Monday, May 24, 2010

Tools I Love

Today, I'm going to talk a little about some of the secondary software tools that I use, that might be useful to other people.  These are mostly Windows tools, since that's where I do most of my programming, visual effects, art, writing, etc., but a few of them have Mac and/or Linux ports, as well.

ExpanDrive - Mounts your unix shell account as a Windows or Mac drive, via SSH.  I wish I'd had this ages ago.

TeraCopy - Have you ever asked Windows to copy 129 files, only to come back and find out that the copy died at SOME point, and you're not sure which files copied, and which ones didn't?  Or Windows decided to prompt you at 3AM, after you went to bed, to ask if one of the 129 files should be overwritten?  TeraCopy is a drop-in replacement for Windows' built-in copy tool that will make you less likely to throw your computer down the stairs, in a fit of rage.  It also works well with ExpanDrive, for providing reliable uploads and downloads of large files or batches of files.

Frhed - This is my favorite hex editor, at the moment.  Yes, there are still ethical, law-abiding citizens who find reasons to edit hex, sometimes.

Beyond Compare - Like bug-tracking software, I hate all the diff/merge tools I have ever used, but this is probably the best that I have used, to date.  Also, OMG BINARY DIFF!

Celtx - Yes, your favorite word processor may have a screenplay template, but using it will never be as fun as Celtx.

7-Zip - Handle all those annoying compression formats that Windows doesn't normally understand.

Fences - This nice little utility from indie game developer Stardock is great for folks like me, who normally have really messy computer desktops.  It lets you organize your desktop icons into little transparent rectangular docks, with labels.  This is particularly nice if you're using a computer that switches display sizes a lot, because it doesn't lose all your icon placement settings when you switch back and forth.

XYPlorer - An artist I worked with first showed me this tool, when I was complaining about the extraordinarily poor default filesystem search capabilities in Windows XP.  The searching in Vista and Windows 7 is much improved, but XYPlorer has turned out to still be useful.  It is essentially a file manager for Windows, with tabbed browsing, and a lot of great power-user features that the basic Windows file manager lacks.  I particularly like its catalog feature, that lets me make a set of shortcuts on the left side for things I need to run or access frequently.  Because it is lightweight, and not a system-wide install, you can install multiple copies of it, in different parts of your file system, customized for the work you are doing in that area.  For example, if you are working in multiple branches of the same project, you can use parallel installs, each customized to do the same things in their respective branches, so that you can quickly do things in familiar ways, without accidentally fumbling over into the wrong branch.