10 Essential Tools

This is a list of 10 tools that I personally find essential to have on any PC I own.  Some are purely for programming purposes, while others are useful in a broader range of activities.  Of course there’s hundreds more out there, but I’ve tried to restrict this list to those which have free versions and are therefore in the reach of everyone.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1)  avast! Antivirus

Not only a terrific antivirus application, but also free for home use!  I’ve never had an infection after installing avast.  It scans during downloads, while opening web pages, and also when opening applications.  It’s completely customizable, and it’s virus definitions are updated almost daily.

2)  Dropbox

Dropbox is a great little app that allows syncing of files between all computers you install it on.  I drop a file in my dropbox on my laptop and it’s almost instantly in my dropbox on my desktop computer (and all other computers you have synced with your dropbox account).  If you don’t have your own computer with you, you can go to their website on any computer, log in, and upload/download files there as well.  Better still, you can access your files on the go with one of their smartphone apps.  The free version gives you a decent amount of space, but if you upgrade to a paid account, you not only get more space, but also version history as well.

3)  Xmarks

Xmarks (formally FoxMarks) can synchronize your bookmarks across all major browsers.  It backs up your bookmarks, allows sharing of them, as well as password synchronization.  Also, if you’re not using your own computer, you can log in to their website and use your bookmarks directly online.  Essential if you use multiple computers and have a lot of bookmarks.

4)  FireFox

The main reason I prefer FireFox over the other browsers out there is it’s customizable nature.  With extensions and add-ons, you can really boost the way you browse the web, as well as program more efficiently.  Add-ons such as ‘FireBug’ (see below) are an invaluable web development tool.  I also find it faster and more stable than other browsers, but that being said, all browsers are forever upgrading, and some are now catching up.

5)  VLC Media Player

They say it on their website, and I haven’t been able to fault them yet – “It plays everything!”.  DivX, MP3, DVD, Flac; the list goes on and on.  I use it to play all my video media.  It even plays broken files to some degree.  It’s codecs are updated as required, and best of all, it’s free!

6)  Daemon Tools Lite

Why drag around a box of CD’s, DVD’s or Blu-ray discs when you can store them all on your computer and play them anywhere?  With Daemon Tools Lite, you can burn ISO, MDF, MDS & MDX images, then play them on it’s built in emulator which mounts virtual drives on your computer.  Even more useful for netbooks and computers without a DVD drive – copy the image to your computer and play it on your virtual drive!

7)  Firebug

For web development, Firebug is an invaluable tool.  While you can install Firebug Lite for other browsers, Firebug was made primarily for integration with FireFox.  It enables you to debug JavaScript in real time, analyze component load time and network usage, inspect CSS and HTML, expose errors on web pages…  It’s one of the most powerful tools I’ve come across for developing and debugging websites.

8)  SubVersion

Version control is something that I didn’t use for years, but now that I’ve started, I can’t imagine not using it.  To be able to see exactly what changes occurred between versions, plus the ability to roll back changes to previous versions has saved much hair from being torn from my head.  Coupled with tools such as TortoiseSVN, SubVersion is a great version control system.

9)  Skype

As a freelancer, I need to be contactable by numerous means.  Skype is great, as it allows 1-on-1 chat, group chats, and video chat.  It also allows me to screen share, so I can directly demonstrate my ideas to clients from anywhere around the globe.  It’s also great for keeping in contact with family and friends!

10)  The Internet

Yes I know it’s a strange one to have in this list, but hear me out.  It’s an invaluable tool for any project your working on, or would like information on – virtually whatever it is, the internet has it.  The internet contains a wealth of information on almost everything.  It is also a source of great amusement and stupidity.  The internet – an infinite learning aid and working tool, and paradoxically an infinite time waster as well!

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