Am starting 2010 by letting you know which tools I use to enhance my productivity and fun.

Operating Systems

Windows 7 [$] – I’m proud of what we accomplished with Windows 7. Get it!

Linux Mint [FREE] – In my opinion, Linux has finally become a easy enough for the “normal” user. Linux Mint is my recommended Linux distribution – easy install and most things work out-of-the-box. There are still a few rough-spots, but overall my experience has been excellent. For the record I have been running Linux Mint for about 3 months and use it every day for web browsing, listening to podcasts, and the occasional prototyping of c# code with MonoDevelop.


Microsoft Security Essentials [FREE] – Free, fast, light, doesn’t nag – and it’s as good as anything you’d pay for. There’s no reason not to use this

Vector Graphics

Xara Xtreme Pro 5 [$] is still the best vector drawing app that exists for Windows. Super-fast! I’ve used this one for over 10 years.

Digital Painting

Art Rage 3.0 won the category this year. Corel Painter 11 [$] is still a great painting app, but ArtRage brings us back to the simple joy of painting.

Photo Manipulation

I finally abandoned Adobe Photoshop CS4 [$] and switched to Adobe Photoshop Elements for all my digital photo needs. Photoshop CS4 is excellent, but Photoshop Elements does everything I need.

Screen Shots

Hypersnap [$] continues to be my absolute favorite for taking screen shots the best combination of features, light weight, and simplicity. SnagIt it is a great competitor in terms of features, but I find SnagIt to be to “heavy”.

Copying Files

Robocopy [included with Windows Vista/7] - Fast, Reliable, It just Works. I try SyncToy every now and then but I find using RoboCopy for my needs is far easier.

Syncing Files and Directories Across Computers

Windows Live Sync [FREE] is the most reliable way I’ve found to share files between Windows PCs and Macs on different networks (home/work,roaming,etc). If you need to also sync with Linux machines, I recommend DropBox [FREE] which I also use.

Zipping Files

7-ZIP [FREE] – free, easy, great integration with the Windows shell.

Mounting ISOs as Drives

Pismo Technic’s Pismo File Mount Audit Package [FREE] - a small, very easy-to-use, and free tool. I mentioned this one in a previous blog post.

Visualizing Graphs

ATT GraphViz [FREE] has served me very well - You give it the nodes and the edges, and then it gives you a pretty graph. (See my screencast to learn how to use it.) Microsoft has a very similar tool called Microsoft Microsoft Automatic Graph Layout (MSAGL) [$]

Drawing Diagrams

Visio 2010 [$] –I couldn’t effectively communicate without this application. This is a very under-appreciated application.

Batch Image Conversion

I wish more people knew Office Picture Manager [$ part of Office 2007] existed. I use it for its excellent batch image conversion and naming features.


Windows Live Writer [FREE] How do you you think I wrote this post?

Screen Recording

Camtasia Studio [$] – Expensive but worth it. Short of recording the video signal  this is the best you will get. My only wish is that Windows Media player could natively play the recorded files. All the screencasts I do are made with Camtasia.

Downloading Video from YouTube

Sometimes you just have to watch these videos offline and to address this need RealPlayer made surprise appearance on my machines this year. RealPlayer SP [FREE] – lets you *very easily* save videos from YouTube as MP4 or FLV files and convert them to other formats. Realplayer SP has great integration with Internet Explorer – as you watch a video on YouTube, if you hover on the video, a little “pop-up” will appear that says “Download” – just click it and you’ll your video saved locally.

HTTP Debugging

Fiddler [FREE] is such a valuable tool when you need to see what are those http clients actually sending over the wire. 

Picking Colors from the Desktop

ColorSchemer ColorPix [FREE] – cute, small tool. Makes it easy to find out the RGB,HSB,CMYK values of any pixel on the desktop.

Downloading and Uploading via Torrents

uTorrent [FREE]


Acronis TrueImage  [$] - This is a great imaging/backup tool. I know Windows Vista and Windows 7 have built in features for backup & restore – but in my experience doing a restore with Acronis is much, much faster.

Software Development Tools

PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2008 [FREE] - Adds several much-needed features to the Visual Studio IDE.

NDepend [$] - dependency analysis for .NET apps. This tool provides valuable insight into my code.

JetBrains Resharper [$] – Code refactoring plug-in to Visual Studio – I could not survive with this tool.

Software Development Libraries

HTML Agility Pack [FREE] is a practical HTML parser that is able to deal with real-world (in other words “malformed”) content.

Using Twitter

I use TweetDeck to keep up with real-time conversations

Tuning Ukuleles/Guitars

I’m learning to play the Ukulele, but am not very good at tuning it by ear – I have to use Audio Tuner [FREE] on my laptop (with a webcam serving as a microphone). This tool makes the process reliable and simple.


30” LCD monitor (Samsung, HP, and Dell make some nice ones) For me this works so much better than a dual-monitor setup. When I purchased one for home I liked it so much then next week I bought another one for work.

Windows Home Server  - I finally got tired of being a network admin in my own house and purchased this device. The backup / storage features are awesome but what makes it very useful for me is the remote access features.

Wacom Intuos 4 – (I bought 2) My favorite Wacom tablet so far. Looks so elegant that when I unpacked it people gathered in front of my office and wondered what this sexy-looking device did.