August 3, 2001 spout

My Favorite Software

Friday, 8/3/01

The following software is what I install on nearly every computer I set up. BTW, I pay for all my favorite software and you should, too. While I am guilty of trying” friend’s software, I own legal copies of every piece of software I use.

  • Windows XP. The grand unification of Win9x and Windows 2000 is finally at hand (isn’t that one of the signs of the apocalypse?) and it is awesome. The UI make over is great, but the two killer features for me so far (I’ve only have RC2 running for a few days at this point) are the new Terminal Services client (called Remote Desktop Connection and hidden under Accessories\Communications) is amazing for the keystroke handling alone and the ClearType support for LCD panels. Unfortunately, the latter is going to force me to buy LCD panels for all my computers and will make using the former with anything by Windows XP unbearable. No wonder they have a monopoly…
  • Microsoft Office XP. I know that they’re a monopoly. I know that they should be broken up. But damn, they just make killer (sic) software! As a writer and web maintainer, I absolutely love Word and FrontPage. The last real feature they added was red and green squiggles, but now I can’t live without them. As a guy dealing with lots of email and people and tasks, I live in Outlook. The fact that the integration with Word is now fast enough to let me use Word as my editor (to get red and green squiggles) has cut way back on people making fun of me for my shoddy emails. And while I can’t say I’ve ever used 1% of the features in Excel, for whipping up a quick set of numbers and totals, there’s nothing like it. Also, I was a proud owner of Visio 1.0, so that fact that they now bundle it is awesome. Truly, without Office, I may very well have skipped to Linux by now, but I’m addicted.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio.NET. There is no better set of development tools on the planet. This is #2 reason why I haven’t gone to Linux.
  • WinZip from Nico Mak Computing. I keep trying others, but I always come crawling back after the flash of some upstart comes and goes out of my life.
  • Action Outline from Green Parrots Software. This is a free-form hierarchical information keeper. While I practically live in Outlook, it has never had a good way to keep bits and pieces from my head. And what I especially love is that, as a keyboard only boy, I can navigate between the tree view on the left and the text view on the right, including adding topics, moving topics, etc, all without taking my fingers off the keyboard, including starting it from Start->Run (via action”). The only thing that I wish they’d add is encryption and password protectionbecause I’m embarrassed to tell you just what kind of information I keep in there in plain text (Keith Mr. Security” Brown would not approve : ). Indispensable.
  • 1st Clock from Green Parrots Software. Actually, Green Parrots is one of my favorite software companies. They make some cool stuff. I can’t live without 1st Clock for two reasons:
    1. It puts the day of the week and the date in the toolbar (because I can never remember and the time it takes to click my way to that info is too long).
    2. It lets me put custom strings into the toolbar. I always put the machine name in the toolbar so that as I switch between multiple PCs sharing a single keyboard, mouse and monitor using my Belkin OmniView, I can tell at a glance what machine I’m currently working with.

    The built-in automatic time synching with internet time service is really cool, too.

  • Process Explorer from Sysinternals. This software, formerly known as HandleEx, is invaluable in helping me track down all of my Can’t replace DLL: May be in use” error messages and it’s free!
  • RegMon from Sysinternals. This tool will should you where a program is reading from the Registry or where it’s writing.
  • tcpTrace from PocketSOAP. Simon Fell is one of the most talented contributors to the Windows development community. tcpTrace is the de facto tool for tracing SOAP packets.
  • WinVNC from AT&T. WinVNC is a free tool for controlling one computer from another. It’s not as cool or as fast as the new Terminal Services client from Microsoft, but it lets you control the currently active Windows station instead of starting up a new one, so it’s great for controlling the PC I have connected to my home theater, from the comfort of my couch (ever try to read PC output on a TV across the room? It doesn’t work…).
  • DevTrack from TechExcel. DevTrack is a good bug tracking database. Even though it is not one of my favorite pieces of software (sorry to throw you for a loop there : ), it was so much easier to set up than any of the competitors at the time and it did 80% of what we needed it for, that we live with it. The web client enables developers to use it all over the world and we were able to squeeze the data out of it that we needed. We do struggle with it sometimes, but not nearly as much as we would have had to if we’d have built out own from scratch. In fact, that’s why I list it here. Please don’t waste your time writing your own bug database. Buy one. If I had it to do over again, I would definitely spend time looking at FogBUGZ from Fog Creek Software.
  • Source Offsite from SourceGear. Source Offsite is an NT service that allows access to your Visual SourceSource database across the internet. Until they fixed a mighty leak problem that required us to manually kill the server a couple of times a day, Source Offsite was a depressing maintenance headache that we had to put up with, because when it worked, it worked so well, and there wasn’t anything else out there. Now that the leak is fixed, it just silently works. What more can you ask from a piece of software?
  • CleanVC from Bear Canyon. Mike Woodring and I go way back. Like me, he also has a bend for building tools and a website where he makes them available. The one that I absolutely cannot live without is CleanVC (he’s got other cool tools worth check out, too). From the command line, CleanVC takes the name of a directory and recurses through it and all sub-directories, killing all the intermediate files you get during a build. From the shell, you can right-click on a folder, choose CleanVC and get the same thing. I use it right before I zip something up for distribution and I use it to dig through my own project directory just before my weekly backup. Fabulous.
  • RegSvr.reg from me. This is a simple .reg file that I built way, way back that lets you right-click on a COM DLL or EXE and register or unregister it. It’s simple, I know, but I find I can’t use my computer without it.
  • Reflector for .NET from Lutz Roeder. This software is the OLEVIEW of .NET and it’s free!
  • UrlRun from me. This is a little console app that I use to reconnect URLs split between lines in an email. It’s smart enough to take out spaces and > characters when an URL is split between forward lines in an email. To use, copy the URL (with spaces and weird characters and all) into the clipboard and run UrlRun.exe. It will take the URL out of the clipboard, clean it up and start up IE.
  • BTW, Doom, Half-Life, Max Payne and JellyFish are my favorite games, the latter especially since I let Don beat me badly at backgammon the other day and I need the practice!