My hard time choosing and managing the migration from the soon to be deceased Windows Live Mesh, made me think about the dependency I seem to have on some software tools and how hard it is to replace them and change the installed workflows around the tools in use at some point. From that, the idea of a post about my current software tools, highlighting some of the genuine gems out there, was a small step. So here it is, a list of software I use and some of the reasons I use it.
Personal Productivity Software
Office 2013 – this is the latest version of Microsoft Office. The big difference to the previous version, from my personal perspective, is the integration with SkyDrive, extending the ability to cooperatively create and edit documents to Word, Excel and Powerpoint, something that was already available with OneNote. OneNote2013 is clearly me favorite app, probably the one I use the most, after Outlook, which I use as my email client. OneNote is a superb app, which I actually loved when I first came in contact with it, at the time I bought by first tablet pc, back in 2005. I still use it everyday, either to take notes while I read books and articles, or to work cooperatively about ongoing projects with the other guys from Web2Automation.
I really don’t like web email clients, don’t think I ever will, and the native email client in Windows Phone 7.5, in my Nokia Lumia 800, works as a fine email client replacement when I am away from my laptop. When I am there, I use Outlook 2013, which has some annoyances yet to be solved, but which I find perfectly acceptable as email clients go.
For PDF handnote taking, I use PDF Annotator. It is a great tool for that purpose and was especially useful when marking student papers or providing feedback on PDF documents produced by others.
The main tool is, naturally, Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate, although I still keep Visial Studio 2010 Ultimate on my desktop, which I still use for the occasional Php project, when I then use the excellent VS.Php add-in (which runs on VS 2010, only). I also use Microsoft Expression Web Studio 4, although much less frequently.
For SQL Server development, the main tool is SQL Server Management Studio, although I have been using SQL Server Data Tools a bit more. When dealing with MySQL databases, WebYog’s SQLYog is a great and indispensable tool. I use Team Foundation Server 2012 as my local ALM tool, but the very good and free Team Foundation Service will see increased usage, as I migrate to cloud based tools, since I am really getting to enjoy the benefits of accessing the info I need regardless of where I am. As we are using TFService at work, the move to use it personally is looking quite natural.
There are other tools that are quite useful, when developing. A superbly designed tool is my long time favorite Beyond Compare – when it comes to file comparison, it doesn’t get much better than that. LINQpad is another great tool, when messing around with LINQ. I used EditPlus for quite a long time, when developing asp apps, and I still use it occasionally, when having to support Snitz related stuff. I have moved to Visual Studio as my default editor, even when dealing with ASP, since the integration with TFS is so much easier, but I thought EditPlus still merited a reference here.
For modeling, I have used Microsoft’s Office Visio, coupled with specific UML templates. Visual Studio is also looking like a tool that can be increasingly used for this purpose.
Another tool used mainly connected to my software development activity is SmartFTP. It is a great FTP app and it’s still a frequently used way to upload stuff to deployment servers.
Backup and File Synchronization Tools
My main backup software is Acronis True Image 2013. I started using Acronis TI back at version 8 and it has saved me quite a few times. I find it preferable to Windows native backup and as it has not failed me yet, I will keep using it. I image my own computers once a week, using two external drives, which I rotate. Just this week I started using Cubby as a file syncing tool, replacing Windows Live Mesh, after Microsoft’s announcement of Mesh’s impending death. As a file syncing tool, Cubby offers pretty much the same features as Live Mesh, but just for the Pro version, which I have subscribed. As Cubby Pro comes at least with 100 GB of cloud storage, I have started to use that space to backup selected parts of my data.
I like SkyDrive as a means to store and enable cooperation over Office documents. It’s really great for that, but the wrong choices made over the SkyDrive app made me choose a different option for cloud storage. Shame, really, as Microsoft could have done much better.
I have used software firewalls since I first connected my personal computers to the internet, back when the access was still done at 56Kbit/s. Even though my home computers run behind a hardware firewall, I find the protection offered by HIPS rather comforting. For the last 3 years or so, my HIPS of choice has been Emsisoft’s Online Armor. As HIPS go, you can’t fare much better than with OA, even if it can be a bit annoying, both immediately after installation and when installing software, but that is nothing that cannot be easily solved with its own learning mode. Emsisotf’s also produces a top of the line anti-malware product, Emsisoft Anti-Malware. The combination of EAM and OA provide multiple layers of protection, without putting any noticeable overall in the normal running of my computers, and so I find this a very good combination to run. I also use Malwarebytes Antimalware Free, on demand, for regular scans.
Communication, IM and Social Networking Tools
I don’t use IM much, but the only tool I use infrequently is Google Talk. Other than that, I use Skype for voice and video chat, and the free for personal TeamViewer, when I need to help someone or for a quick chat. My favorite Twitter client is MetroTwit, of which I use the desktop version only.
I still use Winzip as my main zip compression tool and use the Outlook add-in Winzip Courier to have email attachments automatically compressed. Another Outlook add-in that I find invaluable is Xobni – it’s much better than using the native windows search and it will index all my .pst files. One handy tool I became aware of through LogMeIn’s support is UnLockIT Free. It’s very useful to check what apps, if any, are locking a file or folder and unlock it.
This covers most my tools. I will probably update this post as I go along and other useful tools come to mind.