Everyone collects utilities, and most folks have a list of a few that they feel are indispensable. Here’s mine. Each has a distinct purpose, and I probably touch each at least a few times a week. For me, “util” means utilitarian and it means don’t clutter my tray. If it saves me time, and seamlessly integrates with my life, it’s the bomb. Many/most are free some aren’t. Those that aren’t free are very likely worth your 30-day trial, and perhaps your money.
Here are most of the contents of my C:UTILS folder. These are all well loved and used. I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t use them constantly. Things on this list are here because I dig them. No one paid money to be on this list and no money is accepted to be on this list.
This is the Updated for 2011 Version of my 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 List, and currently subsumes all my other lists. Link to http://hanselman.com/tools when referencing the latest Hanselman Ultimate Tools List. Feel free to get involved here in the comments, post corrections, or suggestions for future submissions. I very likely made mistakes, and probably forgot a few utilities that I use often.
- New Entries to the 2011 Ultimate Tools are in Red. There are dozens of additions and many updated and corrected entries and fixed links. I started doing this list for EIGHT YEARS AGO which is like 60 internet years ago. I’ve also removed some older stuff that no long matters in 2011.
- 2009 Japanese Translation: Yasushi Aoki has translated the 2009 Tools List to Japanese! You can find it here http://www.hanselman.com/tools/ja-jp/ 訳: 青木靖.
NOTE: Please don’t reproduce this in its entirety, I’d rather you link to http://hanselman.com/tools. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but posts like this take a lot of work on my part and I’d appreciate that work staying where it is and linked to, rather than being copy/pasted around the ‘net. If you’re reading this content and you’re not at http://hanselman.com, perhaps you’d like to join us at the original URL?
The Big Ten Life and Work-Changing Utilities
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” – Charles Kettering
“Knowing is half the battle.” – Duke, G.I. Joe
- Bins was actually written by the same author as Fences, below, so you know it’s awesome.
It’s actually ridiculously awesome. For example, I’ve got four browsers pinned to my Windows 7 Taskbar, which is kind of silly. Now, with bins, I can make a, *ahem*, “bin” and put four browser shortcuts in the space of just one regular icon. Then I make can choose a default program for the bin when I just click, or hover to get my others. All this functionality for $4.99, and he takes PayPal. Sold. Bins almost makes Windows 7 feel like Windows 7.1.
- I mentioned Fences here almost two years ago to the day and it’s been running happily on all my Windows PCs ever since. I realize that some folks like a clean desktop but if you’d like to get those pixels working for you then I think you gotta put some icons on your desk. When they get out of hand, put a fence around them.
One of the best parts about Fences is that it’s pretty smart about changing resolutions. Some people don’t like a lot of icons because they fear the inevitable “give a presentation, change resolutions and lose all my icon positions” day. With Fences, this is not a problem. All your icons stay in their little boxes. They’ll even rearrange magically if you change icon sizes.
Fences is truly a fantastic application and one that should be built in. The author of Fences and Bin is a programming god amongst men and I salute you, sir. The next taco is on me.
- Window Pad is a multi-monitor aware window-moving tool. You use the Window Key along with the Number Pad to move windows around. Rather than spending time moving your windows with a mouse, you use the positions of the numbers on the number pad to move them.
It’s Aero Snap taken to the next level. Rather than just left and right, there’s nine positions per monitor that your windows can go, but because the positions correspond to the number pad you already know there’s virtually no learning curve. WindowPad is brilliant and deserves to be in your Startup Folder.
- Join.me – There’s a lot of screensharing utilities out there. There’s even Remote Assistance built into Windows. There’s TeamViewer, there’s CrossLoop, there’s LogMeIn, and on and on. However, when I just want to share my screen and give a URL to a bunch of people who can view it without anything other than Flash, I use Join.me. Great for Mom and great for me.
- AutoHotKey – This little gem is bananas. It’s a tiny, amazingly fast free open-source utility for Windows. It lets you automate everything from keystrokes to mice. Programming for non-programmers. It’s a complete automation system for Windows without the frustration of VBScript. This is the Windows equivalent of AppleScript for Windows. (That’s a very good thing.)
- Make sure you get the “AutoCorrect for English” script on the Other Download page. It’s got 4700 common English Misspellings. It gives you autocorrect everywhere in Windows. Every program, always. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
- Note above that Window Pad – a great util on its own – is actually written in AutoHotKey. Amazing!
- Paint.NET – The Paint Program that Microsoft forgot, written in .NET. It’s 80% of Photoshop and it’s free. It also has nice enhanced Windows 7 features.
- 7-Zip – It’s over and 7zip won. Time to get on board. The 7z format is fast becoming the compression format that choosey hardcore users choose. You’ll typically get between 2% and 10% better compression than ZIP. This app integrates into Windows Explorer nicely and opens basically EVERYTHING you could ever want to open from TARs to ISOs, from RARs to CABs.
- DropBox – There’s so many great cloud storage systems today. SkyDrive, CloudDrive, DropBox and others. I keep coming back to DropBox though. It’s on every platform I want it on. It works great with large stores (mine is over 60gigs) and also allows selective sync for small amounts of data in just certain folders. Ultimately, though, get yourself some cloud storage because when you stuff is just “there”, life is better.
- SysInternals – I want to call out specifically ProcExp and AutoRuns, but anything Mark and Bryce do is pure gold. ProcExp is a great Taskman replacement and includes the invaluable “Find DLL” feature. It can also highlight any .NET processes. AutoRuns is an amazing aggregated view of any and all things that run at startup on your box.
- A great new addition to the SysInternals Family is Process Monitor, a utility that eclipses both Filemon and Regmon. It runs on any version of Windows and lets you see exactly what a process is doing. Indispensable for developing.
- It’s also worth calling out the legendary Process Explorer as a standout and must-have utility.
- Windows Live Writer – If you’ve got a blog (and if not, why not?) then this is THE app. They’ve also got a great plugin community. It’s the second app I install.
Rocking Sweet Windows 7 Specific Stuff
“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” – George Burns
- Windows 7 – After almost two years Windows 7 has proven itself as the best OS for Windows folks. It’s time to get off XP and please forget Vista and get Windows 7 on your machine. It’s lovely.
- Ultramon or DisplayFusion – Also see below in “Stuff Windows Forgot.” Go get Ultramon or above or get Display Fusion. They both add multiple-taskbar support for Windows (all versions, including Windows 7) that’s very compelling. Unfortunately they each are 90% of the way there, just a different 90% and as of the time of this writing, it’s unclear who will run. I’m running trials of both. Ultramon has the very nice “light tracking” feature as you roll over their multiple monitor buttons and no preview, but DisplayFusion also supports the “Aero Preview” thumbnailing, but their light tracking looks wrong. Either way, it’s great that someday, and soon, the missing multiple monitor taskbar problem will at least be fixed by a 3rd party.
- Bins – See above. Bins is a great little touch that feels so integrated into Windows 7 that it really should be a part of it.
- 7stacks – In a similar vein to Bins, this free little app does one thing. It gives you “stacks” of icons that fly up from your Windows 7 (or XP or Vista) taskbar. Pick the one that makes you happy.
- Fences is the same kind of utility. It adds icon fences and organization to your troubled desktop and feels built-in.
- Virtual Windows XP – This new version of Windows Virtual PC lets you run Windows XP applications next to your Windows 7 apps for the ultimate in backward-compatibility. I like Virtual XP for when I want to run XP apps like IE6 seamlessly along site my Windows 7 apps. For when I don’t want to know I’m running a VM.
- For other VMs, I use VirtualBox. As soon as VirtualBox added support for the VHD file format, all my existing VMs suddenly became more useful. VirtualBox also runs Ubuntu on Windows like a dream.
- Boot to VHD – Not so much a utility as an amazing feature. I’ve posted before about my intense love for Booting off a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk). It gives you all the speed of a real machine with all the convenience of a virtualized hard disk.
- PowerShell – The full power of .NET, WMI and COM all from a command line. PowerShell has a steep learning curve, much like the tango, but oh, my, when you really start dancing…woof. I also use PowerShell Prompt Here. It’s built into Windows 7, by the way.
- I also recommend after installing PowerShell that you immediately go get PowerTab to enable amazing “ANSI-art” style command-line tab completion.
- Next, go get the PowerShell Community Extensions to add dozens of useful commands to PowerShell.
- Want a more advanced GUI for PowerShell? Get the free PowerGUI.
- Disk Cleanup – It’s improved, built-in and much easier to find free space in Windows 7.
A (.NET) Developer’s Life
“You can have it good, fast, or cheap. Pick two.”
- LINQPad – Interactively query your databases with LINQ with this tool from Joseph Albahari. A fantastic learning tool for those who are just getting into LINQ or for those who want a code snippet IDE to execute any C# or VB expression. Free and wonderful. There’s a whole list of LINQ related tools on Jim Wooley’s site as well.
- Microsoft Web Platform Installer – When I need to take a machine from fresh install to developer machine quickly, I start at http://www.microsoft.com/web/ and use the Platform Installer to get SQL Express, Visual Studio Express and several dozen other applications installed fast. It’s also nice in that it’ll setup PHP and ASP.NET open source applications easily.
- JetBrains dotPeek .NET decompiler – The original .NET Reflector is no longer free, but JetBrains dotPeek is. Dig into the internals of any .NET assembly from .NET 1.0 to .NET 4 and beyond.
- THREE WAY TIE: Notepad2 or Notepad++ (Scite also uses the same codebase) or E-TextEditor – The first two are great text editors. Each has first class CR/LF support, ANSI to Unicode switching, whitespace and line ending graphics and Mouse Wheel Zooming. A must. Here’s how to completely replace notepad.exe. Personally I renamed Notepad2.exe to “n.exe” which saves me a few dozen “otepad”s a day. Here’s how to have Notepad2 be your View Source Editor. Here’s how to add Notepad2 to the Explorer context menu. E-TextEditor is new on the block this year, inspired by TextMate in the Macintosh. It includes a “bundle” system that uses the scripting power of the Cygwin Linux-like environment for Windows to provide a more IDE-like experience than Notepad2 or Notepad++. It costs, though, but you should absolutely try it’s 30-day trial before you shell out your US$35.
- Notepad++ is built on the same fundamental codebase as Notepad2, and includes tabbed editing and more language syntax highlighting. Is one better than the other? They are different. I use Notepad2 as a better Notepad, but more and more I find myself using E-TextEditor aka TextMate for Windows when I need to crunch serious text. As with all opinions, there’s no right answer, and I think there’s room for multiple text editors in my life. These are the three I use.
- I’m spending time in HippoEdit lately as well. It may just be the perfect combination of all of the above…the jury is still out, but it’s worth a look.
- CodeRush and Refactor! (and DxCore) – Apparently my enthusiasm for CodeRush has been noticed by a few. It just keeps getting better. However, the best kept secret about CodeRush isn’t all the shiny stuff, it’s the free Extensibility Engine called DxCore that brings VS.NET plugins to the masses. Don’t miss out on free add-ins like CR_Documentor and ElectricEditing.
- ZoomIt – You need to present? Make your stuff seen. ZoomIt is so elegant and so fast, it has taken over as my #1 screen magnifier. Do try it, and spend more time with happy audiences and less time dragging a magnified window around. Believe me, I’ve tried at least ten different magnifiers, and ZoomIt continues to be the best. Even though there’s magnification built into Windows 7 via the “Window + Plus” key, I keep ZoomIt around so I can draw on the screen like John Madden.
- Fiddler – The easy, clean, and powerful debugging proxy for checking out HTTP between here and there. It even supports sniffing SSL traffic.
- Mite2 – A free desktop-based tool for testing and verification of mobile Web content. A must have for sites that need broad mobile coverage.
- WinMerge or BeyondCompare – I’m a BeyondCompare person and have purchased it, but WinMerge is getting better and better. It’s free, it’s open source and it’ll compare files and folders and help you merge your conflicted source code files like a champ.
- Storm – You test a lot of Web Services? Check out Storm, it’s Open Source and written in F#, but it’ll let you test Web Services (of course) written in anything. A fine way to smoke test multiple web services from a single place.
- Cassette by Andrew Davey – Does it all, compiles CoffeeScript, script combining, smart about debug- and release-time.
- YUICompressor – .NET Port that can compress on the fly or at build time. Also on NuGet.
- AjaxMin – Has MSBuild tasks and can be integrated into your project’s build.
- SquishIt – Used at runtime in your ASP.NET applications’ views and does magic at runtime.
- NirSoft Utilities Collection – Nearly everything NirSoft does is work looking at. My favorites areMyUninstaller, a replacement for Remove Programs, and WhoIsThisDomain.
- Also check out ZipInstaller; it installs utilities that don’t provide their own installer! It creates icons, puts them in the folder you want and adds an uninstaller.
- You love to Ctrl-Scroll with your mouse to zoom the size of text, right? Why not use Volumouse to control your system’s sound volume with the mouse wheel. Magical.
- BugShooting – Funny how you don’t know if you need an application until you need one. BugShooting is very specific – it takes screenshots, sure, but more importantly it sends them directly into your Bug Tracking system.
- WinCheat – Not a tool to cheat Windows or in games, WinCheat is like Spy++ in that it lets you dig deep into the internals of the PE format and the Win32 Windowing subsystems. I’m consistently surprised how often I need an app like this.
- Telerik Code Converter – Website that converts C# to VB and VB to C#.
- Kaxaml – The original and still the most awesome notepad for XAML, a must for WPF or Silverlight developers.
- NuGet – If you’re using .NET you’ve gotta be using NuGet. It’s Package Management for .NET and it’s about time.
- NuGet Package Explorer – This essential NuGet Explorer installs quickly as a Click Once application and lets you open NuGet Packages, search the NuGet website directly as well as author specs and publish NuGet packages directly from the GUI.
- MSBuildShellExtension – Really ought to be built in. Right-click on any .NET project and build it directly from Explorer.
- YSlow for FireBug – This fine little add-on from Yahoo not only includes JSLint (included on this list below) but more importantly analyzes your website for 13 different rules for high performance web sites. Not every rule applies to us, but it’s a great tool regardless.
- YSlow for Chrome – The same YSlow you love, now for Chrome.
- Extend Firebug with Firepicker for easier color management for your CSS and Styles.
- WebDeveloper for FireFox – If you’re the last developer to download FireFox, or you’re holding off, WebDeveloper is a solid reason to switch to FireFox NOW. It’s amazing and has to be used to be believed. It consolidates at least 2 dozens useful functions for those who sling ASP.NET or HTML. And if you’re a CSS person, the realtime CSS editing is pretty hot.
- CodePaste.NET – When you write code, you need to share it.
- TestDriven.NET (integrated with NCoverExplorer) – The perfect combination of Unit Testing with Visual Studio.NET. Right click and “Run Test.” The output window says “Build” then switches to “Test.” The best part, though, is “Test With…Debugger” as a right click that automatically starts up an external process runner, loads and starts your test. Compatible with NUnit, MBUnit and Team System. TD.NET also works with Silverlight.
- Silverlight Spy – If you ask anyone who does Silverlight, they’ll say there’s only one must-have tool. Silverlight Spy and this is it.
- NCrunch – Automated unit testing for .NET. Runs them in parallel and automatically, inserting the results inline inside Visual Studio. Familiar with Continuous Integration? Meet Continuous Testing.
- Siren of Shame – If you’ve got a continuous integration server setup, you really need a way to guilt people that break the build. You need a Siren of Shame.
- NDepend – This amazing app does dependency analysis on your .NET application and presents the findings as a TreeMap.
- Query Express – Wow, a Query Analyzer look-alike that doesn’t suck, doesn’t need an install, is wicked fast, is free and is only 100k. Pinch me, I’m dreaming.
- WatiN Test Recorder – WatiN is Web Application Testing in .NET, and this Test Recorder will generate chunks of source for you by recording your clicks in an embedded IE browser. It makes my old WatirRecorder pale in comparison.
- Jeff Key’s Snippet Compiler – Sits quietly waiting for you to test a quick snippet of code or algorithm. No need to even start VS.NET! Jeff hasn’t updated it in a while, but perhaps its *re-inclusion* on this list will pressure him to get working on it again. Seriously. Jeff. Give it to me and I’ll update it myself. Let’s do this!!!
- PostSharp – Take your code beyond code generation and stay DRY with aspect oriented programming. Inject repetitive code directly into your application with frameworks that cross cut concerns.
- Help+Manual – There’s few good options for creating Help Files on Windows but while Help+Manual does cost money, it’s a pretty amazing and complete system.
- TreeTrim or Jeff Atwood’s CleanSourcesPlus – Jeff extends on Omar‘s idea of a quick Explorer utility that lets you right click on any folder with code in it and get your bin,obj,debug,release directories blown away. Jeff’s includes configuration options for deleting things like Resharper folders and Source Control bindings. TreeTrim is a similar command-line tool for cleaning up, but on steroids, including a plugin model.
- Visual Studio Gallery – All the world’s extensions to Visual Studio in one place, and ranked by the public. Easy to search and sort.
- SQL Complete – Adds Intellisense to SQL Server Management Studio and it’s free. How can you not like that?
- FileHelpers – This open source library is the easiest way I’ve found to get data out of fixed-length or delimited text files and into Sql or Excel.
- MemProfiler – The amount of information this tool offers is obscene. We used this at my last job to track down a number of funky memory leak
- LogParser – Get to know it, as it’s a free command-line tool from Microsoft that lets you run SQL queries against a variety of log files and other system data sources, and get the results out to an array of destinations, from SQL tables to CSV files. I dig it and use it to parse my own logs
The Angle Bracket Tax (XML/HTML Stuff)
“Without an XML Schema, you might as well replace all those < and > signs with quotes and commas, ‘cuz that’s what you’ve got – just less-than/greater-than-delimited text.” – Scott Hanselman
- XPathMania and Mvp.XML – This is an extension to the XML Editor within Visual Studio 2005 that allows you to execute XPath queries against the current document dynamically. Created under the Mvp.Xml umbrella project – also a kickbutt XML extension library.
- SketchPath for XPath – SketchPath does for XPath what Regulator did for Regular Expressions. It’s totally hardcore.
- XmlSpy – Just buy it.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Toolkit – Got broken links on your site? Is your HTML SEO optimized? This fantastic free tool answers all these questions and hundreds more as it chews your angle brackets for you, creating flexible reports and a full queryable database of your site.
- XML Viewer for Google Chrome – Like Google Chrome but miss IE’s XML text viewer? Here’s a XML Viewer as a Chrome Extension. Take control.
Visual Studio Add-Ins
“This one goes to eleven…” – Nigel Tufnel
- Productivity Power Tools – Add a dozen cool new enhancements to Visual Studio 2010 and get a pick of the next version of Visual Studio. Improved Find, middle click scrolling, improved refactorings, an all new Solution Navigator, new tabs and much more.
- Web Essentials – Add Live Web Preview, improved CSS editing, color preview, font preview and lots more to Visual Studio with this lightweight and actively developed “playground” extension.
- NuGet Package Manager – NuGet integrates into the References node of the Solution Explorer, enables Package Management and brings PowerShell directy into to Visual Studio.
- Web Workbench with Sass, Less and CoffeeScript – Teach Visual Studio 2010 all about Sass, Less and CoffeeScript with this free addin from MindScape. You’ll wonder how you lived with out these technologies and be impressed how seamlessly they integrate.
- tangible T4 Editor – It’s a crying shame that T4 templates don’t get syntax-highlighting in Visual Studio. Cry no more.
- VsVim – Obsessed with the Vim editor but also like Visual Studio? Why not like them both? It’s also open source.
- StyleCop – StyleCop analyzes C# source code to enforce a set of style and consistency rules. It can be run from inside of Visual Studio or integrated into an MSBuild project. Totally useful by yourself or with a team.
- Pex – Amazing Visual Studio addin that finds edge cases in your code that ordinary unit testing never can.
Some people, when confronted with a problem, think “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems. – Jamie Zawinski
- TextCrawler – I used to use Funduc’s Search and Replace for multi-file search and replace with regular expressions, but somehow the interface of TextCrawler is more intuitive to me.
- David Seruyange’s “NRegEx” Ajax-based RegEx Tester – An very minimalist online Ajax-based ASP.NET site, I keep turning to this via a bookmark when I want to test a quick RegEx. It’ll tell me how a RegEx will work in .NET.
- gSkinner – An amazing Flash-based online RegEx tool for writing and testing RegEx.
- Expresso – Almost 8 years old and extremely mature, Expresso is now free!
- Roy Osherove’s Regulator – Roy entered the RegEx fray with a bang, and with syntax highlighting and web services integration with regexlib.com. The very definition of slick.
- Regulazy – Currently at version 1.01, this tool is a great way for newbies to start using Regular Expressions. Write regular expressions without prior knowledge of the syntax!
- Collection of Regular Expressions Toolbox – When I’m overwhelmed, I start here. A huge list of all the basics of Regular Expressions, laid out cleanly and logically. I also like these 8 Regular Expressions You Should Know.
- RegexDesigner.NET from Chris Sells – Simple, elegant, small. A great little application. Almost 10 years old, and still useful.
Scott’s Note: Personally, I’m all about Windows 7 now, so I’m not using a 3rd party launcher any more as I don’t see the need. However, here are some stand-outs I’ve used in the past that you might want to check out.
“Oh, yes, little Bobby Tables, we call him.” – http://xkcd.com/327
- Slickrun – still the sexy favorite, this little floating magic bar keeps me moving fast, launching programs, macros and explorer with its shiny simplicity.
Tell them I sent you.
- Also available is an Open Source project called MagicWords (not updated since Feb 07) that looks similar to SlickRun.
- Martin Plante has created SlimKeys and continues to innovate his a “universal hotkey manager” with a .NET plugin architecture. If you’ve got ideas or thoughts, visit the slimCODE Forums.
Have you ever wanted to bind something to Shift-Ctrl-Alt-Window-Q but didn’t know how to grab a global hotkey? This will launch programs, watch folders, and find files.
- Promptu – A new entry into the lauching space, promptu ups the ante with new features like syncing between computers.
- Humanized Enso – Unquestionably the smoothest and most interesting user interface of the launchers, Enso pops up as the Caps-Lock key is held down, and performs the command when the key is released. It takes a minute to understand, but it’s a very clean UI metaphor. They are now bringing Enso’s metaphor to Firefox as “Ubiquity.”
- Colibri – The closest thing so far, IMHO, to Quicksilver on Windows, although this little gem has a slow startup time, it runs fast! It’s being actively developed and promises integration with a dozen third party programs. It also formally supports “Portable Mode” for those of you who like to carry your apps around on a USB key.
- Launchy – Another do it all application, Launchy binds to Alt-Space by default. This app also has the potential to be Quicksilver like if it start including support for stringing together verb-noun combos. It’s pretty as hell and totally skinnable (there’s TWO Quicksilver skins included!)
Stuff I Just Dig
“Great googlely moogley!” – Johnny Carson
- Hulu Desktop – Forgive me ahead of time if you don’t live in the US, but Hulu Desktop is so awesome it’s insane. It’s all the goodness of Hulu including TV shows and movies, with the “lean-back” convenience of a Media Center. Seriously, tell your friends.
- Electric Plum iPhone Mobile Simulator – A nice little iOS browsing experience emulator. Saves me time when writing jQuery Mobile sites.
- I also use the Opera Mobile Emulator to see how my sites will turn out on small or tablet devices.
- µTorrent – I say “u-torrent” but I suppose “micro-torrent” is more correct. When you need a BitTorrent Client to download your Legal Torrents or my podcast torrent, there’s no better, faster, cleaner or more powerful client out there. Love it.
- xplorer2 – Norton Commander-like functionality for Windows. It’s one better than Explorer. There’s 32-bit and 64-bit versions and it supports Windows 7.
- RescueTime – Are you productive? Are you spending time on what you need to be spending time on? RescueTime keeps track of what you are doing and tells you just that with fantastic reports. Very good stuff if you’re trying to GTD and TCB. 😉
- SyncBack – How can you not like a company named 2BrightSparks? There’s a Freeware SE version as well. Golden, with a clean crisp configuration UI, I use this tool internally for scheduled backups and syncs between machines within my family network.
- Tortoise source control for all!
- Don’t like to mix your source control and your Explorer? Then integrate your favorite SCC into Visual Studio!
- EtherPad is gone but they’ve put it up a fork at PiratePad – This web-based multi-person interactive notepad has quickly become my #1 tool for brainstorming online with my remote team.
- TimeSnapper – Tivo for your desktop? Kind of. TimeSnapper can’t give you files back, but it’ll take a screenshot in the background at user-configurable intervals and let you answer the burning question – What was I doing all day at work? Free and only 80k. Another brilliant idea blatantly stolen off my list of things to do and executed by folks more clever than I. Kudos.
- IcoFx – There is just no better icon editor for Windows out there. Any input, any output, it’s super modern and just works.
- Jing – Jing is a weird little app that is a screenshot app, a screencast app and a sharing app. It’s incredibly easy to use and includes a free account at screencast.com for sharing your videos. It keeps pulling me back into it’s strange gravity.
- WinSnap and Window Clippings – I’m torn between two of the finest screenshot utilities I’ve ever found. WinSnap has as many (or as few) options as you’d like. Also does wonders with rounded corners and transparency, as does Window Clippings. Both include a 32-bit and 64-bit version, as well as a portable no-install version and WinSnap offers Windows 7 taskbar features. However, Window Clippings also has no install, includes 32 and 64-bit, has a plugin model and is only $18. It’s a tough one. I use Window Clippings at least daily, and I use WinSnap a few times a week. Both these apps are worth your download.
- Shotty – Shotty is another great little screenshot utility with a nicely streamlined workflow. Most importantly, it also does transparent PNGs and respects Aero glass.
- BabySmash! – OK, I snuck it in. So sue me. It’s not a tool, or is it? If you’ve got an infant and you need to entertain them while you sneak in some coding, it’s invaluable. 😉
- GBridge – I used to use Hamachi as a private VPN system to log into multiple machines across my personal networks but I’ve recently started preferring GBridge. It gives you VPN, VNC, and file sharing security over Google’s GTalk network. Ya, crazy, I know.
- DarkRoom – When I just want everything to go away so I can think, I don’t just want a clean desktop, I want a Dark Room to work in. I love this text editor for getting my thoughts straight. I also use it for more dramatic presentations.
- Foxit Reader for Windows – Fast as hell. Version 3.1 is even better. This little PDF reader requires no installer and is tiny and fast. Did I mention fast? Good bye, Acrobat. Sorry.
- Visual Studio Theme Generator and Best Visual Studio Themes – This online application will actually dynamically generate a new Visual Studio color theme file for you. Or you can download a hand-built one and make Visual Studio yours.
- Virtual TI-89 [Emulator] – Sometimes CALC.EXE doesn’t cut it, and I want a REAL scientific calculator for Windows, so I emulate the one I used in college. Nerdy? Yes.
- Visual Studio 2010 Wallpapers – A site dedicated to making your desktop pretty with community-submitted Visual Studio wallpapers? What else could you want?
- VLC Media Player – Screw all other media players. When you just want to watch video. Bam.
- FAR File Manager – Norton Commander is back, it is still text mode, it’s still lightning speed and it’s from the makers of RAR File Archiver. I’ll race you. I get FAR, you get Explorer.
- Skype – Internet VOIP Calls with better sound than the POTS phone? Free? Conference calls as well? Sign me up.
- DOSBox – When you’re off floating in 64-bit super-Windows-7-Ultimate land, sometimes you forget that there ARE some old programs you can’t run anymore now that DOS isn’t really there. Enter DOSBox, an x86 DOS Emulator! Whew, now I can play Bard’s Tale from 1988 on Windows 7 from 2009.
- Cygwin – Remind yourself of your roots and give yourself a proper Unix prompt within Windows. However, it’s less about the prompt as it is about the wealth of command-line tools you’ll gain access to.
- Tomighty – The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to stay focused and really get things done. There’s dozens of timers to support your Pomodoro habit but Tomighty is the best. Just works.
- SketchFlow or Balsamiq – All good designs started out as sketches, but rather than using paper and pencil, use a UX (User Experience) sketching tool to decide what your application should look like and how it should behave.
- FinePrint – This virtual printer lets you save paper, print booklets, delete pages and graphics, and provides print preview for every application. I love these guys so much it’s inappropriate.
- Fraps – DirectX video capture! Exactly what you need when you want full screen video of a DirectX or OpenGL application.
- Expression Encoder 3 – When I do videos for the web, I record in 720p but I squish all my stuff with Expression Encoder. Version 3 added screen capture as well as better H.264 support.
- Tor Anonymous Browsing – This tool lets your anonymous your web browsing and publishing. Use it when you’re on the road, or staying in a hotel.
“If you know how to use Process Monitor competently, people of both sexes will immediately find you more attractive.” – Scott Hanselman
- The Ultimate Boot CD and the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows – I’ve downloaded and saved everything from BootDisk.com, including Win95 and Win98 boot disks and a DOS 6.22 disk. The boot CDs are life-savers and should be taken to all family gatherings where the relatives KNOW you’re a computer person. They’ll expect you to save their machines before the turkey is served.
- Hiren’s BootCD – More up to date and more hardcore, Hiren’s BootCD is essential for saving machines from rootkits and other evil.
- BlueScreenView – Got a Windows crash dump from a blue screen and you really want to know what really happened? BlueScreenView almost always can tell you the culprit.
- GSpot – If you are Deeply Interested in know what codec that video is using, GSpot will likely be able to tell you more than you could possible care to.
- Bart’s Preinstalled Enviroment (BartPE) – Ever want to just boot quickly off a CD and get some data off an NTFS drive? What about network access? This is a bootdisk you’ll keep in your bag all the time. Unfortunately, it’s not been updated in a while, but I keep it around anyway.
- DllFiles – You never know when you might need an old-ass dll.
- PInvoke.NET – When you’ve got to call into a system DLL from managed code, at least do it with the help of this wiki that’s FULL of the correct DllImport statements.
- HandBrake – There’s dozens of video converters out there but I keep coming back to HandBrake. Great way to make those 8 processor machines work hard.
- cURL – Throw this in your PATH right away. You never know when you want to issue an HTTP request from the command line. Once you know you can, you’ll do it all the time.
- Snoop and Mole – These amazing WPF developer utilities help you visually debug your applications at runtime. What’s on top of what? Where’s that panel? These are how you find out.
- InspectExe – Explore and diagnose problems with Win32 applications. Display all import and export functions of an executable file, shows function definition for decorated (mangled) function names. Sometimes you just gotta crack it open.
- DVDDecrypter and other utils – When you just need to make an archival backup copy of a DVD.
- PSPVideo9 – Meant for the Playstation Portable, this utility is more useful that you think. It creates MP4 squished video you can use anywhere.
- WireShark – Used to be called Ethereal, but it’s Wireshark. Very free, and very good. Although, I’ve needed it less and less as I find myself using…
- …the Microsoft Network Monitor 3.3 – Version 3.x was a fine upgrade to NetMon, overhauling the guts. This is a very full featured sniffer and I’ve never had a problem with it.
- Bitvise Tunnelier SSH Client – Lots of folks use Putty to SSH into things, but frankly, it’s hard. Bitvise Tunnelier will handle anything you can throw at it.
- Top 125 Network Security Tools – Ever useful network security tool there is in a fantastic list.
- Soluto – This is the prettiest and highest-level “low-level” utility you’ll ever use. It analyses all the things that happen during your system’s boot and rearranges, delays, defers and speeds up your boot by analyzing what worked for everyone else using the tool. A social network for your boot process? Madness.
- Process Explorer – The ultimate replacement for TaskManager. Includes the amazing Find DLL feature to find out what processes have your DLL in memory.
- Strings – Gives you more detail that you can handle about text hidden within binaries.
Websites and Bookmarklets
“So why is “Shut down” on the Start menu? When we asked people to shut down their computers, they clicked the Start button. Because, after all, when you want to shut down, you have to start somewhere.” – Raymond Chen
- Bit.ly – All the goodness of TinyUrl with statistics, real-time tracking, accounts and much, much more. If you get a Bit.ly url, add a + to the end of it to see lots of statistics!
- Markup.io – So smart. Got a webpage to markup? Don’t download an app. Use this bookmarklet, mark it up directly in the browser, then share a marked up URL. Magic. Like this.
- BrowserShots – What’s your site look like in MSIE4.0? Opera 9.64? This site will show you.
- StackOverflow – Get your questions answered here! If you haven’t heard, you better ask someone.
- SQL Designer – A web-based DHTML/AJAX SQL Entity Relationship Designer that exports .SQL files. Seriously. Drink that in, then visit it.
- ViewPure – Watch a YouTube video. Just the video and not the rest of the crap or ads or other videos around it. It’s readability for YouTube.
- BugMeNot – Being forced to log into a website or news organization but you don’t have a username or don’t want one? BugMeNot.
- Design – Overlay grids, rules, and crosshairs on your Web Site design, using only a bookmarklet.
- Del.icio.us – A social distributed bookmarks manager. It took me a bit to get into it, but their Bookmarklets that you drag into your Links toolbar won me over. All my bookmarks are here now and I can always find what I need, wherever I am. Very RESTful. I have used this for YEARS.
- Kuler – A wonderful color scheme chooser for when you aren’t a designer but you wish you were.
- Color Scheme Designer – I’m not a designer and I have no style, but I do know what I like. This site makes it easy to brainstorm, design and tweak a color scheme for your next big project.
- smtp4dev – I often write apps that fire out emails and notifications. It’s great to fire up a little SMTP mail server and have the emails delivered to a local folder. Great for testing and debugging anything that sends mail.
- HTML5 Boilerplate – A good place to start when you’re learning about HTML5 and are ready to create sites that look great and work great everywhere.
- TypeTester – The very best way to compare up to three different web-typefaces.
- What the Font? – This website will let you upload an image with a font and it’ll guess (usually right) what font it is.
- 32 Bookmarklets for Web Designers – I use these when I’m DEEP into some thing CSSy and it’s tearing me apart.
- http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com/ – Is that Website Down For Everyone Or Just Me? Enough said.
- BuiltWith – What was that site BUILT WITH?
- Google Maps + HousingMaps.com – Google Maps is cool, but Paul Rademacher’s HousingMaps.com is synergy. It was the first great Mashup of Web 2.0 and I keep it around to remind me of what’s possible if you keep an idea fresh and simple.
- ProxySwitcher – Always on the road and switching between client networks? Now switch your proxy servers as fast as you change pants.
- YouGetSignal – Amazingly helpful collection of online networking tools.
- XRay – This sleek little bookmarklet lets you quickly see all the CSS attributes attached to any HTML element.
- The Morning Brew – The website I read every work day that helps me keep up on what’s new in .NET.
- PortableApps.com – Take all your favorite apps with you on a USB key without installing them! All your settings remain. Be sure to get PStart, the handy Portable Apps Launcher for the Tray.
- More Portable apps at http://portablefreeware.com/
- There’s also JSHint which is a more aggressive than JSLint.
Tools for Bloggers and Those Who Read Blogs
“You can do anything, but not everything.” – David Allen
- Google Reader – RSS aggregators appear to be slowly dying and the winner (or only one left?) appears to be Google Reader. Although, I still read with a phat client like…
- PNGGauntlet and PNGOut – If you’ve got PNGs, don’t put them online without compressing them first! This is SO important to bloggers that care about their user’s experiences.
- InstaPaper – InstaPaper and it’s “ReadLater” functionality is absolutely essential for dealing with the large amounts of information that bloggers come across. Read anything on the web on your time on any device. I use InstaPaper daily.
- FeedValidator – If your RSS/Atom feed doesn’t pass FeedValidator’s tests, it’s crap. Seriously. Crap.
- IFTTT (IfThisThenThat) – A social workflow manager that lets you combine everything on the web with everything else. IFTTT is now an essential tool in everything I do on the social web.
- OneNote with cloud syncing and OneNote for iPhone – I recently switched off of EverNote and over to OneNote when the OneNote iPhone app came out. That means I can use all my Office apps with OneNote, sync them to the cloud and they are already on my iPhone. I can also edit my cloud notes at http://docs.live.com on machines that don’t have OneNote.
- Evernote and RememberTheMilk – These two apps manage notes and todos and they do it in an elegant and cross platform way. Evernote works on the Mac, Windows, iPhone, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry and your notes live in the cloud. Remember The Milk is your todos any way you like them, from Google Calendar, Twitter, BlackBerry and Bookmarklets.
- MetroTwit – The prettiest and most actively developed Twitter client for Windows. With an incredibly responsive development team and automatic updates, Metrotwit gets better each month.
- Windows Live Writer – The ultimate offline Blog Post tool. It has an easy SDK. If you don’t like it, change it.
- Amazon Quick Link – If you blog, you likely read. If you read, you may read books. If you blog, read and read books, you may want to blog about the books you read. Here’s where to start. This will insert your Amazon Associates ID into Amazon links in your blog posts.
- CallBurner – If you blog, you may also podcast. CallBurner is a great way to record your Skype calls. Lots of options and creates both stereo MP3s as well as a WAV file for each side of the call. Their Video version VodBurner will record video as well.
“Tomorrow is 11/11/11, not 11/11/11. Bloody Americans.” – Laurentme0w
- GetRight – Downloads, resumes and most importantly, splits up large downloads over HTTP or FTP into as many as 10 concurrent streams.
- WebDeveloper for FireFox – If you’re the last developer to download FireFox, or you’re holding off, WebDeveloper is a solid reason to switch to FireFox NOW. It’s amazing and has to be used to be believed. It consolidates at least 2 dozens useful functions for those who sling ASP.NET or HTML. And if you’re a CSS person, the realtime CSS editing is pretty hot.
- IEView and ViewInFireFox – These two utils go together. Both are FireFox extensions, but they are yin to the others yang. They add View in Internet Explorer and View in FireFox context menu items to their respective browsers. Great if you develop, but also great if you tend to visit sites that aren’t browser agnostic.
- Speckie – Spell check for Internet Explorer. The feature IE forgot, cleanly integrated. Install and forget.
- FireFox Extensions – Stunning! Extensions for my browser that won’t kill kittens! DownloadManagerTweak, AdBlockPlus, and GreaseMonkey.
- JSONView for Chrome – Makes exploring JSON payloads in Chrome much easier.
Things Windows Forgot
“I didn’t know anything about this. So I called up some folks at Microsoft, and apparently we make a lot of different image editors.” – Steve Balmer
- Ultramon Beta or DisplayFusion – It’s not clear why, but Windows 7 doesn’t have a taskbar on every monitor. However, these two tools add this functionality back. Explore these two options – there’s more details and screenshots here.
- Ditto – It’s TiVo for your Windows Clipboard. Open source work well with any clipboard format.
- ClipX – “ClipX is a tiny clipboard history manager. It is sweet, it is free, use it.”
- Console2 – An open source Windows console enhancement with transparency, different styles, and more. Yum. I found this one a few years ago and it keeps getting better. I loved it so much I even gave it sexier icons.
- ImgBurn – Well, yes and no. Windows 7 includes a basic ISO burning app, but ImgBurn has the right balance of clean interface and piles of technical information. I like to know exact what’s happening when I burn a disk and Free ImgBurn is a joy to use. Don’t let their website freak you out. It’s THE burning app to get.
- VoidTools Everything Search Engine – Sometimes you just want a text box, a 300k application and you want to Search Everything. This tiny utility makes it super easy to search your entire hard drive (all of them actually) instantly. You can Google the whole internet with Bing in a second, why shouldn’t you be able to do the same with your hard drive. Best part is that it works on any version of Windows, even Windows 2000.
- PureText – Ever wish Ctrl-V didn’t suck? And when I say “suck” I mean, wouldn’t you rather spend less of your live in Edit|Paste Special? PureText pastes plain text, purely, plainly. Free and glorious. Thanks Steve Miller
- MagicISO/MagicDisk – Another great utility with a scary website. The trial is a little crippled, but you can mount ISOs on Windows (including Windows 7), create and extract image files, make bootable CDs and DVDs and more.
- Paint.NET – The Paint Program that Microsoft forgot, written in .NET. If you like to live on the edge, go get the Paint.NET 3.5 Alpha build with enhanced Windows 7 features.
- DoPDF – Want to print to a virtual printer and have a PDF pop out? Bam.
- Wim2VHD – This is REALLY advanced stuff and Windows didn’t really “forget” it as it didn’t include it out of the box. If you want to make a bootable and “sys-prepped” Windows 7 Virtual Machine from your Windows 7 DVD media, this is the script for you.
- Win7 Library Tool – This one is obscure, but if you have this problem you’ll be as happy as I was to find it. If you have your documents on a SAN or non-Windows remote drive you’ll find that you’re unable to put them into a Windows 7 Document Library. This tool will programmatically do for you what the built-in GUI won’t. Works great with my Synology.
- TrueCrypt – I love that this is free. Create a file or partition and encrypt the heck out of it. You can even encrypt a secret drive that’ll have “decoy” documents that you can give the bad guys when they torture the password out of you. Prepare your getaway drive now.
- TeraCopy – I’m not sure/convinced yet that TeraCopy is really faster than RoboCopy, but it feels faster. I do a lot of network file copies that go on for hours, and TeraCopy has the right balance of a clean interface and badassness to make the list. The error recovery is top-notch also.
- BareGrep and BareTail – Really everything these guys do is worth your time. There’s lots of ways to get this functionality, including the GNU Utils for Windows and BareTail. The point is, it should have been included! A “tail -f” for Windows. Great if you work with programs that write to log files and you want to watch the log as it’s being written. Also has keyword highlighting so you can see things get visually flagged as they go by. Also, who doesn’t want to Grep?
- Unlocker – Can’t delete a file? Who has it open? Thanks Windows for NOT telling me. Unlock will, though.
- PassPack or KeePass – If you have a crapload of secrets and passwords and you’d like to keep them as such, take a look at these two utils. PassPack is largely online while KeePass is totally offline. KeePass is free and open source with a very clean and very powerful interface.
- SpaceSniffer – Everyone’s always looking for a great tool to find out what’s taking up all the space on your hard drive. SpaceSniffer is fast, pretty, fun to watch and powerful. I’m using SpaceSniffer today, but I’ve also liked:
- DiskView – The most powerful disk usage program I’ve found, DiskView integrates nicely with Explorer and includes SMART disk health statistics.
- SequoiaView – A fast Treemap of your disk usage. The original.
- WinDirStat – There’s a lot of Disk Visualization Tools out there, but this one just seems to tell me exactly what I need to know and it can be run without installation.
- OverDisk – This one’s stuck at version 0.11b but it’s still worth a download. It’s a pie chart view of your disk space usage. It runs really slow – takes forever, really – however, it’s worth the wait.
- TreeSize Free – Ok, sure, at this point I’m just collecting size utilities, but honestly, I love looking at different visualizations of hard drive space. TreeSize Free is lightweight and simple. A tree view with an overlaid bar chart.
- Prish Image Resizer – Yes, you heard me right, son. That means Right-Click an image in Explorer and freaking RESIZE IT BABY. Lovely. Reliable. Wife loves it. Works in 32-bit and 64-bit. Why is this not part of Windows 7?
- Synergy – A virtual KVM. Share your mouse and keyboard between multiple computers on your desk, even if those computers run all different operating systems. Free and open source.
- BgInfo from SysInternals – If you log into a lot of boxes remotely and always wonder, where the hell is this? This wallpaper tool creates custom wallpapers with all the information you’d need, like IP Address, Box Name, Disk Space, and it’s totally configurable.
- SmartFtp – Say what you like, but I’ve tried them all, and SmartFtp is flat-out the best FTP app out there for Windows. And they get a +1 charisma for having a 64-bit version.
- SharpKeys – Do you want your Right-CTRL key to map to the Windows Key? I do. Why can’t I do it with Windows’ Control Panel? Because Windows forgot. Thankfully Randy didn’t. Remap any key in Windows.
- PC De-Crapifier – So you just bought a Dell for $300 and it has a $4000 value worth of Crapware. Get ride of that poo with the De-Crapifier.
- Spybot – The first thing I install when I visit a relatives house. Seriously. Step One.
- Magical Jelly Bean KeyFinder – Misplace your Windows and Office Product Keys? Find them with this.
- KatMouse – Wish you could scroll windows without changing focus to that Window? Katmouse lets you scroll just by moving the mouse over the window…no need to click before wheel-scrolling.
- Start Killer – Blasphemy! Remove the Start Menu itself from your Taskbar and get back room for one more icon! It’s nice to have the option.
- Bulk Rename Utility – A graphical and incredible versatile way to rename large numbers of files using a myriad of patterns. Invaluable.
- PSTools from SysInternals – All the command-line tools that Windows forgot…kill, loggedon, remote exec, shutdown, getsid, etc.
- Terminals – An Open Source multi-tabbed Remote Desktop client. Simple and useful. In danger of fading away! Support Open Source.
- TouchCursor – If you move the cursor a lot, but you don’t like moving your hands, why not make I,J,K,L (where you right hand is already) move the cursor? I’m not sure it’s worth $20, but it works exactly as advertised.
- Synchronex – A file synchronizer, sure, but not just any file synchronizer, this one supports local, UNC, FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, ZIP and versioning. And only $20. Oy. I use it for backing up my blog on a schedule. An obtuse scripting format, more complex than SyncBack SE, but more detail oriented and powerful. Once you set it and forget it, IJW (It Just Works.) Brilliant and bananas.
- Visual Studio Prompt Here – Right click on a folder and get four different “prompt here” options; cmd.exe, Visual Studio 2003, 2005, 2008, and PowerShell. Travis has the complete round-up.
Outlook AddIns and Life Organizers
“With engineering, I view this year’s failure as next year’s opportunity to try it again.” – Gordon Moore
- Evernote and RememberTheMilk – Gotta show these twice! These two apps manage notes and todos and they do it in an elegant and cross platform way. Evernote works on the Mac, Windows, iPhone, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry and your notes live in the cloud. Remember The Milk is your todos any way you like them, from Google Calendar, Twitter, BlackBerry and Bookmarklets.
- gSyncit – I’ve got data in Outlook Calendar and Google Calendar, and I now use gSyncit to keep my live in sync between Outlook and Google.
- PocketMod – Has nothing to do with Outlook, but everything to do with getting organized. This tiny book is created by some creative folding and your printer. Design it and print it yourself for free.
- Getting Things Done (GTD) with Outlook
- XMind – A great free mind-mapping tool with a fast and intuitive (not to mention keyboard friendly) interface.
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© 2011 Scott Hanselman. All rights reserved.
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Scott Hanselman’s 2011 Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows