A list of software that I either recommend, or use myself. Usually I spend ages exploring and trying alternatives, so hopefully this list might save somebody some time. Check them out ...

Web Development

All developers have preferred IDEs, or a mix of programs which suit their workflow and budget. As a PHP and javascript developer here's my 'current' choices.


XAMPP provides a single install of the Apache webserver, PHP, and a SQL database (MariaDB, prev MySQL) — all configured to work together. A useful control panel allows you to control the individual programs.

XAMPP from Apache Friends


Github's attractive, free and configurable editor for PHP, Javascript, CSS and HTML (among others). Features are added via a slick package system, and there are lots of "10 essential Atom Packages" type pages on the internet. No editor is perfect, and I have been happy and productive with the slightly pedestrian Netbeans for a long time, however Atom is a refreshing and flexible change.

Atom from Github


Been around a long time, but still being updated, easy to configure, and all I need. A handy "upload if newer" function makes maintaining a website efficient.


Windows Software

Free Office Suite (Windows)

Softmaker Freeoffice 2016. They've done a very good job with this. It looks like a slightly older version of MS Office - not such a bad thing. Impressively Textmaker includes output to .pdf and .epub (I am curious to see if the epub output passes muster because the world is crying out for a cheap and effective epub generator — fingers crossed).

IMPORTANT: in Windows 10, you need to R-Click the Textmaker icon in the taskbar, then R-Click on "Textmaker 2016", then click on "Properties", select the "Compatibility" tab, check the box against "Run this program as an administrator" and click "OK". Only then will it work properly. (Maybe the developers were running with Admin privileges so missed all the issues ordinary users would face).

Setting the default font and size (you probably don't want "Times New Roman 10 pt"). Select menu item "Format" > "Character", choose a better font and size and click on "Set as Default" button. You can then set your default file format in "Tools" > "Options" > "Files".

Finally, customise your menus. I added "refresh stats" button and "word count" to the main top menu. I also removed the "Thunderbird" icon etc. It was straightforward and leaves me with a very pleasant and focussed word-processor. I'm now wishing I hadn't shelled out for MS Office.

What's missing? Well, you can preview, open and edit .docx files, but you will then have to save them as .doc. You will need the paid-up version for docx saving. Fair enough, these guys have families to feed!

Softmaker FreeOffice

Windows Native Programming

MS Visual Studio Express - Visual Basic (or C# if you prefer) for Windows Desktop. Free registration. Puts the fun back into programming - very close to my beloved Delphi 7 which just won't cut it any more. The desktop is still the working hub of Win 8 and will be around in Windows for a long time.

Download ... it's the Express one you want

I have now effectively given up on native programming. Javascript, PHP etc can do a huge amount in the browser, and while ultimate speed is lost, it is fast enough for all my purposes. I mean, they've built a FLAC decoder in javascript and it runs like a beauty! There's a myriad of fast libararies available if you need the speed, and everything's by nature cross-platform. Now that modern browsers are more consistently supporting things like the html canvas element, life is good!

Digital Photography

Adobe Lightroom. Once you have learned your way round the annoying bits of the interface you will enjoy a very powerful and capable non-destructive raw image manipulation tool. HOWEVER ... to the dismay of the hobbyist photography community Adobe has introduced a rent-your-software pricing model called Creative Cloud. On their website it would be easy to miss the fact that you can still buy and own a standalone version.

So, on the Adobe website. Click on "Menu" then "All Products". The list includes LR which will give you Full and Upgrade options for the standalone product. (Going any other route will give you the distinct impression than a Creative Cloud subscription is the only option).

Adobe Lightroom