Some favourite software tools

Technology Blog

When you have nothing to say, make a list, as Wittgenstein might have said – had he been a blogger. This particular list is of some of my favourite tools for website development under Windows (XP Pro): some well known, others less so.

  1. PHP development. All day, every day, I use the Zend Studio (Professional Edition). A first-rate editor, debugger and all-round IDE. If you make your living doing PHP development it’s a must in my opinion.
  2. CSS development. Top Style Pro is the best CSS editor for Windows I’ve found: syntax colouring, automatic code completion, lots of neat features. Combine it with the Firebug plugin and CSS development gets a lot less painful.
  3. Graphics work. I’m no graphic designer but I do need to create and edit images fairly often. I’m a fan of Xara Xtreme for its speed and overall ease-of-use. I also use the freeware program Irfanview for general image manipulation and for some tasks (optimising jpegs in particular) GIMP.
  4. MySQL management. My first choice of SQL tool is SQLYog Enterprise. It helps me to manage numerous local and remote databases with a minimum of grief. It has full unicode support, unlike many of its competitors, and supports a wide range of different connection options. Being able to schedule and run regular backups is a lifesaver. I also find PHPMyAdmin very useful, especially for doing quick edits directly to a database.
  5. FTP. For general FTP tasks I find Filezilla very quick and easy to use, but for replicating complete sites Helexis Site Publisher is my tool of choice as it is designed specifically for that purpose and does it very well. For example, setting it up for a job such as “upload every updated file except the .bak files, those in the temp directory and any .svn directories” takes only a few moments.
  6. Text editing. Everyone needs a general-purpose text editor, and I’ve used a few but I keep coming back to NoteTab Pro. It has just the right level of sophistication for my day-to-day needs. Being able to perform regular expression search-and-replace across multiple files in a single operation is one feature I find simply invaluable.
  7. HTML validation. Validating your websites helps to ensure they are accessible and work across different browsers. I find CSE HTML Validator Pro to be very fast and easy to use. The error messages it produces are generally clear, too.
  8. Browsing. You can never have too many browsers! I use Firefox for everyday browsing but I also have installed Internet Explorer 7, Safari, Opera, and MultipleIEs for compatibility testing.
  9. Version control. I have used all kinds of version control tools and find Subversion is well suited to small scale projects. For a client program I use Tortoise SVN as it does pretty everything you might ask, right there in Windows Explorer.
  10. Site spidering. To check links across a site Xenu Link Sleuth does a fine job: I have also used Web Link Validator and it is useful if you need to feed the results of its processing into another program but perhaps a little overpriced for basic needs.

That’s my selection but what software tools do you use?

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