When I’m working on a pentest and have a lot of windows open it tend to get cluttered. Then I spend time trying to finding what I need and lose focus or waste time. The past couple years I’ve been mainly using an Ubuntu KDE environment where I could customize how my windows were sectioned, organized, and how each behaved when interacting with it. Using KDE was very helpful, but it’s not as practical when it comes to school, job, and working with other clients. In the business world many people use software suites such as the Microsoft Office365 and yes they do offer Linux versions, but there is always something that may not be supported or updates may not be as frequent and cause issues. When I use some of these tools on Linux I had errors and had to spend time trying to fix the issues and not focusing on what I need to do in a timely manner. This blog post discusses some tools I have been using that help me stay organized and improved my productivity.
Since I have moved away from using Linux as my main operating system I decided to just stick with Windows. Although Windows does have a lot of issues itself, but for my case it works almost universally when dealing with pentest. Since I don’t have access to all the customization features KDE offers I was on a search to find something that fit me. Below is a list of free/paid software and items I use to keep organized.
This tool is great tool. I use this a lot and pretty much a must for me to keep organized. This tool is made by Stardock and it allows you to group windows together. A good example of use is when I’m performing a web application pentest and I’m testing user permissions and need to run Foxy Proxy in one browser such as Firefox and need to also have Chrome open to Google questions or have another version of the web application open.
Being able to group my windows based on what Im working on is nice and allows me to not have to constantly click Ctrl+Alt+Tab to go through each of my windows.
This is a part of the Microsoft Powertoys suite. This tool allows me to create and customize how my windows snap when dragging them around on the screen. A lot of people have different opinions on this, but I think that no more than two monitors is good enough to be able to separate focus on work. I have two ultra-wide monitors, one is horizontal and the other is vertical. I usually use the vertical monitor for development, reading documents, or chat services. The other horizontal monitor is used for my main task that Im working on. When I need to have multiple windows open at once I try to section off the monitor and windows default snap tools just don’t cut it for my vertical monitor. So I found that Fancyzones fits what I need.
When I’m working on a pentest and need to take notes I tend to use markdown since this allows me to format reports without having to take my hands away from the keyboard. This makes note taking a bit more easier and allows me to jot down my thoughts or notes really fast. Since I use Visual Studio Code a lot I figured that I should just use this since I do all my development in this application so why not use it for notes too? Well to be honest… There aren’t any good markdown plugins that I have found and I feel like it makes my desktop a little more cluttered. I want each application to have a purpose so I know when I switch to that application window I know what I need to do. The best markdown editor I have found was Obsidian. This tool is maintained by some amazing people! Obsidian allows me to keep my note taking workflow to a minimal setup. This allows me to focus on what I’m writing. Not only that Obsidian has a cool feature that allows you to link items together in a graphical view. This usually helps when I’m working on a internal network and I need to take notes on what domain the computer belongs to and what computers it has access too. The graphical view kinda reminds me of Bloodhound. I highly recommend checking this out!
I use this pretty much all the time when I’m performing a pentest, administering systems on the cloud, or even internal company systems. Moba-Xterm allows me to save all my connections and place them in folders and change the connection icon to stay organized. Another great feature is that I can use SFTP to transfer files to and from systems. I mainly use Moba-Xterm for SSH connections and SSH tunneling, but I know it offers so much more than just SSH.
I tend to code or work on pentest at varying times during the day or I may even have minimal lights on in the room. While yes its cool to have all the lights off an only have your RGB mouse, keyboard, desktop/laptop, desk, ect. on while you work, but this may not always be ideal. In some cases this can be detrimental to your eyes. I found that the BenQ light bar is not only minimal in design and frees up my desk space, but it also is discrete and isn’t a bright light that is shining right at me while I work. The light bar also has this cool functionality that reads the current light settings in the room and auto corrects the light bar based off the lighting around you. Another cool feature is that you can change the “temperature” or color of the LEDs from cool white to warmer colors. I tend to use the warmer color lights on the light bar when Im coding late at night as this is best for your eyes while viewing a screen.
I mainly used a mechanical keyboard due to the feel when pressing the keys. I tended to use the Cherry MX Blues and a full keyboard with RGBs and all the cool features and a gaming mouse, but I slowly realized that although this is cool its not ideal for my use case. I play games on my PC, but none of the games I play need me to have an extremely responsive keyboard. The games that do I prefer to use my Xbox X Series 2 controller. So I have been using both the Logitech MX Keys and MX Master Mouse. This allows me to not only go wireless but use one USB slot for both devices. In addition the battery for each of these last me several weeks without having to charge them. I also tend to like the concaved buttons on the MX Keys and when typing it allows my fingers to fall right in the center of the key. I also like that that the keys are very quiet so when I have to take notes during a client call or trying to jot down thoughts I don’t distract myself or others around me with “clicky” sounds. I also really like the low profile and gun metal color of the keyboard as its also not distracting. The backlit keys are not RGB, but instead are white and are bright enough if I need to use them.
As for the MX Master Mouse I really liked that the mouse has what I believe the right amount of additional buttons on it. Not only does the little ledge allow me to rest my thumb, but also under the material is a hidden button that I have bind to use as my screen shot key combination. I also really enjoy the infinity scroll wheel especially when reviewing right big blocks of code or large reports. I don’t really use the side scroll wheel or the front/back buttons that are also offered on the mouse, but it is still nice to have and layed out easy enough for me to use them without having to look at my mouse.
While working as a Security Engineer and when I was a Software Engineer I noticed that a lot of people used Greenshot. I have also found this to be quite useful as I have binded one of my mouse keys to use the Greenshot region screen shot feature. This allows me to take a screen shot of issues, code, or really anything that Im working on my screen. Once you take the screen shot I can set it to save directly to a specific folder or to a default location or prompt me every time asking what to do with what I screen shot. This tool allows me to easily screen shot something then open the image in the Greenshot editor and add number steps for creating “How-To’s” for documentation or use the arrow or box drawing feature to point out something specific in my screen shot.
I was originally using 6 year to 7 year old gaming chair that I got really cheap and recently made the decision to invest in a good quality chair since I work, research, and game at my desk. I haven’t owned this chair a long time, but I can tell you as of now that my whole body is thanking me. This chair allows me to customize lumbar support, arm rest orientation/height, spring tightness used for leaning back, and of course the height of the chair. I purchased this chair in nearly new condition from a local vendor for around $500 and its 100% worth it.
I absolutely love tmux and zsh. They each allow me to customize my Linux terminal to my liking allowing me to split a terminal screen into multiple sections, rename panels/terminals, extend terminal history, and setup auto completion of commands. There is so much more that each of these can do. You can find my tmux configuration here.
All these opinions are my own and I was never paid to write about any of these products. If you have any products I should check out or differing opinions feel free to leave a comment. I hope all, if not then one of these help you stay organized and more productive while working on pentest, school, or research.