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Mike Gunderloy's top .NET development tools of 2006

Mike Gunderloy, Contributor
It's been another fun year in software. As always, there have been thousands of programs released, free and otherwise, to compete for space on your computer. Nobody has time to try them all, of course, but here are some of the ones that have caught my eye this year and that have had some staying power on my own desktop.

Free Applications

Copernic Desktop Search is, as far as I'm concerned, the best of the "all in one" search engines for stuff on my local PC. It just works.

Firefox 2.0 -- I switched browsers for good this year, and nothing in IE7 has tempted me even a little bit to switch back. The vast store of useful extensions for Firefox is really the deciding factor for me.

Myuninstaller is a faster and better alternative to the standard Add/Remove Programs applet in Windows Control Panel. How can it be better? Well, it actually shows everything that's installed on your PC, which somehow the built-in applet fails to do.

NDepend is a relatively unknown tool for analyzing .NET assemblies. It features an amazing SQL-like query language that helps you understand what's going on in a huge codebase, as well as spiffy graphical views.

Paint.NET -- It isn't quite PhotoShop, but it is a pretty darned impressive image and photo manipulation program, written entirely in .NET code.

QIOS Pelican lets you do mail merges from databases of all sorts. It's quick, it's got a nice .NET interface for customizing the mailings, and it works well. Plus their license terms prohibit using the program for sending spam.

Sysinternals has been around for years, of course, but now this impressive set of free tools for monitoring and troubleshooting Windows applications has a new home at Microsoft, thanks to their hiring of lead developer Mark Russinovich. Fortunately the tools are still free.

TortoiseSVN and Subversion have become my version control system of choice for small and medium projects. There's really no excuse for using Visual SourceSafe with these more reliable tools available for free.

More top tools of 2006
Five top .NET tools from 2006 
(Ed Tittel)

VMware Server is my choice for a free server virtualization product. I think VMware remains safely ahead of Microsoft in the virtualization technology race. If you're doing software development and you haven't investigated virtualization, you're probably not as efficient as you could be.

WikidPad is a free and open source wiki-based notepad for your desktop. If you're looking for a place to store all the random scraps of information that litter your life, this is a good bet.

Commercial Applications
(All prices quoted are U.S. dollars.)

ClearContext IMS Pro ($79.95) is an excellent Microsoft Outlook add-on that lets you manage messages much more efficiently. If you're in "Getting Things Done" mode, this one can be a lifesaver.

CodeRush 2.0 ($249.99) remains the one Visual Studio add-in that I don't want to do without; its templating engine makes writing code much more efficient for me.

DatabaseSpy 2007 ($129) is a general-purpose tool for working with the schema and data of just about any relational database, from the makers of the popular XMLSpy application.

Digipede ($995) brings easy grid computing to .NET developers, with a polished SDK and architecture that makes it a snap to set up your own grid. There's also a free Developer Edition to get you started.

FinalBuilder 5.0 ($379) is an amazingly flexible tool for automating software builds and other development processes. Also check out its little brother Automise for automating systems administration tasks.

{smartassembly} ($599) can optimize, obfuscate, and set up web-based reporting for exceptions in your .NET code, among other things. It's a great tool for getting all the shipping tasks done at once.

SQL Refactor ($295) offers refactoring of SQL Server databases directly in SQL Server Management Studio. You might not think you need a database refactoring tool, but if you do a lot of database development, this one will change your mind.

Tableau ($1,799) is the most amazing tool I've seen for visual analysis of business information. Just about anyone can use it to create stunning charts from the typical morass of data that you find in a big spreadsheet or OLAP cube, through a great interactive user interface.

TestDriven.NET ($95) is the essential tool for integrating unit testing into the Visual Studio user interface. It's a good thing Microsoft made the UI extensible, because otherwise we'd be stuck with their own second-rate testing instead of this great tool.

Timesnapper ($39.95) bills itself as an automatic screenshot journal. It captures periodic screenshots of your desktop, which you can use later to figure out what you did during the day. There's a free version, but the Pro version is so inexpensive that it's worth paying for the extras.

Mike Gunderloy is the Senior Technology Partner for Adaptive Strategy, a Washington State consulting firm. You can read more of Mike's work at his Larkware Web site, or contact him at MikeG1@larkfarm.com.


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