservice for data analysis and tools to work with CSVs

Django for building apps quickly


Tor for browsing anonymously

HideMyAss for encrypting network traffic via VPN (paid subscription)

Server-based tools

PANDA for storing data

Klaxon for alerting users to changes to Web pages

Online tools

DocumentCloud for storing, annotating and sharing documents

Overview for exploring huge document dumps

Mapshaper for optimizing and converting shapefiles

ColorBrewer for selecting map colors

DiffChecker for checking the differences between two texts

Mr. Data Converter for converting spreadsheet data into JSON

oTranscribe for quicly transcribing interviews with quick keys for starting/stopping and inserting timecodes