Hugo Ledoux

associate-prof in 3D geoinformation at TU Delft
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My setup for GIS research

In the spirit of the Setup and How I Work, here’s a list of the software I use for carrying out my research in (3D) GIS.


In the last 10 years, I’ve moved from Windows, to Linux, to Mac OS X, which I use since 2010. I have only one computer, a MacBook Pro 15” Retina with 256GB SSD and 16GB of RAM, and I use an external 24” monitor and an external keyboard and trackpad, both at home (where I often work) and in the office.

I used to have other computers, eg iMacs, but maintaining my setup and configurations on different computer was taking too much time. One computer is more efficient and simpler.

Backing up

I have had 2 hard-drive failures in my life, one was rather dramatic: at the end of a semester at the university while I was following 7 courses. I lost everything, since back then backups meant more or less using floppy disks. So I’m now rather obsessed with backing up: 

  • All the code I write is on GitHub, many of it is private first, when it’s in a serious state it’s release under an open-source licence.
  • While the GitHub Desktop program is fine, I find Tower to be more powerful (eg searching commits), and branching, reverting and other git commands are easy to grasp. Before Tower, git on the command line was one big scary thing for me.
  • Other documents are in Dropbox, and I pay an annual subscription. It’s expensive, but Dropbox has never failed me once in 5 years, which is worth a lot of money in my opinion.
  • I backup everyday my computer to a Time Machine at home, so if a disaster happens I should be fine. I have a Time Capsule, so all the backups are done automatically.

GIS software

  • QGIS is my ‘daily GIS’. I started using it in 2007, and back then you really had to be stubborn to use it, because it was incomplete and buggy. But nowadays, it is stable, fast, simple and I don’t feel that those using ArcGIS have an advantage (quite the opposite).
  • FME is my other GIS. QGIS is pretty primitive for 3D and CityGML, and that’s where FME compensates. Just to be able to visualise CityGML file properly in 3D under a Mac, it is worth it.


  • I use LaTeX for writing, and only Word when I’m forced to by coauthors or the editor of a journal.
  • Sublime Text with the LaTeXTools is pretty much the perfect LaTeX environment. My only quibble is that there is no option to see the table of content of a paper ordered (a nice option with TextMate).
  • my bibliography is stored in BibTeX, and I use either BibDesk and/or JabRef, both have nice features.
  • IPE is great for drawing anything where geometries are involved. It creates figures directly in PDF (so no need to maintain 2 files), and one can write directly LaTeX formulas. It’s also extensible, and the CGAL ipelets are easy to install.
  • Pixelmator is great for editing photos and raster images.
  • while I’m still a dummy with Blender, I’m trying to use it more and more to produce nice figures in 3D.
  • this blog/website is made with Jekyll, and its source code is freely available.
  • I write blog posts and other small bits in Markdown and use Marked 2 to preview it (the features to check if the URLs in a document are valid is very useful).


  • Keynote is much better than PowerPoint, and I like the fact that I can copy-and-paste tables/algorithms/figures in a PDF (created with LaTeX for instance) and everything stays vectorial and thus sharp on a big screen.
  • Beamer (presentations made with LaTeX) is also useful for presentations with many mathematical equations and figures.
  • Caffeine prevents your computer from automatically going to sleep, for example when you answer questions at the end of a presentation.


  • for Python/CSS/HTML, I use Sublime Text.
  • for C++, I use both Xcode (to navigation code, suggestions, auto-complete, etc) and Sublime Text (for the multiple selections feature; I don’t even know how I managed to get things done without these). Both are open at the same time.
  • the libraries my colleagues and I use for our research are listed there. We mostly use Python and C++.


  • Notational Velocity for taking notes (and searching them). I store these in Dropbox (simple text files) and have access to them on my phone. This is slowly replacing my paper notebook during meetings—the capabilities to search notes is very handy.
  • 1Password to easily manage different passwords for each website.
  • atext replaces abbreviations by full texts. Useful for so many things: difference signatures in emails, addresses, coding, phone numbers, etc
  • Annotate is very useful to quickly capture part of the screen, annotating it, uploading the result to Dropbox for instance, and copying the URL to your clipboard.
  • Jumpcut is tiny and free application to that provides clipboard buffering. Can’t imagine not having this installed.
  • Finder lacks the dual-panel power of Norton Commander, so I use ForkLift.
  • Fluid simply makes an application (a .app) from one website, eg Gmail. The big advantage is that you can have a separate cache from that of Safari/Chrome, which means that I’m never logged in to Google in my browser, and yet I use Gmail as my email in the web interface.

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