The Tools

I think a lot about tools. Sometimes I think about tools to a fault. Choosing the right tools for the task, however, is very important as choosing the wrong tools (or even just less capable tools) can be a very bad thing in the long run. The problem with choosing the “right” tool upfront is having the knowledge to know why it is the right tool. Often, since you lack knowledge at the beginning of a project, you are incapable of knowing even the right questions to ask concerning choosing the right tool. Sometimes, if the task isn’t going to be long-term or take very long, you’re better off using existing tools that are technically poor for the task at hand because learning new tools will actually be slower for this short-term project. How can you know? Is there any way to do the math and figure it out beforehand?

I’m going to hazard a guess with “no.” The work that people do is so varied now that the “right” tool is difficult to find even if you’re quite aware of what you’re doing (mainly because you’re already used to using tools that are technically less appropriate). However, the internet provides a variety of ways to both research a subject and connect with others who either use a tool you’re interested in or do a similar task (and can, by virtue of this shared task, give you their own experience which may resemble your future experience). One of the major decisions I made months ago (after fighting the format for my master’s thesis) was to use LaTeX for writing/formatting my dissertation. Is there a learning curve? You bet there is. However, I’ve already found it very useful for a wide variety of smaller documents that I’ve been working on in preparation for the bigger one. The community has also been very helpful. At any rate, research, research, research! But if the task is small or short-lived, feel free to use tools you already know.