10 Free Tools For Productive Programming - InformationWeek
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10 Free Tools For Productive Programming

Every programmer needs a set of tools -- and tools seem to be even better when they're free. Here are 10 you can use to be more productive in your next scrum.
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(Image: Unsplash via Pixabay)

(Image: Unsplash via Pixabay)

When you go onto a construction site you notice that practitioners of the skilled trades bring their own tools. In an auto-repair shop, the company provides the heavy equipment, but every mechanic has a personal chest filled with Snap-On (or Matco, or SK, or...) tools.

So it goes with software developers in most organizations.

Yes, the enterprise is going to have an enterprise IDE (integrated development environment) that everyone uses, along with the tools that plug into the big IDE. But most programmers have a few tools that work the way they want a tool to work. I've seen many people cut and paste or pipe text into their "private" tool, get a block of code to the next step, then move it back to the enterprise IDE.

For freelance or consulting software developers, the need to have a great set of personal tools is even more pronounced, but it goes far beyond the requirement for a good programming editor or IDE. In many, cases an individual is going to work as part of a team, so the toolkit has to expand to allow for code and library sharing, communications, task lists, and more. There are a lot of really good products out there for helping with each of these tasks, but if you're like me there's something special about a really good product that's also free.

[What could possibly go wrong? Read 7 Data Center Disasters You'll Never See Coming.]

I don't mind paying for good software, but there is a lot of very solid software for which there is either no charge or a voluntary payment to a developer or cause. That's pretty cool. I've used some of these tools for years, and set out to find more tools that I could recommend to folks as helpful tools.

If you're a student or someone changing careers these might be all you need. If you're like many of the programmers I know, even if you have a good commercial tool for a particular task, you're always on the lookout for the tool that might go from "good" to "perfect."

Let me get three things out of the way before we move forward:

First, I didn't include any education or code school apps and services in this list. That's partially because I don't really consider them standard tools, and mostly because InformationWeek had a very good article on learning systems earlier this year.

Next, I didn't include any compilers in the list. There are, again, a couple of reasons for this. One is that I've been writing about compilers quite a bit in the last couple of months and I'll get back to the language wars soon. The other is that tools are enough of an emotional issue: I didn't need to blow up our comments section by adding compilers to the list.

Last, some of the products and services I chose have free and paid versions -- often on a "free for individual, pay for a group" model. I think that's fair, so I included them in the list. If you disagree, I'll look forward to the debate in the comments.

Let's get started. I'll let you know which of these are tools that I use (or have used in the past), and I look forward to hearing about the tools that you use -- or the tools that you've tried and found you couldn't work with. In either case, I look forward to the conversation to come!

Curtis Franklin Jr. is executive editor for technical content at InformationWeek. In this role he oversees product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he acts as executive producer for InformationWeek Radio and Interop Radio where he works with ... View Full Bio

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ThomasB675
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ThomasB675,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/26/2016 | 9:03:35 PM
Continuous integration tools
Nice article. but it's missing essential part - continuous integration tools. Build server, paired with real-time notification tool, like Catlight or CCTray can boost the team productivity and save developers time, as he would no longer need to run all the test on his computer.
dried_squid
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dried_squid,
User Rank: Moderator
9/22/2015 | 2:12:12 PM
from the peanut gallery
    I'm not a full-time programmer. Never had the priviledge.

    Currently, my tool needs are satisfied by text editors.

    But thanks for mentioning Komodo Edit, it's what I use. I use Komodo Edit for constructing Perl batch regex searches, and HTML and CSS for wordprocessing.

    Thanks to ActiveState for Komodo Edit, and their community versions of Perl.

    A reflection here. At work, in an IT office of about 20, the developers use TypePad. Already a user of ActiveState Perl, I asked if TypePad knew about regexes. No one knew regular expressions. I was able to continue using Komodo Edit and Perl for my needs.

    I wish more people could expand their writing and filing beyond apps into their personal space of data retrieval. I've tried to ease my 30-ish nephew and niece into this perspective. So far, no luck.

    For me, I love personal computing, and that means - writing, filing, and retrieval. Apps are not primary, unless the apps are text editors.

    - end of Joe the Plumber comment
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2015 | 8:43:57 AM
Re: Two neat little tools
All solid suggestions, I'm still not totally sold on Slack though.  I've used it, know a few people who love it but I just can't settle in with it.  I don't know if it's because I'm used to IRC or if it is because the people I've been on Slack channels with treat it like a bulletin board not a quick messaging tool. Trello I love for personal projects where I'm the only one messing with anything but once I need to get a few people collaborating I find it's a little crowded, I will say that it's the best free option out there that I've seen though.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/14/2015 | 2:22:31 PM
Re: Two neat little tools
Thanks for those suggestion, @MarkG702! I tend not to think about diff tools as much these days since I generally pull files into Komodo Edit and let it handle diff duties. GrepWin sounds like a great tool, though I tend to use the version that's built into Mac OS X. You can get a separate Grep for Mac that's kinda-sorta GUI, but if you're going to reach for grep I figure you might as well stay in the CLI world.

Thanks for reading, and for your ideas!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
9/14/2015 | 2:12:33 PM
Re: Typo in jEdit Description
Thanks for the heads-up, @wfalby -- that's been corrected in the article.
MarkG702
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MarkG702,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/14/2015 | 10:50:18 AM
Two neat little tools
A couple that I install righ tout of the gate on a new machine (I work on Windows):

GrepWin - Like Grep, but for Windows. Lets me search through piles of files super fast. Shell integration means I can right click and start searching from any open folder. stefanstools.sourceforge.net/grepWin.html

KDiff3 - Diff tool that does 3 files. Great on those rare occasions I need to compare dev to staging to production. kdiff3.sourceforge.net/
srreeee
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srreeee,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/14/2015 | 10:08:02 AM
thank u
very informative to coders
wfalby
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wfalby,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/14/2015 | 9:17:58 AM
Typo in jEdit Description
There was a typo in the jEdit description. It said jEdit was ported to MVS rather than VMS.
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