My Software Tools List: What I Put On My Machine

by Ted Jardine Tuesday, March 10, 2009 3:32 PM

My new laptop should arrive any day now (yay! It just came!), so in preparation for setting it all up again, here's my list of everything I'll put on it (in the spirit of Scott Hanselman's excellent "Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows"):

Standard Fare and Utilities

  • Windows Vista Ultimate (and soon Windows 7)
    I'd put the Beta on now, but that means a repave would come too soon.
  • Executor
    I bind it to Win-A and instantly have the best application launcher out there for Windows. Almost as pretty as Launchy and Enso (well, not quite, but we can't be too picky) and even more functional than SlickRun. After first trying it, it promptly became my launcher of choice; it's ridiculous how much you can do with it.
  • Ultramon
    Absolutely necessary when running multi-monitors (latest beta works without issues). DisplayFusion looks good as well so I'm actually going to try it out as it's the first legitimate competitor I've seen for Ultramon in all the years I've used it.
  • Roboform
    Phenomenal way to securely store and use login credentials and software codes, and autofill registration and checkout forms (including credit card information). Expensive but worth it. I've also been trying out LastPass on my netbook. RoboForm's usability is a tiny bit better (for i.e. keyboard shortcuts are better, especially for initial login) and it is more secure because data is only stored locally (which I use Windows Live Sync - see below - to synchronize between multiple machines), but LastPass has the huge convenience of having a central repository so that data is instantly synced between all machines (including the ability to get access from other machines, including public ones where you can utilize one time login credentials for greater security). Oh, and LastPass if free. Regardless, use something and create strong passwords.
  • ClipX
    Tiny clipboard history manager. I've been using the beta x86 version with very few glitches for a long time now. Will be using the x64 beta on the new machine.
  • Windows Live Sync (aka FolderShare)
    Great way to securely sync files between your different machines, and if wanted, between different users. I use it to sync RoboForm data, YNAB data, and more.
  • SnagIt
    Screen capturing software. When Peter first told me how much he loved it, I guffawed and told him it was screen capturing software! How could it be worth $50 USD?!? (even more in beaver bucks). But I tried out the trial and...well, me of so little faith: Peter was right. Phenomenal piece of software that I promptly purchased (do a google for a coupon codes for a price reduction).
  • Notepad++
  • Microsoft Office 2007
  • QuickBooks
    Someday there will be a replacement for this software that seems stuck back in the 90's, but until there is, couldn't live without it even though it regularly contributes to a receding hair line (I am so thankful I am not a bookkeeper and I raise my glass to the wonderful bookkeepers in my life: Pat and Maxine).
  • Mozy
    Please backup, backup often, and backup off-site. Mozy makes the process easier, although I think I'll be trying out IDrive this time around because of many additional features including its ability to synchronize multiple machines to local media (external USB drive) which then syncs up online. I've got ~90GB of data so I'm hoping the synchronization process is a little faster with IDrive (Mozy churns away "replicating splines" when determining what of my local 90GB of data has changed/been added - apparently that's some sci-fi reference). Regardless, both are dirt cheap for personal home use (unlimited for $4.95/month with yearly discounts available). Eventually I'll get a Windows Home Server configured too, which will be even better!
  • Windows Live Messenger (aka MSN Messenger)
    Someday I'll find an alternative that works well (have tried Trillian and Pidgin, but both have bigger shortcomings either in usability or stability). At least there's a registry hack you can do to remove the ads in Windows Live Messenger (no, I am still not interested in "Singles in Surrey").
  • 7-zip
    Great file compression (that can also read and write to RAR and ZIP).
  • SharpKeys
    A registry hack that is used to make certain keys on a keyboard act like other keys. I use this to map unused keys on my Apple keyboard to something more useful:
    • f13: Print Screen (used all the time with SnagIt)
    • f14: Insert
    • f16: Mute
    • f17: Volume Down
    • f18: Volume Up
    • f19: Calculator
    • Right-Ctrl: Application Menu
  • Switcher
    What Vista should have done for its Alt-Tab implementation.
  • YNAB Pro
    Budgeting software that just works.
  • Skype
  • Pantone Huey PRO
  • µTorrent
    BitTorrent client.
  • ted
    Torrent Episode Downloader with a great name ;-)
  • Startup Delayer
  • Windows Live Writer
  • ffdshow and K-Lite Codec Pack
    Just use this codec pack to cover pretty much any codec you need to view or listen to digital media.
  • Plaxo
    Used to sync contacts and calendar with all other machines for accounts other than Exchange.
  • Acronis TrueImage


  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional
  • Resharper
    Friends don't let friends develop without it.
  • Subversion, TortoiseSVN, and VisualSVN
    I'd like to say something about this combo, but words fail me.
  • GhostDoc
    Free add-in for visual Studio that automatically generates XML documentation comments for C#.
  • VMWare Player/VMWare Workstation
    The former is free, and the latter is expensive. The latter also makes like easier, but you can hack things (legally of course) to get the player to do what you need it to. There wouldn't be a dilemma except for the fact that the player is prettier and has Unity (where the guest application windows look just like host application windows, but with color-coded borders - much easier to tab through applications while developing)! Unity is in Beta for Windows right now, so once it's out of beta, I guess I'll go for less pretty with more functionality (and the relatively hefty price tag).
  • Gallio
  • TestDriven.NET
  • ANTS Profiler
  • Microsoft Virtual PC
  • .NET Reflector
  • Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium
  • AutoHotKey
  • NH Prof
    If you do anything at all with NHibernate, just buy this (beta promotional pricing still in affect).
  • Beyond Compare 3
    Another "just buy it" bit of software. I got a discount coupon through that is no longer there, but hopefully will return.
  • RegexBuddy
    If you do anything with Regex, have mercy on yourself and buy this. Worth every penny.
  • SQL Server
  • Oracle .NET Client
  • And more of the usual...

Firefox and Add-Ons

Deserves a section all to itself.

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