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.
Table of Contents
- Why Trust Me for This Guide
- Computer Accessories for Programmers
- Computer Software for Programmers
- Robots, Virtual Assistants and Automation
- The Gift of Education
- Fun and Unusual
Why Trust Me for This Guide
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.
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. Compact keyboards are small, light, and easy to carry. They make a great second 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, 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 block distractions and allow coders to listen to focus-enhancing music. We rounded up the best options in our review, Best Noise-Isolating Headphones.
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.
An Extra Monitor
Many developers love multi-monitor setups. Read our detailed review of the best monitors for programming to get some great models.
Desk and Workspace
Here are a few gifts to enhance a programmer’s office and workspace:
- A standing desk like the Ergotron Large Standup Desk or Cozy Castle Adjustable Height Standing Desk
- The Nulaxy Laptop Stand, which is compatible with laptops 10-17.3 inches
- A comfortable, ergonomic office chair like the Herman Miller Aeron Ergonomic Office Chair or Alera Elusion Series Mesh High-Back Multifunction Chair
- For the gamer, the X Rocker 4.1 Pro Series Pedestal Wireless Game Chair
Also Read: Best Chair for Programming
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-around 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.
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 Cyber Protect.
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).
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 is an excellent to-do list app, and OmniPlan and Pagico are powerful project management apps.
Some programs 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
- Like a mini-Rosie, the Roborock E35 will vacuum for you. The DeenKee DK700 is another good choice.
- DJI RoboMaster S1 Intelligent Educational Robot STEM with Programmable Modules offers a series of projects, video courses, and programming guides ranging from beginner to expert. It’s designed to enhance users’ knowledge and understanding of mathematics, physics, programming, robotics, and artificial intelligence to strengthen problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
- Lego Boost Creative Toolbox is a robot building set and educational coding kit for kids.
- The Arduino Starter Kit walks through the basics of Arduino and electronics in a hands-on way.
- The Elagoo Mega 2560 Complete Starter Kit is compatible with Arduino, teaches electronics and programming, and is suitable for advanced users like professional lab engineers, electronics students, and experienced hobbyists.
- CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 4GB Starter Kit allows you to make a credit-card sized computer and use it for projects like a media center, coding machine, or retro gaming console.
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.
- Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 LED Starter Kit will get you started with home automation. The kit includes smart lights and can also work with the smart appliances you may already have in your home. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
- Kasa Smart Dimmer Switch by TP-Link does the same for your ordinary (non-smart) lights.
- Wemo Mini Smart Plug controls the outlets that power your electrical appliances. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
- Teckin Smart Plug Wifi Outlet also gives you computer control over your home’s electrical outlets.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- The Pragmatic Programmer: 20th Anniversary Edition, 2nd Edition: Your Journey to Mastery by David Thomas and Andrew Hunt is a classic programming text. Available in hardcover, Kindle, and Audible Audiobook.
- Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin contains principles, case studies, and motivation for writing clean code. Available in paperback and Kindle.
- Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition by Steve Krug is a classic for anyone working in web design. Available in Kindle format.
- Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug is a worthy follow-up. It’s available in Paperback and Kindle.
- 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk helps designers think about what people want—and need—from design. Available in paperback and Kindle.
- The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces that Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly is a guide through 12 technological imperatives that will shape the next 30 years. Available in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and Audible Audiobook.
- AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee explores the rapidly evolving impact of artificial intelligence. Available in paperback, hardcover, Kindle, and Audible Audiobook.
Fun and Unusual
Coffee Makers and Mugs
Coders are fueled by coffee. Here are some great gifts to keep them topped up.
- The Cuisinart Coffee-on-Demand Automatic Programmable Coffeemaker can make 12 cups before needing to be refilled, so it should get most programmers through the morning.
- The Hamilton Beach BrewStation can also make 12 cups of coffee and comes in candy apple red.
- The AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker is simple and portable, and my favorite way of making coffee every day.
- The Porlex Mini Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder is a quality hand grinder with a ceramic burr.
- The Cosori Coffee Mug Warmer & Mug Set is an excellent way to keep your coffee hot as you code.
- The Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug is another effective way to stop your coffee from becoming lukewarm.
What about one of these coffee mugs with just the right message for a coder or tech geek?
- I Turn Coffee Into Code
- Computer Programming Fuel
- 6 Stages of Debugging
- The Programmers Life
- It Works on My Machine
- I Are Programmer, I Make Computer Beep Boop Beep Beep Boop
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Yoda Best Computer Programmer
- I Write Code (but can’t spell)
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!
- Talk to the Duck coffee mug
- Ducky City with Beach Ball
- Essentials Surfer Rubber Duck for Swimming Pools
- Rhode Island Novelty Assorted Rubber Ducks (100 pack)
Messenger Bags and Laptop Cases
Coders tend to carry their laptops with them everywhere. A quality bag is a top-notch gift idea.
- The Travel Laptop Backpack is a slim, anti-theft, water-resistant bag that fits 15.6-inch laptops
- The Cuekondy Camera Backpack is a vintage canvas bag suitable for laptops, cameras and lenses, and other accessories
- The Gray VanGoddy Durable Fashion Briefcase is a minimalistic way to carry a laptop or Chromebook and features a shoulder strap
T-shirts and hoodies:
- I Turn Coffee Into Code t-shirt, also a hoodie
- CafePress Python Programmer & Developer Comfort Tee
- Thread Science Binary Funny Computer Programmer T-Shirt
- Charcoal Lime Binary Computer Men’s Dress Socks, also in blue
- It Works on My Machine
- Code Printed Compression Socks (men and women)
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.
- Binary watches, like this one by FeiWen and this one by OWMEOT
- Exotic Sands Arctic Glacier Hour Glass
- Retro Metal Time Hourglass
- Laptop Stickers for Developers (72 pieces), and another collection of 108 stickers
- Floppy Disk Coasters
- Keep Calm and Code On poster
- Coding Is Hard poster
- My Code Works poster
That is a long list of gift ideas. Any other good gifts for programmers and software developers? Leave a comment below and let us know.