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Tools of the trade

Looking at how many threads under the title "Programming Languages" almost put me off in posting this.

But then I really want to find out what tips other developers could give.

This really does not mean to be a flamebait as to argue what is the best editor and so forth. Often time when you look at the guy sitting next to you using a total different tool that you are using you'll want to find out why. And this is exactly what my intention is.

Once a while I switch jobs and meet new fellow programmers I'll learn new tricks to boost productivity in my day-to-day programming tasks in a big way.

So here's some of my favorites:

cygwin : it's really letting you to have the best of both worlds. I'm legally handicapped in X but then the windows command prompt just sucks! Filename and directory completion in bash - can't beat that. Plus if you are fond of some of the unix command line tools you can always take advantage of that.

(note: there's also a easy way to enhance your cmd.exe, download the latest tweakui from microsoft and you can enable path and filename completion in your command prompt)

ultraedit : ok. there's no such thing as a perfect editor. I'm just listing the things I valued most in uedit.

1. Small and fast - how many "temporary" files you edit every day? Instead of waiting minutes for your xxx studio to load, just use this ultra light-weight editor to do your bidding. Right click on a file in windows explorer and "Edit in ultraedit", how convenient! (go get PathCopyEx also, now you can right click on the file displayed in windows search and get the full path in clipboard!)

2. I always hated when I just need to bring up a file to edit in InterDev or VC++. "File -> Open" and then my files are 15 clicks away hiding underneath 10 sub-directories.

Why do I *always* have to define a project to have some of the files sitting in my hd to be listed in the file management list?

In ultraedit (or homesite, etc), you can always have a windows explorer like panel (ctrl-u) to list all the files you want to edit! This is really useful while I'm starting to work on something new but have not gotten to the point where I can organize my work in a "project" as required by VC++ or InterDev.

3. Column mode is also a must have

All in all it's very handy and you don't have to learn and unlearn different set of shortcut keys when programming in different languages. Downside is that it doesn't do context-sensitive syntax highlighting and is not very configurable (I love Emacs for that, but usability is 3/10), and it lacks intellisense that VC++ and InterDev provide.

I'll post some more when I think of good ones.

Happy programming!

Friday, October 19, 2001

Hmmm, are you using my machine?

I use cygwin and Ultraedit as well.  Ultraedit is a reasonable compromise between size and utility.  I still occasionally yearn for an uptodate version of Pmate that would run on higher resolution systems.

Emacs makes me whimper, which is fine under some circumstances but never when a keyboard is involved.

Simon Lucy
Friday, October 19, 2001

Unfortunately I change systems too much.  Pencil & paper always have sufficed for me. ;)  I try not to get too much in love with any notation or tool to input notation.  But Windows wordpad sucks because selection rules for natural-languages are really inconvenient when dealing with programming-languages.

I think for GUIs, people find special editors useful, like Borland's products.  But as for the rest, I think tools take one away from where the real programming resides -- in the mind.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

I moved from Ultraedit to Textpad because while it's less flashy and lacks the cool built-in graphic ftp client (excellent for vi/emacs-phobics who need to edit some file on unix), it still has all the features I need, and it's nagware instead of being shareware.

Ultraedit also had annoying refresh bugs when using syntax highlighting.

Dotan Dimet
Sunday, October 21, 2001

I also like Textpad for editing. For file management I use Windows Commander (available from, a Norton-Commander-style file manager, no THE Norton-Commander-style file manager. It is also nagware like Textpad. It is realy fast, and has an abundance of useful features. It can treat zip-files like directories and makes viewing or editing of text-files very easy. If the cursor is on a text or html-file press F3 and the internal viewer fires up, press F4 and Textpad opens with the selected file. This is even faster than richt-clicking and selecting Edit with Textpad in Explorer. It also can very comfortably rename multiple files at once and has an integrated diff-tool for comparing directories and files. A ftp-client is also included. The list goes on. Just plain the best file manager I know. Compared to this baby Explorer really stinks.

BTW: Great site, Joel.

Keep up the good work!

Stefan Haubold
Tuesday, October 30, 2001

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