My Favorite Tools

In the last year I’ve discovered some tools that I’ve really enjoyed using. All of these tools are free and most of them have been used in production projects.

Here are my favorites:

Desktop

Remote Desktop Connection Manager: Provides a UI to manage your Remote Desktop connections. Especially useful when working in a shop where the server names are meaningless, though I’m sure no one does that any more. Right? Right?

Powershell: I’ve been meaning to learn Powershell for a long time and I’ve been lucky enough to land in a shop that uses it extensively. It’s well worth learning. I’m constantly looking for ways to automate repetitive tasks.

Libraries

Simple.Data.SqlServer: This micro-orm is very easy to setup and get running. It uses dynamic so any code that uses it should be encapsulated and tested heavily. It’s extremely lightweight compared to NHibernate and Entity Framework (even the Code-First variety), and the built-in mapping code handles the most common conventions.

MVVM Light: A light-weight framework for MVVM applications. The highlight of this lib for me is the Messenger class. On the down side, I wish it had an Async Messenger implementation. Sigh. Kellabyte’s article on MVVM and the ServiceLocator anti-pattern are a good companion read to using this library.

Specflow: Write test cases in English Language and run them as part of an automated build process? Check! I’ve recently used it to document expected functionality for third-party developers.

NBuilder: This tool lets you stand up test POCO’s extremely fast. It provides a fluent API for building objects and lists of objects. It auto-fills top-level property values for value types and strings.

Ninject: This is an extremely easy-to-use Dependency Injection tool. We were using Castle, but it’s hard to upgrade because NHibernate is dependent on it. Also, the Ninject API is a bit more discoverable, and it supports rebinding a dependency. This is useful in unit test scenarios in which you may want to bootstrap the system’s dependency but replace some of them with mocks.

NSubstitute: This mocking framework has a beautiful API, but I have not yet used it in a production app. I’d love to hear from someone who has! Mocking syntax for any non-trivial scenarios is usually very ugly.

Team

NuGet: NuGet is the easiest way to manage dependencies in .NET projects. It’s integrated into Visual Studio 2010.

NuGet TeamCity Plugin: With this plugin you can stop storing binaries in source control You can install packages as part of your TeamCity build, and create and publish packages of your own.

NuGet Gallery: With a little setup effort you can host your own private NuGet feed behind your corporate firewall. Turn your own internal libraries into NuGet packages for easy dependency management!

Confluence: This wiki tool is the easiest to manage I’ve ever seen. It has a great WYSIWYG editor for text and table content, can render Gliffy diagrams, UI mockups, and workflows. This is not a free tool.

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