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Software Development Tools

18th August 2020

This is part of our series Best Software Development Practices. We also have a Git Tips series.

The Top Software Development Tools Every Dev Should Have

As every good developer knows, when you start work each day there should be two things you’re focused on: writing great code, and anything that can help you write great code.

You’ll want to make your working day as easy as you can, using whatever tools and resources are at your disposal, to help you code as quickly, efficiently and effectively as possible.

That’s includes an optimal desk setup. Apps and software to streamline workflows. And coding cheat sheets to save you time wherever possible.

So, we’ve put together our own master cheat sheet to help. All the top resources, tools and equipment every developer should have to hand.

Helpful Software and Workflow Tools

There are millions of pieces of software out there, and the trick to a good workflow is finding those you’ll actually use regularly. The ones you want to hand are those really useful ones – anything else can be moved to a sub-folder or deleted.

The workflow resources we always have to hand include:

  • A good editor, like Visual Studio Code or Sublime Text. Find one that best supports your style of working and use it religiously.
  • An effective browser, to help with inspections and debugging. The developer suite in Chrome is hard to beat, but Firefox also has some helpful tools.
  • An API tester like Insomnia, since APIs are pretty much everywhere, to preview and support any integrations you might be working on.
  • A quick, simple colour code finder, to instantly identify hex, HTML, HSL and RGB values. We like HTML Color Codes, and Image Color shows you similar colours to build a coherent brand.
  • A font finder, like What Font Is, to quickly pinpoint required fonts
  • A website source code downloader, which is invaluable in quickly copying website assets to local files.
  • Sketching tools like Sketchcode, for quicker, easier collaboration with designers.

Productivity Tools

Having productivity tools to hand is also essential for every developer, especially if you’re looking for any way possible to streamline your workflow and free-up more time for actual coding.

All the usual suspects include project management tools like Trello or Monday, and communication tools like Zoom or Skype. Find what works best for you and stick with it.

A timer is also essential if you want to focus. You can user a physical or desktop based one, but might find a timer that uses the Pomodoro technique to be really useful – with focused 25 minute sprints.

Even simple tools like TestDisk or CC Cleaner – to check disk health and de-clutter your hard drive - are important to have to hand. They’re easy to overlook, but they’ll save you a load of hassle.

Cheat Sheets

Of course, some of the most used resources you’ll want to have to hand every day are those cheat sheets.

We’ve shared some of the most popular below, depending of course on your programming language of choice.

When you find one that’s instantly useful, bookmark it. You don’t want to spend time looking for it again. And if it contains all the shortcuts you’ll need, print it out and stick it on the wall by your monitor.

A Cuddly Toy, Stress Ball or Rubber Duck?!

No, you didn’t misread that. One of the most essential resources any developer can have is a handheld, personified object they can talk to.

Not because you’re going crazy writing all that code for hours on end, but because when you get stuck, talking through a problem - to a mini figure, rubber duck or a plain old squishy ball - will help you solve it.

Your Working Environment

This may sound flimsy, but in many ways, your software development tools start with your desk. The office essentials you need to be a productive developer.

At their desk, every developer should have:

  • A pen and paper – because you will always need to scribble things down and sketch out code before you input it. Writing by hand helps to boost memory recall and planning out your code ahead of time will improve your workflow.
  • Post-it notes – because those urgent reminders or random brainwaves can easily get lost on a large pad.
  • A second (or third) monitor – because one simply isn’t enough when you need multiple views. Dual monitor working lets you multi-task more effectively, keeping a terminal open on screen with reference materials, briefs or commit logs open on another.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones – because when you’re deep into a coding project you’ll want to focus, and home or office distractions can easily interrupt your flow.
  • A good supportive chair – because when you’re coding all day long, you’ll want to support your posture as best you can. It won’t just protect your back, it’ll help you stay focused too.
  • Soft, effective lighting – because the chances are you’ll be working all kinds of hours, especially as urgent tasks arise and project deadlines loom. Some of us prefer natural bright light, others like to work in near darkness – just find the lighting that’s kind to your eyes, whatever your preference.

One final area to focus on in your working environment is the environment itself. It’s easily overlooked, but if you don’t have the right temperature or a good air quality (think windows and ventilation), then your focus will slip, and your coding will suffer.

Pushing to the Horizon

Do you want to use Git far more easily, with no commands or parameters to remember, and with a clear overview of your repository, plus the ability to preview changes? Then make your life easier, get a free download of Vershd, the effortless Git GUI.
Designed from the ground up to prevent errors, accidental deletions, and having to write all of this morning's code. Again.

Features include:
  • Rewind is simpler and easier than using Revert or Reset. It winds the clock back on commits, letting you choose whether to keep pending files or not.
  • Advanced Context Menus. Right clicking on a commit lets you merge, cherry pick, or create a branch there and then. Files have many ways to compare them to either historic or working files on your desktop.
  • See everyone's work in the clearest way possible. Branches shows branches and their commits, where you can easily pull, push, cherry pick and more. Pending shows what you can commit or stash. Files shows commits' details. Stashes helps you apply, view and delete your stashes.
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