Tools and Apps by ThinqLinq

Tools and Apps

Now that I’ve been at Slalom Consulting for 3 years, it’s about time for a hardware refresh. In preparation for that, and inspired by the recent list by Rocky Lhotka of top Win8/RT apps, I thought I would share the list of software/tools that I have found indispensible over the last several years creating software for customers. This is by no means as extensive as the impressive list of tools that Scott Hanselman puts out each year. A while back, I published a list of LINQ tools if you’re looking for some of those.

This list is primarily intended as a list to help me when I build my next laptop and offered here in case you find it helpful as well. It is by no means an endorsement of any specific product and I’m not paid to publish any of these. Feel free to add to this list in the comments as I may well have forgotten something along the way.

System apps and tools

Windows Home Server I use this to seamlessly backup all of the computers on my home network. It’s saved my rear multiple times and makes trying out new builds of Windows and other applications a painless task. I’m still using the original version and it’s been grinding along smoothly for years now.
Windows Live Writer The best tool I’ve found for offline creating/editing of blog posts. So great, I’m using it to write this post.
Paint.Net Impressive free image editor that includes many of the features of Photoshop without the license costs. Includes multiple layers and special effects.
WinDirStat Do you ever wander what’s taking up so much space on your drives? WinDirStat is a nifty way to visualize your space usage and can break it down by folder/file type/etc. It’s an easy way to find those screen capture videos, vhd images, and audio files that can get scattered around the drive over time.
TouchFreeze This simple utility blocks the annoying mouse jump that can happen if your thumb accidently brushes the touchpad while typing.
Syncfusion Metrostudio Over 2500 metro-style icon templates that are free (in exchange for giving them your email address that they will use to spam up) and customizable either as XAML or png images. I’ve used these a number of times when needing an icon for a customer and changed the colors to match their brand.
FileZilla The best free FTP client I’ve found yet.
EasyBCD GUI to manage your boot image. Helps out in a pinch when the boot sector gets corrupted or you want to configure dual boot to a VHD image for testing new OS images. It has a free non-commercial version as well as a minimal cost commercial version.
Oracle VirtualBox Free virtual machine tool. I’ve found this to be lighter weight and easier to configure than HyperV or VmWare. I’m sure there are features that it doesn’t include, but so far I haven’t had the need for the bigger tools except for running the Windows Phone emulator which does require HyperV.
ProcessMonitor Low level debugging tool for when you want to see in minute detail what your drives are doing. The information that it provides can be overwhelming, but I’ve found it useful for tracking down pesky file not found issues where a system is looking for a file in a different path than where it actually exists.
Metrotwit This has been my go-to twitter client for years. Unfortunately due to Twitter’s access token limit, they recently announced that they will no longer support new users or upgrades. I may have to switch back to Tweetdeck or Tweetium once the new computer comes but wanted to leave this on my list in tribute to the app that was.
Foxit Reader Much smaller and faster than Adobe Reader. Handles 95% of my pdf reading needs with less overhead.

Development Tools

Visual Studio The best development IDE out there. I spend most of my time working in the .Net world, but have had to work with a couple others including Eclipse and am much happier and productive with VS than the other tools.
SQL Server Management Tools These are the tools for working with SQL Server including SSMS/ SSDT/ SQL Profiler and Tuning Advisor.
LINQPad Any time I want to test out some code snippets but don’t want to crank up a new project and build a UI, I reach out for LINQ Pad. We liked it so much that we published all of the LINQ in Action samples for you to use in LinqPad.
ILSpy Although not as full featured as the no longer free Reflector, I reach out to the open-source .NET assembly browser and decompiler, ILSpy whenever I want to know how a .Net DLL works under the covers and I don’t have access to the original source code.
WebMatrix If I’m doing a simple site and don’t need the full Visual Studio experience, I often reach out to the free WebMatrix as a web development sandbox.
Dependency Walker This simple tool lets you check the project dependencies of compiled modules which is helpful when trying to understand how existing systems are constructed so that we can try to extend them with additional functionality.
Tortoise SVN If I’m doing work for a client that uses SVN as their source repository, I often use this to integrate the source repository directly into windows explorer.
GitHub for Windows The easiest way to get started with GitHub on Windows computers without the need to fumble around with the command line.
Fiddler Anytime I need to sniff web requests or test services, Fiddler is my tool of choice. Not only are you able to see the requests and responses, but you can easily create new ones by dragging a previous request to the compose tab and modifying the URI/header/footers to meet your needs and issue the request directly without needing to mess with a browser.
WinMerge Often I need to compare files or directories to merge them between different versions. There are a number of diffing tools, but this one lets you quickly diff and merge them.

Visual Studio Extensions

I typically do not install many extensions including the popular CodeRush, Resharper, or JustCode because I’m frequently giving presentations and attendees often are more focused on the plug in tools that I’m using than the task at hand. As a result, I typically use a cleaner install of Visual Studio with just a handful of useful tools.

Nuget If you’re using Visual Studio and haven’t heard of Nuget, you’ve probably been living under a bridge for the last couple of years. NuGet is the way to manage external packages for your applications. Increasingly, parts of .Net including MVC, Entity Framework, Web API, and others are being distributed through NuGet rather than as part of large .Net version upgrades. It’s a must have extension for Visual Studio at this point.
Web Essentials Adds extensions into the web tools (including Html, javascript, css) that they couldn’t fit into the typical product cycles. There are versions for 2010, 2012, and 2013.
Chutzpah Test Runner Visual Studio plug in that allows you to run JavaScript QUnit, Jasmine, and Mocha unit tests the same way you run your MSTest/XUnit tests for .Net code—directly within Visual Studio. Also allows you to debug the JavaScript unit tests quickly and easily.
CssCop Integrates the CSSLint style checker into Visual Studio to help writing better CSS catching common errors that affect browser compatibility.
Azure SDK Tools and SDK’s for working with Azure services.
Fody Simple tool to weave code into your build process. In particular, I use this to add INotifyPropertyChanged events into POCO classes.
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