You know your research and what you need. Maybe it’s text analysis. Maybe it’s ecological data analysis. Maybe you’re writing code explicitly to be deployed in data gathering. Maybe you just need prose that’s not wrapped inside of Microsoft Word. The following is a list of resources for learning and working with open software tools that hit some of these aspects.

This is just a small example of what is out there. From texts, to blogs, forums, MOOCs, YouTube channels, and other online courses, you will likely encounter a number of other learning opportunities. The hope is that you’ll find at least one tool that you can spend a bit of time with, explore how it best fits in with your research life cycle. Pick a tool that is at your level, and expand out as you feel comfortable.

Word Processing

LibreOffice LibreOffice is a full suite alternative to Microsoft Office, available for Linux, MacOS, and Windows. Installation and use is very straight forward.

Markdown In a plain text editor or dedicated markdown editor, you can mark up your text to indicate what should be a header, bold, italic etc. You can then send your plain text document to pdf, html and other document formats. You can even create presentation slides.

R Markdown Do you work in R or want to work in R? R Markdown allows you to engage in literate programming, interweaving formatted text with R code that is processed on the fly and can be sent to html, pdf etc. You won’t look back.

LaTex Need some serious document formatting? A high quality typesetting application: work in plain text, output beautiful documents.


LibreOffice Calc Need a spreadsheet? LibreOffice Calc is the perfect open source alternative to Excel.

Open Refine Have dirty data? Want to keep a forensic track record of your changes for reproducibility? Still want a graphical user interface, but also the ability to explore introducing customized elements? Check out Open Refine.

R R has made a name for itself in the statistical world. It is usually paired with the integrated development environment RStudio. So, likely you’ll want both R and RStudio. But RStudio isn’t strictly necessary.

Python When paired with Jupyter Notebooks, you and Python can join the world of literate programming. Like with R, you’ll need both Python and Jupyter Notebooks installed.

Text Analysis

Voyant tools An open source, web based graphical text analysis application. Upload a text, or find one online and start your analysis with things like word frequency lists, frequency distribution plots, and keywords in context. Built for the digital humanities, it’s applications can definitely reach further.

Terminal Not where we would normally turn for text analysis, but the command line is designed for handling text and has some powerful tools for interacting with text. A great introduction to both text analysis and the Linux command line.

R Ostensibly not designed for text analysis, some great tools have been developed to facilitate this work. See above for basic installation.

Python Python is great for natural language processing especially with NLTK. See above for basic installation.

Workflow Management

OSF Everything you need to keep your project organized and connected.

GitHub Version control and so much more. GitHub lives in the cloud and on your local machine.

Explore Linux

Virtual Box Not ready to commit to a full Linux install? Don’t want to mess with a dual boot machine? Virtual Box will allow you to install a virtual operating environment on your PC.


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