Computer productivity — Robin Wils's website
Last modified: Thu, Jan 27, 2022
- Password management
- Package management
- Window management tools
- Multiple screens and workspaces
- Ad blocking
- Context menu (Windows)
- Window manager (for nerds)
- System setup scripts (for nerds)
- Editors (for nerds)
Good productivity makes tasks easier. It will cost you less time.
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.
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 often pretty trustable. I prefer KeePassXC over the other password managers.
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
- Pick three random words
- Add some symbols
- Add some numbers
- thousand headphone clock
The password you just created should be more than strong enough. You can make it stronger, but this is already very, very strong. Don’t share that password with anyone. It is ok to write it down, but put it out of plain sight, and consider throwing it away in the future.
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 often provide an add-on for your browser to automatically fill your passwords for you. It works on mobile too, if you download their supported application.
More info about KeePassXC
Information about specifc KeePass functionality:
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.
- Install an application:
cinst <application name>
- Remove an application:
cuninst <application name>
- Update an application:
cup <application name>
- Search an application:
clist <application name> -by-id-only
- List your installed (local only) applications:
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.
-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 somewhat annoying and not that productive.
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.
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.
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 macOS, and is usually 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.
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 used memory and CPU. I recommend using a host file instead of an ad blocker if possible. Those methods also block ads that are included in your apps.
Host files are useful, but this method of ad blocking sadly no longer works on Windows systems.
The hBlock script makes one host file from a bunch of them. Ah, 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).
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.
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.
You can easily remap keys with PowerTools or AutoHotkey in Windows. I assume that Linux users know how to remap keys already.
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.
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.
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 isnot fun.
You can install ShellMenuView to clean up your context menu. It is also available in Chocolatey
Window manager (for nerds)
If I use a desktop environment, it likely is XFCE.
If I use a window manager, I use the tab layout in i3. Every application is maximized and uses a tab. Just like a browser. JumpApp moves to the right tab (application) in i3. I usually do have a key binding to let a window float, and to rearrange windows if I want to have two things open. 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.
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 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. Although it is not the same as running a Linux system.
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 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 usually performs better than Windows, if your devices are supported. Most devices should work fine, but there are some devices which don’t work great. Linux offers much more customization than Windows, so it is perfect for that.
Bluescreens do not exist in Linux, and you only have to restart your computer if there is a kernel update. Virus scanners on Linux are not needed, because it is very a secure operating system. Most Linux distros are completely free, as in price.
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.
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 don’t find that you learn much from it. I recommend the Anarchy Arch installer.
The Anarchy installer will ask you which kind of install you want to do at some point. Anarchy-Advanced gives you the most control. I recommend 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.
I haven’t used macOS personally. It looks like a fine operating system though.
Editors (for nerds)
GNU Emacs and Vim are great, unless you work with Java or something, just use an IDE for that. Although the Vim and Emacs default keybindings have problems. Xah Lee has articles about that. There is an easy solution for that.
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 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. GNU Emacs is supposed to be an editor. I don’t master the Xah Fly Keys. It has a pretty big learning curve, but the things of it which I 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.