Tools are crucial. I've become very conscious of the tools of early engineers. While craftsmen had many of the hand-tools that we're now familiar with (with the notable exception of the screwdriver) engineers were stuck with the basics: the compass, dividers, rulers, and the pen. The role of these tools is evident in the early literature on ballistics. Despite the artistic rendering of parabolic trajectories, early scientist/engineers insisted on using Aristotelian ideas of flat trajectories. This bias was reinforced by their Euclidean tools: rulers for trajectories and compasses to draw circular transitions.
I have the same problems; I'm constrained by my tools. Of course, the tools that I use are primarily for word processing, document production, and research. I use a variety of different applications. I still haven't found the perfect open-source equivalents for my needs. OpenOffice.org is good. But it's not perfect. Specifically, I want to see two features (although they're very big features!):
- Integrated citation management. It would be great if Writer had an onboard feature that worked like EndNote or ProCite. Personally, I think that cite-while-you-write is crucial. The feature would have to support various customizable citation templates. It should also enable Z39.50 for integration with other IR products. Priorities for integration include Web of Science, JSTOR, MedLine, and OCLC.
- Stats. The analytics tool pack for Excel is okay. I think that Calc can do much better. I imagine a scenario where the user selects a particular template for Calc that results in a four page workbook. The first page support data definitions, the second supports data entry, the third shows analysis output, and the fourth shows an ongoing syntax log. Ideally, the feature set will be close to rudimentary SPSS. Some of the base functionality could come from the SalStat product.