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My 5 most used free utilities

With Microsoft's release of ProcessMonitor, the next version of SysInternal's FileMon, I thought I'd share the 5 free utilities I use most often in my day to day programming.

In no particular order (and I realize there's nothing original in my list):

Reflector
Reflector is a "class browser", which pretty much it let's you look inside .NET assemblies and figure out how they work. Recently I used Reflector to uncover a [possible] threading bug in MySQL Connector/NET. I also looked inside the SynchronizedQueue class to see exactly how it worked (yes, it was obvious but I wanted to make sure).

Fiddler
Fiddler is an HTTP Proxy aimed at helping you debug HTTP requests. It's particularly useful at Fuel because we work with a lot of different data protocols over HTTP. Of the 5 tools, it's probably the one I'd be most screwed without :)

FileMon
FileMon is one of those "last resort" tools – you don't use it often, but when it gets to the point where you need it, it comes in really handy. FileMon monitors file/directory access, so it's great when you think their might be permission issues or missing files.

Snippet Compiler
Lately I've been using SC less often, but it's still pretty handy. SC is a mini-IDE which lets you quickly compile C#/VB.NET code and run it as a console application. It's great for testing small chunks (snippets) of code.

Visual Source Safe
I know a lot of developers hate visual source safe. For the most part I agree with all of you. The truth though is that any source control is better than none (ya ya, not if it corrupts your repository). If you can, consider buying the relatively cheap SourceGear Vault or installing the free Subversion, but we are using VSS here at work and it's doing it's job just fine. 

Honorable Mentions

TestDriven.NET
I haven't had a lot of opportunity to work with TDD.NET lately (doing a lot of planning/and very small projects). I love tools that enhance VS.NET, and this is the best one if you're into unit testing.

FireFox
There are a lot of addons that make FireFox a great tool for web developers. JavaScript console, DOM Inspector, Web Dev Bar.

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8 Responses to My 5 most used free utilities

  1. johnpapa says:

    Good list. SQL Prompt is another great free tool (Red gate).

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  3. btompkins says:

    My life changed completely when I discovered the Web Developer Extension for FF.. An amazing tool~!

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  4. I’ve been using Subversion for my home projects, and I like it well enough for that. I haven’t used it on any “large” projects yet, but I suppose people do.

    At work we migrated from VSS to TFS. All the developers have MSDN subscriptions, so the TFS CALs came for no additional cost. Unfortunately, the TFS server cost money, and not everyone who ought to have source control access has an MSDN subscription. Standalone TFS CALs are (apparently) quite pricey.

    TFS’s source control features are certainly much better than VSS for team work (ie, atomic commits, deletes as part of commits, deletes get propagate to everyone’s workspace, etc.)

    But the cost of the CALs is part of the reason we decided to do our help system as a Wiki (we’re using MediaWiki on an appliance); we don’t want to pay for TFS licenses for non development staff (ie, people who don’t touch the source code but need to touch training materials, which should be versioned.)

  5. karl says:

    Sorry about the VSS thing…one of those things you take for granted…of course it isn’t free..it’s just always been on my machine I don’t even think about it anymore…

  6. VSS is definitely NOT free… if you have an MSDN subscription, you have a license, but you are still paying for it.

    I was a VSS advocate for years, until i got to my current job. We don’t have enough VSS licenses for everyone who needs to use it, so we started using Subversion

    http://subversion.tigris.org/

    I will never use visual source safe again. Subversion is significantly better, and is truely free – Open Source, actually.

    there are some great VS.NET and Explorer plugins for it, as well, so you never have to do anything through command line interfaces:

    http://anksvn.tigris.org – vs.net plugin
    http://tortoisesvn.tigris.org – explorer plugin.

  7. Dylan Marks says:

    The single absolute penultimately useful tool I use for web development is the Firebug extension for Firefox.
    http://www.joehewitt.com/software/firebug/

    I finally migrated our company away from VSS to TFS. We are using the free workgroup version because it’s a small number of developers (fewer than 5). The migration was well worth it, even though we have never experienced any VSS corruption issues either. If I did it again, I’d probably just go to subversion though, in order to avoid the huge licensing that will be in our near future.

  8. …share the 5 free utilities…

    Visual Source Safe is a free utility? Last time I checked Microsoft wanted money for it.
    (BTW, I think you meant “last resort” on FileMon.)