What Software Do You Use Most Often?

I’m starting an experiment. Paul and I have talked in depth about any-interface; I used to call it zero interface, which doesn’t really work.

Photo by duckmackay from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Photo by duckmackay from Flickr used under Creative Commons

Essentially, any-interface supports the assertion that data exist independent of the interface and setting them free for use by any client opens the door to lots of really cool innovation, like Google Wave, for example.

For any-interface to work best, you need to understand what software your users use most frequently and what they do with it. That second bit is key because I’m pretty sure a browser will be in the top two for everyone, but it’s more important to know what they do with the browser.

For example, using self-service enterprise applications is quiet different than reading TMZ.

I think knowing these key bits of information, coupled with use cases for various work and entertainment (i.e. not work) activities forms a great set of vertical solutions that can be easily understood, which allows people to realize immediately how valuable (or not) any given solution is to them.

Even though we don’t have a terribly diverse audience, although I can only go by who comments, I think we can at least start a baseline.

So, if you feel like participating, drop a comment with:

  • Your high level job function.
  • Your top five most used software applications, including work and personal. You can break these out into two lists for bonus points (Disclaimer: Bonus points have no concrete value, aside from your own satisfaction). If you need a benchmark, the top one is the one application that would drive you mad to be without. OS doesn’t count, neither does a VPN client, or any other infrastructure pieces.
  • What you do with each application. See my example for a browser.

Pretty simple, although I suspect if/when you think critically about your behavior, breaking it down will be a bit tougher than you imagined. It’s interesting, at least to me, to observe about how my list has changed over the past 5-10 years, moving away from client apps to web apps.

Here’s my list:

  • Job Function: Development, product manager
  • Browser: Google Reader, GMail, general browsing, blogging, various social networks, web analytics
  • Rich Internet Applications (RIA): Twitter
  • Installable Email client: Thunderbird, OS X Mail app, iPhone Mail app
  • Instant messaging client: Adium, Pigdin
  • Calendar client: iCal, iPhone Calendar app
  • Word processing: Text editor, Word
  • Spreadsheet client: Excel, Numbers

FYI, I broke out RIA, which includes desktop widgets, because using them tells me a bit more about how you feel about standalone widgets based on web apps. Also, you can include smartphone usage if you so desire.

While we’re thinking about behavior, I did find a study (Part 1, Part 2) by Arbor Networks (h/t Ars and Mashable) of online behavior interesting. So, I might as well share it.

Anyway, find the comments to join the experiment.




  1. Job Function: IT director, user group VP, student
    [running XP on an old Dell & some old Mac OS on an old MacBook #oldschool]

    – Firefox: Google Reader, GMail, general browsing, blogging, social networks, research, LMS, assorted school work
    – Chrome: GMail, general browsing
    – IE: enterprise applications
    Twitter client: Tweetdeck
    Installable Email client: Outlook
    Instant messaging client: Trillian
    Calendar client: Outlook
    Word processing: Text editor, Word (+ Adobe PDF maker)
    Spreadsheet client: Excel
    Presentation client: PowerPoint

    Phone: gmail, google maps, google local search, bb messenger on blackberry

  2. Couldn't quite whittle it down to 5 I couldn't live without. Listed in no particular order, but I imagine losing a browser would hurt the most.
    * Job function: DBA
    * Browser: GReader, My Oracle Support, Google Maps, Google Calendar, blogging, social networking distractions, search, offsite bookmarking (delicious)
    * Mail client: Mail.app (use gmail for delivery, but not for reading. weird, but hey)
    * Oracle client software. Natch.
    * Keystroke savers: TextExpander, Google QSB, RIP Quicksilver 🙁
    * Terminal program: Terminal.app/xterm: Access to remote servers, general Unix geekery (not sure if those are infrastructure bits, not everyone spends that much time on the command line)
    * Note-taking/”capture everything” software: Evernote
    * Word processing: vi (no hating!) for quick stuff, Textmate for scripting/web stuff, Pages for externally-facing documentation
    * Spreadsheet: Excel (haven't jumped to Numbers, no pivot tables there). Google spreadsheet in a pinch for simple stuff.

    Random observations:
    * If Google ever decides, “Meh, let's be evil after all” and started charging for stuff, I'm pretty much pwned. Yeah, I know, Captain Obvious rides again.
    * IM client is no longer a must-have for me, with Twitter, FB, etc. Might change once/if I move back to an office environment, but I'm surprised by how little I miss it.
    * I left virtualization software ( VMware Fusion/Parallels/Virtualbox) off the list, because it seems that it might count as OS/infrastructure, but I'd be hamstrung without it.

  3. Job function : Database developer by nature, “Technical consultant” by designation
    Browser : Firefox – Google search, GMail (but thunderbird for sending personal mail, outlook for work), Google Reader. IE for timesheets as it doesn't work with anything else.
    Editor : PSPad on Windows, JEdit on Linux.
    Database server / client : XE or 11gR1, SQL Squirrel client, Application Express
    Word Processor : Office 2003 or OpenOffice 3
    Spreadsheet : ditto
    Couldn't do without a PDF reader, but don't care which one. Guess that makes it infrastructure.

  4. Job Function: Database Engineer
    Chrome/Safari: Google Reader (p), GMail (p), Google Search (p/b), Metalink (b), tahiti.oracle.com (b)
    Installable Email client: Outlook (b), OS X Mail app (b)
    Instant messaging client: Adium (p), MS Communicator (b)
    Social Networking: Tweetdeck (p)
    Reference/Productivity: Omnifocus (p/b), Evernote (b)
    Terminals: iTerm (b), SecureCRT (b)
    Database: Oracle 11g
    p=personal, b=business

  5. This is great stuff, thanks to all so far. I guess I skipped a couple that you've reminded to add: VirtualBox and a PDF reader.

    Observations so far: These lists are about 80% similar across our varied job functions, but the 20% varies pretty wildly. It's funny the amount of overlap between installed and browser-based clients for the same tasks, e.g. email, productivity. I notice that work apps dictate choices, e.g. Outlook and IE.

    Good stuff. I hope more people decide to comment. Bad timing for yet another hosting fail overnight.

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