What Tools Do I Use?

At Houston TechFest 2013, Claudio Lassala presented “Want to Build Software? Get Your Act Together First!“. It got me thinking about how I work and what software I would recommend. The following tools fit into two categories. I either use it daily or it’s invaluable in specific situations (for example, taking screenshots or giving presentations).

The Data I Need When I Need It

I use a combination of three pieces of software to ensure that I always have all of the information I need at my fingertips. The three are: SkyDrive, OneNote, and KeePass.

SkyDrive is the Microsoft DropBox competitor. I use it for a 2 reasons. The first reason is it that it offers more storage for free. SkyDrive gives 7 GB while DropBox gives 2 GB. I actually have 25 GB due to an old SkyDrive promotion. The second reason is that I can view and edit all of my files directly through a browser. This has become extremely important to me. For example, I was recently in a meeting and a presentation that I was working on came up. I didn’t have my laptop but the meeting room had a computer connected to the screen. I was able to log into my SkyDrive and review the presentation directly from my SkyDrive.

OneNote is Microsoft’s note taking software. Evernote is a popular competitor and one that I have tried before. When OneNote was released for my mobile platform, I immediately switched back. Now I have access to my notes anywhere I have my phone or have access to an internet browser (I can view and edit my OneNote notebooks through SkyDrive).

KeePass is a password manager tool. We have passwords for everything now and they should all be unique and varied. How does it work? You create one password for your encrypted KeePass file and you place all of your other passwords into the file.


I currently work on a distributed team so having effective tools in place for collaboration and communication is a must.

For task and backlog tracking, we use Team Foundation Server. If TFS wouldn’t be available, I would be using Trello or a tool with similar features.

For voice, we use Skype. It’s simple, effective, and proven. Its screen sharing feature comes in handy if it’s just a quick discussion. For more complex screen sharing, we use TeamViewer. TeamViewer allows users to pass control around. This comes in extremely handy when working through code with another developer. Another plus is that TeamViewer has official apps for Android, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and iOS.

Let’s Develop Something Already!

I have already mentioned that I work in a Microsoft development team so Visual Studio is a must. I currently have 2010 and 2012 installed on my machine but we will be moving everything to 2013 on its release. If you’d like to know which plugins I’m using for Visual Studio, see my post “Visual Studio Add-ons“.

Everyone has their own favorite text editor and mine is Notepad++. It’s always the first thing that I install on a new machine and I immediately set it as my default text viewer. I’ve recommended it to every developer friend that I know. It has lots of goodies throughout the program including plugins. For example, the Compare plugin has taken the place of WinMerge on my machines and ToolBucket let’s me easily generate GUIDs and lorem ipsum, encode/decode to base 64, and more.

A great tool for testing .NET code snippets, LINQ statements, etc. is LINQPad. This little application is extremely feature packed and you’ll find more ways to use it every time you open it. One of my favorites is the ability to generate the SQL for a LINQ statement.

IETester by DebugBar is a must have for web developers wanting to test their website’s rendering in multiple IE versions.

Greenshot is my go to application for screenshots. It has multiple capture modes and a built in image editor which allows you to edit an image before saving the final version.

Presentation Must Haves

If you’re giving presentations or sharing screens often, I have a couple of recommendations.

The first suggestion is Key Jedi. Presenters tend to forget that the viewers don’t know when you press Alt, Ctrl, etc. This is a little application displays those special combination keystrokes so that your audience doesn’t get lost when you’re flying around Visual Studio using only the keyboard.

The second is ZoomIt. This application allows you to Zoom in and out of any application running in Windows. It also has some markup features which are quite nice once you get used to the keyboard shortcuts.

My Visual Studio Theme

So I’ve finally published my Visual Studio theme on the Studio Styles website. It’s a customized version of the Ragnarok Grey theme created by Tomas Restrepro. I darkened the background then had to make a few other subtle changes for readability due to the darker background.

Ragnarok Dark as I’ve chosen to call it can be found here: http://studiostyl.es/schemes/ragnarok-dark-grey-customized

And remember to rate it if you like it!

Now a bonus for those of you that use ReSharper. The following line pasted into the bottom of the items section in the XML downloaded from the site before you import will make those To Do Comments and Not Implemented Exceptions stand out.

<Item Name="ReSharper Todo Item" Foreground="0x0000FFFF" Background="0x02000000" BoldFont="Yes"/>

Visual Studio Add-ons

I’ve been getting the same question a lot lately. What plugins, enhancements, extensions, etc. do you use in Visual Studio? So here’s the surprisingly short list:


The ReSharper website says:

ReSharper is a renowned productivity tool that makes Microsoft Visual Studio a much better IDE. Thousands of .NET developers worldwide wonder how they’ve ever lived without ReSharper’s code inspections, automated refactorings, blazing fast navigation, and coding assistance.

I can tell you the “.NET developers worldwide wonder how they’ve ever lived without ReSharper” is completely true. Once you learn to use it, you’ll never want to code without it. I remember the first week I used it I was angry at myself for waiting so long to get my hands on it.



The official product description reads:

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. StyleCop has also been integrated into many third-party development tools.

The ability to run a tool and have it tell you where to fix your styling is invaluable. Create a custom configuration file (agreed upon by the team of course) and then share it with your team or even better integrate it into you build server. This will ensure that a field is formatted like a field should be consistently in every file. No more style switches per file.

Oh and by the way, the latest release works with ReSharper to allow for quick cleanup of any errors found.


Search References

(Note: This is built into VS 2012 and beyond) How and why the functionality of this gallery extension isn’t built into Visual Studio completely baffles me. This simple extension adds a search box to the top of the .Net tab on the Add References dialog.


Snippet Designer

If you write code that is structurally the same over and over again, you should learn to build snippets. If you want to build snippets, you want to take a look at this extension. Snippet Designer allows you to highlight code and export as snippet. It has a great GUI for adding in replacement sections, setting the properties of your snippet, etc.

Here is a screenshot of Snippet Designer being used to edit my null coalescing operator snippet.