Thursday, March 03, 2011

Non-Coding Development Tools

If you’ve met me, you know I talk a lot about IDEs (I currently rave about IntelliJ to everyone I know). But while I have my IDE open all day, there’s a completely different set of trusty tools* I rely on to take care of the “other stuff”. If you think I’m missing something or that I’m raving lunatic, please call me out on it in the comments. (I use Windows 7 as my primary OS, so I’m sure I’ve missed great mac/*nix tools out there)


Charles ($50 or less)

Charles is the savior of service inspection. If your app loads any data, then you need Charles to give you all the info you could ever want about what’s going on behind the magic curtain.

The feature set never ceases to amaze me: saving out all the load files, comparing two different services responses, redirecting requests to a different domain, etc, etc, etc. It’s really worth every penny.


SOS Max (Free)

Debugging and profiling are extremely important to any development process. But logging is the best way to find out what’s really “going on” in your app. FlashBuilder, FDT, Intellij, etc all have a “console” that can display traces if you’re already debugging, but SOS Max let’s you have all your logs display in a separate open window even if you’re not debugging. It even allows you to log Flash, Java, and PHP all in the same window and filter the logs based on regex.



Snagit ($50 or less)

Snagit makes the process of sending someone a screenshot awesome. If someone is asking me about a visual issue, I just hit “print screen”, select the screen/area/page I want to capture, use the Snagit editor to crop/add arrows/add notes, and then send as an email/ftp/whatever all in the fastest, easiest, and most powerful way I can imagine. I love tools that do their specific job well and I honestly think Snagit takes care of the screenshot process perfectly.


Firebug (Free)

Everyone already uses firebug already, right? Right.




Meazure (Free/Windows only)

Meazure is one of those old-school powerhouse tools that look like crap, but does exactly what it claims. This tiny tool will give you a complete overload of measuring information for anything on screen (which is a good thing) and also allows you to fine-tune your selection with zoom levels, rulers, grids, and the kitchen sink.

(I think meazure and Snagit should get married and give birth to a screenshot/measuring/visual info titan.)



Everything (Free/Windows only)

Everything” is the ultimate windows search tool. It will instantly find any file on your hard drive and even let you use wildcards in your searches. I simply don’t use the regular Windows search anymore because this is so much better.



Vista Switcher (Free/Windows only)

Vista Switcher is just alt-tab, but waaaaaaaaaay better. (Ignore the “vista” part in the title, because it works perfectly on Win7 too)





There are plenty of other awesome tools out there that I use, but only occasionally (I use the list above pretty much daily):  Notepad++, Cygwin, putty, AutoHotkey, winscp, Camtasia, and some others that I can’t think of right now ;)

*Intellij actually has great ftp/version control/etc and other plugins related to the “coding workflow”, so I don’t mention any of the alternatives here because I just don’t use them.


  1. if you use windows you can try fiddler free tool instead of charles

  2. You're definitely missing something! Check out Fiddler2 as a (free) alternative to Charles!

  3. Wow. You beat me to the punch Vane. However. Shows that Fiddler is truly awesome! :)

  4. might check out Jing as an alternative to Snagit.

    Also you might like my list here:
    Color Scheme Designer 3 -
    pastebin -

  5. danyal2:09 PM

    You're missing Beyond Compare, Dropbox and Spotify!

  6. RIchD6:55 AM

    For screenshots(Mac users):

    Grabbing a screeny of a desired area of your desktop is as simple as:

    1) "ctrl-Apple key-shift-4"
    2) Then drag the mouse to capture the exact area you want.
    3) Ctrl-v into your graphics program and viola!

  7. Anonymous7:43 AM

    I've tried the cheaper/free versions of screenshot tools, but I honestly think that the featureset of Snagit it worth the $50.

    Thanks for the suggestion on WindowTabs, definitely going to try it out.

    I tried launchy awhile ago and it never caught on for me, but I think it's time to try again.

  8. Anonymous8:03 AM

    While Beyond Compare looks awesome, I can't really think of an instance that I would have wanted to use it in the past couple years...

    Dropbox, yes, definitely. I even pay for an account so I can sync our designers' huge .psds ;)

    Spotify isn't available in my country :)

  9. When trying WindowTabs you should open the "Filtering" tab under settings and select the "Filtering Settings" radio button "Enable tabbing for the following applications". (In my case: explorer.exe putty.exe and notepad.exe)
    The default is "Enable tabbing for every application" which seems to interfere with the CS5 suite chrome windows.

  10. Another nice combo is the usage of launchy with elevate (
    Open launchy settings and click the "Plugins" tab. Then select the "Runner" plugin and press the plus-button to add a new custom command:
    Name: sudo
    Program: C:Program Files (x86)SYS-ToolsElevateElevate.exe
    Arguments: $$
    I regularly use this to start my synergy plus ( cmd/batch file via launchy.

  11. ZScreen is awesome for making screenshots. One button press (or two for a cropped shot), and 2 seconds later it's uploaded to one of many selectable image services (imageshack, tinypic etc..). Not only that - the URL to the image is copied to the clipboard.

    So, it takes me about 3 seconds to take a screenshot, have it uploaded to imageshack and paste its URL into an email and off to a client!

  12. Anonymous2:21 PM

    Wow, that looks awesome. Definitely going to try it out. Thanks!

  13. paulb1:55 AM

    Don't forget Total Commander for all your file management needs.

  14. Jexchan6:29 PM

    Does Fiddler support adobe AMF?

  15. Gillberg1:52 AM

    I just love these "great software that I use lists" :-) I have used Snagit before but the rest I'll check out. Thanks!

  16. For logging (Mac)

    Nothing's better than a basic "tail" command line, made easier there:

  17. Ramiro Araujo7:33 PM

    I would trade:
    1. snaggit for Greenshot, which is free and open source.
    2. Meazure for the Ruler in Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox (plus all the other toolbar goodies)

  18. Danyal12:09 AM

    Windows has the Grab-like "Snipping Tool" as well now.

  19. grepWin!
    WinAmp (for trance on headphones)