I get to see a lot of software as part of my reviewing duties. Much of this
software gets installed on to a test machine and then forgotten about as I go on
with my other work, because writing truly compelling software is hard. But every
once in a while something makes the migration to the Start menu on my main
development box. Without boring you with the obvious (Visual Studio .NET, for
example), here are some tools that I find consistently useful that you might not
have run across before.
ieHTTPHeaders - All
too often I wonder what's going wrong when the browser doesn't bring home the
right data from my ASP.NET applications. Maybe I'm just a lousy developer, but
if this happens to you try this diagnostic tool, which shows you the HTTP
headers going in both directions.
- This is the most
expensive tool on today's list, but I find its mindmapping approach to
brainstorming to be very useful. I don't have room for a whiteboard in my
cramped little office, but with MindManager around I hardly miss it. The
integration of the most recent version with the PocketPC is just the icing on
Reflector 4.0 - This is a
wonderful alternative to the built-in .NET object browser. It can get you almost
any information you need out of any .NET assembly, right down to decompiled
source code. Use Reflector for a bit and you'll understand why there's a market
If you're doing .NET development, this is a great tool for working with regular
expressions. It's a free workbench that integrates with Regexlib.com and
includes a batch of features for interactively building and testing regexes.
- Another one for .NET developers, this is an extremely lightweight IDE for your
.NET code. It lives in the TaskBar tray, and you can call it up quickly when you
just want to test a bit of code. Vastly faster than launching VS .NET and thus
SqlDataScripter - Ever needed to get the
contents of a few database tables to a new SQL Server installation, and wanted a
lightweight way to do it? Use SqlDataScripter to build INSERT scripts from the
existing data, run them on the target server, all done.
TightVNC - VNC is a free
remote-control technology that I use all over my test network. If you do the
same, you ought to look into this client, which speeds things up by doing lossy
compression when moving the screen-scraped data.
TimeCore Solo - There are
plenty of time-tracking solutions out there, which are useful when you're
billing by the hour. This one is free and exports to Excel. It's low on the
bells and whistles scale, but it gets the job done.
Know any great tools I missed? Drop me
an e-mail to let me know!
Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.