Scott Hanselman

Time to update the Ultimate Tools List

May 12, 2005 Comment on this post [31] Posted in ASP.NET | Tools
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It's time to update the Ultimate Tools List, my friends. It's been 18 months, and I'm going to go through my c:/utils folder to reflect what I've learned over the last year and a half.

Talk to me people, what is The List missing? What incredibly useful tool have I never heard of?

A while back, a buddy called me Scott "if it exists I've installed it at least once" Hanselman, and sometimes it feels true. However, give me a scoop on some tools that I can't live without.

Here's some criteria on what I consider an indispensable tool:

  • Elegant - does what it needs to and no more. Has a clean and fresh UI. Jeff Key is the reigning master of the "Util-let" in my opinion. If I were half as cool as Jeff, I'd be a pretty cool guy and a good programmer as well. SnippetCompiler is G*d's gift.
  • Indispensable - you should install it and go "Doh!" why didn't Windows freaking include that! Paint.NET is an example. Zoomin is another.
  • Easy to run - If I have wait, it's too heavy.

Help a brother out.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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May 12, 2005 4:35
Roboform - Lets you fill out forms automatically. Especially useful when filling out multi-step enrollment applications. Ever have to fill out 100 questions spread on multiple pages to renew your free subscription to a software magazine? Roboform makes it a snap to save once and fill out again and again. Best part is they constantly release updates for all the popular browsers out there.

ELMAH - You know all about it. I just did not see it on your list.
May 12, 2005 4:52
You liked Cropper, you should add it to the list.
May 12, 2005 5:14 with all the add-ins. It's a social bookmarker tool. Install some add-on apps and you can right-click on any webpage and jump to your bookmarks OR set the current page as a bookmark. Each bookmark has a URL, title, extended title (aka definition), and tag(s) for categorization.

The cool part: you see who else is bookmarking what you bookmarked. You have a single page where all your bookmarks are that anyone else can see (like mine:

The coolest part: Your bookmarks, and each tag, is syndicated via RSS!
May 12, 2005 5:17
I should have mentioned the addins... I blogged them here:
May 12, 2005 5:44
Pixie,, is a great eyedropper kind of tool. It's simple, lightweight and just does the job.
May 12, 2005 6:49
Check these out:

fiddler, an HTTP traffic sniffer for IE; free:

ethereal, an IP packet sniffer; free:

Agent Ransack, a GUI grep tool, free:

frhed, a hex editor; free:

Crimson, a notepad replacement; free:

SmartFTP, an FTP client; free for personal use:

SysInternals makes the microscopes into Windows. All of these are essential (and free):
Debug View
Process Explorer:
Registry Monitor:
File Monitor:

May 12, 2005 8:24

Enigmail is a powerful encryption/decryption extension for the Mozilla email application Thunderbird. You can decrypt/encrypt/verify/sign email on the fly using GnuPG. Of course, this is only helpful for those interested in email security.

Check out my post about Enigmail and GnuPG-
May 12, 2005 10:11

Works just like WinZip but better, looks sexy and supports all formats I ever need.
May 12, 2005 10:48
Hey Scott,

Shameless, I know, but these are the three things I couldn't live without:

- Dave's Quick Search Deskbar:
- Urlograph:
- BrowseToSender:

I'm involved in the development in all of them, so I'm hardly unbiased :-/

- Kim
May 12, 2005 11:04
1. Simple webform testing. They just released a new version. Can't wait to check it out.<br />2. You are missing a bunch of tools I know you are into: CruiseControl, NAnt, WiX (?, I thought I saw you post about that a while back.)<br />3. FlexWiki<br />4. Debugging Tools for Windows (OK...I am reaching now.)<br />5. NCover (the one.)<br />6. TypeMock. You gotta have this to do unit testing with people that don't, or when unit testing gets really hard.<br />7. WinKey.<br />8. PostXING - if you use .Text.<br />9. Snippet Compiler (how could that not be in your list...Ctrl+F in RSS Bandit must be broken...)<br />10. LogParser (<br /><br />Thanks for compiling this cool list. I don't know how many times I've found, "just the right tool for the job" after browsing through your list.<br />
May 12, 2005 11:40
Just in case it wasn't mentioned yet...


It's a powerful template-based code generator that I'm falling in love with.

For those who aren't in the know, If you buy the pro version (2.6) for $80 you'll get the next version (3.0) for free. Once 3.0 is released it's going up to $300. (

It's kind of similar (tree view, storage of quick code snippets) to FMS's Sourcebook utility that I used back in my Microsoft Access days.

May 12, 2005 12:10
If your looking for a better zoom app, check it out at:

If your interested it also comes with source code.
May 12, 2005 13:35
WinMD5 - for when you need to verify the downloads of files.

Also does anyone know of a Doc to LaTex converter?
May 12, 2005 14:15
for FTP client, I go with filezilla:

Most of my other real dev utils I got from you and your list. I noticed breifly today that you were looking for the google web accelerator install, presumeably to test all your nifty web apps. I happen to have a copy, which I uploaded here:

Unfortunately my host is having some issues which I will be mailing them about, so its a toss up if it will be accessable/responsive in the morning. You can also get it from me directly if you get in touch, you should have my IM contact, or email is great.

I look forward to the updated list!
May 12, 2005 14:33
Every setup developer needs a copy of Orca. You can download it standalone here... :)
May 12, 2005 18:06
Aw, shucks.

Here's some stuff I use:
1. ReSharper (I would take a bullet for ReSharper)
2. .NET Memory Profiler
3. NUnit
4. TestDriven.NET
5. FxCop
6. Process Explorer
7. Paint.NET (not Google-friendly)
8. Reflector
9. SmartFTP

I feel dirty mentioning my own things, but I do use some of them quite often:
1. CreateShortcut
2. XmlDocViewer
3. NetPing
4. Snippet Compiler
May 12, 2005 18:30
NAnt Runner would be a great addition, it even integrates into Visual Studio .NET.
May 12, 2005 21:35
Don't forget Beyond Compare. It's essential.
May 12, 2005 21:43
Here is mine:

1. UltraMon ( ) - allows to easily split into 2 monitors for coding/debugging goodness.

2. SQL Effects Clarity ( ) - quickly compares SQL Server databases and allows you to drill down to low-level details, if you wish. They also have a kick-ass side-by-side views of the schemas, which gives you a really intuitive GUI for locating diffs.

3. RegionsAddIn (somewhere on CodeProject) - Highlight some text in the code editor, right click and place it in a region (or move to another region).

4. ReSharper, of course, as mentioned by other people.

5. MZ-Tools ( ) - It automates the corporate coding guidelines, helps out with various coding tasks all over the place.
May 12, 2005 23:08
XML Visualizer for Visual Studio .NET 2003:,guid,d296c5d9-4a75-4dd3-92e2-abd2c82810e3.aspx
May 12, 2005 23:59

This is an awesome Windows Explorer replacement! Reminds me of the good ol' Norton Commander! :-)
May 13, 2005 1:46
Personally, I love clipomatic. It is the first clipboard ring program that is unobtrusive enough for me to not go crazy. LOVE IT!

Other than resharper, this is my must have tool for development.
May 13, 2005 1:52
1. FreeMind - Extremely useful to layout your ideas and to-dos, especially when you have too much to do and keep switching between your tasks. It's free alternative of MindMap and ultra simple to use.

2. 4t Tray Minimizer - This little thing adds Minimize To Tray button in every window. If your taskbar is made up of 2 rows and 50 open windows in it, you NEED this!

3. Process Tamer - This is yet another little thing keeps watching CPU utilization and if any app is trieng to still all the attention, it will reduce its priority. If you freqently experience inability to move your mouse because of some other process, this might help you.

4. Groove (or free alternative Grouper) - to share notes, files and all kind of stuff between you and your collegues.

5. VLC media player - With each release Windows Media Player has a tradition to suck more. If you were left in cold in those times when WMP refused to play AVI because it didn't had some codec, try VLC. It almost always works. No more extra codecs with spyware!

6. NotepadX - This is my own tool ( Lightweight C# .Net app to maintain all your notes in fast hierarchical structure. There might be many more fancy stuff available but who could beat free C# app, XML format and ability to customize?

7. Yahoo Music Engine.

8. Several FireFox extentions, most notable being QuickNote (when you are reading stuff on Safari online bookshelf), ScrapBook (to quickly capture the part of a page you are viewing), Tab Mix (almost everything you need for tabbed browsing).

9. HomeSite - This HTML editor still is indespencible.

10. Windows Media Encoder - To make screencast like John Udell!

11. SnagIt

12. WinHTTrack - Open source tool to save copy of website.

13. VB.Net Resource Kit - For those yummy free ComponentOne and DundasChart components and code converter.

14. X-Setup Pro - Most powerful and free tool to tweak the registry to the death.

15. MP3Splt - To split DotNetRocks MP3s in to 10 min audio tracks for in-car play.

16. GSView - To view those postscript files and PDF files even faster.

17. Tons of excellent commercial quality freeware with .Net source code at Specially checkout their icon extractor app which just scanes every file in your hard drive and dumps all icons in to a folder. Extremely useful to build your huge own icon library.

18. Notepad2 - Single best fastest unbloated versatile notepad on planet.

May 13, 2005 5:13
Capture .NET - FREE .NET All-In-One Utility
May 13, 2005 22:21
After finding xmlmarker ( I don't think I could go back to not using it. It's a fantastic way to open, and visualize XML files. Small footprint, easy to use, fast, and free.
May 13, 2005 22:52
I second the nomination of Beyond Compare

It is one of the first utilities I install, especially if I am doing development work.
May 17, 2005 4:24
SpaceMonger is a great tool for visually checking where all the space went on your hard drive.
May 17, 2005 4:33
I hate to be the picky guy... but here's a typo in your ultimate tools list, in this bit:

"Reggie - Not a regular expression tool, not it's a BETTER RegSvr32.exe from Shawn Van Ness. It provides better error handling and messages. It doesn't suck. "

Problem is:

"Reggie - Not a regular expression tool, not <--!!!***ExtraWord***!!! it's a BETTER RegSvr32.exe from Shawn Van Ness. It provides better error handling and messages. It doesn't suck. "

May 17, 2005 21:45
SQL Adept Diff

It's like beyond compare, except for Database comparisons. Indispensable!
May 19, 2005 11:15
I noticed 7zip isn't on this list.

A nice de/compression util for windows. It can be unobtrusive if you need it to be, can have the nice big window if you want, highly configureable, and decompresses darn near anything. Also, it happens to be open source software, which I always see as a plus. It goes on most windows machines I install, so I figured it was a decent list candidate. Good luck with the revisions by the way!
May 24, 2005 21:59
FileTargets by Moon Software replaces TrueName and more. Right click and safe file path to clipboard in either 8.3 style or normal; Create common targets to copy files to.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.