If you’re not geeky, finding the right gift for a computer programmer can be tough. The typical programmer’s interests might be more technical than yours. They can have strong opinions about what they love and hate. And there are many different types of programmers. Yikes!

We’re here to help. You don’t have to get the coder in your life something technical or computer related. There are a lot of good choices. It may be wise to get guidance from someone close to them or who understands computers.

Socks and t-shirts aren’t necessarily bad ideas, and there are plenty of both that feature tech and coding themes. You could get them a bag for their laptop, a binary watch, a coffee machine, or even a rubber ducky (not kidding–more on that later)!

Books are always a good idea. Even if you don’t know which computer language they program in, they’re likely to be interested in learning another. A subscription to a range of online computer programming training courses is a thoughtful idea, as well.

There are plenty of computer-related gift ideas, like a new keyboard or mouse, or a new software program. Programming is fun when it’s not work-related, too, so robot kits, programmable drones, electronic kits, and digital assistants are all great ideas. So is home automation, where your programmer friends can tell their computer to turn off all the lights when it’s time for bed.

Our goal in this article isn’t just to tell you what to buy but to stir your imagination. Maybe one of our suggestions will spark your creativity as you seek the perfect present for the programmer in your life. I’m sure you’ll choose something amazing.

Why Trust Us?

My name is Adrian Try, and I’m a tech geek who loves to receive gifts. While writing this roundup, I thought about the best tech-related gifts I’ve received (and the ones I had to buy for myself), as well as the gear my friends have that makes me drool. I’ve brainstormed, surfed Amazon, explored gear reviews, and asked others for input.

The result is hundreds of gift suggestions. I hope one will be perfect for your coding friend or loved one, or will spark some new ideas. Happy shopping!

Computer Accessories for Programmers

A Quality Keyboard

A programmer’s fingers are their livelihood, so a quality keyboard is a perfect gift idea. But don’t cheap out! An accurate, tactile keyboard will enable them to work quickly and productively. A comfortable, ergonomic keyboard will protect their fingers and wrists in the long-term. We discussed the keyboard needs of developers at length in our best keyboard for programmers review.

If your friend already has their perfect keyboard, another one might be tepidly received. But they may be dreaming of a better keyboard or open to having a variety of them. They might even have several computers, so a new one may be a very welcome gift. Knowing whether they use a Mac or PC will help with your decision, so do some homework first.

Many developers love keyboards with mechanical switches. They’re a bit old-fashioned—large, often wired, and quite noisy—but they last forever and provide a confidence-inspiring, tactile experience when typing. Here are a few of the best:

  • The Redragon K552 is a relatively affordable wired mechanical keyboard that’s also reasonably compact. It’s popular, highly rated, has excellent build quality, and backlit keys.
  • The Razer BlackWidow Elite is a wired gaming keyboard that works incredibly well for developers. It has military-grade construction, as well as a magnetic wrist rest, which maximizes comfort.
  • The Filco Majestouch-2 is a wired mechanical keyboard that’s a little more compact than many of the keyboards listed here. It isn’t backlit, but it’s stylish and feels amazing.
  • Das Keyboard 4 and Model S are a few more classic choices for wired, mechanical keyboards.
  • The Logitech G915 Lightspeed keyboard is a little different. It’s wireless and uses low-profile mechanical keys, so it looks quite sleek.

Ergonomic keyboards are designed for comfort. They achieve this by using shapes and contours that place your hands and wrists in their most natural position. Here are a few we recommend:

  • The Kinesis Advantage2 looks and feels very different. It’s an ergonomic keyboard with mechanical switches, giving the best of both worlds. The Advantage2 is completely customizable; it uses just about every ergonomic trick in the book, including a split keyboard design and a concave profile.
  • The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic keyboard also has a split keyboard design and domed shape that places your wrists and forearms in a natural position. It features a comfortable palm wrest and a separate numeric keypad.
  • The Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5050 is a more traditional-looking keyboard with a curved design that encourages a more natural hand position.
  • The Perixx Periboard-612 is a more affordable alternative featuring a split-keyboard design.
  • The Logitech Wireless Wave K350 is my favorite. It has a wave-shape profile, three-year battery life, and comfortable palm rest.

Compact keyboards are small, light, and easy to carry. They make a great second keyboard.

  • Logitech MX Keys Advanced Wireless Illuminated Keyboard is narrow, but a little longer than other compact keyboards due to its integrated numeric keyboard. It is lightweight, backlit, and can be paired with up to three devices.
  • The Arteck HB030B is light, compact, and backlit. It’s relatively inexpensive; its keys are a little smaller than average, but it’s comfortable for a compact keyboard.

A Responsive Mouse or Trackpad

Instead of a keyboard, a quality mouse or trackpad is something any developer would appreciate. The best are customizable, responsive, and ergonomic. We rounded up the best options in our review, The Best Mouse for Mac (most of these mice work on Windows as well). Here are a few recommendations:

  • Logitech M720 Triathlon is a terrific value, can be paired with multiple devices, and runs for a whole year on one set of batteries.
  • The Logitech MX Master 3 is a premium mouse with a significantly higher price. It has an ergonomic shape, is highly configurable, and is simply one of the best mice you can buy.
  • The Logitech MX Vertical is another premium choice that focuses on ergonomics. Its vertical orientation places your hand in a natural “handshake” position, relieving strain on the wrist.
  • The Razer Basilisk Ultimate HyperSpeed Wireless Gaming Mouse is another premium mouse, and worth considering if your friend is a dedicated gamer.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones block distractions and allow coders to listen to focus-enhancing music. We rounded up the best options in our review, The Best Noise-Isolating Headphones. Here are a few to consider:

A Backup Hard Drive

Computer backup is vital, especially when you make your livelihood on your computer. An external drive provides one of the best backup strategies, and can also be used for additional storage. We list many options in our backup drive and external SSD roundups, and here are a few we recommend.

Portable external hard drives:

Portable external SSD drives:

An Extra Monitor

Many developers love multi-monitor setups. Here are a few worth considering:

Desk and Workspace

Here are a few gifts to enhance a programmer’s office and workspace:

Computer Software for Programmers

A Text Editor or IDE

The developer’s primary software tool is a text editor or a fully integrated development environment (IDE). Programmers can have strong opinions about their tools. Different applications may better suit one type of development over another. But few programmers would complain about an extra tool being added to their kit.

Many development applications are free, some can be purchased outright, and others require an ongoing paid subscription. We covered the best of them in our roundup, The Best Text Editor for Mac (many of them work on Windows as well). Here are some you might consider as a gift:

  • Sublime Text 3 is the winner of our text editor roundup. It runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux. It’s fast and responsive. It perfectly meets the needs of most programmers. Sublime Text 3 can be purchased for $80 from the official Sublime website.
  • BBEdit 13 is a Mac-only text editor that’s well-loved and suitable for all-round development. You can buy it outright from the official website for $49.99, or regular subscriptions of $3.99/month or $39.99/year can be paid through the Mac App Store.
  • UltraEdit is another powerful, cross-platform editor suitable for both app and web development. A subscription costs $79.95/year; the second year is half-price.
  • Visual Studio is Microsoft’s professional IDE and has features that go well beyond what the free VS Code text editor is capable of including coding, debugging, testing, and deploying on any platform. A subscription costs $45/month or $1,199 for the first year.

Another application, Panic Nova, will be available soon. It’s written by the same people as the popular Coda app and looks promising for Mac users.

Productivity Software

When you make your livelihood on a computer, backups are more important than ever. We fully spell out backup options for Mac, Windows, and online backup in our roundups. Carbon Copy Cloner is a good alternative and offers an Online Gift Store as does Backblaze and Acronis True Image.

Developers often use a lot of passwords. A password manager is an essential security precaution, encouraging them to use a different complex, secure password for every site. Two of our favorites are LastPass and Dashlane, which require a subscription, though gift cards are available (LastPass, Dashlane). They’re not the only password managers worth considering. You can learn about the competition in our full review.

A good note-taking app also makes a terrific gift for a developer. Evernote is a well-respected option. On the Mac, Bear Notes is my preference.

Time is an important commodity for programmers. They can track how they have used their time using apps like Timing and Timings. On the Mac, Things 3 is an excellent to-do list app, and OmniPlan and Pagico are powerful project management apps.

Some programs that can help developers keep on track while working. Be Focused Pro and Vitamin-R are timing apps that encourage them to work in short, focused bursts, and HazeOver, Focus, and Freedom block computer-related distractions.

If none of those options feel quite right, we cover a range of other programs in our Best Productivity Apps roundup, including scientific and programmer’s calculators, file management tools, and search tools.

Robots, Virtual Assistants and Automation

It’s the year 2021. Do you know what that means? It’s the year that the Jetsons’ home was cleaned by their robot maid, Rosie. Can you have a robot maid too? Absolutely. Any developer would love the gift of a cleaning robot, programmable drone, digital assistant, or automated home.

Robots and More

Smart Speakers and Digital Assistants

Smart speakers are small computers in your home. You can speak to receive information or initiate action in a smart home. Amazon, Google, and Apple offer high-quality, affordable smart speaker devices.

  • The Amazon Echo is a smart device with tens of thousands of skills. You can ask it to play music, turn on lights, speak to someone in another room, and more. The Echo Show also includes a display.
  • Smart Home Controller with Google Assistant is Google’s alternative to the Echo Show. The Google Nest Wifi Router (2-pack) is Google’s smart speaker built into a mesh router.
  • The HomePod is Apple’s smart speaker and focuses on high-fidelity audio.

Home and Office Automation

These devices allow household appliances, lights, and more to be connected to your computer and controlled in a variety of ways.

The Gift of Education

Online Programming Courses

Developers can learn new skills and languages almost entirely online. Consider gifting a subscription to one of these training providers:

  • A Udemy subscription gives access to tons of development training, including courses on Python, Java, web development, C++, C#, Angular, JavaScript, React, SwiftUI, and machine learning.
  • Pluralsight is a technology skills platform offering skill assessments and interactive courses. Topics include Python, JavaScript, Java, C#, web development, mobile development, and more. One-month, three-month, one-year individual, or one-year Premium subscriptions can be gifted.
  • SkillShare offers numerous courses for developers, including Introduction to Programming, Intro to UX, The JavaScript Toolkit, and Demystifying Artificial Intelligence. Gift cards for 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month subscriptions are available.
  • GoSkills Unlimited gives unlimited access to courses on computers and mobile devices. Development topics include introduction courses to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, Python, Ruby on Rails, and Ruby. You can gift individual courses.
  • Frontend Masters offers in-depth, modern, front-end engineering courses including TensorFlow, GraphQL, JAMStack, React, JavaScript, Gatsby, HTML Email, Visual Studio Code, CSS Layouts, Redux and MobX, and more.
  • Egghead offers video tutorials for web developers, including React, Rust, Web Security, TypeScript, XState, React, Twilio, and Gatsby. When checking out, there is a “Gift” option on the receipt page.
  • Team Treehouse teaches coding skills to help you get a new job. Over 300 courses are available. To purchase a subscription as a gift, shoot an email to [email protected] about buying an account for someone.
  • Wes Bos has released tons of online courses on React, Node, JavaScript, CSS, Command-Line, and Markdown.

Kindle Books and Devices

The gift of a Kindle device will allow your coder friend to carry a complete reference and training library with them everywhere. They are backlit and have ridiculous battery life (measured in weeks, not hours).

There are plenty of books for programmers in the Kindle ecosystem. We recommend quite a few of them below. Even better, an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription gives unlimited access to over a million Kindle books, current magazines, and Audible audiobooks.

Audible Audiobooks

Audiobooks help us consume books when we don’t have time to read—for example, when driving, exercising, and doing housework. Audible is the premier provider of audiobooks in the world.

Audible book subscriptions are available as gifts for one month, three months, six months, or twelve-month periods. The recipient receives three new books a month, 30% off additional titles, audiobook exchanges, and an Audible book library they will own forever.

Books

Here is an extensive, but not exhaustive, collection of books for programmers. Many of them are available for Kindle devices and as Audible audiobooks, or as hardcover or paperback.

Fun and Unusual

Coffee Makers and Mugs

Coders are fueled by coffee. Here are some great gifts to keep them topped up.

What about one of these coffee mugs with just the right message for a coder or tech geek?

Rubber Ducks

The book “The Pragmatic Programmer” (see above) recommends a peculiar way of debugging: explain your code line-by-line to a rubber duck. The idea caught on, if only tongue-in-cheek, so if your coding friend doesn’t already have a rubber duck, buy them one!

Messenger Bags and Laptop Cases

Coders tend to carry their laptops with them everywhere. A quality bag is a top-notch gift idea.

Clothes

T-shirts and hoodies:

Socks:

Caps:

Gift Certificates

Gift certificates are perfect when you can’t physically give a gift. You can send them electronically, and they show you’ve put a degree of thought into your decision.

  • Amazon Gift Cards can be sent electronically, printed at home, or mailed.
    T2 offers tea-related gift cards and personalized gift packs.
  • Starbucks Gift Cards can be sent over email or iMessage.
  • Another coffee-related gift is a Bean Box gift certificate, which gives access to over 100 freshly-roasted blends of coffee.
  • Industry Beans gift cards allow the recipient to select quality coffee beans, filter papers, and Aeropress machines.

Other Ideas