Must-have Tools on Windows - Part 1 of 2

5 minute read

Every technologist has his favourite list of developer tools, applications and OS which they believe are indispensible and without them they would not be able to develop anything.  With time and changing focus, this list keeps changing.  Here’s my list of tools that I think you as a developer should have on your laptop.

Most of them are Open-Source or Freeware as I promote using Open-Source (and donating them) than buying products at premium price.  So it is possible that many excellent products have not made it to my list!

Windows Tools

Fences - helps you organize your desktop and can hide your icons when they are not in use.  You can resize your fences (read areas) to keep your desktop clean and organized

Dell Dock – bring greater organization, personalization and productivity to Dell customers around the globe.  You can use it not just on Dell laptops/desktops, but on any make.

7-Zip – An Open-Source file archiver with high compression ratio.  There is a commercial license for organizations but you don’t need to pay anything for that too.

Paint.NET – free image and photo editing software for computers that run Windows. This program is a very good alternative to Photoshop for developers (if not for professionals).

GIMP – Photo retouching, image composition and image authoring in multiple formats is made very easy using GIMP.

SysInternals - a service that enables you to execute Sysinternals tools directly from the Web without hunting for and manually downloading them. The one I used more is Process Explorer to get insight on internals of an executable.

Windows Live Writer – This is by-far the best and free tool for Blogging on various platforms with a great plugin support from community.

WinDirStat – Disk usage statistics viewer and clean up tool for Windows to analyse and free-up space.

CCleaner – Registry cleaner and makes your computer faster. There is one free version and paid versions start from £19

VirtualBox – If you have read my post on running Android OS on Windows, you would be aware of what VirtualBox allows you to do. It is one of the best VHD host and manager allowing you to create image of almost any OS and run it on Windows


Online Meetings, Webinars and Collaboration


AnyMeeting – Hold large or small meetings and web conferences.  This is one of my favourites allowing me schedule and manage my webinars.  You can pay $17pm if you want an Ad-free version, else it’s free.

TeamViewer – A very handy tool for Remote Access and Support over Internet.  You can hold conferences for up to 25 participants, or conduct training sessions

Skype – One of the most used video conferencing tools across globe does not need any introduction.

Skydrive – 25GB of online space!  Only Microsoft could give you that for free. You can sign up on Windows Live and get access to an integrated eco-system of Skydrive, Live Messenger, Hotmail, Calendar, Contacts, XBOX games, Windows Phone and now Windows 8 OS.

DropBox - free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily on platforms such as Desktop, Windows Phone, Android and iPhone.  For the first year DropBox is free, and subsequent years there is a minimal fee.

ZoomIt - screen zoom and annotation tool for technical presentations runs unobtrusively in the tray and activates with customizable hotkeys to zoom in on an area of the screen.  I have used it in many presentations on Windows Phone, Silverlight, Performance Engineering and have found it really handy!


Microsoft .NET developer tools


Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express Editions – Unless you have MSDN license or a authorised copy of Visual Studio 2010, these express editions are really MUST-TO-HAVE products.

Notepad++ – A great text-editor with Explorer context-menu and a IDE-like experience.  If you are using TextPad or Notepad, I would highly recommend downloading this

FileZilla – A fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and graphical user interface

WebMatrix – A free web development tool from Microsoft that includes platforms such as Wordpress, Razor (ASP.NET MVC3) and other open-source blogging, wiki tools.

LINQPad – interactively query databases in a modern query language LINQ using this tool instead of using SQL Management Studio 

JustDecompile - new, free developer productivity tool for easy .NET assembly browsing and decompiling and a complete replacement of .NET Reflector (since its no more free).  You can also try ILSpy

SublimeText – If you are a Web-developer you must try the evaluation version of this tool.  It is really very intuitive, prose and has a slick user interface with extraordinary features.

Fiddler – Easy, clean and powerful web-traffic debugging proxy for HTTP

SoapUI – This tool defines a perfect way to do functional testing using graphical interface to create automated functional, load or regression tests.  If you want to record user tests and generate some test code then you should try WatiN

FireBug – Most powerful in-browser IDE on Mozilla Firefox allowing you to browse through HTML, CSS and Javascript.  If you want to check your web pages performance, you might want to try out YSlow by Yahoo

NCrunch – Automated continuous testing within Visual Studio.NET that runs in background in your IDE and get information such as Code Coverage and Performance metrics.

KDiff3 – is an alternative to BeyondCompare to compare files, directories and automate merging of code.

HelpNDoc – Is a really great tool to generate documentation in PDF, Web-based, CHM, Word and iPhone for personal use

LogParser - Log parser is a powerful, versatile tool that provides universal query access to text-based data such as log files, XML files and CSV files, as well as key data sources on the Windows® operating system such as the Event Log, the Registry, the file system, and Active Directory

Source Control and Versioning

I prefer using Subversion and Mercurial for source control and versioning. So here’s the list

Windows Shell - TortoiseSVN for Subversion and TortoiseHG for Mercurial

Visual Studio Plugin – AnkhSVN for Subversion and VisualHG for Mercurial


That’s just half of the list, so stay tuned for the next part where tools for Silverlight, Windows Phone, XAML, Web-sharing would be the focus!