Software I Like
I was realizing the other day that throughout a typical day of working, I use a number
of very useful programs. And well, being a programmer, I would like to tell other people
about the ones that made enough impact on me that I use them every day.
I think I should call that the Holy Grail of Software: make something that someone uses every day.
The truth is that I'm very picky: I install a lot of software to evaluate it, and I throw most
of it out, because it's hard to use or uses too many resources.
So what I want to do is keep a list of links to software I recommend to people, and a short
review of each app, to give you enough idea if you want to try it too.
Locate32 is a port of the UNIX updatedb/locate function. On my machine there are about 350,000 files,
and it can do a search through the filenames in a few seconds. Saves me more time than I have time to explain.
This one is in my taskbar.
Notice I said Outlook Express. Now I know a lot of people who use Outlook (which
you have to pay for), but I have a great deal more respect for Outlook Express
as an application. OE is incredibly fast, incredibly straightforward, and just works right.
Admittedly, it doesn't have a built-in PIM, or integration with Exchange Server, but if
all you're doing is reading and writing email, it's the best thing going. I spent nearly a year
writing an application on top of Outlook, and my distaste for it is well founded. In OE, my current database
has 52,000 messages, and it's never lost one.
Agent Ransack is simply the best grep-like tool I've ever used. It's not so pretty, but
ridiculously fast, and the functionality is amazingly right. I leave one of these open
in my source code directories, and after stuff makes it into cache, it's just so nice to use.
The absolute Mercedes of source control. I worked remotely for 6 months on a 56k modem
with Perforce, and it wasn't painful. It does 2 transactions to check out a file; Sourcesafe does hundreds. You can
sync to a database with several thousand files in a few seconds. Branching and merging, second
to none. Their support staff are phenomenal: I usually get a response to my (weird) questions within
hours. Truly great company and product.
This one seems obvious, until I tell you that Excel is absolutely central to my programming
process. When I'm speed testing something, simulating something, organizing something, I am
using Excel to measure or record. I have been intending to write an article
about how to do this. I'm not sure it's a formal process, more like the ultimate scratchpad.
Okay, another one you've definitely heard about before. But I routinely do screen captures and
use Photoshop to analyze a program's visual output. Also, my entire UI system is implemented
on the Photoshop file format, so I use it non-stop for UI. Photoshop is wonderfully stable, 6.0 still
irks me with UI bugs, but I can't stay away.
I've been using this little guy for several years and just think it's really nice. Occasionally
leaks resources when IE crashes, but otherwise, just a wonderful little app, lets you block cookies by
site or on demand.
The least offensive and most proficient downloader program. Has a wonderful "download all" function to
pull all the content off a page. Great for downloading large files.
Okay, another obvious choice, but I have to give these guys credit: 8.1 is the first serious usability
improvement in years for this product, and they did a wonderful job. And the other reason I'm putting it
here is because you should register it if you haven't (hint hint).
I really like this app. I haven't used its competition. People claim PaperPort is the best of its category here. But this
application came with my Epson scanner, and I really just love it. Okay, I abuse it, but I love it too. They
got so many little things right, like if you open the scanner and scan multiple pages, it clips them together into
a folder automatically. Not always the speediest (especially when I scan 400MB files), but really well done.
Apache for Windows
All the features, none of the security bugs! If you've noticed, IIS has been more of a security violation
recently than, um, well, posting your Administrator password in #hackme. And since it's nice to run a webserver
on your machine, just use this one.
If you do anything involving documents, you just need this. One of my favorite tricks recently is the
"600 dpi fax" -- instead of faxing, I scan a document at 600dpi, and then print it (ZIP compression) to Acrobat, giving a nicely
compressed file that prints much better than a fax (ballpark is 100K/page.)
AOL Instant Messenger
AOL Instant Messenger is simple, doesn't flicker when the window updates, doesn't use too much CPU, and I can
stand to look at it. Microsoft puts enormous window borders on their Messenger, has it always intruding with
huge notifications. ICQ is plain ugly and has way too many features. Yahoo is my second-place, but it
doesn't do basic chat as well as AOL.
Windows Media Player 6.4
(aka "mplayer2.exe") Windows Media Player peaked about 2 years ago, with the one that shipped in Windows 2000.
The thing Microsoft doesn't tell you is, if you download their updates, you can still use the *old* player with full support for the new plugins.
This is basically great if you think that WMP7 and 8 are really slow to load, take too much screen space
with their silly beveled edges, and really just don't work as well. (Not leading the witness, really.)
Another "simple is better" lesson.
I do love simplicity.
TtSSH / PuTTY
I use SSH daily to connect to firewalls and things. PuTTY is the cleanest SSH port around, including a
wonderfully useful secure copy (scp).
Poikosoft's Easy CDDA Extractor
However, I use ttssh for my day-to-day terminal access and port forwarding.
Not sure if I like it better or if it just got there first.
I started using this one when it first came out, as it was the only one that correctly ripped from my CD-R. Admittedly,
it's not something I use daily, but it's really well done. They keep current with all the best/fastest encoders, so
it's absolutely speedy and you get all the formats ready-to-rip. Rumor is Roxio's suing them to change the name. Dumb.
(With apologies for personal bias)
My super-fast, super simple image viewer. Great for quickly emailing pictures, looking at images.
My Internet Explorer enhancement and toolbar fixer. Something feels wrong when it's missing...