Apps

Six free development utilities in my toolbox

Justin James lists his favorite free development tools and asks his fellow developers to tell the TechRepublic community about their must-have free utilities.

While I use a lot of development tools, there are a handful of small, free utilities that have saved my bacon on a number of occasions. My favorite utilities include:

  • Expresso is an excellent regex editor and testing tool.
  • Microsoft Network Monitor (a packet sniffer) and Fiddler (an HTTP debugger) are invaluable for troubleshooting networking and Web development problems.
  • Reflector disassembles .NET code and can even rewrite it in the language of your choice, giving you insight into what's happening under the covers of a library or other compiled code.
  • LINQPad is a handy tool to experiment with LINQ statements and test them outside of a full application.
  • OutSystems Agile Platform Community Edition is a full-fledged development system for creating Web applications.

Each developer has their own list of favorite free tools. What are yours?

J.Ja

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

22 comments
gep2
gep2

SNOBOL4 is the world's premier pattern matching language, (and SPITBOL is to SNOBOL4 what Turbo Pascal is to Pascal.). It's a text-oriented language, sorta like Perl in terms of what you do with it, but not crippled by being based on braindead and cryptic "regular expressions" (which afflict so many otherwise good development languages). SPITBOL is lightning fast, generates single-file .EXE executables, and is just as suited to quickie one-off jobs as it is for production use. Unmatched character string handling, powerful data structures, extremely robust, extraordinarily productive, and amazing versatility. It's probably the single most helpful "secret weapon" in my programmer's toolbox.

ian
ian

"You put a title that makes me check out the article" The title was exactly correct. Six free development utilities in Justins toolbox. It made no reference to whether they were common or obscure. You obviously did not read the takeway and preferred to write a vitriolic comment. The takeaway was "Justin James lists his favorite free development tools and asks his fellow developers to tell the TechRepublic community about their must-have free utilities." The article was to encourage fellow developers to contribute their favorites and open the forum to civil debate. I note that you did not offer any of your own favorite utilities - why? I do not personally have any favorites, I am here to learn. If I decide to get into application development I want to have, at least, an understanding of what I am getting into. That is the whole point of forums such as this. Article contributors share their experience and knowledge for the rest of us. If you feel you have knowledge to impart about the tools you use, why don't you share it with the rest of us?

codepoke
codepoke

NetMon is a constant companion, and Fiddler is wonderful from the client side. I've never used Expresso, but I'm forever looking up web-based equivalents. I need to download that. For all that, I use WinDBG more than any of those. It's an amazing tool, and I wonder if it couldn't be more used in standard development. By the time an app gets to me as an IIS admin, everything's already set in stone. It's really unfortunate when I find quad 300mb arrays of strings on the heap just as the app is dying under real-world load. I seriously wish I could talk every developer into running their app under a WCAT load and taking a series of hang dumps at peak performance. There are so many things to be learned. You can find out which thread is really holding things up, which objects never get gc'd, along with how many customers you could handle in a pinch. We all have a dream.

danmartini
danmartini

Great! Not! Could you be any less creative? That's what disturbs me about TR and other sites like this. You put a title that makes me check out the article, and of course when I bother to read it, it lists some of the most commonly used programming freeware utilities on the planet. How long did it take you to compile that list? Better yet why? I swear I have to laugh at myself why I continue to subscribe to this rag when there are so many others that actually put effort into their content. Perhaps it's that 1-in-every-30 articles that is actually original that prevents me from finally dropping this from my daily rotation. How about a little effort on the part of editors? A little elbow grease never hurt anybody and perhaps you will one day be a "must read" source rather than a "wonder if they have anything new today" rag.

bjorn.dohmen
bjorn.dohmen

I'm not an developer, but some of the named tools are being used even in my line of work. Instead of the MS network monitor i often use wireshark Fiddler is often used as well, when there are problem with websites/browsers

seanferd
seanferd

that MS had a packet capture and analysis tool. I still wish Fiddler did not have a dotnet requirement. Can't have everything, though. ;)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

vim, hg, ruby Give me those three and a place to stand, and I can move the world.

dphopkins
dphopkins

Wow, it must be great to be the ultimate expert in your field and not remember what it was like when you hadn't heard of EVERYTHING. Even if a utility is considered "common", not everyone has heard of it. Also, have you ever considered that the author is trying to get a competent discussion going so that people can share what they use and others may learn from it? Oh, no, because you've heard of EVERYTHING, I forgot. Thank you for gracing us with your Awesomeness and deigning to take the time to share your thoughts with us little people. After the day I've had, this crud is the last type or comments I need to read.

Justin James
Justin James

The point wasn't to try to tell folks what tools to use that they might not have heard of. The point was to start a discussion around what tools *you* use. Here's the last sentence: "Each developer has their own list of favorite free tools. What are yours?" J.Ja

Realvdude
Realvdude

The title states that it is about tools the author uses. If you were expecting anything more, you set yourself up to be disappointed. But hey, while your here, you could have contributed some information, given that TR is a community effort.

apotheon
apotheon

My list actually looks something like this: * Mercurial (hg) * OpenSSH * Ruby * Vim I use OpenSSH to move things around (including using it for encryption when committing to BitBucket via Mercurial) enough that it's difficult to leave it out of my list. I'll have to think a bit about whether there are some other free tools that I should add to my list. As for non-free tools . . . my favorites by far are a ThinkPad (which always means a great keyboard) and/or one of my high quality keyboard peripherals (an HP Wireless Elite keyboard and a Das Keyboard Ultimate). A good chair is nice, too; I have a high-quality kneeler chair that I love. edit: links to reviews

seanferd
seanferd

you can move a republic.

danmartini
danmartini

My point, which not surprisingly was missed, is that I hit a lot of sites for information, all of the time, and I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters. The reason I do this is because I don't know everything, and I always strive to grow. However, between sites that scrape and harvest information from other sites and republish it, and authors that want to list for me the top 6 or 10 most commonly used free utilities there is a super high chaff to wheat ratio to comb through. And yes, it bothers me. I don't think twice about it from Billy Bob's blog because I would never expect to find anything to help me grow there, so if I did it is only a pleasant surprise. However on what is a relatively well known publication, which I suppose Tech republic is, I hope to find the authors and editors offering up something other than the same old, same old. I am frequently disappointed. Just for the sake of contribution, and by way of example, here is a superior list (and a fantastic resource for a broad spectrum of useful tools). http://www.hanselman.com/blog/ScottHanselmans2009UltimateDeveloperAndPowerUsersToolListForWindows.aspx (If the link above is stripped, google for Scott Hanselman's Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows). I have nothing but praise for someone who takes it to the next level as Hanselman does, because it expands my repertoire and introduces me to things I otherwise would miss, and for completeness sake, endorses the already popular tools that deserve it. This site makes money, and probably a lot of it. Why so much fluff then?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... has become so ubiquitous in my work so quickly (thanks to your help, Chad) that I completely forgot about it. It's one of those tools that silently enables, without getting in the way.

Justin James
Justin James

... but I use Mercurial as well, and PuTTy. And with any luck, Ruby will be coming into the mix more often. J.Ja

danmartini
danmartini

I am sure you noticed that 5 of the 6 utilities that this article is about are also Windows-centric, ergo you find this post irrelevant, using that criteria.

danmartini
danmartini

You know what they say about opinions. How about getting the last word by contributing a better list then? >>vim, hg, ruby I see. Very helpful, thank you.

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