Some of the most efficient engineers, developers and IT professionals I know usually carry around a common "toolkit" of useful programs, add-ins or utilities which help them for day-to-day debugging, developing or designing.

The question is:
What is in your utility toolkit.. What tools couldn't you live without?


System Rescue CD

  • A collection of very useful utilities on a Live CD
Vinko Vrsalovic

There are two tools I simply can't work without

  1. PowerShell
  2. GVim (or really any vim style program)

These tools are so heavily ingrained into my daily routine and greatly increase my productivity.

+12  A: 

Unix Utilities for Windows

Vinko Vrsalovic
What's your preference for Cygwin? Good/bad/Other?
A lot less intrusive, easier to carry around. On my machines I install cygwin. Another good one is Strawberry Perl
Vinko Vrsalovic
that link doesn't work for me...
Mitch Wheat
Vinko Vrsalovic
+2  A: 

Currently on my thumbdrive (not ALL software):

  • Notepad++
  • .NET Reflector
  • #develop (incase I need a quick IDE setup on a different computer)
  • C# Default Keybindings pdf
  • Math tables pdf
  • Boo Primer pdf
  • MSDN C# & VB Example projects
+1 for .net reflector - I almost don't use the MSDN documentation anymore because it's so much faster to find the answer using the reflector.
+2  A: 

My Utility toolkit would have: 1.) Hex Editor - XVI32, or any other 2.) Beyond Compare - Comparison of files 3.) Cygwin shell installable complete with perl, gcc,gprof,gcov,gdb and related tools,bash,vim, development/debugging tools 4.) A model makefile for *nix platform 5.) Winzip utility 6.) Source insight or any other good code browsing tool 7.) Ghostscript and GSView 8.) PDF reader 9.) Good quick antivirus tool/exe


+1 for Beyond Compare
Bruce McGee

Since I'm often working on different workstations, I've got into the habit of tagging the stuff that I install on delicious:

David Schmitt
+1  A: 

grep gives you the biggest bang for the buck. You can use it to search on any type code and many forms of data. It is fast, and very powerful. In code it can locate what you're looking for in variables and function names, but also in comments. You can also pipe results into it, and can thus enhance the utility of many tools available on site.

With some clever hints you can easily make grep search for a specific type of an identifier. For instance, "^function_name" will often find in C code a function's definition, because these start with the name of the function at the beginning of the line. If a search pattern gives you too many false matches, you can filter those out, by piping the result through grep -v.

Many years ago I was stranded debugging COBOL programs on a 1970s-era Perkin Elmer machine running OS/32. The machine lacked programming tools, but had an ancient C compiler (so old, it would accept =+ as the original form of the += operator). I ended up writing a rudimentary grep program, which immensely improved my productivity.

Diomidis Spinellis

wc.exe (from so handy.

s t
+2  A: 

Currently in Thumbdrive\Tools.

"Edit Plus 3" - lightweight editor that I've been using for ages.

"F# -" - great for when I need to throw something togheter since it's usable without an IDE, also a great language for many tasks.


"Sysinternal Procmon" - great for debugging and getting a feel for what the machine is really doing.

Torbjörn Gyllebring
so is c# for that matter. csc compiler is supplied with .net install.
+1  A: 
  • Notepad ++
  • FF + Firebug
  • Jquery + bunch of plugins
  • DBManager
  • Cygwin for error tracking
  • Google for help
  • Docs in CHM & Cheatsheets
+3  A: 

Python. Seriously. I use it for a lot of small stuff. I also like to use the command line module for creating easy little project specific "shells" that I drop in frequently used queries etc. (show all tables in the projects db, search for stored procedures etc. - yeah, doing a lot of t-sql lately...)

I tend to accompany big c#/t-sql projects with a little python script that extends the cmd.Cmd class to give me a small collection of helpful queries etc. that I can use to poke around in the database.

Also, I often use python to modify input data (often csv files, but any junk will do) into insert statements etc. Or do plausibility tests on that data.

Daren Thomas

WinRAR and puTTY. That is all I need (i'm assuming internet doesn't count).

+4  A: 

Total Commander (GREP, FTP, ZIP, it's all here...I'm not even starting on this one)



+1 Total Commander ROCKS!
Peter Gfader
  • .Net Reflector
  • Powershell
  • Stackoverflow.Com
+6  A: 


Its like grep, but better, faster, and does more what you want to generally do with large source collections. Written in Perl, and does complete PCRE because of this. Recursive traversal is default, and it intelligently skips files that are unlikely to match using file-type identification to short cut.

( This means it automatically avoids traversing .svn/.hg/.git directories and thus gives massive speedups )

ack "function\s+foo\s*\(" --php     
# find the definition of "foo" in all php files
# decendant of the current directory
Kent Fredric
They should have called it grep++.
Chris Lutz
then it would be greq ;)
Kent Fredric
+2  A: 

I have the following tools on my USB thumd drive:

  • SysInternals Suite All their great troubleshooting tools in one download, in case I might need a tool that I didn't download before
  • WireShark setup
  • VNC binaries (so I can run the viewer directly from USB) and setup
  • A couple of Portable Apps:
    • Notepad++ Portable
    • Putty Portable
    • FileZilla Portable
    • 7-zip Portable
    • Sumatra PDF Portable
    • WinMerge Portable

I like to program in Python so I have created a portable Python programming environment on a thumbdrive.

  • Portable Python 1.0
  • SPE Python editor
  • wxPython in Action ebook
  • Python How to Program ebook
  • Several Python ebooks from O'Reilly
  • Various tutorials for Python tools I don't use often

Here's list of tools, utils and progs I use for my .NET software development projects.

Rinat Abdullin
+1  A: 

I always seem to have a bootable Linux Distro on me in SOME form or other. Whether it be the bootable Pen Drive I keep attached to my Keys, or the multitude of LiveCDs I have for various "diagnostics" - I find that if I am in a situation, generally, where I'd need some sort of tools... a reboot into a Live environment provides me with near enough everything I need, and more

I have a bootable linux pen drive on my keys as well!
Carson Myers
+1  A: 
  • PE Explorer
  • FAR Manager (great file manager especially when working with lots of ftp sites)
  • FlexHex
  • Ida
  • OllyDbg
+1  A: 

Emacs. It's my "does list of things" tool, helpful with quick calculations, with mangling configuration files (I work as a network engineer, there is an awful lot of configuration to be done, lots of it bordering on trivial to generate with either small snippets of code or careful use of keyboard macros).

+1  A: 

Here's the tools I use to make Sharepoint solutions:

  • Visual Studio Team Suite 2008
  • VSTS Database Edition GDR
  • Sandcastle
  • DocProject for Sandcastle
  • .net Reflector
  • GhostDoc
  • CSS Vista
  • Sharepoint Inspector
  • Sharepoint Explorer
  • EditPadPro
  • CodeSmith 2.6 Freeware (with my own .net 3.5 SP1 gui)
  • Indigo Rose MSI Factory
  • Wix
  • Nmap
  • Wireshark
  • Fiddler
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3
  • Expresso (Regex tool)
  • VMRCPlus
  • Powershell 2 CTP
  • Quest PowerGui for Powershell
  • IIS Resource Kit
  • HyperV
Matt Lynch

Tools I use because you do not have to install, just drop on system and use:


I use Espresso (I got it with the MacHeist bundle!), and Firebug for coding. I use Photoshop if I need any images.

I manage my projects with The Hit List.

Bravery Onions
+2  A: 

I use/carry with me:

  • .Net Reflector
  • The SysInternals
  • Suite (particularly Process Explorer, Debug View etc)
  • Exescope
  • Orca (Windows Installer)
  • Depends
  • Spy++ OleView
  • Resourcer
  • Ethereal
  • IE Dev toolbar
  • Depends .Net
  • DocView
  • LDP (For LDAP)

Just to name a few

Count Duckula
+1 for Ethereal and the SysInternals
Sung Meister

Development Tools

  • Subversion
  • Tortoise SVN

Useful tools/utils

  • Virtual Cd Control Tool
  • Linq Pad
  • Reflector
  • Subversion Commit Monitor
  • BGInfo
  • SourceGear Diff Merge
  • Unlocker
  • MWSnap
  • Paint.NET
  • WinRar

FireFox Add Ons

  • Firebug
  • ColorZilla

Visual Studio Add Ins

  • GhostDoc
Paul Rowland
+1  A: 

Fast image viewer that has been around for a long time and proven to work.


Sung Meister
+2  A: 

I do a full install of cygwin. It gives me 95% of the stuff I need and hard drive space is cheep. It's a lot easier to install everything then get emacs, gcc, gdb, perl, utilitys such as grep and awk, not to mention the servers it comes with like Apache and MySQL if you want to try something out quick.


I think the utility toolkit or the Tools List that every developer SHOULD have described in the following link from Scott Hanselman.

Scott Hanselman's Ultimate Developer and Power Users Tool List for Windows


ide: visual studio / netbeans (zip file!, almost portable)

editor: notepad++ (portable) with monaco font

file comparison: winmerge (portable)

source control: subversion, tortoise

ticket control: redmine

file manager: free commander (portable)

explorer: IE, FF (portable), chrome (portable), iron (chrom without google crap, also portable), qtweb, arora,

FF plugins: firebug, web developer, xmarks

imclient: pidgin

mail client: gmail

download manager: free download manager (portable)

sites: STACKOVERFLOW!!!, gotapi... and google, all the time...

miscelaneous: launchy (can't live without it!)

virtualization: virtual box (I have a machine image for every environment)

office: openoffice (portable)

lamp stack: xammp (portable!)

disk usage: windirstat (portable), scanner (portable)

pdf viewer: foxit (portable), sumatrapdf (portable)

uncompressor: 7-zip portable

M$ sql comparison tool: sql delta

M$ sql management: visual studio sql manager


mysql management: phpmyadmin, manager provided with mysql

uninstaller utility: revo unistaller (portable)

registry cleaner: ccleaner (portable)

ftp: filezilla (portable)

as you may have noticed, I have a special predilection for portable applications...


Architag XRay XML Editor - I test XSLT snippets with this nice lightweight tool.

+1  A: 
  1. gVim
  2. VS2010 Express
  3. Firefox + Firebug