These Are a Few of Your Favorite (Free) Things
By Elden Nelson
In a recent issue of asp.netNOW - the free e-newsletter companion to this magazine (subscribe at http://www.aspnetPRO.com) - I raved about my favorite free utility on my computer: The Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com/). I mentioned how I use it several times a day - every day - how it lets you do a Google search from any Web page at any time, how it blocks pop-up ads (but lets you select domains where pop-ups are OK), and how it highlights and autofills common fields in forms.
I then asked you to tell me what free computer utility - whether it's specifically for developers or not - you find yourself using every single day. And, as usual, you didn't disappoint. Here's a small sampling of the free utilities developers like you find yourselves unable to live without.
Free Form Filler
Simon Vane recommends the free version of RoboForm (http://www.roboform.com), which is, according to the Web site, "a password manager and one-click Web form filler with some serious Artificial Intelligence." Says Vane, "It's brilliant. It saves loads of time you'd otherwise spend filling Web forms."
What's the Difference?
Erik Bailey starts off by buttering us up a bit: "Love your e-mail newsletter (and the print magazine too)!" He then goes on to explain, "There are indeed some utilities I couldn't live without. One of my favorites is a bit out of the mainstream." ExamDiff Pro (http://www.prestosoft.com/ps.asp?page=edp_examdiffpro), according to its Web site, "is a powerful-yet-intuitive and simple-to-use visual file and directory comparison tool for Windows." Nice.
A Whole Raft of Free Tools
Heather Floyd says she recommends the Karenware PowerTools collection (http://www.karenware.com/powertools/powertools.asp). In particular, Heather likes the 'Net Monitor, which "can keep tabs on Web sites, mail servers, and even networked computers with timed pings," and the "Directory Printer, which allows you to take lists of files in a given directory and print or save them to a text file." Heather notes, "They all require the VB6 runtime, but otherwise they're small, simple, and free."
X-Ray Specs for Web Sites
Nico Westerdale used my request for favorite free utilities as a chance for a little self-promotion, but that's just fine. The fact is, his WebTools Pro (http://www.iconico.com/webtool/index.asp) is a pretty cool little utility for analyzing how other sites are using HTML - kind of "View Source" on steroids. The free version doesn't have all the functionality of the paid version, but it's still worth checking out.
Jason Steele says, "My favorite free utility app is DeeEnEss (http://palacio-cristal.com/default.asp?main=/Products/DeeEnEs/). This application automatically updates the http://www.dyndns.org DNS servers with my IP address if it changes. This enables me to host a Web application with a domain name on an ordinary home server, which gets an IP allocated dynamically by my ISP. What I like about this application is it's small, simple, and unobtrusive."
At Your Command
Eric Lawrence really likes SlickRun (http://www.bayden.com/slickrun/), a "floating, auto-completing command line that allows you to execute almost anything in a few keystrokes." By way of full disclosure, Eric notes that in addition to really liking SlickRun, he also wrote it. Well, that makes sense, doesn't it? In any case, it's a cool little tool.
URL Bar on Your Desktop
Peter Bradford raves over Dave's QuickSearch Toolbar (http://notesbydave.com/toolbar/doc.htm), calling it "a URL bar on your desktop with some intelligence." The Web site calls it, "a tiny textbox Dave Bau designed for search hounds with weary mouse-fingers.... This little deskbar lets you launch searches without starting a Web browser first, directly from your Windows Explorer Taskbar."
Pick a Size ... Any Size
Alan D. Bryant says, "My favorite freebie is 'Sizer' (http://www.brianapps.net/sizer.html), which installs easily, shows up in your System Tray, and is always at the ready to resize a Windows window to the standard preset sizes. Want to see what your Web site or UI looks like at 800x600? At 640x480? Don't guess, and don't reset your system video. Just right-click the lower-right corner of your Web browser once Sizer is running, and point-and-shoot to resize the window to any of the standard sizes (which are fully configurable, too). Or, get a dynamic pixel dimension reading as you drag-resize your windows. Any serious Web monkey couldn't do without it (I know I can't)."
I've only made a tiny dent in the list of terrific free utilities readers have sent my way. Try some of them out and let me know what you think - you can reach me at [email protected]. I think you'll find some of these great little tools make a big difference in your development efforts.
Elden Nelson is editor-in-chief of asp.netPRO and its companion e-newsletter, asp.netNOW.