12 MORE Insanely Essential Utilities For Programmers

In July I published a list of 12 Insanely Essential Utilities for Programmers. That list is still current and I’m still using every one of the twelve.  The list, however, has become popular enough, and there are enough great utilities that didn’t make that list, that I herewith present 12 more Insanely Great and Absolutely Essential Utilities:

NB: This list, like its predecessor is Windows-centric.

The Next Dozen

1. Drop Box – Have files on one machine and need a good way to get them to another? dropBox Need to provide a file to a co-worker that is too large to mail? Drop Box is fast, secure, easy and beautifully executed.  It runs on the web, on Windows and on the Mac. Oh, and it’s free.

2. LogMeIn Forgot a file at home? Need access to your machine as if you were at the keyboard?  Complete and secure remote access for Windows and Mac.  Incredibly helpful when you want it, indispensable when you need it.

3. Tortoise HG – In the first list Tortoise SVN was listed, but I’ve switched over to TortoiseHG Mercurial, and so Tortoise HG is the tool of choice. The key advantage to Mercurial is that you can commit repeatedly, locally, before updating/synchronizing with the server.  I have to add that I’ve been incredibly happy with BitBucket as a server.  Tortoise HG is free.

4. PowerGrep/ BareGrep – PowerGrep is the most powerful and easiest to use grep program I’ve seen, but it is pricey.  BareGrep is darn close in functionality and it is either free, or if you go up to the pro version, at least reasonably priced. Both are stunningly fast, but I find PowerGrep’s extra features, filters and UI all to be far superior.

5. RegEx Buddy – The folks who make PowerGrep also make RegEx Buddy.  Nothing I’ve seen comes close to this both as a regular expression builder and as a tool for learning regular expressions.  The UI is both powerful and easy to use.  Brilliant.

6. Notepad++ Not just incrementally better, far superior for programmers. Line numbers, syntax highlighting, does not get in the way and its free.   It is my go to text editor.

7. Xobni – Programming can be a team sport, with hints and tips and critical Xobni information exchanged in Outlook.  Xobni (zob-knee) finds it, whatever it is, instantly.  It does much more, but for me it is worth the price of entry for its incredible searching capabilities. Xobni is free, the Plus version is not.   By the way, Xobni is inbox spelled backwards.

8. VirtualBox – A great VM; lightweight, robust and free. Available as open source, runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts, and supports most of the guest operating systems you might ever want (though there is no “official” support for hosting OS/X.

9. AutoPoco –  Generates test data from Plain Old CLR Objects.  Written up by Scott Hanselman and insanely useful.   Highly customizable, and open source (CodePlex).

10. FARRFind And Run Robot is described as “a program for keyboard maniacs.” If you code like I do you spend a good bit of time flitting in and out of programs, and you are impatient to get them up and running fast.  It does a good bit more, but I use it for finding and running programs – hit control-space, type ev and hit enter to load Evernote.  Nice.

11. Hypersnap / ScreenPresso – Screen capture software has turned out to be essential for me; not only for blogging but also for taking a quick shot of a program running, or even of code for quick reference later.  HyperSnap wins on all features and functionality, except that ScreenPresso has a 1-touch export to Evernote that I love.

12. xMind – Mind Mapping Software. I started out using this for design work, ended up using it also for documentation (see, for example, this mind map of the iPhone to Windows Phone Tutorials),  for idea sharing and for dozens of other related purposes.  Mind maps have all the organization of an outline with the immediately graspable eidetic representation of an image.

About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
This entry was posted in Community, Essentials, Opinion, Tools and Utilities and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to 12 MORE Insanely Essential Utilities For Programmers

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  5. pankaj chamria says:


    This website is also a good option instead of Regex Buddy.. http://www.gskinner.com/RegExr/

  6. pankaj chamria says:

    This website is also a good option instead of Regex Buddy.. http://www.gskinner.com/RegExr/

  7. asdf says:

    vim? Pffftt.. Five letters: emacs

  8. Steve says:

    Since this is a Windows-centric list, I’ll throw in a vote for WCFStorm Lite – an awesome free tool for connecting to WCF (and other SOAP-based) webservices. There’s also a Pro version, great for testing and saving test cases.

  9. Steve says:

    notepad++? Ppffffft! Three letters: vim

  10. Seb says:

    Nice list! I really like FARR. On Windows 7 though you, do you really need it?

  11. Ben says:

    I am suprised to see logmein.com on there instead of Microsoft Live Mesh. It was my understanding they were basically the same, except Mesh had more free features.

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  13. @Phil
    I am looking very seriously at Personal Brain right now, and it is outstanding. The full version is expensive, but if it lives up to its potential I may pay the price.

  14. Adam says:

    Well, I tried using XMind on the basis of reading this post and I must say, for the lone developer brainstorming a new application – it’s a surprisingly easy way to note your thoughts.

    I now have an XMind file in some of my projects that describe certain decisions I’ve made (by striking out the paths I didn’t take), features I’d like, the architecture of the application, and some other things.

    Not a formal design language, but for the one-man band developing stuff I’ve found it very useful.

    Most importantly, if you can get it on XMind then it means you can get it out of your head, I find most of my time is lost organising my thoughts about the implementation of certain aspects – I transfer this organisation to XMind.

  15. Luis says:

    Check out Autohotkey..

  16. sara hernandez says:

    hola para octener este equipo

  17. David Cornish says:

    I find the screen capture facility built into evernote works pretty well, which saves the need for an additional piece of software. If I want it in Evernote it can go straight there, but if I don’t, it can also be sent to the clipboard with ctrl, or desktop with shift.

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  19. krestafix says:

    Sorry, forget about Far Manager to edit files/to use Cygnus solutions.
    And grep is inside CygWin.
    Also you may found bash for windows.

    And after years of that cool stuffs I’ve moved to linux.

  20. krestafix says:

    CygWin + Alt-PrintScreen key combination makes the most found there.

  21. Sascha says:

    Why not use Google Desktop. It will search your entire computer, emails, file contents, etc and show the link to it to immediately open. Easiest search tool ever. and you can get results from the internet as well…

  22. Anonymous says:

    Andrew :
    Why not just use One Note???
    WinKey + S = screenshot and autopaste into a onenote workbook

  23. Andrew says:


    Why not just use One Note???

    WinKey + S = screenshot and autopaste into a onenote workbook…
    And One Note searches all email and files in one go… also sound files if you let it! 8)

  24. Tracy Dryden says:

    Not surprised to find that I use many of these already. My choice for text editor is EditPlus+. Reasonably priced, very configurable and easy to use. Regex Buddy is an amazing program and well worth the reasonable price. For file management I’ve decided on Directory Opus. It’s pretty pricey at $85 but I’ve tried a lot of file managers and liked it the best. For a “knowledge base” application check out Surfulater. Great for storing notes, parts of web pages, etc. I tried out Personal Brain (suggested by a poster above) and liked the interface and functionality, but it’s just too darn expensive!

  25. Bogdan says:

    I’m surprised not to see a file manager in that list. But my tool of choice for that will always be Total Commander. Download a shareware version from here:

  26. @earljon says:

    For File Manager:
    Altap Salamander

    For paid alternative to Notepad++:

  27. Mark Stevens says:

    @Scott Bussinger
    I’ll second that – nags you when you exit but you can also pay the $30 to remove that.

  28. Darshan says:

    Hey Try using textster
    Good tool i use it for



    the whole script tag for me

    very handy

  29. mcnemesis says:

    For me, the two tools Notepad++ and XMind have done it for me for now 2 years!

  30. amil says:

    Dropbox? Why not just use Microsoft Mesh?

  31. Hi,

    Notepad++ is very cool!

  32. CSX321 says:

    The Windows 7 Start menu works kind of like your description of FARR. Just press the Windows key, and type the first few characters of what you want. It is also a very quick way to get to things like Services, Device Manager, or Uninstall a program.

  33. For GREP, you might take a look at WinGrep.com. It’s cheap and has IMO the cleanest interface for searching. It hasn’t been updated in a while, but does everything I want.

  34. CB says:

    I’ve been using Neo for a few years and can’t imagine using Outlook w/o it.
    Searching by content, correspondent, attachment, etc… Managing several email addresses from one place, very handy.

  35. Paul says:

    we tried xobni, and it was good, but we eventually switched to Neo and its vastly improved the usability of Outlook

  36. nikos says:

    what, no file manager at all? try xplorer2

  37. I love Xobni, but can’t recommend it. It causes too many instability issues with Outlook. I’ve installed Xobni many, many times and have always ended up uninstalling due to repeated Outlook crashes. Very sad as Xobni would be an indispensable program if it were stable.

  38. AbdouMoumen says:

    I would just like to note that “AutoPoco” wasn’t written by Scott Hanselmen, but, as Scott mentioned in his blog post, it was written by a guy called Rob Ashton 🙂
    Thanks for the list, BTW 🙂

  39. snow says:

    Another BareGrep free alternative is Agent Ransack:

    Great for searching through source code.

  40. Petr_Kropotkin says:

    There are far better mind mapping software than xMind. Two of them for the iPad are
    Headspace by Flatblack Films and iThoughts For the PC the King of them all is Axon

  41. There are far better mind mapping software than xMind. Two of them for the iPad are
    Headspace bt Flatblack Films and iThoughts For the PC the King of them all is Axon

  42. Keven says:

    RegEx Buddy looks good, but for a free alternative, my go-to tool of choice has become Expresso. Good builder tool with an analyzer and the ability to export .NET code for your RegEx.

  43. Michael Heyman says:

    You’re list is missing ‘Everything’ at http://www.voidtools.com/ – windows instant file finder.

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  45. Phil says:

    Nice list, I’m very interested in RegEx Buddy but there doesn’t seem to be a free trial?

    Also, whilst xMind is good I personally prefer Personal Brain: http://www.thebrain.com.

  46. While xobni is excellent for search, you may also want to use EmailTray for sort. Both programs show the social network profiles of email senders. EmailTray has 4 Inboxes and programmers can be sure that only the most pressing emails will be in their Top Priority Inbox. The sorting algorithm is very accurate, especially for the Top Priority Inbox. The program will become a full email client this month (January 2011).

  47. Stimul8d says:

    I’ve got a feature request for FARR mouser. I’d really like a ‘send to’ shell extension like ‘Executor’ has… that’s the only thing stopping me switching right now.

  48. Faisal says:

    Hi, very nice article, Xobni (read from right to left, it’s Inbox 🙂 )

  49. mouser says:

    Can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see my FARR program making your list!
    Surely there is a feature or plugin that you’d like to request for the program? Don’t hesitate to ask !

    -mouser (author of Find and Run Robot)

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