Computer productivity — Robin Wils's website

Last modified: Sun, Feb 21, 2021

Table of Contents

Introduction

Good productivity makes tasks easier. It will cost you less time.

Password management

Never forget your passwords again!

Use a password manager. It is convenient and secure. A password manager is a tool which manages your passwords for you. It generates secure passwords. The only password you need to remember is your master password.

Is this secure?

Yes, many security minded people use it. Saving passwords in your browser on the other hand is not secure. The main focus of browsers is not security.

Which

I recommend Bitwarden (open source) or LastPass (closed source) if you want an online password manager.

The offline password manager which I recommend is KeePassXC.

Other options are fine too. A password manager is always better than no password manager.

Offline vs online

Online password managers are easier to use on phones. You don’t have to move your password database to your phone. You can just use their mobile application. It is convenient.

Offline password managers are good if you don’t want to trust a company with your passwords, although these companies are very trustable.

KeePassXC also has SSH key support, which is very convenient if you use Git, that is why I prefer KeePassXC.

Picking a good master password

You should pick a secure master password.

Make sure that it does not include anything related to you. Symbols and numbers make passwords more secure as well.

Creating a strong password

  1. Pick three random words
  2. Add some symbols
  3. Add some numbers
  4. ???

Example:

  1. thousand headphone clock
  2. @thous&and-headphone)clock
  3. @thous&and-headphone)clock248

The password you just created should be more than strong enough. You can make it stronger, but this is already very, very strong.

Make sure that you can remember it after typing it a few times. It is ok to write it down. Just make sure that you don’t give that password to everyone.

Usage

Using a password manager is super easy. Just go to their website and make an account or download the password manager if you want to use an offline one.

Password managers usually need an add-on for your browser to automatically fill your passwords for you. It works on mobile to, if you download their supported application.

It is pretty straight forward.

More info about KeePassXC

Read more about KeePassXC:

Package management

Most Windows users go to a website when they want to download something, but there is a faster way. You can use a package manager. Linux and Mac users already have this.

Windows is working on winget, which seems cool, but it isn’t perfect to use yet.

I recommend Chocolatey instead. You can install it by following the instructions on their installation page.

How it works

You can open a command prompt or PowerShell window and install things with Chocolatey after installing it.

You can use the keyword all to do something for all packages. For example, you can type cup all to upgrade all your Chocolatey applications.

Use -y if you automatically want to answer “yes” on the confirmation questions. For example cup all -y.

Window management tools

Window management by default is kinda annoying and not that productive.

JumpApp

JumpApp is a very useful tool. It can bind a key to open an application if it is not running. It will jump to the window if the application is already open.

Set it up for the applications that you use a lot. It will save you some time. JumpApp is a Linux tool, but you can achieve the same behavior on Windows.

Windows

Let’s use AutoHotkey so that it acts like JumpApp. AutoHotkey is just a simple scripting tool, which you can install.

Read the script and replace the application paths if you use other applications.

You can find my AutoHotkey scripts on codeberg. Place scripts in AppData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup if you want them to run when your system starts.

macOS

Install Mac Quicksilver and set a key for your much used applications. I have never used macOS, but I know this from Xah Lee.

Check out Xah Lee’s YouTube channel, if you find some time. He uses a macOS and is often very productive.

Multiple screens and workspaces

I recommend you to not use multiple screens. Keep your focus on one thing, so that you don’t get distracted.

There are exceptions, like having a YouTube video or tutorial on the second screen, but one screen is often better for productivity in my opinion.

The same goes for workspaces. It can make you lose some focus. These things exist for a reason, so see what works for you.

Ad blocking

Ads require resources to load. It usually doesn’t affect productivity, but I am sure that you want to get rid of them. Ads can slow down your browsing experience in some cases.

Ad blockers usually block most ads, but they increase the amount of memory and CPU. This slows down your browsing experience.

I recommend using a host file or DNS Server instead of an ad blocker. Those methods also block ads that are included in your apps.

DNS server

DNS servers which block ads are great. I use this on my Windows 10 machine.

Ultimate Hosts DNS server

You can run this in Powershell to change your DNS server to the Utimate Hosts DNS Server.

#   Description:
# This script sets the dns server.

# Ultimate hosts adblocking DNS
# https://github.com/Ultimate-Hosts-Blacklist/Ultimate.Hosts.Blacklist
$dnsServers = ("88.198.70.38", "88.198.70.38", "2a01:4f8:140:5021::38", "2a01:4f8:140:5021::39")

# Quad9
# $dnsServers = ("9.9.9.9", "149.112.112.112", "2620:fe::9", "2620:fe::fe")

$interface = Get-NetAdapter -Name Ethernet
Set-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceIndex $interface.InterfaceIndex -ServerAddresses $dnsServers

$interface = Get-NetAdapter -Name WiFi
Set-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceIndex $interface.InterfaceIndex -ServerAddresses $dnsServers

Host file

Host files are useful, but this method of ad blocking sadly no longer works on Windows systems.

hBlock

The hBlock script makes one host file from a bunch of them. Ha, and for the Arch Linux users it is available in the AUR.

Read here why host files don’t work on Windows:

You can download the raw host file if you do not like the hBlock script for some weird reason.

Browsers and ad blocking

Brave browser does ad blocking by default. I think that it is a good step forward. It has some features which more browsers should implement in my opinion. You don’t have to install an ad blocker on Brave.

I also like Mozilla Firefox because I like to support competition and different choices.

There aren’t many browser engines, so there isn’t too much competition when it comes to that. The only big names Firefox (Gecko) and Chromium (Blink).

AdNauseam

I recommend to use AdNauseam if you can’t use a host file. AdNauseam uses uBlock Origin in the background and fakes the tracking data.

Google banned this add-on from their web store, but they had no great reason for doing that. AdNauseam is a good way of protesting against ads.

It will click on ads and fake the ad-data. Companies will lose money by using this. Google probably removed it because it also clicks on their ads.

It is heavier than uBlock Origin, but it is a great way to protest against ads.

uBlock Origin

uBlock Origin uses less CPU and RAM as the most ad blockers. There is no proof that they allow some ads. Adblock plus does allow some ads.

uBlock is actually not an ad blocker. It’s a general-purpose blocker. This add-on is not the same as the uBlock add-on.

The development from uBlock stopped. Donations to uBlock will not benefit those who contributed to uBlock Origin.

Keyboard

Keybindings

Well, this a pretty big thing. I recommend you to use sticky keys. You don’t need caps lock when you use that. You do need shift though.

One other thing is that you want your strong fingers to handle the most stuff. Not your pinkies. You also want to use simple key sequences which aren’t too long.

Prefer key sequences over key chords. Read Xah Lee’s keyboard page if you want to learn more about keybindings. He has done much research on keyboards and key bindings.

Try to use shortcuts. It can often be faster than using the mouse. The mouse is still a great device for some stuff. It might be good to change some shortcuts though.

You should still have a mouse. Moving windows, resizing windows, 3D modeling and some other stuff is easier with a mouse.

Remapping keys

You can easily remap keys with PowerTools or AutoHotkey in Windows. I assume that Linux users know how to remap keys already.

Ergonomic keyboards

Ergonomic keyboards matter, but only if you spend much time on your computer. So much that many people would say that you spend too much time behind your computer.

They matter because of your health and fingers. I have had hand pain, but I no longer have that since I use my Ergonomic keyboard. Please look into Ergonomic keyboards if you have hand pain.

I recommend the Kinesis Advantage 2. I own an Ergodox EZ. Ergodox isn’t a bad pick, but common complaints are that thumb keys can be difficult to press if you have small hands. I don’t have that problem, but I do find the legs of the keyboard a bit annoying.

Keyboard tilting

The best way to tilt your keyboard is to the downside from what I have heard from Xah Lee. I agree after trying it out, but most keyboards usually tilt to the upside.

Keyboard layout

Your keyboard layout only matters if you spend tons and tons of time behind the computer. I personally use Dvorak. Qwerty was made for typewriters.

I think that Dvorak should become the standard, but that won’t happen, because people are used to Qwerty. Dvorak is designed for efficient typing, unlike Qwerty.

Keep in mind that it can be hard to use the computer of someone else if you move away from some layout. My Dvorak keyboard can be plugged into a Qwerty computer and still type in Dvorak, so that is very useful.

Context menu (Windows)

Your context menu (your right click menu) can open up faster if it has less items. It does not increase productivity a lot, but a messy context menu is not fun.

You can install ShellMenuView to clean up your context menu. It is also available in Chocolatey cinst shmnview.

Window manager (for nerds)

Linux

I use the tab layout in i3 on Linux. Every application is maximized and uses a tab, just like a browser by default. JumpApp also moves to the right tab (application) in i3.

I usually do have a key binding to let a window float, and to rearrange windows, but focusing on one time at the time helps. It keeps things findable.

The window manager does not matter that much, but i3’s tab layout just works well with JumpApp.

Windows

You can set up a tiling window manager on Windows by using the Windows PowerToys, but I don’t recommend tiling window managers. You want to stay focused on one thing if you want to increase your productivity.

System setup scripts (for nerds)

A script which sets your system up takes a while to make, but you will probably reinstall your system some day. It will save you time when you have to reinstall.

Which operating system?

That depends. Use what works for you.

Windows

Windows has the biggest market, and supports the most devices.

Windows still uses much outdated things, like the NTFS file system, which is pretty slow compared to the EXT4 file system on Linux.

Windows has the most software. Microsoft Office and most Adobe programs are not available on Linux.

You can install a Linux subsystem on Windows, to gain the power of Linux on Windows, but it is not the same as running a Linux system.

Linux

Linux usually performs better than Windows, if your devices are supported. Most devices should work fine, but there are still devices which don’t work great.

Linux offers much more customization than Windows, so it is perfect for that.

You will also love that it has no bluescreen and you only have to restart your computer if there is a kernel update.

You don’t need a virus scanner on Linux, because it is very a secure operating system.

macOS

I haven’t used macOS personally. It looks like a fine operating system though.

Windows 10

I do have some scripts which set up my system after I install Windows 10. Beware, these scripts can contain mistakes. I suggest you to read them and make your own.

You have to run the scripts as administrator.

There is also this tool which you can use. Learning how to write and manage your own scripts can often be a great skill though. It is not bad to know what you run.

I also recommend you to install Chocolatey. You can more easily install and upgrade applications with Chocolatey. You won’t have to visit a site to install an application anymore.

Linux

Distro choice

When it comes to Linux, distro choice matters. You want something which is easy to maintain in which you don’t have to add new repositories because some package isn’t in your main repository. That will save you time and make you more productive.

My suggested distro is Arch Linux
I don’t recommend installing Arch “the Arch way”, even if you haven’t done it before. It costs you time, and I personally don’t find that you learn much from it.

I recommend you to use the Anarchy Arch installer. It will ask you which kind of install you want to do at some point.

Anarchy-Advanced gives you the most control. I recommend you to pick that option if you have the time to search what every option means on another device. You can learn stuff from that. The other options are basically automated installs.

My installation scripts. Basically, I clone the git repository in my home and run the scripts in BashScripts/etcCreator. Beware the scripts might contain mistakes.

Editors (for nerds)

Well, you know what I am going to say.

GNU Emacs and Vim. Well, unless you work with Java, just use some IDE for that, so there are some exceptions.

The Vim and Emacs default keybindings have problems. Xah Lee has articles about that. There is a solution though.

You can just work way faster in GNU Emacs and Vim once you have invested the time to learn it. You can stick to some other editor, but it is not bad to learn some new things, especially if it helps you in the long run.

Xah Fly Keys

I personally use GNU Emacs with the Xah Fly Keybindings packages. You can play music and do everything in GNU Emacs, but I would suggest you to use the right tool for the job.

I don’t master the Xah Fly Keys. It has a pretty big learning curve, but the things of it which I do use work great.

Some of those extras which you can install on GNU Emacs are pretty heavy or are pretty ugly code hacks. I get why you would want to live in GNU Emacs, and it is a good concept, but things can be different in practice.