I'm curious about what types of tools and specific tools people can't live without in their daily work. Anyone interested, please post up to 10 categories of tools you can't live without, and then with it as many specific implementations of that tool that you use. The reason for this category/implementation split is to compensate for the disparate backgrounds of all the readers here. I'll try to collate responses back into this question as responses come in. Here are mine to get things started:

  1. Web browser (Firefox)
  2. Remote machine management (SecureCRT, Remote Desktop, VNC)
  3. Text editor (vi/vim for *nix, gvim for Windows, BBEdit for Mac OS X)
  4. IM client (Pidgin, MS OCS)
  5. Email client (pine, Outlook, Lotus Notes)
  6. Data visualizer (Perl + MS Excel's graphing functions)
  7. Network sniffer (tcpdump for linux/Mac OS X, snoop for solaris, Wireshark for Windows and visualizing dumps from other tools)
  8. VPN client (Cisco VPN client)
  9. scripting tools (ksh, Perl)

Looking through this list the big ones I would expect to see from others that I don't use are an IDE (I'm not a professional programmer anymore) and version control (which I ought to rely on but don't at this point).

EDIT: while I think my question was asked from a different POV, it looks like the answers in the thread Essential Programming Tools would be along the same lines as this one. Believe it or not I did look before I posted =)

+6  A: 

check out this question:

Karl Seguin

Mainly my IDE (Visual Studio, but also Zend PHP Studio 5 or Turbo Delphi 2006) and my Browser (to look up stuff). And Subversion, because i refust to live without version control :-)

Everything else depends on the project, i.e. developing on Sharepoint requires the RDP Client, IIS and SQL server.

But without Internet and a proper IDE, I just don't want to program, even though i could.

Michael Stum
  1. Web browser (Firefox)
  2. IDE (Visual Studio 2008 + Team Server)
  3. Remote machine management (Remote Desktop, TightVNC)
  4. Text editor (Textpad)
  5. IM client (MSN Messenger)
  6. Email client (Outlook)
  7. Clipboard management (ClipX)
  8. Community support (StackOverflow!)

Along with the list you mentioned I will have FTP Client ( fireftp) Blog client ( MS blog editor or scribefire)

+2  A: 

I do mostly ASP.NET web development.


  • Visual Studio
  • SQL Server Management
  • Server Subversion/TortoiseSVN


  • Photoshop
  • CorelDRAW!
  • Visio


  • Internet Explorer
  • Firefox
  • Safari


  • Outlook


  • UltraMon (multi-monitor taskbar)
  • GridMove (window management)
  • Taskix (re-arrange taskbar buttons)


  • Google Analytics


  • Winamp (music player)
  • Virtual TI (TI-89 calculator emulator)
  • Notepad

To Learn:

  • Fogbugz
  • CruiseControl
  • a unit testing framework
Zack Peterson
It should be noted that google analytics is not an accurate representation of web site usage. See for more info.
Toby Mills
+4  A: 

I guess it's not a must have, but i really enjoy JetBrain's Resharper tool (for Visual Studio). Just fixes up some nice things for me.

James Hall
+1  A: 

I post my favorite tools, but some of them aren't free

  • Text Editor: Ultraedit
  • FTP: Filezilla
  • Multiurpose Tool: Microsoft Excel (it could do sums too!)
  • Java IDE: IntelliJ
  • Tool for Oracle ADministration: TOAD
  • Design: Star UML
+1  A: 

Another vote for UltraEdit

+1  A: 
  1. FireFox
  2. IDE (either ZEND or PHPDesigner)
  3. Apache
  4. PHP Manual
  5. iTunes
  6. Caffeine
  7. Caffeine
  8. Caffeine
+14  A: 


Did you know the Sysinternals tools are available "live"? try typing the following at a (windows) command prompt :

dir \\\tools

You can then access the tools in the same way. Nice feature, I thought...

via Amit Bahree

Thanks. That can come very handy when trying to grandma's machine where no tools are installed. (As long as that domain never gets hijacked by a virus %-)
Chris Noe
Live access doesn't work if you're "properly" firewalled. If this works for you, then you're not very secure.
  1. Textmate (mac) EditPro (windows)
  2. Browser: Firefox (both os')
  3. Google Reader (rss feeds)
  4. FTP: Fetch (mac) ftpwanderer (windows)
  5. Outlook with InBoxer
  6. VS2008 w/Reshaper
  7. Dreamweaver / Fireworks (graphics)
  8. Navicat (MySQL front end)
  9. SQLite
  10. scripting langs (Python mostly)
  11. And the most important: Warcarft. ;)
Stephen Cox
+1  A: 
  1. TextWrangler - awesome, free text editor for Mac
  2. Adobe Fireworks - the best web graphics application ever
  3. Firefox with Firebug, YSlow! and Developer toolbars installed
  4. Safari (there's a Windows version so no more excuses for anyone)
  5. Navicat - GUI for MySQL databases
  6. Transmit - superb FTP client for Mac
  7. MAMP - really nice wrapper for the LAMP stack on Mac
  8. SuperDuper - great backup utility for Mac (slightly superceded by Time Machine in Leopard but I'm on Tiger)
  9. Omnigraffle for drawing database schemas
  10. Subversion server and command line tools
  11. IE 6 and 7 on Windows for testing
  12. Microsoft Word and Excel
  13. Versions - excellent GUI for subversion
  14. Google

Stuff that's missing so far

GCC. G++, GMake and the rest of the GCC Collection Crimson Editor - still my choice on windows Open Office


The Sine Qua Non of being an information systems engineer is version control. I like Git, personally, but I'll use svn in a pinch. I'd be happy to try mercurial or darcs, but I haven't needed to yet.

Unless you're using something for version control (I'll allow CVS, but not Visual Source Safe), you're throwing crap at walls and hoping it sticks.

James A. Rosen
  1. Remote machine management - PuttyTray (Putty with transparancy)
  2. Key Storage - pageant, Password Safe
+3  A: 

Regex Buddy


Plus just about everything else other people have already said.

Mark Biek
+3  A: 

Anywhere in Windows, the Dina font. Clearly distinguishes all characters at the point-sizes I need.

When working in Lotus Notes/Domino, CIAO! from TeamStudio for Check-In-And-Check-Out.

In Visual Studio, AnkhSVN and TortoiseSVN (along with an SVN server).

Notepad2, XMLNotepad.

+1  A: 

One thing that has been indispensable for me is to use ToDoList to keep organized.

Daniel Auger
+3  A: 

I'd add PuTTY for anyone using a Windows machine that needs access to a Linux system. VMWare Server is also extremely for emulating a Linux box without needing a separate physical machine. These tools allow developers working on small/hobby sites to have a local sandbox to test changes before uploading to a production server.

Jason Etheridge

I work remotely a fair bit. So when i need to collaborate you cannot go past

Shared View and Oovoo

Mark Harris

Another great tool for Domino development is Ytria's ScanEZ. It gives you very easy access to fields on documents to change on the back end. I also like how it shows who has what access to each document, but it also shows you how they are granted that access by listing the readers and authors fields they belong to.

Check it out at:


I'm a Lotus Domino developer and won't be without Team Studio Delta, CIAO and Configurator. I use HTMLkit for basic HTML and CSS.

+1  A: 

Coffee and Common Sense ;)


It's hard to beat coffee and common sense, but they're the tools you need for life in general, not specifically programming.

For linux development, I'd second the PuTTY recommendation, but I would struggle without X, and the Cygwin server is the best I've found. WinSCP is handly for transferring files.

Mark Baker
+5  A: 

From the Mac side...


  1. Quicksilver - (yes its still relevant)
  2. Growl with HardwareGrowler
  3. MacVim - my editor of choide
  4. OpenTerminalHere - open Terminal from the current Finder window
  5. WideMail - 3 column Outlook style plugin for
  6. Adium - chat client
  7. AntiRSI - its good for you
  8. Google Reader
  9. TaskPaper - Lightweight Todos
  10. iWork


  1. Xcode tools (duh)
  2. AppKiDo - documentation browser
  3. Versions - subversion client
  4. F-Script & F-Script Anywhere - "Cocoa Developer's Best Friend"
  5. MacPorts - open source goodness


  1. Acorn - Lightweight, scriptable image editor
  2. Skitch - easy image annotation and sharing
  3. OmniGraffle (Professional) - charts 'n graphs
Thanks so much! OpenTerminalHere is going to save me lots of keystrokes!
Kevin Chan

I'm surprised no one has mentioned any tools to keep track of what they need to do, and for that I recommend FreeMind. I use it to keep track of all the various facets or a task, like what questions I need answer, what resources I need, random ideas I have, related links I've found, etc. I use this for both programming and non-programming tasks, e.g. I have one that holds the various home improvements I need to do or want to investigate doing.

+1  A: 

TestDriven.Net - no way I could do TDD in VS without it.


I work on .NET based (WCF & ASMX) web services pretty often with both COM & .NET clients. Sometimes I need to see the actual SOAP generated by the serializer. There are good Visual Studio trace tools for WCF based service but not much for ASMX. My go-to tool for quick easy peeks is Fiddler ( If you need to see the HTTP/HTTPS traffic, this is the tool. It free and lets you see everything you'd ever need in HTTP requests & response. It's even extensible and supports scripting using

Sixto Saez
+2  A: 

Some tools I adore that have not been mentioned thus far:

Windows Explorer Replacement on Steroids: Directory Opus
Regular Expression Nirvana: RegexBuddy
TextFile Search And Manipulation: PowerGrep
Free Quick Launcher: Enso
.net Code Generation: CodeSmith
MindMapping And Thought Organization: FreeMind

  1. A whiteboard
  2. DBWin32
  3. Visual Studio
  4. Notepad++
  5. Firefox with Noscript
  6. Any decent hex editor
  7. ICOFx
  8. Process Explorer
  9. Source Control
  10. CuteFTP

I would have added Paint Shop Pro, which I've used for years, but since Corel took over it's been turned into a hopelessly slow bloated travesty of its former self. I'm currently looking for something better. Or just less awful...

Bob Moore


  • WAMP
  • MySQL GUI tools
  • NuSphere PHPed
  • Firefox
    • Firebug
    • Delicious bookmarks
    • NoScript
  • FileZilla
  • Photoshop
  • Pidgin
  • Foobar2000 (Audio player)



sh cat make cc

Mark Stock
+1  A: 

process-dashboard - Based on the PSP, this tool offers much in the way of process improvement. However, I have been using this primarily for time tracking, improving estimates, and helping stay focused when multi-tasking.

To elaborate on the last, when I am testing some code that I have just written, depending on the scale, I can discover several to many newly injected bugs. This tool provides a nice mechanism to track and address each one in turn.

Mark A. Nicolosi
  • tightVNC as I tend to work on remote machines
  • putty just for termianal acess
  • vim for coding
  • foobar2000 for music (I can't work without it...)
+1  A: 

Desktop Operating System (Microsoft Windows XP Professional)

Server Operating System (Microsoft Windows Server 2003)

.Net Development (Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 Professional)

Text Editor (UltraEdit)

Relational Database (Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Standard, MySql v5.1)

Office Suite (Microsoft Office 2003)

Email Client (Microsoft Outlook 2003)

Email Server (Microsoft Exchange)

SPAM Protection, Server Side (ASSP)

Browser (Firefox)

Firefox Add-ons (Adblock Plus, DOM Inspector, DownThemAll!, Enhanced Bookmark Search, Favicon Picker 2, Firebug, IE Tab, Tamper Data)

Graphics Utility (Irfanview)

Instant Messenger (Trillian)

Thumb Drive Framework (Portable Apps)

Personal Accounting (Quicken)

Disk/USB Volume Encryption (Cryptainer)

PDF Reader (Adobe Reader)

PDF Editor/Printer (PDFill)

ebay snipe tool (AuctionMagic)


IE7 (and 8 beta 2 in an emulator) for general website design and testing, Opera 9 for sanity checking the same. TextPad to actually write the site's PHP code, and a WAMP kit to bind it all together.

For my game dabblings; TextPad again and Usenti, a very nice little pixel art editor geared towards console development. Especially the GBA and DS. For more large-scale art needs, Paintshop Pro 8.


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...

+4  A: 

Since I also own a Mac (besides a Windows PC) I've dropped SecureCRT in favor a program named ZOC SSH Terminal. It has about the same features as SecureCRT, is commercial also, but is available on both platforms.