Noah Coad’s Ultimate Tools List
These are my all time favorite apps. Most all are free and many are open source. These are what I consider the best-in-class apps after much research that I’ve used now for years.
All-time favorite utilities. The first set of apps I install on a new machine.
There are many command launchers out there, this is my favorite for its simplicity. Just drag & drop a folder, file, URL or create your own ‘magicwords’, even w parameters (my review).
|Take Command |
A replacement for cmd.exe with 100s of additional commands and parameters, tab auto completion, command history popups, tabbed consoles, colored directory listings, variable functions, great F1 .chm help for all commands, batch debugger, thriving support forums, actively improved, 100% cmd.exe compatible (even matching cmd.exe’s bugs), has native FTP/HTTP support, and much more. There is a free version but this is one well worth paying for the full version. I’ve used this app now for 20+ years, longer than Windows, Word, or any other app (my review).
Easy Windows automation scripting and hotkeys. So easy to create your own hotkeys! Got ‘em for launching Notepad, Visual Studio, opening clipboard contents, Word, Excel, email, compose an email, compose an email to the wife, and much more. (my review). See blog posts here tagged with hotkey.
Sure there are plenty of text editors out there, but Notepad2 is just so simple, easy, fast, and does 95% of what I need in a text editor. Just one file and loads blazingly fast. If you use the install it comes with it provides the option to replace the Windows default Notepad which is really handy (of course it backs up the original) and tricky to do manually. That Notepad2-mod is a branch from the original Notepad2 and just adds a few additional handy things like syntax highlighting for a bunch more languages, bookmarks, the installer, etc. This is not meant to be a replacement for your favorite full-fledged text editor, like Notepad++, SlickEdit, UltraEdit, etc, but be a quick replacement for Notepad. Here’s the litmus test, do you open every text file in your favorite editor? Or occasionally files in just Notepad? If like 90% of us the latter, try this.
|Sublime Text 2 |
My new favorite coding editor for non-.NET work, super simple and powerful. Very easy extending with Python. Just works like you’d want it to. Fantastic for Ruby, Python, C, scripting, and much more. Cross-platform too (very popular on the Mac).
Excellent group meeting app! Very easy to use. Our company uses it throughout every day. Includes good VOIP quality, showing screens, webcam, both phone dial-in and single-click a URL to launch into a meeting, iOS (iPad + iPhone) apps, etc. The real beauty is just how easy it is to use, the workflow is great. Pro Tip: create a single reoccurring meeting in GoToMeeting and save the link and dial-in info, you can use that for every meeting going forward as your own ‘meeting room’.
A “clipboard ring” that lets you press Ctrl+Shift+V to paste previous items in the clipboard. Also don’t have to worry about loosing items in the clipboard. Very very handy. (Jeff Atwood’s review)
Lovely and easy screen capturing of image or video w easy posting online. Just a couple clicks to capture a region or window, annotate, and post w a URL in the clipboard. My entire dev+QA team puts jing URLs on all visual bug or feature work items (my review).
Compression tool for .zip .7z .iso .img .tar and many more. Has the best compression rates today, open source, and includes self-extracting wrapper. Includes GUI and cmd line apps.
Let’s you print from any application to a PDF file. Actually creates smaller .pdf files than Adobe Acrobat Pro’s PDF printer and much smaller than Microsoft Office apps.
|Google Chrome |
What a fantastically simple, clean, and elegant web browser. ‘nuf said
Simple and clean file sharing, backup, remote access, syncronizing, and more. (my review)
- Stuff to Install
These are apps with installers.
- Microsoft OneNote, for quickly taking notes, one of the best Office products, and now with an iPhone app (blogged: Hotkeys to OneNote Pages, Capturing One’s “Stream of Consciousness” in OneNote
- UltraEdit, powerful text editor with tons of features such as built-in Open/Save from/to FTP, file tabs, HTML builder, hex mode, macro recording, command launching, etc
- FileZilla FTP Client, when it comes to a straight up FTP client it doesn’t get better than the simplicity and easy of this open source client
- CopyTo Synchronizer, syncs files between directories
- CCleaner, used to be called ‘crap cleaner’ it’s the standard now for removing temp files, caches, and other crap from the computer, best when combined with other cleanup techniques as in my post Master Config Your PC
- Sun VirtualBox, and impressively powerful client virtual PC client with snapshots, integrated windowing mode, and more features than Microsoft Virtual PC
- MS Virtual PC, still a standard for virtual images with simple integration with Windows
- Google Talk, everyone has a Google Account so why not just use an IM client that is clean, simple, functional. I’m tired of messing with multi-protocol clients like Digsby and Pidgin, let’s just all get along and use Google Talk
- Windows Live Writer, best in class blog writing tool
- PowerShell, built into Windows a command prompt built on .NET with incredible data piping between commands
- Stuff xcopy Deployable
Usually kept in a “Tools” directory I copy around.
- WinDirStat, creates a visual area map of the files on a drive or in a directory. Very handy for tracking down those large files or directories hogging space.
- CloseAll, closes all open windows with just a click. I like to assign it to a hotkey with AutoHotKey.
- ColorPicker, a super simple little app that lets the user just click on the screen to copy a color code to the clipboard.
- GetIcons, extracts .ico files from DLLs
- Command Line Tools
These are all xcopy deployable as well but are meant for command line usage only.
- wget for Windows, easily download files and pages from HTTP/HTTPS/FTP via command line. Great for automating. (my review)
- cdburn.exe, dvdburn.exe, ExtractISO.exe, three very simple command line apps that either burn a CD or DVD from an iso or extract to an ISO.
- fart.exe, Find and Replace Text, simply replaces text in files.
- NirCmd, a single cmdline app that does a lot of little windows stuff, like move windows, reboots computer, etc. Most of this is included in Take Command (above).
Online Cloud Tools
Tools that used to be installed locally are moving more and more to the cloud. Many are even better than their classic local equivalent.
these are all easier and more fun to use than Microsoft Visio
- Google Reader, pure awesome RSS feed reader
- WhatTheFont!, detects fonts from uploaded images
Web & Server Development
Little web dev toolkit.
- RailsInstaller, Ruby on Rails installer for Windows, includes Ruby, Rails, git, and bash shell
- Python and Django, fantastic app language and MVC web framework
- openssl, useful to working with SSL certs and used by other tools
- cURL, a command line HTTP(S) tool very helpful for testing web services, trying REST APIs, scripting HTTP calls, simple web automated testing, etc
- Apache, the open source web server
- FireFox, got to have the browsers
- IIS7 Manager, remote management of your IIS server
- Windows Server Remote Admin for Win7, if you’re going to be using Windows Servers it helps to have the remote tools on your main PC to be able to remotely administer the machines, a necessity if you’re using Windows 2008 Server R2 Core
- gpg4win, an open source implementation of OpenPGP using PKI for encrypting files and email
- soapUI, java based UI for creating SOAP XML calls
- Fiddler, simply clean HTTP traffic analysis
- Wireshark, more complex full-featured network protocal analysis
Working with Media
Discs, images, video, etc
- Paint.NET, an impressively powerful (for a free app) image manipulator
- VLC Player, a media player with just about every codec under the sun built in instead of having to install separate video/audio codecs
- Elpis, a Pandora music client that’s an open source Windows client written in C# and WPF, lovely
- VSO Image Resizer, makes resizing images a snap with presets and right-click from Windows Explorer
- DAEMON Tools Light, a free and simple CD/DVD emulator that lets you mount .iso disc images
Google Chrome Extensions
Plugins to Google Chrome, put your browser into turbo mode.
- AdBlock, blocks pesty advertisements on pages
- autocomplete = on, lets Chrome remember passwords to site that disable password recall (like PayPal)
- Bookmarks Menu Button, replace the long bookmarks bar with just one little icon
- Google Reader RSS Subscription, shows an RSS subscription button when it detects a feed on a page
- goo.gl URL Shortener, makes the current URL tiny and auto-copies to the clipboard
- amazon.com Wishlist, add a product on any page to an amazon.com wishlist
- Delicious, quickly bookmark a page on delicious
- StumbleUpon, toggles the SumbleUpon toolbar, warning: highly addictive!
- Email Link, creates a gmail with the active link
- JSONView, formats JSON objects to look nice
- Aside, flags a page for reading later with Pocket (formally Read It Later)
- Pintrest, quickly pin something w a click
- AddThis, one button to post a page to many social networking sites, including twitter, tumblr, facebook, etc
- Craigslist Preview, shows thumbnails of search results on the results page
- Web of Trust, indicates the reliability of websites
This is my standard toolkit for dev.
- Git, gotta get on the git wave, powerful source code control
- Microsoft Related
- SQL Express 2008 Management Studio, so you’ve got SQL Express 2008 installed as part of Visual Studio, that’s great, now get the rest of the UI tools
- NUnit, let’s face it, even if you’re mostly using VS and MSTest for unit testing, you’re still going to be encountering plenty of code with NUnit tests (besides, it really does rock)
- TestDriven.NET, and if you’re using NUnit this VS plugin makes it rock louder
- TortoiseSVN, subversion integration with Windows Explorer FTW
- RegexBuddy, makes working with regular expressions easy and quick with testing, matching, replacing, a reference and build tools. A paid app, but well worth it.
- Mono, hey its got a REPL implementation of C# called gsharp which is just cool for quick little C# scripting
- Collabnet Subversion SVN, gotta get ya the subversion
- VisualSVN, a subversion plugin for VS (paid app)
- Eclipse, open source IDE for the masses for Java, C/C++, Perl, Python, and much more
- AdventureWorks DB, a good sample database for working against
- ActiveState Perl, a good simple easy Perl for Windows
When working with the interaction of bits and atoms and measuring electrons, dig these.
- ExpressPCB/SCH, free schematic drawing and PCB board layout apps
- Arduino, dev env for programming the ever popular Arduinos
- Microchip PICs
- Microchip MPLAB, the interactive IDE and debugging environment for programming PICs
- Microchip PICKit 2, handy little set of dev tools for the PICKit programmer
- Microchip C18 Compiler, a free C compiler for mid-range PICs
- Microchip Low Pin USB Kit, great intro board with samples
- Microchip App Library, sample code, libraries, and applications
- Great Cow BASIC, open source BASIC compiler for 8-bit PICs
- GNU PIC Utilities, open source utilities for PICs
- Atmel AVRs
That just doesn’t fit into the above categories.
- Social Networking: Tweetdeck (full-screen twitter power, online and client app)
- Traveling: Flights w hipmunk.com, Hotels w hotels.com, Car Rentals w cheaptickets.com
Pocket computer stuff. I’ve tried probably 7x this many apps and these are the ones I keep coming back to time and time again.
- Productivity and Utility
- DropBox, view files in your dropbox folder, dynamite when combined w GoodReader
- PlainText, lets you view/edit text files stored in Dropbox
- CardMunch, take a pic of a business card and magically it’ll connect you with their LinkedIn profile
- GoodReader, lets you view all sorts of file types, PDFs, text w searching, etc
- Pocket, read those websites and articles you tagged to read later (using the Google Chrome extension)
- Flashlight, a dirt simple app that turns on the flash light
- Amazon Kindle, read your Kindle books right on your device
- Scan, free simple QR code scanner
- Talkatone, integrates with Google Voice to give entirely free phone calling and text messaging via WiFi. Like having a real phone w/out a mobile phone carrier. Also supports easy Google Chat instant messaging.
- Spending Money
- Yelp, discover new restaurants around you or lookup reviews on businesses
- Hotel Tonight, book great last minute deals on hotels
- Amazon Mobile, buy stuff fast and check prices while shopping, scans barcodes too.
- PayPal, send money quick to friends or others
- Square, take credit cards on your iPhone, great for splitting that meal bill
- #1 Game I’m playing: Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, a designer card game
- Other Recent Favs: SongPop (guess that tune w friends),
- Modern ‘Euro Style’ Board Games: Ticket to Ride, Kingsburg, Carcassone, Scotland Yard, Tikal, Tichu, Puerto Rico, Small World, Agricola, Zombie Dice, Settlers of Catan (iPhone, iPad), Elder Sign
- Classic American Games: Monopoly, The Game of Life (there are many more, but those are the only ones I keep around)
- Misc: Pix’n Love Rush, Lux DLX 2 (RISK with tons of maps), Kard Combat, Pinball HD (iPhone, iPad), Unblock Me, Soduku
- Overly Popular: Tiny Wings, Ramp Champ, Plants vs Zombies (iPhone, iPad), Temple Run, Cut the Rope Experiments, Angry Birds Space, Doodle Jump, Words with Friends
- Classic PC Games: Civilization, Duke Nukem 3D, Mass Effect, Ms Pac-Man, Myst, Command & Conquer Red Alert, Tales of Monkey Island
- BoardGameGeek, okay, not a game itself, but a mobile app for the website boardgamegeek.com
- Social: Facebook, Twitter, foursquare, Tumblr, Flickr, TweetDeck
- Entertainment: StumbleUpon, (find interesting websites), CamBox (make your own beat box), Flipboard (lovely content browsing), 360 Panorama (create 360 degree virtual reality pics)
- iOS Friendly Websites: gmail, Google Reader
- Kids: PBS KIDS Video, Elmo Calls, Animals’ Matching, PocketZoo,
- Media: Netflix, Hulu Plus, ABC Player, VEVO, Pandora, Wired Magazine, PolyTune (tune all guitar strings w one strum), AirVideo (streams video from home computer to the iPhone)
- Other: WolframAlpha, Google Voice, Microsoft OneNote, Find My iPhone, Weather Radar
- What about XYZ app?!? Well, let me know about it in the comments! Chances are I haven’t tried it yet and if it’s awesome and useful for more than two days I’ll add it to the list.
Other Tool Lists
Other people’s tools listings worth checking out:
- Scott Hanselman’s Ultimate Tools List (tons of good stuff here!)