Mike-Ward.Net

Developer and Power Tool List - 2008

Scott Hanselman’s Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List has always been an great read. Here’s my list, considerably smaller and surprisingly different. I use fewer programs and feel applications like browsers and IDE’s should be included. Most of these applications are free with a few notable exceptions. Your welcome to link to this list but please don’t copy or reuse it in other publications.

  • Vista - Forget all the bad press. If you’re buying a new machine, Vista is easily the best Windows operating system out there. If the UAC really bugs you, turn it off. I leave it on to insure maximum compatibility of the programs I write. (Please don’t leave comments about why I’m an idiot for using and endorsing Vista. On new hardware with adequate memory it works very well.)
  • NOD32 - ESET’s super fast, super lightweight, super tuff virus scanner has never, repeat, never allowed a virus through in the wild in the 15 years they’ve been in business. That just speaks volumes to me about their product. Check out the ESET Virus radar on-line Web site.
  • FireFox - It’s the application I use the most. The interface, the extensions, the standards compliance, it’s all there. IE is really a poor substitute and only use it when I’m forced to. The World Browser makes IE somewhat more palatable. I also like Safari for Windows for it’s speed but the latest FireFox 3.0 (Beta 4 and 5) builds have closed that gap considerably.
  • Visual Studio 2008 - I spend more time here than anywhere else. If you develop Windows programs, this is the way to go. I’ve tried Eclipse and Sharp Develop but find VS 2008 is better. The express versions are free. You can usually snap-up a Pro version by attending the periodic Microsoft and Non-Microsoft (Day of .NET) events held around the country.
  • EmEditor - Every programmer I know has their favorite little text editor. No three ways about it for me. EmEditor is the only free editor that meets my 4 criteria for a great editor.
  • Reflector - Scott and I agree on this one. Get it, use it and do check out the add-ins
  • Launchy - I used SlickRun for a while and found I liked Launchy better. On Vista I’m quite happy within the built-in search.
  • Windows Live Writer - BlogJet is a close second but then again you have to pay for it. With plug-ins and support for MetaWeblog API’s it’s a clear winner.
  • JZip - Freeware version that competes openly with WinZip. I like the folder view. Based on 7-zip engine and has been solid for me. If you have a few dollars to donate, these guys are worth your nickel.
  • Volumemouse - Simple idea. Place your mouse cursor over the taskbar and move the scroll wheel on your mouse, adjust your volume. Simple, brilliant and always there.
  • WiX - Skip InstallShield and download Wix (Windows Installer for XML). It requires a bit more knowledge about Windows Installers but you get more control and can write smaller, better installers. NSIS is a great alternative.
  • Power Toys for Visual Studio - Resource Refactoring - Takes the hassle out of moving string constants to the resource section of your Visual Studio Project.
  • Virtual Clone Drive - The easiest way to mount an .ISO as a disk drive. Double-click on the .ISO and it’s mounted.
  • FileZilla - Best free FTP program out there (IMNSHO).
  • TestDriven.NET - If you do unit testing, then you want this tool. Takes all the pain out of running and debugging .NET unit tests and coverage reports. Makes for friction free development. Download it now, I’ll wait.
  • Windows Clippings – I use it for all my screen shots. Captures shadow around window in Vista. Check out the Snipper tool in Vista as well.
  • Paint.NET - A paint program I can actually use and understand. It’s not photoshop but for the rest of us it’s likely good enough. (and it’s free!)
  • AxCrypt - Forget password vaults. Put all your important information in a text file and encrypt it with AxCrypt. It will encrypt any document and also has a self-extracting feature so you can send to others without them needing the software. Integrates with the shell. Open source and uses the latest AES standards for encryption.
  • CCleaner - Formerly Crap Cleaner, it does just that. It cleans the crap out of your system and does it better than anyone else. It’s also free.
  • JkDefrag - This guy should be given a metal in my opinion. Fast, complete and free, it does as good or better than the commercial disk defraggers and without all the useless graphics.
  • Foxit Reader - For straight up reading and printing of PDF’s, Foxit is the way to go. It’s fast, light and does not assimilate your system compared to the Borg like Adobe Reader. Sumatra Reader is another one to keep an eye on.
  • HashTab - I love this little guy. Adds a tab to the file properties dialog with computed hashes from 10 different algorithms (MD5, SH1, etc.). Also includes a text area to compare hash codes.
  • iTunes - Pick your poison here. I have a IPod so it just seemed natural to use ITunes. However, I buy most of my music from Amazon because it is DRM free.
  • Jing Project - A super easy way to publish “screen casts” from your computer.
  • Vista Firewall Control - Vista has a firewall that protects in both directions. Problem is that it’s a PITA to configure. This little gem takes way all the hurt.
  • WinMerge - I’ve always liked this utility for its ease of use and understandability. Beyond Compare is perhaps more powerful but WinMerge has always met my needs (and it’s free).
  • DPack - A Visual Studio addon with many features, none of which I use with the exception of the solution backup tool. This is the tool I use to package source code I make available on this site.
  • Evernote - Take notes? This program organizes notes without getting in your way. Great for TODO lists. My only compliant is that the keyboard shortcuts are a bit odd.
  • Ultramon - Again, does lots of things but I use it for only one purpose. It adds a taskbar to the second (or third) monitor. Why Windows does not support this feature natively is anyone’s guess.
  • Autoruns – Shows you all the programs that run at startup. There are lots of programs that do this but this one is the best IMHO.
  • Sharpkeys – Reassign keys. I use it to reassign the Caps Lock to be a control key.
  • Code Project Add-in – Browse and load CodeProjects from within Visual Studio.
  • Consolas Font Pack – A much nicer font for Visual Studio programming.
  • Comment Reflower – I’m not one for comments in source code. Most of the time they’re useless or worse yet, wrong. However, there are times when you have to document some assumption or use case. This tool makes it easy to wrap and format comments into something a bit more presentable.
  • bxAutoZip – If you use Outlook (or in my case you are forced to use Outlook, yuch!), this extension will automatically convert your attachments into a zip file. Very handy.
  • Input Director – Control more than one computer with a single mouse and keyboard. If you have multiple systems in your cube like I do, this is a real time saver.
  • ISO Recorder – Simplest, most reliable CD/DVD burner out there.
  • KatMouse – Allows you to scroll a window with your mouse wheel by simply placing the mouse cursor over the window. No need to click the window to activate it.
  • Kaxaml - Great, light weight tool for authoring XAML. Visual Studio should just integrate this into the IDE as far as I’m concerned.
  • PrimoPDF – There are quite a number of PDF convertors out there. This is one is free and does not put a “watermark” on the page.
  • UberIcon – Adds a cool little icon animation effect when you launch programs.
  • VMware Player – Virtual machines are just so handy in development. We create a bunch of preconfigured “appliances” at work and use them for test environments.
  • XPS Essentials Pack - Contains components that enable you to view, generate and index XPS Documents.
  • Yahoo Widgets – There fun. I like the Vista gadgets better but on XP, this is the way to go.
  • Picasa – There are a ton of photo programs out there but this one has always met my needs.
  • Amazon MP3 Downloader – Screw iTunes. Amazon is cheaper and there is no DRM.
  • Visual SVN, AnkhSVN, TortoiseSVN – Visual SVN is hands down the best way to install a Subversion repository. AnkhSVN and TortoiseSVN are icing on the cake.
  • LingPad – Great little tool for exploring and experimenting with Linq. It’s best described as a code snippet executor.
  • WinDirStat – Disk usage statistics and cleanup tool for Microsoft Windows.
  • Zoomit - Screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations that include application demonstrations.
  • Vista Codecs Package – Allows Vista media players to play almost anything.
  • Zune Theme (XP only) – This gray/black color theme is easy on the eyes. It’s authored by Microsoft so you don’t need any special extensions to install it. Wish they made one for Vista.

FireFox addins

  • Firebug - Coolest Firefox plugin on the planet. Gives you X-Ray vision into any Web page.
  • Customize Google – Adds additional search links to your Google home page and removes ads.
  • Download Statusbar – Works much like Google Chrome’s browser download statusbar. Simple and not annoying.
  • Extended Statusbar – A Statusbar with speed, percentage, time and loaded size (similar to Opera’s one)
  • Locationbar2 – Highlights domain, linkifies URL segments.
  • Open Download – Asks if you want to run a download like IE does.
  • StumbleUpon – Allows you to waste more time on your computer than you thought possible.
  • Twitterfox – Least annoying twitter add on out there.

Desktop Gadgets

  • NPR – I’m a news junkie. This is the delivery mechanism that feeds my habit.
  • Calculator – It won’t win any beauty contests but is much more functional than the others.
  • Stopwatch - You can click anywhere in this clock to stop/pause/start. Simple, useful, very convenient to use.
  • Weather Channel – Much as despise the Weather Channel, their gadget has proven to be the most reliable and least annoying.

Online Services

  • GMail - It works better than anything else I’ve ever used. The threaded conversation feature is just killer. The desktop notifier is a must have addition.
  • Stumble Upon - Allows you to waste more time on your computer than you thought possible.
  • Mozy - Automatic online backups of your files. I like it because it works well and never bothers me. You can get 2 GB of online storage free which handles everything but my music and picture collections. Great for those documents that you edit daily.
  • Google Docs - Screw Outlook and screw MS Office. The word processing is a bit light weight compared to its desktop brethren but it easily handles my needs. And being able to share documents on line is just killer.
  • Live Mesh – Good sync tool. Still in beta.
  • LogmeIn – One of the best remote control services out there. My wife ran a very profitable business medical billing service for years from our home using this service. Absolutely the best.
  • Amazon MP3 – No digital rights management. You buy it, you download it, you own it. What a concept.
  • Desktop Tower Defense – By no means visit this site and play this game. It will suck you in like a black hole.
  • Twitter – Need I say more?

Shameless Self Promotion

  • FreeSnap – Makes desktop window management um, err, a snap. I sometimes forget that windows does not include this handy little utility.
  • Desk Drive - Automatic media shortcuts for your desktop. Pop a CD or USB stick in your computer and a shortcut instantly pops up on your desktop. Got the idea from the Mac.
  • Calendar - A multi-month calendar that Windows so badly needs.
  • Calendar Gadget – Beautiful calendars for you desktop. Currently in alpha.
  • Bloget - It’s the fastest, easiest, bestest :), blog engine on the planet. It runs in restricted environments, doesn’t require a PhD to install, and sips resources like a stingy hybrid.
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