To anyone doing an undergraduate degree in physics – download and learn to use these three programs:

- LyX: A frontend for LaTeX, specially designed for people who don’t like LaTeX. You could consider it “training wheels for LaTeX”, but if you learn it well you’ll probably never need to learn full-on LaTeX.
- JabREF: A reference manager for making Bibtex bibliographies. It plays nice with LyX, and you can use it to organise all those papers you read just for fun.
- Inkscape: A vector graphics program (SVG). Super useful for making diagrams to put into LaTeX. If you’re using LyX, the best option is to save your files as PDF when you want to insert them into LyX.

These are all free, and cross-platform. Note that for LyX, you’ll need to download TeX as well. Just follow the instructions on the lyx download page and you should be fine. The only other thing you’ll need is a graphing program: I’d recommend Mathematica, MATLAB and OriginPro (note: not free).