My Favorite Tools List for Developers

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Everyone else is doing it, and so should I :)  It's a good idea as well, because I may have to go looking to find out what I need to install on my machine the next time I decide to reinstall it.  Fortunately, I have a few things I use that I think are unique to me, that I haven't seen elsewhere.. so that makes me extra-cool in my book.

  • Webdrive - Webdrive is such a fantastic tool.  It allows you to connect to remote sites via FTP, SFTP[SSH], WebDAV, and a few other protocols.. the kicker is this:  It maps them as drives on your machine.  So for instance, I can have "Z:" mapped to  How utterly cool is that ?!
  • Pidgin - Everyone needs a cross platform, multi protocol IM client.  Pidgin is by far the best, and I think is better than all the rest.  Source code available.
  • SpeedSwitchXP - Because being able to change your CPU power from "mobile/battery/dynamic" to "max performance" in a click is nice.  Source code available.
  • KeePass (2.05Alpha)- I just recently discovered this gem (see my previous post Password Protection Utility) and I absolutely love it.  It's my new second brain.  Source code available.  A note on the source code - this has got to be the best looking source code I've ever seen in an Open Source application.  While there are very few code comments, it is almost self explanatory and extremely clean and concise.  I downloaded the source, opened it up in VS '08 and it just *worked*.  I could immediately run it and open up my password database.. not a lot of products work just "out of the box" like that.  I was impressed.  The author is old-school C++ so the code is full of m_'s, but that's not so bad.  You can tell he is a top-notch expert programmer.
  • RSSBandit - This is by far the best RSS reader that I have tried.  While I might like to try others, I'm sort of locked in at this point.. too much data to lose!  It downloads all of the posts and saves them locally which is a great feature.  I am a data collection junkie, and I would hate to lose the last 6-8 months worth of blog posts I've collected.  Source code available.
  • LogMeIn Ignition - I have a lot of remote sites that I need to control the machines of, and I use their Free version of LogMeIn, but pay for Ignition because it keeps everything in one place in a desktop app.. single click remote connect.
  • Developer Express Enterprise - Because these are some of the best .NET development tools I have ever used.  I've seen the competition and was just nowhere near as impressed with their products as I was with DevEx.  They are quick to fix bugs, update versions and add new functionality, send you daily builds if they have to, and have top-notch support.  The price is fair, and updates are included for a year.  Source code available ($).
  • Firefox 3 - Because it kicks ass over Firefox 2.  I was a die-hard Opera user for years, but Firefox 3 has taken the lead in my opinion and I've nearly stopped using Opera.  I was using the latest Beta version [9.50] and they haven't made any updates in months, and I was having some issues with it.. so I decided to try out the new Firefox and was pleasantly surprised.  Source code available.
  • Visual Studio 2008 - 'nuff said.
  • Putty - I have my own Linux server and there's nothing like opening up an SSH connection easily.  Putty is hands down the best SSH/telnet app available.  Source code available.
  • SnagIt/Camtasia Studio - Because being able to record/snap your desktop and make presentations easily is a nice thing to have.  Fortunately, I got a free version and am very happy with it!!  There's no way I could get my company to shell out for the latest-and-greatest, but it sure is a neat product. 
  • Jing Project - This is a new project by the folks that made SnagIt & Camtasia.  Currently, it's free but that may change in the future.  Seems to be a pretty nice program with quite a few options.  It takes a little getting used to, but I like it.  The "top" button (in the center of your screen) can be removed and it can be made to only sit in your System Tray.
  • LINQPad - Lets you run C# expressions/statements quickly and easily, in addition to being able to test LINQ statements easily.  Joseph Albahari is the author, and did a fantastic job on this must have utility.
  • Search and Replace [SR32] by Funduc software -This is a great search and replace utility.  I use it all the time for finding things, and doing mass replaces.  I'm quite happy with it and have been using it for nearly 10 years!  I haven't really looked for an alternate application to do the same thing.
  • MySQL Front Version 2.5 - Unfortunately this is abandon ware and is hard to find, but the 2.5 [the last "real" one] version of MySQL Front is amazing.  Lightweight, easy to use, and very functional database manager.  It still works with the latest MySQL database.  I am going to be very sad when MySQL-server is no longer able to work with this software.
  • HeidiSQL - I decided to check out the new incarnation of MySQL-Front again, and to my surprise HeidiSQL is actually pretty nice.  There are some differences between it and MySQL-Front that I don't like (doesn't seem to store "LIMIT" checkbox when exiting, but I'm sure I'm missing something) but I think I can get used to it and it has a LOT more features than MySQL-Front.
  • HomeSite 5.5 - Because I still write in PHP, and it's one of the best plain-jane HTML editors available.  I hate that there have been no updates made to this thing in so long, but that's probably a good idea as it would probably get bloated and messed up.  I've never used any of it's "fancy" features, I only like the HTML, PHP, and JavaScript color coding.
  • FreeLaunchBar - OMG!  I love this product.  I have a series of button icons in my Quick Launch that open up menus with my applications in them.  I don't like TrueLaunchBar though, as it has far to many bells and whistles for me.. but I would easily pay for FreeLaunchBar if there was a fee for it.
  • True Launch Bar - Unfortunately, Free Launch Bar doesn't work with Windows Vista.  So I had to buy True Launch Bar, and I highly recommend it.  The author is very responsive to support questions (see their forums) and the product is rock solid.  Additionally, he also worked out a deal with me - so it's high on my list of excellent products, an excellent company, with excellent support.
  • NuGenUnify/ILMerge - ILMerge is a Microsoft Research application for merging .NET assemblies into a single unit (for instance, your app has 100 dlls, merge them all into one single executable with your main application, easier distribution!).  NuGenUnify is a freeware program that is a GUI for ILMerge and makes life considerably easier than the command line.  Source code available ($).
  • NotePad++ - I am still getting used to this, but it's nice having tabs in "Notepad" and color coding.  Very lightweight.
  • Reflector! - Being able to look at other peoples code with the click of a button and learn cool-new-ways that they did things.  How awesome is that!?  I am however surprised that the Source Code is NOT available, and you can't use Reflector! on it :(
  • Microsoft OneNote - I have a TabletPC, but I don't use it anymore unfortunately so note-taking is not quite as fun as it used to be, however OneNote is still a great app and I put lots of things into it, especially Programming Solutions so I don't ever lose them.
  • Microsoft Office 2007 - Duh. I am a huge Outlook fan and probably always will be.  It's a bit bloated, but I've been using it for over 10 years, and there is just no switching.  I tried Thunderbird once, but was not impressed.  I suppose the only thing I could do, is write my own client.. but that would be to much work, and it would look just like Outlook!  I really only use it for email, nothing else.
  • Windows Live Writer - I'm writing this post with it now. I like it!  It even has a "Insert from Visual Studio" plugin which makes your pasted-code look pretty.  It is simple, and works with just about any blog.  Not only that, but it is extensible.
  • WinDirStat - excellent utility for seeing a visual representation of your drive usage.  Really neat program.  Source code available.
  • PerfectDisk - Excellent disk de-fragmentation utility.  Easy to use.
  • JKDefrag - Free and excellent disk de-fragmentation utility.  A little complicated to use, few "easy" options, but an excellent piece of software none the less.  Source code available.
  • Paint.NET - Great Photoshop alternative for those of us that don't know how to use Photoshop but for the basics.  Source code available.
  • 7zip - Next gen archive utility.  Way better than WinZip/PKZip. Source code available.
  • VMWare - Because everyone needs virtualization.  Note:  Not good to run it with Virtual PC side by side. :)  I HATE the new version of VMWare Server that is Vista compatible.  It's a bunch of web-based crap.
  • XMLPad
  • TortoiseSVN - Best SVN client for Windows.  Using a VS Subversion menu toolbar that some guy made makes it really rock!
  • Gaia Ajax Widgets - This set of AJAX controls for .NET is simply AMAZING.  By far the best AJAX implementation and controls for .NET, period.  Lightweight, easy to use, powerful, and totally kicks ass over ASP.NET controls, and many of their other direct competitors.  This toolkit is the #1 AJAX library for .NET in my opinion.  It is incredibly simple, but very complex.. it allows you to do just about anything that you need to do without writing a single line of JavaScript code.  Source code available.  ("Full Disclosure" - I am somewhat involved in the project, and know the author/owner, and have made some small contributions to the project and hope to make more in the future)

Well, that is just about it for my list!!  I hope it was worth the read.  These are the utilities that I use on a daily basis and for me are the best possible.  I've seen a lot of lists like this floating around the Internet, and wanted to add my opinion to the mix.  Some of these things are just indispensable (like Webdrive) to me and I wanted to share with you what I think are the best utilities to have on your development box.

*UPDATE 06-16-08:  I added links.

- Matthew

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This page contains a single entry by Matthew M. published on April 12, 2008 4:55 AM.

Password Protection Utility was the previous entry in this blog.

Seagate Momentus 7200.2 ST9200420AS 200GB vs Hitachi Travelstar 7K100 - Review is the next entry in this blog.

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