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Underplugged tools

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.

MindManager X5 - 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 the cake.

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 for decompilers.

The Regulator - 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.

Snippet Compiler - 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 more convenient.

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!

About the Author

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.

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