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Useful Stuff

Hardcore computer users are always looking for killer apps to make their lives easier.  Whether its boosting their productivity, enhancing their system performance or just plain pimping out their box, we’re always looking over each other’s shoulders to see if someone has something better.

Every time I start working with a new team we inevitably start sharing links for the cool stuff that we’ve picked up along the way.  In an effort to save myself a bit of time and others the effort that I’ve expended in the past I’ve decided to so my own Scott Hanselman style list of apps that I can’t live without.  My list won’t be as balanced as Scott’s but I hope that some will find it just as useful.

First Things I install:

Ninite – This isn’t actually a program but a web based utility to batch install loads of popular programs, many of which are mentioned below.  Great idea, time saver and free as a bird.

StrokeIt – Mouse Gestures for Windows.  I’ve blogged about these in the past.  Drawing a quick W to open my web browser, highlighting something and motioning up to copy then motioning down to paste.  I can’t say enough good things about this diamond in the rough. (Updated for Windows 7 and active updates again.  WOOHOO!)

Notepad++ – I’ve tried all the other notepad replacements out there and nothing holds a candle to this beautiful app.  Syntax highlighting, view source, tabs, macros, and more features than you can shake a stick at.

Launchy – The best keystroke launcher I’ve found.  Good on memory, smart, stylish, good plugins and free!

DesktopSidebar – I’ve blogged about this before.  There are a fair number of sidebars and gadget engines out there and I’ve tried them all out.

LastPass – Bar none, the best free password manager out there today.  Works as a plugin for your favorite browser and stays in sync across your PCs.  Detects password changes and even helps you generate new secure passwords.  Perfect.

Sharky’s Codecs – Best codec packs out there.


Coderush and RefactorPro – I’ve already blogged about the addition of a free express version of Coderush for Visual Studio but let me tell you, the full version is worth every penny.  The sheer number of features always astounds me. Tell your boss to buy it for you today.

Silverlight Tool Kit and SDK – 1 Stop shop here.  Tutorials as well.

GhostDoc – The need for good xml comments on your classes and methods is something most devs are aware of but shy away from when it comes down to it.  This handy Visual Studio plugin takes some of the bite out of this traditionally boring task.

TeamCity – I’m not a fan of most of the stuff that comes out of JetBrains but they did an awesome job with this continuous integration suite.  Since the auto-build in Team Foundation is so terribly weak and difficult this excellent solution steps in and makes the process simple. MUCH easier to setup and maintain than CruiseControl.Net’s little xml files.

Regex Designer – The most straightforward yet powerful regex tool out there.

Reflector – Disassembles compiled .Net code back into very readable code.  Several plugins out there to make it even better.

Fiddler2 – If you’ve ever had to write a scraper or crawler or figure out what that website is doing behind the scenes, Fiddler2 is the traffic sniffer for you.

Camtasia – Doing a narrated screencast of your app in 1024×768 and having it generate a spiffy Flash file beats the hell outta readme.txt

Visual Studio Prompt Here – I remember being pretty quick in DOS but right clicking on a folder to get a prompt is always faster.

Consolas Font Pack – The ultimate coder font.

LinqPad – Great tool for learning LINQ and writing tricky queries.

SmartAssembly – Not only obfuscates your code for less than the competition but add some really good optimizations.

Microsoft SQL Server Database Publishing Wizard – Super handy app to generate SQL scripts.

IIsAdmin.Net – Wicked Cool utility to create multiple website definitions.  Great for branches

32 Design Bookmarklets – Handy when you’re polishing a site or stealing ideas.


Nod32 – The last word in small footprint virus protection.

Microsoft Security Essentials – If you don’t want to pay for Nod32, this is the way to go.

Comodo Firewall – An awesome, low memory, unobtrusive, reliable free personal firewall.

MalwareBytes – The last court of appeal for an infested system.  If MB can’t clean it, dig out your install disks.

SpyBot – A good standard malware remover


CCleaner – Cleans the crap from your PC and registry.

FileHippo Update Checker – Scans your computer for programs that have updates available on FileHippo.  Free and awesome.


CrashPlan – Unlimited online backup storage for less than 5 bux a month? Fast, reliable and nice interface.

SyncbackSE – The best local (and FTP) backup utility I’ve ever used.  Worth buying.

Windows Home Server – Outstanding full backups for all your PCs.  Dead disk?  WHS can restore it easily.  Software RAID and not too shabby as a remote and local file server for all your music, videos and whatnot.

Windows Live Mesh – Keep all your PCs in sync for free.

CD Burner XP – The best free CD/DVD burning software I’ve come across.  Will burn ISOs as well.


uTorrent – The only bittorrent client.

FileZilla – Outstanding free FTP client.


MediaMonkey – iTunes sucks.  I’ve blogged about the best music player / organizer before and even before that.  Slick interface, not memory hoggy, FREE, lots of great plug-ins and skins and works with your ipod, zune or zen.

VLC – Easily the best video player out there today.

Media Browser – The ultimate solution to organizing your Movies and TV shows in Media Center.  Currently Free

MetaBrowser – A good, now paid compliment to Media Browser for finding Movie and TV posters and backdrops as well as actors, plot summaries and more.

TV Rename – Clean up your TV show filenames.

MusicBrainz – Want to clean up the ID3 tags on your MP3s but too lazy?

RipShout – Listen to Shoutcast stations?  Want to record them while you listen and have tagged mp3s auto generated?  Yep.

Fair Use Wizard – Backup your DVDs

Handbrake – Great open source video encoder

MP3 Tagger – Super nice free masIDv3 tag editor.

YouTubeDownloader – Best you can get.


Paint.Net – Photoshop’s little brother in .Net

Live Photo Gallery – Picasa blows.  Not only is this great for organizing but MS gives you 500 pics uploaded to your gallery a month where Google gives you 5 gigs, ever.


Live Writer – The best blog publishing program out today though BlogJet still has a nice offering.

Pre Code Plugin for Live Writer – Helpful for inserting code into your posts.

Greenshot – A wonderful free screen capture utility with a nice annotation editor too!


Miranda – All your IM clients and IRC in one small footprint app. Free but a little harder to customize and setup than Trillian.

Trillian – Miranda for the masses.  Decent free version but the pay version is much nicer.


WinRAR – All you need for file compression.

7-Zip – Super compression for nerds.

Unlocker – Find out what process is locking that file you want to delete.

Daemon Tools – The best image mounting / sec rom emulating package out there.

Foxit – Adobe reader is too bloated.  Read PDFs with this.


QuickDrag – Drag links to open in new tabs, drag highlighted text to auto search, drag images to save.

GreaseMonkey – Script other people’s pages to do your awful bidding

Download Them All! – Grab everything from a page

Aero Theme – Make Firefox as sexy as IE8

Invisible Hand – Wicked cool addon that shows you where you can get the thing you’re looking at cheaper.

Web Stuff: – So you don’t use your 140 on the link.

Live Local – A nice alternative to google maps

StackOverflow – Free community answers to your programming questions

LetMeBingThatForYou – For stupid questions.

Visual Studio Theme Generator – Awesome web tool for generating that slick dark theme for your favorite IDE. – Anything is possible at Zombo com

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ex-Sharky user permalink
    June 19, 2011 2:27 pm

    Re: Sharky’s codec packs

    They were the best but now are to be avoided at all costs. Sharky has decided that the way to riches is to load the packs with several toolbars that auto-install and load your browsers and registry with a literal ton of garbage. All home pages are changed and settings as well. No opt-out is provided or possible, Expect to soon see Sharky’s packs on every antivirus/antispyware blacklist. The guy has literally tossed his integrity and reputation in the trash as no one will ever trust him again. Sad end to what was once an absolute must-have. I hope those few pennies were worth it to him.


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