Tools of my trade

Every craftsman has their go-to set of tools. Developers are no different. Regardless of what framework or language you work in, experienced coders know the importance of tools. They can automate your work, make your work easier, or even do your work for you. Hey, I think it’s great if you use Notepad and the command prompt to compile your code. But don’t judge me if I rely on software to work smarter.


For reasons I don’t want to go into, I’ve been having to rebuild my machine multiple times recently. And every time, I need to remember what apps I had installed, download, and install them again. So to make it easier on myself, here’s the list…most if not all are free. I’m hoping to keep this list updated as new tools overtake others. But who am I kidding, that’s too much work. I wish there was a collective place to keep lists like this. Someone should create an app for that.




Visual Studio

I do most of my work in the Microsoft stack. So Visual Studio is a must. I use VS Enterprise (cuz that’s how I roll) but there are two free versions. Community will do just fine for most software development. And if you’re on a Mac or a flavor of Linux, there’s VS Code.



VS Web Extension Pack

If you do a lot of .NET web development like I do, you’ve probably heard of the Web Essentials extension for Visual Studio created by Mads Kristensen. Big fan of that guy…big fan! He put together a  pack of extensions that are pretty darn cool.



SQL Server Management Studio

Everyone loves a good SQL database. Why not be like the cool kids and connect to it with SSMS? The latest version (16.x.x as of this writing) improves the connection experience with  Azure SQL databases.



Remote Desktop Connection Manager

What? You’re still remoting onto servers with mstsc? Manage all your servers and credentials with RDCMan.




SQL queries are so 2007*. If you use Entity Framework as your ORM then you’re probably using LINQ to query your data. LINQPad allows you to test your LINQ queries and see what SQL is generated. Not only that, you can write full .NET apps and save them for later use. No solution or project files needed. This comes in handy if you have C# code that you want to execute every so often.




A great tool to monitor traffic on your PC. There are other nice features like the ability to cache and manipulate a server’s response, simulate network traffic conditions, and manually construct HTTP requests.




Like Notepad but 2 pluses better. Notepad++ has a multi-tab UI, auto formatting based on the file type, and a bunch of plugins allowing you to extend the functionality.




Not another collaboration tool, right? I like Slack over email, or Skype, or whatever because it actually facilitates collaboration among a group of people. Sure on the surface it looks like a chat room app, but when you factor in snippets, post, customizable extensions, and giphy, there’s real value there. Fun fact: Slack is an acronym for Searchable Log of All Conversations and Knowledge.



Azure Storage Explorer

If you have Azure storage, be it blob, table, or queue, you’ll need a way to access it. The version on codeplex is no longer actively maintained but it still works fine for me. There’s a new tool in preview –



Sysinternal ShellRunas

A great little tool to run applications under a different user. The runas (netonly) is especially handy if you need to run it as a user of a different domain. Actually there are other great tools under the Windows Sysinternals umbrella.




Stop sitting in your dark cave, staring at your 20,000 lumen monitors. f.lux manages the intensity and hue of your monitor, automatically dimming your screens when the sun goes down. This adjustment is supposed to make your eyes less tired and even allow you to sleep better after a long night of hacking.




Chrome & Firefox. Not much else to say here.



Another one from the Sysinternal family. This nifty guy allows you view debug output from programs that are running on your machine. It’s useful if you’re writing an app and want to monitor it without having to attach a debugger.




And of course you need tunes when you’re completely “plugged in”. Spotify is my player of choice. I used to use Pandora but you can’t beat creating your own playlist from an endless selection of music on Spotify.




*Kidding…sort of 😛