Sandeep Bhat, Ph.D


Email :

sandeepkbhat AT ece DOT ucsb DOT edu

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Sandeep Bhat

Tools of the trade

This page contains resources, software, code and other tools that have made my "digital life" a little easier. That said, there might be "better" way to do the same thing. Just let me know and I'll learn too :)

I have done my best to organize the tools into categories, but it's not perfect. Use the Quick links to the right side of this page to find tools faster.

Paid softwares for "free"

If you are an ECE student at UCSB, you can get licenses for almost all Microsoft softwares via the MSDN Academic Alliance program. The same is true for MATLAB and a whole bunch of other softwares. Check out this link on how you can get these softwares for free.

Before we begin

I've been using Windows OS since 1998. Early on, it was all fun and games, but very soon it became my productivity tool. Developing software for multimedia systems introduced me to better tools for video and audio processing/analysis. My work also allowed me to know Linux a little better, and I became a fan of open source. I know it has its limitations, but as time goes on I am sure all of those will disappear.

Once I came back to school in 2007, I was introduced to Mac OS X. Now, I just can't live without it. It gives me the power of Linux (ahem!! with reservations of course) but with the kind of interface that Microsoft engineers take "inspiration" from :)
Bottom line, everything just works !

But making the switch wasn't easy and it took me considerable time to figure out what tools to use to get the job done. I have tried to compare and contrast some of those tools here.

Did you know?

Many PC users are not aware of the fact that they can even run Windows on a MAC machine. MAC OS X bootcamp allows you to install Windows on your MAC, choose which OS to boot into during startup, and run all your windows programs as though you were on a PC. That's like having two computers at the price of one. With parallels you can even run both OS at the "same time". If you don't want to install Windows, but still want to run Windows software, give Wine a try (don't get too drunk ;))

Softwares I use


Adobe Photshop CS5 (MAC, PC - Not free)

I am very passionate about photography and I just can't live without Photoshop. I am a fan of GIMP too, but I like PS better (except that I have to pay a price). I would definitely recommend getting the Noise Ninja plugin, it does an amazing job of covering up your camera's limitations. A good free online alternative to this is Sumo Paint.

GIMP (MAC, PC, Linux - Free)
I use GIMP on Mac in my lab where I don't have access to Photoshop. It can do most of the things PS can and what's great is it's free. Like with PS there's a considerable learning curve but if you can get over it you can work wonders with it. If you want something a little more toned down try Seashore. Even if you decide to stick with the  free and awesome GIMP, you should definitely consider spending money on Noise Ninja application, it's totally worth it.

Noise Ninja (MAC, PC, Linux - Not Free)
This is a must have application for any photographer. It does a great job of covering up high ISO sort of graininess without effecting image features. 
You have to use it to believe it. I was totally blown away with its results and now use it regularly.

Paintbrush (MAC - Free)
If you miss a simple MS paint like tool on the Mac, this should fit the bill perfectly. It's interface is almost identical to MS paint so you should have no trouble using it right from the word go. If you want something a little more advanced try Seashore.

Irfanview (PC - Free)
I have been using this for image viewing, editing and conversion for over 10 years now. It's light-weight and simple interface make it a winner. I used to do all my photo-editing using Irfanview and MSPaint (this was a LONG time ago). I would recommend getting all the plugins too.

Nikon's View NX (MAC, PC - "Free")
I use it to organize and view my photos. It has basic editing capabilities and can even send a file to PS for editing.

Adobe Illustrator CS5 (MAC, PC - Not free)

I have never found a better vector graphics tool than Adobe Illustrator. It's a great tool for making figures for technical papers. However, I like Micrsoft Visio (PC only) for doing block diagrams. A good free alternative to this would be Inkscape. Also try the Aviary, a free online vector graphics tool.

Visio (PC - Not Free)
It is a vector graphics program like Illustrator but it's meant for a whole different application. It's great for doing block diagrams for technical papers.

Skitch (MAC - Free)
Skitch is a great way to do quick screenshots and annotation. I just love it for its simplicity. Check out this video to learn more.

ImageJ (MAC, PC - Free)
ImageJ and it's plethora of plugins are a boon to Image Processing. They make my life as a researcher so much more easier. Try it out and see for yourself. You could also try FIJI, a neatly packaged version of ImageJ with several of the must have plugins included in a single download.


LaTeX (MAC, PC - Free)

I use LaTeX for creation of all my documents now. It's simple and convenient. This link has everything you need to get started with LaTeX on MAC. Tobi Oetiker's document is a good starting point to learn LaTeX syntax. For other LaTeX links checkout my links page. I have never worked with LaTeX on PC (my wife uses PC and she recommended MiKTeX + TeXnicCentre). Of late I have also started making my presentations using LaTeX Beamer class. Also chekout the ECE, UCSB unofficial presentation template for 15-20 min talks at conferences.

Papers (MAC only - Almost free, try Mendeley for PC, Linux and Mac)
As a person doing research, you need to refer to a lot of papers. Most people come up with their own convention of naming files and folders to manage the tons of papers you download. Papers make this a thing of the past. It manages your downloaded papers in a iTunes like interface that is fast and easy to use and makes life so much easier for a researcher. It has LOTS of other features. Try it to believe it. With a price of $25 (after the student discount) it's a must have for any PhD student (with a Mac ofcourse :))

Microsoft Office (MAC, PC - Not Free)
No matter what I do I just can't give up using .doc, .xls and .ppt. I have used and liked OpenOffice, but there are a lot of small little things that make me choose MS Office over anything else. 

Adobe Acrobat (MAC, PC - Free)
Reader is good enough, but the professional version is the best because it allows for editing of PDF files; however, it's not free. Preview in MAC allows editing of PDF files to an extent. Formulate Pro also does similar things.

Chmox (MAC - Free)

Read Chm (Windows Help file format) files on Mac OS X. A lot of the ebooks are in this format. You might also be interested in this Quickchm Quicklook(?) plugin for .chm files.

DJView (MAC, PC - Free)
Reader for DjVu files on Mac. You should also consider installing the Lizard Tech Browser Plugin for converting DjVu files to PDF. Note that the resulting file sizes can be HUGE.

Tofu (MAC - Free)
It makes reading of length PDF documents easy. Tofu automatically converts the document to a newpaper like multicolumn format, which makes reading documents on the computer a pleasure. It does have its issues with math fonts in PDF files.


AppDelete (MAC - Not free)
It took me some time to figure out how to uninstall programs in MAC; it's as simple as dragging the Applications to Thrash. But this app removes all the "scum" too.

AppCleaner (MAC - Free)
Similar to AppDelete, but free.

AppFresh (MAC - Free)
Helps keep all applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins installed on your Mac up to date. All from one place, easy to use and fully integrated into Mac OS X.

OmniDiskSweeper (MAC - Free)

A great way to remove unwanted files and folders from you Mac. I am sure there are tons of such softwares for PC too. CNET is a great place to start looking for such things.

RCDefaultApp (MAC - Free)
Great way to associate file types to applications. It's super convenient.

NameChanger (MAC - Free)
A conveneint tool for renaming multiple files at once. A real life saver for some of us who aren't good with GREPping.

StuffIt (MAC - Free)
Though MAC comes in with builtin support for Zip file, Stuffit makes working with them a little easier. However, it doesn't work well with RAR files. For that get Zipeg.

WinRAR (PC - Free)
I don't know why people still go for WinZip when WinRAR can work with ZIP and RAR files.

PDF995 (PC - Free)

Save any file as a PDF document on Windows. It just installs itself as a printer and is accessible from any application that can print.

Secrets (Mac - Free)
Secrets is a database of hidden setting for Mac OS X. I use it mainly to enable and diable viewing of hidden files :)

Wine and Wine Bottler (Mac - Free)
Wine allows me to run small windows programs (WinMerge and WinSCP) on Mac. I haven't yet found good free alternatives for some of these programs and now it looks like I don't need to. Bye, bye Fugu and DiffMerge. Now I can have my cake and eat it too :)


Perian (MAC - Free)
It's a codec pack that allows playing of several video formats in Quicktime.

VLC (MAC, PC - Free)
It's the best media player. It comes with a ton of codecs pre-installed and can even play DVD disks (iDVD is a better DVD player for MAC and it comes pre-installed on all MACs). I have worked with portions of VLC code during my work in Ittiam and I must say that it is very well written. It's also very robust. That said, I have seen it have some issues on MAC. 

SUPER (PC - Free)
It's a must-have software for people converting between file formats on PC. It can transcode between tons of video, audio and file formats.

Flip4Mac (MAC - Free)
Install this and you'll be able to play .WMV files on MAC.

Audacity (MAC, PC - Free)
A GUI based Audio editor. It's like Goldwave for PC, but it's open source and multiplatform. It's great for making ringtones, mixing sound tracks, editing songs etc.

MediaInfo (MAC - Free)
Gives detailed information about the files, particularly media files. Audio, Video codec used, bit rate, frame rate, resolution etc. It's like gSpot for PC.

MiroVideoConverter (MAC - Free)
Easy interface for converting any video file for playback on iphone or other devices. It is one way of viewing compressed AVI files (INDEO codec) created on MATLAB in Windows on the Mac.


Cyberduck (MAC - Free)
Secure FTP client for MAC. It's similar to Fugu, but Fugu has issues with copying or deleting whole directories, Cyberduck fills those gaps. In some ways it's like WinSCP for Mac.

Fugu (MAC - Free)

Secure FTP client for MAC. It's interface is similar to WinSCP. Fugu has issues with copying or deleting whole directories, Cyberduck fills those gaps. Now with Wine I don't need Fugu :)

Firefox (MAC, PC, Linux - Free)
I love Firefox browser over Safari, IE and Google Chrome. I just can't surf the web without it or it's addons. Following are some of the addons that I would recommend. You can find these addons here.

Thunderbird (MAC, PC, Linux - Free)

It's the best email client ever. I was an ardent user of Outlook before and think that it's awesome for use in corporate environment. But when I came back to school, I found that Outlook's support for simultaneous access to multiple accounts is not great. Also, Outlook's MAC cousin Entourage sucks. Thunderbird allows me to access multiple accounts simultaneously, and it works alike on both MAC and PC. Combine that with the Lightning addon and now I can even access my Google calendar from Thunderbird. Add a Remember The Milk account, install the RTM Provider addon and now you can even sync your tasks and todo lists. All this makes Thunderbird an awesome productivity tool.

Kompozer (MAC, PC - Free)
Probably the best way to create websites is through Dreamweaver, but it has a steep learning curve and it's not free. Kompozer, the "unofficial bug fixed version of NVu", is a great alternative. Its a WYSIWYG editor for HTML. I had no prior experience with web-design or web-programming. But I was still able to I create this website and all its pages on Kompozer starting from a template of Andreas Viklund and this screencast from WebBriefcase.

YokMap (MAC - Free)
You can use Dreamweaver or Photoshop to prepare HTML Image Maps for your webpages but this software allows you to make simple image maps for free.  Except for the irritating register me option that keeps popping up every time you want to save the file, the program works like a charm. Here's an example of how I've put it to use on this website.

Little Snitch (MAC - Free)
It's a great way to prevent unwanted internet connections to/from your computer. It works at a level below your firewall. It can be a little annoying to set up initially as it asks your approval for every connection made to/from your computer, but once you have "trained" it with your usual surfing habits things become a lot smoother. It never allows any software, not even the ones made by "Big guns" like Abobe, Microsoft etc, to just connect on its own and send out information about you or your computer. No more annoying can I update this and that without you wanting it :) Everything on your computer will need your approval.

Transmission (MAC - Free)
BitTorrent Client for Mac that is simple and fast.  In my personal experience on MACs,  it worked better than BitTorrent Client or uTorrent. On PC however utorrent is the best.

Skype (MAC, PC - Free)
Great way to stay in touch with loved ones. I can video chat with my parents, my brother and my in-laws in India for free all thanks to Skype. Gtalk and Yahoo Messenger are good, but not this good.


TextWrangler (MAC - Free)
I love TextPad and Notepad++ for PC. I had a tough time finding a good alternative for MAC. Textwrangler, the freeversion of BBEdit, is a great text editor for MAC. It comes with a lot of plugins that allows it to recognize MATLAB and other syntax. It's functionality can also be extended via applescripts. I also find these scripts (line number toggle and soft wrap) useful for assigning keyboard shortcuts to commonly used functionality.

Textpad (PC - "Free")
It's a great editor for PC. It's search and replace is one of the best in any software. It's functionality can be easily extended by writing Perl scripts. I miss it on MAC :(  Notepad++ is a good alternative for PC and it comes with a lot of plugins. 

RapidSVN (MAC, PC - Free)
SubVersioN (SVN) Client. I used to use CVS for version control, but of late I've switched to SVN. Check out this document that I've prepared for installation instructions.

DiffMerge (MAC - Free)
I used to miss having Winmerge for Mac. diffmerge comes very close. However, it's not great for merging folders. For that Changes is better, but that's not free. My advice install Wine and use Winmerge for free ;)

Winmerge (PC - Free, On Mac with Wine)
The best free file/folder comparision/merging software that I have used.

Enthought Python Distribution (MAC, PC - Free)
I am a newbie to python and not knowing how to even run code snippets can be very frustrating. After trying out a lot of options for running Matplotlib on Mac, I came across this and it works.

HexEdit (MAC - Free)
Binary editor for MAC. It even allows comparision of files at binary level.  Try Frhed for PC.

MATLAB (MAC, PC - Not Free)
What would signal processing be without MATLAB? Some open source image processing alternatives : OpenCV (C++),  ImageJ (Java), VTK+ITK (C++), ImageMagick.

Visual Studio (PC - Not Free)

I am not good with coding/debugging in a terminal kind of environment (vi, gcc, gdb).  I like IDEs and VS is the most stable of all the IDE environments I have developed code in. MATLAB comes very close. VS also has a great text editor.  I miss VS in MAC. Eclipse helped me fill that gap to an extent.

Eclipse (MAC, PC - Free)

It's a great IDE for Java and C++ development on MAC. I like Visual Studio better for C++ on PC. Eclipse has a lot of documentation and video tutorials that explain the interface and how one can use Eclipse to program in Java. Being a Java newbie I found it very useful for developing plugins for ImageJ. Eclipse's editor is great for understanding others' code and developing your own code. The Java IDE is great especially for development and debugging of Processing code. And with the EclipseP5Exported plugin, you'll never need the Processing IDE again !!!

Source Navigator (PC, linux - Free)
Convenient way to do a code-walkthrough. It's cross referencing feature is one of the best. (Note: Now a lot of the IDEs like Eclipse come with such features)


Quicksilver (MAC - Free)
The best free software for Mac. It's basically a launcher. "Act Without Doing" says the quicksilver website, but I like to call it WYWIWYG (What You Want Is What You Get). Try it to believe it. Also checkout this video from Quicksilver's creator Nicholas Jitkoff.

Google Quicksearch Box (MAC - Free)
The initial realeases of Quicksilver for Snow Leopard were buggy and frustrating to use since they crashed all the time. I found QSB when looking for QS alternatives, and the great thing is that this project is being championed by the guy who wrote quicksilver. This is super stable and I seem to use it all the time now. It doesn't quite fill all the gaps created by the "absence" of quicksilver, but it's still a worthwhile tool for everyday use.

Great way to extend functionality on MAC. The above link tell you how to install scripts.

Pacifist (MAC - Free)
Great tool for viewing and extracting DMG and other installer packages on the Mac. I used it to rip Quicktime X from OS X CD for installation on Snow Leopard (why did I not have to do this is a long story for another time.). It saved me the trouble of having to reinstall the whole OS X 10.6 just because I needed to reinstall Quicktime X.

Hourgaurd (MAC - Free)
While I worked at Ittiam, I used to keep track of how I spent time using Outlook. It helped me streamline my work and made me efficient. On MAC, Hourgaurd is a good way to keep track of how you spend time.

Macports (MAC - Free)
Great way to get open source stuff for your computer. I discovered it while trying to install Putty on MAC.

Shades (MAC - Free)
If you are in the habit of sitting in front of your big MAC screen like I do then you definitely need this.

Quicklook Plugins (MAC - Free)
These are addons that help in improving the Quicklook functionality of MAC's Finder. They particularly help with code/script files (C, XML, TeX etc.) and archive files (ZIP, RAR etc.). In addition to the four QL plugins listed in the above link, I would also recommend the EPSQL plugin to work with .eps graphics files. Here is a bigger list of such plugins.

Baraha (PC - Free)
Great way to type in several Indian languages. It was first developed for my mother-tongue, Kannada :) Another link for Kannada on MAC.


Marco Zuliani's Code
Useful functions for image processing and links to image analysis libraries.

Peter Kovesi's Code
Matlab functions for image processing. I have taken "inspiration" from his code several times :)

Copy-folder-tree structure
Great way to duplicate folder structures without having to copy the files inside it.

Web Resources

It allows you to remotely access any computer (MAC or PC) connected to the internet from your web browser. It's simple to setup and safe to use. You'll need to pay if you want to transfer files too, but I get around that problem using WinSCP or Fugu.  I prefer LOGMEIN over VNC, because sometimes VNC connections get blocked by ECE firewall.

Google (Free)
I love everything google (except may be buzz): search engine, mail, gtalk, photos, maps, documents, calendar....everything.

Microsoft Maps (Free)
Why use Microsoft Live Maps when you have google maps? Well...I have 3 words for you.... Bird's Eye View. Check out this view of my lab at UCSB. Click on the image to go to Live Maps for a better view.
It's a great way to look at any place. FYI, I created the above image using Skitch.

Open Source Stuff for Mac
Visit this link for lots of open source software recommendations for Mac.

site info

Tools and resources I used for creating this website.
© 2009-2013 Sandeep Bhat | Original design by Andreas Viklund
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