Last month I read the post “Software I am grateful for” and it inspired me to write a similar post.
I don’t want to write about programming languages, libraries or IDEs in this blog post. So instead of writing about mainstream software, I’d like to highlight the tools I’ve found irreplaceable.
Let’s start with the most common tool I included in the blog post:
There are several approaches to managing GIT. You might be using the command line or maybe you can pay for GitKraken, a great GIT management tool. Other options are free alternatives like SourceTree or TortoiseGit. Finally, many authors have created plugins for our IDEs like GITLens for Visual Studio Code.
I’ve probably tried them all, but in the end I’m a happy Source Tree user. I’ve used Source Tree my entire career, but with intermittent periods testing other tools. I always come back to Source Tree though. Why? The reason seems quite simple. Source Tree provides a nice but overlooked feature and a neat user interface for review your modifications before committing your work.
When I go from coding in VS Code to this UI, my brain kind of switches to another state of mind. From coding, I move on to double checking my edits. It helps me wait a while, breathe deeply (metaphorically and practically), and look at my code with fresh eyes. This approach saved me a lot of time because I discover bugs before committing them to the codebase.
In light of my experience, I encourage you to try this approach. Even though VS Code also has a similar UI to review changes, it doesn’t have the same effect on me as Source Tree. My theory is that maybe switching between apps does the trick. So try it for yourself to see how it works for you.
Even though Ditto is a small free clipboard extension, it works like my a second impeccable memory. It saves every item placed in the clipboard and lets you access those items later. As you get used to working with Ditto, you’ll see the clipboard differently.
It is irreplaceable, especially for code editing. You can put 3, 4 or more code blocks in the clipboard immediately. Then you paste them into another file in any order. Just map Ditto’s paste hotkey as Win+Ctrl+Cand you will see that it works like a charm.
Thanks to my colleague, I learned last month that Windows also offers better clipboard functionality. Just press win + V, and after confirming the dialog, you will get a better clipboard with history. Still, compared to Ditto, it still has some limitations, like search. But you should try. I’m sure it will improve your user experience with Windows.
I know many developers who don’t need a file manager, but I’ve always needed one. Total Commander works best for me. Does it look ugly? Yes it does. Is it old school? Absolutely! Still, it would be a super useful tool in your tool belt.
As developers, we got used to working with the IDE, terminal, and other tools that shielded us from raw files and folders. Yet, at the end of the day, files remain the main product of our work. Sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves and use the filesystem directly.
Total Commander has been my Saviour. Managing files or folders is super intuitive. You can preset folders to hotkeys, register FTP accounts, rename multiple files using templates, and more.
Also, Total Command supports many keyboard users like me.
The well-known adage “a picture is worth a thousand wordsapplies doubly if you are communicating with customers. They always appreciate having an extra visual clue to illustrate your words in e-mails or instant messages. A handy print screen or descriptive table could be a game-changer in your text-based communication.
However, taking a screen print is very often a tedious job. Before discovering Screenpresso, I took a screenshot of the whole page, cropped it in the editor, then added red boxes to emphasize my point. Screenpresso saved me a lot of time by providing an easy to take screenshot of just part of my display and easy post-editing. Taking, adjusting and copying photos with Screenpresso is child’s play.
I know there are other software tools for taking screenshots, but Screenpresso works fine for me.
I was using Postman for all API calls and messing around with networking stuff. But I didn’t like its UX too much. I have a vague feeling that Postman’s UI is somehow defective. After discovering Nightingale REST Client, I finally understood what it is. Postman lacks proper keyboard commands and is slow. On the other hand, Nightingale is a fast native Windows application with keyboard support.
I understand that this comparison is not fair. Nightingale doesn’t offer as many features as Postman, but it works great for me because I don’t need team features or API collaboration.
I think Nightingale was the first Windows app I installed through the Windows Store. So yeah, sorry Linux/Mac OS guys. This nice software is only available for Windows.
All of the above apps were my favorite desktop apps. Now the second part of this blog post is dedicated to my favorite online services.
Brain FM is what I call a nice service to have. During my daily work, I am exposed to various Entertainment. PMs, emails, slow CI pipelines, etc. are common interruptions. Moreover, it has been shown to affect our collective performance at work, since numerous studies have proven that our brain is “single-threaded” and does not like to be interrupted.
So how does this relate to BrainFM? As the name suggests, BrainFM is a radio for your brain. Brain FM provides a great beat to help restore your focus.
The BrainFM team says:
“Our science-based approach creates music that sounds different – and affects your brain differently – than any other music.”
I don’t know if it’s true, but it works for me. I even realized that BrainFM served me better than Spotify deep focus, white noise or any calm music from youtube.
Brain FM now has two versions, a classic version and a more sophisticated beta version. Unfortunately, the beta version is disappointing. On Firefox, my laptop runs the fans at the highest speed, and sometimes it doesn’t work on Chromium-based browsers (Chrome, MS Edge). But it’s bearable, plus you can always switch to the old drive.
You have to pay a small amount of money. However, the value outweighs the cons. Try! You will see the effect for yourself.
BrowserStack is my life buoy when I need to see how my website will look on mobile phones and other devices. It’s super cool that you don’t need a lot of physical devices dedicated just to testing your site.
His support of Development tools and its testing against the locale has also proven to be very useful. It is a paid service and not cheap. But it’s worth every penny.
So far I have only seen one or two inconsistencies in the behavior of BrowserStack mobile compared to real mobile phones. Other than those minor glitches, it works without a hitch. I can only recommend this service.
As I am not a native English speaker, I like to use Grammarly in my daily writing. I’ve tried alternatives like MS World and Google docs, but as far as I know they haven’t reached grammatical ingenuity yet.
I’m a regular Grammarly user, as you can see in the following image:
Try it. You will not be disappointed. However, keep in mind that Grammarly is not for beginners. Your English must be at a certain level to appreciate its power.
I subscribed to Scribd a few months ago and haven’t developed a strong opinion on its value. The service offers an extensive library of fiction, non-fiction, audiobooks, and magazines. All you get for a measly monthly subscription.
To be honest, there’s a lot of nonsense but you can find hidden gems. For example, there are over 400 titles from Manning Publications, a well-known publisher of leading technical books. It seems that the most recently published books from Manning Publications are not available here, but over 400 of their books are a perfect start.
The main problem with Scribd turned out to be their “strangulation”. They use a black magic algorithm to limit your access to certain books if you read a lot in a month. Even if you started a book, you could lose access to that book until your next pay period. You can imagine how super boring that could be. Hope it gets better because Scribd looks like an exciting service with great potential.
I’m sorry, the following tip is for Windows users only.
After a few hours of work, I become tired and unmotivated, and even using BrainFM can’t stop me from seeking instant gratification. At that time, I started to consume content on social networks. I know that if I left the computer for a while it would be much more beneficial. But somehow I don’t.
I deal with my weak will by using the following trick. To deactivate malicious sites like Facebook just go to the folder:
Then add in the “hosts” file something like:
This simple change redirects all these sites to “127.0.0.1”, which is your computer, so you will not be able to access these sites. After that, enjoy your break without those time-consuming monsters.
That’s it. Please let me know if you have any nifty niche tools in the comment sections. Thanks!