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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

My Favorite Tools

Here is a list of some of my favorite tools that I use on a regular basis (ok, some of them I just started using today :).

In order to keep this post a reasonable length, I wasn't able to include all of the features for each product that I wanted to. So if something seems moderately interesting, check out the link to find out about all of the features that it provides.
  • Google Desktop Search (Free) - Considering Outlooks terrible search engine, Google Desktop Search has proven very useful for finding emails concerning specific issues. I just type in the issue id into the search box (pops up by pressing Ctrl twice) and voila, every piece of correspondence associated with that issue.
  • Quick Launch for Google Sidebar (Free) - I've tried several diffent ways of organizing my most commonly accessed tools, projects, documents, etc and this is definitely the easiest. I just create a directory structure with a bunch of shortcuts in it and QuickLaunch shows them in a small window within the Google Sidebar and allows me to quickly navigate to the item I'm interested in and launch it with a single click without having to clutter my desktop with more windows.
  • Thunderbird (Free) - Easy to use tool for viewing news groups and rss feeds. It is closely associated with Firefox.
  • Firebird (Free) - A very nice relational database that is completely FREE! One of the best features is that there is a version that can simply be copied to the bin directory of your exe without any fancy installation. Great for embedded databases. It can also be placed on a server and can support very large databases with many connections (according to the website anyway:).
  • IB Expert (Free) - If you are going to use Firebird, you'll want to use IB Expert to manage your databases. It's actually quite a nice database management tool with plenty of handy features.
  • Zip Genius (Free) - I've had the need for a command-line zip utility and ZipGenius works great for that. It also has a good Windows interface, though I've never had the need for anything more complicated than the built-in compression utility in Windows XP.
  • NUnit (Free) - Every developer needs a good unit test utility and NUnit is the one for .Net developers.
  • The Regulator (Free) - A very useful regular expression evaluator. I can't imagine trying to create a complicated regular expression without this tool.
  • Reflector (Free) - If you don't have access to the source code, the Reflector is the next best thing. It can decompile most .Net binaries into the programming language of your choice. Very handy for learning about poorly documented features and figuring out how to get around bugs that won't be fixed until the next release of .Net (if you're lucky).
  • Process Explorer (Free) - A super-charged version of Windows Task Manager. My favorite feature is the ability to add descriptions to all of the processes so that you can determine what processes should and should not be running. It also gives you the ability to kill handles to files without killing the process (very handy if you want to delete a file that is locked by a required Windows process).
  • Color Cop (Free) - Handy little color picker that lets you determine the color for any pixel on your screen (much simpler than taking a screenshot and pasting it into a image editor that has a color picker). One of the neatest features is that the tool doesn't have to be installed, it can simply be copied into the directory that you want (for me it's my QuickLaunch directory).
  • Paint.Net (Free) - A MS Paint replacement. A simple image editor that can create moderately complex images (it's not Adobe Photoshop, but at the price, I ain't complainin'). It supports layers, different effects, and several other features that are needed for creating a reasonable image. I mainly use it for cropping screenshots before I send them in an email (it works great for that!).
  • Refactor! ($99) - An outstanding refactoring tool for Visual Studio 2005 users. Once you use it, you'll never understand how you could have developed without it. There is also a free version available for VB.Net users.
  • Beyond Compare ($30) - A diff tool that is easy to use outside of a source control tool. I especially like the ability to compare files and directories directly from the Windows Explorer context menu. If you are using VSS 2005 (or one of several other supported source control tools), you can setup Beyond Compare as the default diff tool.
  • PS Hot Folders ($19.95) - This is an awesome utility that allows me to quickly navigate to my "favorite" directories (beyond Desktop, My Documents, and My Computer) in any standard Windows Open and Save dialog. No more hunting for my development or download directories.
If you notice any great tools that I've missed, please post a comment so that I can check it out.

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