This is the short list of software that I recommend for research and scholarship in urban studies and planning. All of it is free. So don’t tell me you cannot get a paper done because you had trouble reinstalling licensed software! You don’t need to remain shackled to license-fees and restrictions.

LibreOffice and OpenOffice. These are the most full-featured, free, office-productivity packages available. OpenOffice is the original version, but it may become closed-source now that Oracle has taken control of the rights to it. LibreOffice is a fully open-source ‘fork’ of the OpenOffice project, so we can feel confident that it will remain free and open-source indefinitely.

QGIS. Geographic Information System (GIS) software used to be so specialized that I would not even mention it before 1999. But now we all use GIS in the navigation apps on smartphones, computers, and GPS devices. Quantum GIS (QGIS) is a native editor of the ShapeFile format. I highly recommend it for getting GIS work done.

The GIMP. This is the Graphic Image Manipulation Program, one of the most powerful available editors of raster graphics (most digital images are rasters: JPEG, GIF, TIF, and PNG are the most common formats).

Zotero. Never hand-write a bibliography again! In fact, once you start to research within a particular field of scholarship, you really need to compile an ongoing bibliography of publications that you cite. There are other free bibliographic=management programs and services out there. I have not reviewed them all, so I cannot say for certain that Zotero remains the best. But it is the one I use.

Google Earth. When this software and data became available in 2005, it rocked the world of planning and geography. Free satellite imagery for cities across the world? Awesome!