Favorite tools for common tasks

There are lots and lots of great tools for doing work these days. In my opinion, the very best tools are the ones that make it easy for you to work collaboratively with your colleagues. Remember, it's really about delivering the content! The tool itself is whatever helps you do that best.

With that said, here are some tools you might find useful.

~ Katie


With Markdown

  • GitHub/git: for version control and hosting repositories

  • justthedocs: jekyll library for writing documentation in markdown

  • mkdocs : python library for writing documentation in markdown

  • gitbook : for writing documentation (we used this for our wiki)

  • stackedit : a markdown editor that allows you to edit repos directly

With Google Docs

  • YNAW will render a wiki page from a folder of Google Docs

Taking personal notes

  • Apple notes: my current fav - simple, free (this is a theme)

  • Typora: if you appreciate beautiful things + markdown

  • Workflowy: if your brain likes nested lists

  • Notion: an external brain

  • Bear : my old favorite note taking app (kind of like evernote but simpler)

  • Evernote: people like it

  • Simplenote: plain text and very simple

Making stimuli

Artificial Languages

  • a whiteboard: to work out the details; there is really no substitute for doing this by hand.

  • a spreadsheet: to store the design you've worked out

  • a friend (or 3): to double check your work!


  • sound files from past experiments (lab members only)

  • recording sound files

    • P-Lab: email the current P-Lab RA to schedule time on their equipment.

    • USB microphone (in a pinch): we have one of these and they are actually not terrible.

  • synthesizing sound files:

    • Mac Text-to-Speech: using the terminal command say

    • Acapela: natural sounding child and adult voices in many languages

    • borrow my synthesizing scripts: synth-a-little.py synth-a-lot.py

  • editing sound files

    • Audacity: works well for the editing I need. Here is the manual.

    • Praat: people who do phonetics and phonology stuff like Praat. Here is a nice tutorial.


  • image files from past experiments

  • finding image stimuli (open-source)

    • freepik: free photos and vector graphics, searchable by category

    • Vecteezy: free vector graphics, searchable by category

    • Glitch the game: art from a game that was released for public use.

    • Open Game Art: a very large collection of open source game art

    • Cog-sci stimuli sets: a nice list of standardized stimuli others have used (by Sebastian Mathôt)

    • More Cog-sci stimuli sets

    • Unsplash - we use this all the time for natural images

  • editing images

    • Inkscape: a free, open-source version of Adobe Illustrator. Inkscape tutorials

    • Gimp: an free, open-source version of Photoshop. Gimp tutorials

    • Preview: you can make quick changes (e.g. size) in preview


  • video files from past experiments

  • making video stimuli

    • I haven’t done this in years, but we have a video camera and a tripod. Happy to help you brainstorm.

    • Cog-sci stimuli sets: mostly images, but a few standardized video stimuli sets (by Sebastian Mathôt)

  • editing videos

    • Quicktime: for very quick and simple edits.

    • iMovie: for slightly more complex edits. iMovie manual

    • HandBrake: for when you need to convert video formats.

Creating experiments

with Applications

no code required

  • PsychoPy Standalone App

    • actively developed and there is a great community of contributors

    • builder tutorials : here is a tutorial for making a stroop task, and here is one I made for language tasks

    • psychopy-users : google group where you can find answers and ask questions

  • OpenSesame

    • I haven’t used it, but some people I know really like it.

    • tutorials: here is the main tutorial and here are some examples.

with Code

  • Libraries - you can't go wrong with any of these!

    • Psychopy (python library)

      • Learn python the hard way (how I first learned!)

    • jsPsych (javascript library)

    • psychtoolbox (matlab library)

    • PCIbex (javascript library) - created by faculty in Penn Linguistics!

  • Text editors

    • VSCode - my current fav (free and just... ugh, the greatest)

    • Atom - my grad school fav (free and has git-plus package)

    • Textwrangler - my oldest friend! still great and free

    • Sublime text - widely loved

  • Cloud servers and virtual machines

    • AWS - lots of people love; it's too overwhelming for me

    • Google Cloud Computing - nice, simple interface

    • Digital Ocean - my favorite and what we use in the lab

Data analysis and visualization

Computational notebooks

  • Google colabratory notebook: how we do it in our lab

    • a colaborative jupyter noteboook for python or R

  • Jupyter notebook: my fav in grad school

  • R markdown notebooks: very popular right now, but I get annoyed with how many assets there are for even small analyses. Colab and jupyter notebooks are just one page, and render natively on github. :)


  • Seaborn: data visualization library for python

  • ggplot2: data visualization package for R

Publishing and presenting

Bibliography management

  • BibDesk : my old fav because it is simple

  • Zotero, Papers, Mendeley, etc. - all perfectly fine

  • Paperpile: the one I use now, because it integrates well with google drive and has a very low learning curve for new lab members

Writing papers

  • Google docs : I find this to be the simplest way to write collaboratively, so I use it almost exclusively now.

  • Overleaf (LaTex): A great tool if you have self-control (I'm too tempted to spend hours on formatting, so I'm not allowed to use it).

  • Word: not great for collaborative work in my opinion, but lots of people use it so you will definitely write at least one paper this way and you should be word-literate.

Making presentations

  • Google slides: my favorite because it is the easiest for collaboration

  • Powerpoint: also works fine.

  • Remark.js : a free javascript library for presentations in Markdown

  • Deckset : a (not free) app for presentations in Markdown.

  • Beamer : A LaTex class for presentations (also requires self control)

  • Slidify : Write slides in R markdown (again, self control required)

Making posters

  • Google slides: my fav for collaboration

  • Powerpoint: lots of people do this

  • Inkscape : a free version of Illustrator

  • Probably some frustrating (and cool) R or LaTex way.


or procrastination avoidance

  • Screen time app:

  • Self-control app:

  • Inbox when ready for gmail:

  • Full-screen writing for google docs:

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