special build of Chromium as a browser replacement for Chrome. We've
all heard of Chrome by now, the super-fast browser by Google based on its
open source Chromium. Whilst Chrome aims to be a reliable bare-bones
browser, it does not completely replace Internet Explorer on Windows.
You still need to revert to the trusty old IE to visit some sites,
especially for work. Since I've been using it, ChromePlus has stood up
as a true standalone browser with its built-in IE Tab functionality and
other lesser tweaks that make for a smooth browsing experience. Though
there is an IE Tab plugin for Chrome, I have found that it drops sessions
when trying to use the back button, as well as other issues that just don't
happen in ChromePlus's implementation. My favourite plugin for
ChromePlus at the moment is
iReader - makes articles on web pages awesomely readable.
Of course, ChromePlus can use Chrome extensions. Extensions I use are:
- Web Cache - when you hit a page that is no longer available, just use buttons from the Web Cache plugin to automatically open the page from a variety of internet archive sources
- iReader - magically takes a cluttered web page and just gives you clean, easy to read content
- Session Manager - often, researching a topic involves lots of open tabs, some with hard to find again content. Session manager is a bookmark for all the currently open tabs - you can revisit your research anytime
- Speed Dial - replace the default new tab page with a nice manageable list of favourite sites where you can control how many items are visible
- Google Similar Pages - click this button to show pages that are similar to the page you are currently viewing
- EXIF Viewer - this adds a right-click context menu option to view EXIF data on any image on the web. This is awesome for photographers
- ClamWin Antivirus - free, open source antivirus software that rivals commercial products.
- Microsoft Security Essentials - free virus checking/protection software. This is my pick of the free system protection bunch.
- Open Office - a free open source complete office suite which is able to exchange documents in native and commercial formats. This software is very good, but NOT fully compatible with Microsoft Office products as claimed. You can create documents that are pretty good with compatibility, but reading and modifying existing Microsoft Office documents is a different story, so be careful.
- 7-Zip - free, open source; zip and unzip common archive types. An excellent program.
- Outlook Duplicates Remover - a great program that removes all kinds of duplicates from Outlook 2002/2003. This software comes at the price of a prayer. It saved my day fixing duplicate calendar items from bad synchronisation with my Pocket PC. Don't pay money for similar products.
- Google Reader - a free RSS feed program. Google reader requires no installation, and in using your google account it will persist your favourite RSS feeds wherever you go. Forget buying newspapers and DON'T buy an RSS reader... what life did I have before I found RSS?
- ReplaceEm (AKA BK ReplaceEm) - This is a search & replace program that rocks! I use this all the time, you can do complex "starts with", "ends with" searches that may span unlimited lines of text and the ability to span subfolders. You can place rules in a sequence so that you can create a really complex search/replace strategy without having to be an expert! Hint, use Advanced Edit, you can do common replace tasks without needing to know weird mnemonics.
- InfoRapid Search & Replace - powerful search & replace software. Not as powerful as ReplaceEm for doing replacements, but very powerful for outright searching. Certain binary files can be searched and the contents shown in the area of the search results. The good thing about this program is it doesn't need to be able to index your drive to be able to search. I generally use a combination of InfoRapid and ReplaceEm depending on my needs - they're both very useful.
- Google Desktop Search - yet another search utility... Well, I do in fact use a third search utility so you're probably starting to think I'm some kind of search nut. This utility is great, it indexes your hard drive in the background, never taxing your resources while you're trying to work. It indexes absolutely everything, including your email, so it's great for finding that long lost document, or all the emails on a particular subject. Beware the index file size, I ended up with 5 1/2GB of index files. It cannot index mapped drives, but it will map files that you open from a mapped location, so that's a limitation where I use InfoRapid instead.
- PDFCreator - create PDF files from any program you can print from - free, open source.
- FlashGet - awesome free download manager. Do you tire of downloads that seem to crawl down the line at half your available bandwidth or less? Or get to the last byte of that huge download only for the connection to drop and you have to start all over? Well, FlashGet comes to the rescue. It uses very clever technology to create multiple simultaneous connections to your download to force the download at the maximum available bandwidth. You can pause a large download so that you can tend to other internet activities and resume again any time later! Unexpected connection drops will frustrate your downloads no more because FlashGet always remembers where it's up to in a download and can resume. Unlike other download managers you will not get a rude shock when trying to load large (>2GB) files, it will work!
- SciTE free, open source text/code editor. This is my preferred editor. It doesn't have as many features as something like PSPad, but SciTE loads fast; you can right-click a file, select edit with SciTE and have it open very quickly. Conversely, PSPad will make you wait for its feature sets to load into memory which is painful when you want to make a few quick edits. SciTE is a tabbed editor and supports colour-coding of sourcecode and known filetypes. SciTE has all the features you need for editing files. You can edit scite's global properties (see SciTEGlobal.properties in scite's installation folder). One property that's worth changing is caret.line.back - all you need to do is remove the comment and it will start highlighting the line the caret is positioned on. I have baked my own SciTE MSI installer which is a one-stop installer to get the tabbed interface working from the explorer context menu here.
- X-Chat - free, open source multi-platform IRC client. The windows build on the XChat is not free, it is shareware, but there are unofficial builds (legal under the GPL license) that you can get which should work just as well. The unofficial windows build I recommend is by Vaidrius Petrauskas. I must admit that I'm no IRC expert, and I guess that's one testament as to why I think X-Chat is so great. I installed it, chose a server, joined a channel, and started chatting! It is one of the few truly free IRC chat clients that is actually worth the wait to download. For both experienced and new IRC users I highly recommend this program.
- JBidWatcher - This is an excellent sniping utility for ebay bidding. It has a number of other great features too, such as comments display. Using this software I managed to score $600 worth of Carico Donatello flatware for $1 plus $10 postage. Sellers may protest, however, if you know about this type of software you can also protect yourself against it (i.e., put a minimum selling amount on not-so-popular items). Before selling something expensive, know what you are doing - google "ebay selling".
- SABnzbd+ - This free and open source binary usenet downloader is the simplest and most powerful of the free bunch. Don't rely on torrents to get the latest linux builds, usenet gives you full bandwidth every time.
- BudgetSwift - Free home financial planning software.
- DaFont - Free fonts site. This site has a huge selection of fonts and it allows you to enter text which will be displayed as a preview against each font so you can quickly decide on the look you are chasing. I use this site whenever I need a different font, I even used a selection for my wedding material! Each font is distributed under its own license determined by the author - usually free for personal use or unrestricted free.
- Freeplane - Free, open source mind mapping software. Freeplane is a fork of the popular FreeMind project, and some people are saying it is better. I have started using Freeplane, and having come from using Mind Manager I must say it is pretty good. Mind Manager licenses are too expensive for all our team to buy, so I am now recommending Freeplane. The only shortfall I have found with Freeplane is the lack of the ability to paste images into Notes as you can with Mind Manager.
- ZScreen - Free, open source screen grab software. My old workflow of grabbing the screen and cropping in the Gimp was getting a little tiresome, so I found this great software which is going to be a big timesaver for me. It is packed with features, and best of all is open source.
- Classic Shell - Free, open source shell enhancement for Vista and Windows 7. Normally I steer well clear of shell addins and mods - I won't go so far as to say they're bad, just that I've never had a good consistent experience with them. Classic Shell is the exception, though I installed it for one specific purpose. As a Windows 7 user I'm cursed with the explorer tree bug. Classic Shell comes with the option 'Fix Folder Scrolling' that fixes the issue seamlessly. It has plenty of options and features, so checkout what features are important to you.
- PureText - Ever get frustrated copying text, then pasting it only to find it has brought its formatting with it? Ever find yourself pasting to notepad, then copying again to get nice unformatted text? Well, PureText to the rescue. There are two ways of dealing with formatted text once it's in the clipboard. The first way is to click on the little PT icon in the system tray. The second way is to use Windows Key-v instead of CTRL-v to paste. This utility is very small, loads instantly and uses next to no resources.
- VirtuaWin - Free, open source virtual desktop utility. When I moved to Windows 7 some time ago I was disappointed that there was no virtual desktop manager included. Whist I have used various utilities in the past, they appeared to do little more than add instability to a perfectly good system. Enter VirtuaWin, I've been using this utility and I'm very happy with its stability and ease of use. It doesn't go too far to try to get into Windows, it just does its job nicely. At the time of writing VirtuaWin is compatible with all versions of windows post 3.11.
GamesFree computer games:
- America's Army - the U.S. army produced a game to try and increase their recruiting drive. I'm not sure how successful it is in getting new recruits but it is a top class first person shooter. Pitch your warfare skills against players from all over the world on a variety of maps.
- Battlefield Heroes - This cartoon-based war game is a spinoff of the popular 'battlefield' series from EA games. It sacrifices realism for fun, and best of all, it's free. Oh, and it's a new-generation browser based game too which doesn't need a $1000 graphics card to run.
- Utopia - free online strategy game. This is a text-based medieval war game where you have your own 'province' in a 'kingdom'. Your kingdom comprises of 25 provinces (which are people scattered all around the world), and you all work as a democracy to pitch the strength of your kingdom against other kingdoms in hostile, war, and even without any official declarations. Don't be put off by the text-only thing; this is a real game of courage, strategy, mateship, deception, diplomacy, revenge, spite and outright evil ;). The only downside of this game is you find yourself waking up in a cold sweat at 3:00am wondering if that big guy in the other kingdom has 'hit' you yet. This is a great game to make new friends, I was playing this for a long time - I actually stayed in the same team for 3 years! The only reason I stopped playing was because I wanted to channel my spare time into other stuff. Play it if you have a lot of free time with few commitments - great for uni students, probably bad for exam time.
CD/DVD/ISOWhether you want to backup your movie collection, or mount or burn an ISO image I've found all the tools you need. Do NOT buy ANY program for handling CD's or DVD's or ISO's, use one of these free programs.
- DoISO - My own creation (with much help from mkisofs). WinCDEmu needs ISO's; why use commercial software to create your ISO's when you can make them for free?
- ImgBurn - From the maker of DVD Decrypter is this fantastic image and file burner. Don't buy Nero, use this program instead.
- WinCDEmu - keep your full CD's in a single ISO file on your hard disk and access it via a virtual CD ROM drive. WinCDEmu is a no-nonsense, free and open source solution. Being free and open source, you will be forever protected from commercialisation and regular releases will ensure a stable working environment. Get much better performance from CD's you need to access constantly or administrators can make a software ISO archive so machines can be rebuilt without digging through mountains of CD's. You can install software to "run from CD", and use an ISO. Use DoISO to create your own ISO's.
- IsoPuzzle - a brilliant program for making CD's and DVD's into ISO's. What sets IsoPuzzle apart is its ability to recover scratched discs. You obviously can't recover a disc that is practically mutilated, but you can recover most discs which report a bad read in other software. It will create an ISO just as quickly as any other ISO creation program, it will only slow down if it needs to recover a hard to read block.
- DVD Decrypter - Project is dead but you can still find the software if you search. This is still a great DVD decrypting program. In the scheme of things, this software doesn't do any more than the decryption in DVD Shrink, so you might wonder why you would add this software for an extra, unnecessary step in backing up your DVD's? Well, the simple answer is that when DVD Shrink has trouble reading a DVD, such as when there is a small scratch, sometimes DVD Decrypter comes to the rescue and will successfully read the disk. It's a handy program to have for those occasions, however it won't save you from deep scratches.
- DVD Shrink - the ultimate DVD backup software. Believe me, I have tried all the software and DVD Shrink wins hands down in ease of use and features. Making a complete backup or stripping out the main movie is a piece of cake, as is the ease in which you can remove menus, foreign language audio, director's comments and subtitles. If the resulting movie won't fit on one DVD, then no problem, it will compress the movie the exact amount it needs to fit while maintaining very high quality. This software will decrypt encrypted DVD's and optionally remove restrictions such as region and macrovision. For a straight-down-the-line guide, go to the Doom9 tutorial. Just follow the links inside the tutorial to expand it in the direction of the type of backup you want to do. It's simple to follow with good screenshots.
- CDex - open-source CD ripper. This program is great, it circumvents copy protections to give you a perfect backup copy of your CD's. Forget spending good money buying rippers, this software will be your final stop. I'm not encouraging anyone to pirate recordings they haven't bought, but many countries allow you to make personal backups of your collection.
MultimediaWhether you are a graphic artist, a musician or just want to touch up family photos and edit the family videos there is free software available for you.
- MediaPortal - This is a fantastic media centre application, and it's free and open source! Get yourself a cheap (sub-$50) USB digital TV tuner, connect your PC to your TV, and with this software you've got yourself a PVR. Add your movie library and you've got a virtual video store. Plugins extend the capabilities of this brilliant software infinitely - three of which are a movie cataloguing plugin called Moving Pictures, a season management plugin called MP-TVSeries and a movie trailer viewer called MyTrailers. With the use of this software I have actually retired my $600 digital set top box, it is that good.
- Editshare Lightworks - free, to be open-sourced fully featured video editor. Can't afford Premiere? Think the 'free' video editing tools out there are dodgey? Well check out Lightworks, this editor does all of the usual things with multi-track video and audio, transitions, audio level control, and much, much more. It even supports team editing on the same project. With each release there is a multitude of changes in the log, so this thing is being very actively worked on.
- Handbrake - free, open source video encoding software. There are many, many options for working with video, and of them all this open source option is by far the best. You can easily convert video formats or create backups of DVD video. Video conversion can be batched to automate those big jobs.
- Audacity - free, open-source audio editing software. Although I haven't played with this much, it seems like a nice, comprehensive piece of audio editing software that could be a good alternative to the commercial Sound Forge from Sony.
- LMMS - Linux MultiMedia Studio. Free, open-source multimedia studio for Linux and Windows. Although I have yet to look at all the features of this software, it looks like the best free virtual studio out there.
- VirtualDub - this is a very handy little video editing tool that is deceptively powerful, and it's free & open source. I use it mostly for repairing out-of-sync audio or for joining or splitting streams. It has a quick and easy option for 'direct stream copy' that does not try to re-compress everything when all you want is a quick edit - that is the major shortfall of most other similar types of software.
- VideoLan - free, open source, cross platform media player that plays most available formats. This is a pretty handy program to have, even if you do use it as a second player because it solves having to have lots of various players for all the different formats. The only major format it doesn't seem to support is Real. It has playlists and is easy to use. You can even use it as a streaming server.
- ccmixter - free, creative commons music. Some really nice music here.
GraphicsFree software for touching up photos, creating original artwork, 3D modelling, vector graphics and diagramming.
- The Gimp - a serious open source free image manipulation tool. This is now my imaging tool of choice. For top notch creativity tips, visit GimpGuru.org. The ONLY reason you would need to purchase a program such as photoshop over using the Gimp is that the Gimp is restricted to 8 bit editing, which is not terribly useful for professional photo production.
- Inkscape - free open source vector graphics editor. This seems to be the pick of the bunch, with professional features and complying to the W3C SVG standards I'd have to say this is the premiere open source vector graphics software. It has a large number of features, including text on paths, text overflow effects, bitmap tracing, the list goes on and on.
- Picturenaut - free HDR software. Picturenaut stands out as probably the best free HDR programs around. It does such a good job that you probably don't even need commercial software for HDR work. I tried it on some 16bit TIF images I prepared and it did a great job.
- Royalty Free Icons & Clipart Stock Images - use any of the icons and clipart on this site for any purpose you like (except for distributing the icons as your own).
- OpenClipArt - now that you have some serious graphic design software, get yourself some free and open clipart.
- Open Icon Library - awesome set of free icons to use for your project
- Crystal Icons - a set of beautiful icons licensed under the LGPL for use in your projects. Don't re-invent the wheel!
- Dia - a free open source diagramming tool. Has a number of technical diagram templates.
- VisioModeler - a free (and unsupported) database design tool using semantic modeling from Microsoft.
- Microsoft ICE - Microsoft Image Composition Editor. This is a free panorama stitcher which has worked more reliably than Adobe CS5 and Hugin. In the two fore-mentioned products stitching errors were apparent, though with Hugin these were rather minor. Hugin also appeared to be happy to allow highlights to be blown out whilst ICE managed to create a very smooth blend of horribly mismatched exposures whilst ensuring the histogram was not pushed into extremes. At first, I didn't like the projection that ICE created compared to Hugin's, but this was easily adjusted by dragging the projection around. CS5 could not even complete the stitch with large images, they all had to be resized. Now that free stitching tools are getting so good, it's time for you to start googling things like the Brenizer Method to get that creativity flowing without being limited by your tools ;).
- Hugin - free, open source photo stitching software. Whilst this software remains as a very good alternative, I have since moved on to the brilliant Microsoft ICE.
- Convertico - free online service for converting png files into ICO files. The service is fast (as in immediate) and effective.
- Ximagic Denoiser - freeware noise reduction plugin for photoshop. This noise reduction software compares to the best products out there, albeit the user interface being a bit complicated. I use DCT with Enhanced switched on, and all other settings default. You may need to tweak for different types of photos.
3DLook at the gallery and screenshots for each product to get an idea of what you can do.
- Blender - a seriously full-featured 3D modeller and renderer. Can import/export a number of formats, can be used for game scenario creation (with collision detection etc.) and create animations and videos. A mind blowing array of features for free. The features are daunting, so begin your readings with Blender 3D: Noob to Pro.
- Yafray - 'Yet Another Free Raytracer' - free, open source ray tracing program. Yafray is the choice renderer for Blender, though not required for Blender. Yafray opens up some sophisticated render features not available to blender.
- LuxRender - A free, open source unbiased renderer.
- MakeHuman - free, open source humanoid modelling plugin for Blender.
- ArtOfIllusion - free, open source modeller/renderer. This looks like a great product which allows you to perform some sophisticated modelling and animation. Support for skinning and animation are an example of the powerful features.
- Pov-Ray - a free, open source rendering engine. This software in itself doesn't have a built-in modeller, but existing modellers can export the Pov-Ray format. Pov-Ray is a high precision renderer which is capable of renders which rival any commercial product available. With an outstanding array of effects, texturing and mesh options, this package is unbeatable. Combine it with your favourite modeller to get photo-realistic renderings.
- K-3D - free, open source renderman modeller.
- JPatch - free, open source spline-based 3D modeller. Can output formats for renderman compliant renders, or Pov-Ray.
- PoseRay - import models from a number of different formats, and export to other formats. Tweak the models with the in-build manipulation tools before exporting. Very handy for converting model formats and texturing.
- PovLab - free, open source modeller for Pov-Ray.
- OpenFX - a serious 3D modelling, rendering and animation tool. Free and open source. Many plugins are available to produce special effects.
SystemSystem software covers software that you don't interact with so much but sits in the background keeping your home or small office network/computers running in a managed fashion.
- FlexRAID - If you're considering buying a NAS (Network Attached Storage) for backing up your important data, and it is mainly for bulk storage as opposed to a large, live data source like a database, then consider FlexRAID. This free solution allows for distributed storage to be treated as one large local drive. The advantage is that you can mix & match media and you can configure it for failover to taste. In general you can match your largest storage drive in your array with one redundant drive that synchronises parity. If any drive fails you can replace it and recover all data that was on that drive. You can also recover any accidentally deleted files providing you haven't re-synchronised before the attempt at undeleting. There is an upcoming eagerly awaited version of FlexRAID Live which will automatically handle synchronisation bringing it inline with other commercial solutions.
- Softerra LDAP Browser - If you want to browse an ldap directory, this is the tool for you.
- Partition Wizard - free partition management software is difficult to come by, and often there are limitations which make the software unusable on modern systems. I tested Partition Wizard on a laptop running Windows 7 64bit and it worked great!
- Clonezilla - This professional-grade software allows you to clone your PC installation for quick re-deployment or as a backup. Both enterprise and single PC versions are available. Pretty surprising for free and open source software! For cloning a single PC you can simply burn the provided bootable Clonezilla ISO to a CD/DVD and get cloning in minutes.
- Copy Handler - free open source software for accelerating the copy process on Windows. This utility is feature packed, replacing the built-in default file copy process.
- Bulk Rename Utility - just like the name says, this is a free file rename utility. You can rename in a myriad of ways for a myriad of purposes. Not a tool that you would use often, but when you need it, it's the greatest tool out there!
Informational/Educational (Read and Explore)Although a number of the software tools I have mentioned are quite relevant to education, there are utilities that students would find most useful in referencing during study.
Technologies - breathtaking suite of free software which brings science
to your home for entertainment or learning. There are a number of programs
available for download, here are a few:
- NASA SVS: Scientific Visualisation Studio lets you visualise animated scientific data of earth while controlling a 3D representation of the planet.
- Virtual Lab: you control a virtual electron microscope where you can select samples and pan & zoom up to 3,600X! More samples are being added as the software is updated.
- Virtual Field Trip: "The Virtual Field Trip is an immersive multimedia application developed to support student and user exploration of areas on Earth that have been identified as analog sites to regions on Mars."
- Celestia - free 3D space explorer. Explore our solar system and beyond. Extremely comprehensive, this tool is a great way to get to know the universe better.
- Google Earth - free satellite imagery. this is one of the best services I have seen to-date on the net. If you have a fast enough connection you could spend literally years looking through this interface - how long do you think it would take you to have a detailed look at the entire land surface area of the earth? Basically you are presented with an outer space view of the earth which you can spin around using your mouse. Once you centre the location of interest on the screen you can start zooming in - in many areas you can zoom to the point where you can make out cars and trees, and easily read airport runway markers. You can follow roads, and where supported you can actually have map overlays. One of the most amazing features I've seen with Google Earth is the elevation data. Once you zoom in on a location you can actually tilt it up until you are looking along the ground so that you can see surrounding hills and valleys. Go into the Grand Canyon and you can literally follow the bottom with the walls of the canyon towering up either side. This is all topped off by the most accurate street maps available, street view, ocean topology and much, much more. You have to see it to believe it.
- CIA World Fact Book - free downloadable/online world reference. Developed by the CIA for the CIA, you can find out just about anything on every country, including maps, GDP, birth rates, death rates, the list goes on and on and on!
- Start Natural Language Question Answering System - search for facts in plain english. This is the smartest, most thorough fact searching utility I have ever seen (if someone finds a smarter one I'd love to know!). Ask a question like "what is the largest body of water in the world?" and you will get the answer: "With an area of 152,239 square miles, Caspian Sea is the largest lake in the world." along with references and links. You can ask "what does an African elephant look like?" and Start will give you hyperlinks to pictures of African elephants. Try an obscure question like "how far is it from rockhampton australia to new york?" and you will be presented a correct answer. All facts from the CIA factbook have been fed into Start, and many reference sites from the web have also been added as information resources to expand the knowledge base. It has to be tried to be believed.
- WikiPedia - a comprehensive online encyclopedia. One of the criticisms of this is that if you were to use it for classroom reference it could be vandalised or have an incorrect edit at any time during use - which means that students will be viewing varying forms of the reference. A workaround is to review a page before dissemination, then use the history tab to get the tagged version of the page so that all students are referencing the same page. Of course, you must have enough knowledge or cross-reference material to ensure that the current version is true & correct. This is what separates wikipedia from a definitive encyclopedia relevant for classroom use. One controversial issue with wikipedia is its fear of dilution, even though it has no limits as does a paper volume (for all practical purposes). Its policies allow for it to be easier to remove material than to add it. Adding to all this, stubs cannot be created, only fully referenced, complete articles.
Version ControlI find this needs a section of its own because it fits into both desktop software and programming. You can use version control to manage document versions, as well as source code versioning:
- KDiff3 - free, open source diff/merge program. This is probably the pick of the bunch.
- WinMerge - free, open source file difference program.
- Subversion - the self-proclaimed successor to CVS. Subversion is a terrific version control solution which handles text-based and binary files, both distributed and local, with support for UNC paths and levels of security. It can run with or without a server, but if you're going distributed, you'll need the server. This is a truly powerful version control solution that can't be overlooked. It does not enforce versions with locking - rather it assists to merge various modifications. Because I like this software so much I am now in charge of the win32 installer releases for Subversion.
- TortoiseSVN - the desktop companion for Subversion. It integrates nicely into windows explorer, allowing you to manage your version control with a click of a couple of buttons. For example, to update files from a repository, you normally go to a command prompt, go to the right folder, then type in the command "svn update". That's simple enough, but with TortoiseSVN, you just right-click the folder and select the 'SVN Update' command. Most Subversion features are available from the shortcut menu.
- git - the 'new kid on the block' promises faster more efficient version control with better merging for team version control. Many large projects are migrating their version control from subversion to git
- TortoiseGit - a port of the GUI tool provided for Subversion, this eliminates the need to remember all those commandline parameters, and allows you to perform all your version control visually straight from Windows Explorer rather than a command prompt
.Net Programming Tools (incl. Mono), Controls, Classes, Add-Ins & DatabaseTools you need to construct professional quality software in .Net:
- SharpDevelop - a free open source .Net development IDE. Where possible, this is my primary development tool.
- Microsoft Visual Studio Express Editions - Don't let the 'Express' in the naming of these tools fool you - this is one powerful set of tools that will meet the needs of most developers for most sized projects. Covering c#, VB.Net, Visual c++ and ASP.Net, you have access to complete development environments with intellisense and debugging. You don't get access to Microsoft's deployment projects and you are unable to create mixed-language solutions (however you can take a compiled DLL from another language and stick it in the references). You also unfortunately do not have access to pocket PC development tools which is a big shame because there are few options available. For creating high quality MSI installations I recommend making a separate WiX project in SharpDevelop to package your application.
- Microsoft SQL Server Express - you need the power of SQL Server in a small scale application but don't want to spend thousands? Well I'm sure that 'free' sounds like a nice price. I love having access to User Defined Functions, Stored Procedures, Triggers, and all the rest.
- NUnit - free, open source unit testing tool for .Net. NUnit supports all .Net languages and it is fantastic. If you don't know what unit testing is, learn today! Basically it allows you to write small test methods for your class methods and test return results. This is far easier than writing separate test applications or running the debugger everytime you make a code change. It also retains all your tests so that when you make numerous modifications you just run the unit tests and it tests all your methods with your preset conditions.
- TestDriven.Net - free unit testing add-in for Visual Studio .Net. When looking for integrated solutions I had never heard of this product, but once I installed it I haven't looked back, it is great! You can write unit testing code and test it on-the-fly in the IDE - and you have full right-click control over what you test. You can right-click on a single test sub and choose to run that test on its own, right-click on the head of a test class and have all the test methods run, right-click on a source file and have all contained test classes run, or right-click on a project and have all tests in the test project run. That is the most flexibility you will ever need - I find it excellent for testing single methods until I get them right - it decreases the amount of time you need to be using the debugger exponentially. TestDriven works in Visual Studio .Net 2003 & 2005. It is slightly unstable, but it won't affect the IDE itself. If you need to continue testing, but TestDriven ceases to operate properly, just close the IDE and reopen.
- Sqlite - free, open source embeddable, fully featured database. This is a great little database for packaging into applications for managing associated data.
- Postgresql - free, open source enterprise grade database server. Use this when you want to get serious with your database but don't want to spend any money on it. I recently witnessed a project move its primary database back-end from Oracle to Postgresql for a large base of concurrent users and it is performing very well
- MyGeneration - free code generator and O/R (object relations) mapping tool. This is a comprehensive, extensible tool for generating code. I have yet to explore this tool but it looks very professional.
- DockPanel Suite - awesome open source docking.
- VB.DOC - open source VB.Net documentation system, works both standalone or with Visual Studio .Net or as a NAnt task. It creates C# style XML documentation from your comments. Use NDoc to compile your documentation.
- NDoc - open source; document your programming work in style: "generates class library documentation from .NET assemblies and the XML documentation files generated by the C# compiler (or with an add-on tool for VB.Net)". The output formats supported are terrific, including the MSDN-style HTML Help format (.chm), the Visual Studio .Net help format (HTML Help 2) and MSDN-online style web pages.
- Custom Help Builder - builds help from your XML comments output to integrate into Visual Studio .Net 2003, including context-sensitive help for your own documented objects!
- Ezfuscator.Net - simple and effective integrated or drag & drop obfuscation for your .Net Framework projects.
General Software Development ToolsTools for general software development:
- WiX - an open source toolset that builds Windows installation packages from XML source code. This is a project released to open source by Microsoft! Some of my software is packaged with WiX. SharpDevelop has a WiX editor built-in for easier WiX XML file creation.
- DocBook XML - DTD for making those help files. Also see DocBooK SGML.
- Mantis - free, open source online bug tracking software. This is what I use.
- SoapUI - free, open source web services testing software. Test web services on the fly.
Webmaster ResourcesTools to manage and make your website better:
- FileZilla - free, open source ftp client/server. I haven't tried this as a server, but as an FTP client it is great. It's as good as the commercial products but you don't need to pay a cent.
- Wikka - free, open source wiki. This is a simple to install, simple to use full featured wiki. Source: ebswift.com