Essential .NET Development Tools & More

Here is (mostly) comprehensive list of tools for development.  It’s like Scott Hanselman’s, but focused almost purely on development, with a couple of extras.  While you’re at it, go check his out.  All opinions are my own and are not bought or sold.

The Main Stuff

Visual Studio – king of IDEs and the essential tool for .NET devs everywhere. Not much else to say except that it has a great starting toolset for any developer and amazing plugin support.  The Community edition, new as of a couple of months ago, gives the masses the power of VS Professional, for free.  Simply amazing and getting better with every release.

SQL Server Management Studio – it ranges from a useful IDE for SQL to a huge time saver for things like table creation and script generation.  The DROP and CREATE tools are awesome for generating scripts for tables, stored procs and more, and the Execution Plan viewer can be very helpful when trying to optimize expensive queries.  The Express edition has most of the tools required to manage a day-to-day SQL Server installation just fine.  One of the best database management tools available.

SQL Server Profiler – for when I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how well a SQL query is running or when the SQL that’s being emitted from Entity Framework is not immediately known to me, I always turn to Profiler.  Used it to find a show-stopping SQL query on more than one occasion.

LINQPad – write LINQ queries using the best .NET code scratchpad on the market.  It’s not a complete replacement for SQL Management Studio, but for complex queries with lots of data, it’s my first choice.  The Premium edition is a steal and makes this essential tool 5 times more useful with C# autocomplete, NuGet, and cross-database query support.  Plus, it’s great for those one-off tests for code behaviors that you might need a quick refresher on. LINQPad’s author, Joe Albihari, is always adding new features – most recently an integrated debugger.

NimbleText – thanks to Scott Hanselman, I have found this program – and my new favorite way to write repetitive code or handle small or large data transformation tasks.  I’ve used it from everything from writing HTML to generating SQL insert scripts.  Its time-saving power cannot be understated.  And, it’s FREE!

Notepad++ – my text editor of choice.  Decent plugin support, syntax highlighting, and instant right-click, edit for any file in Windows Explorer.  (Yeah, I know dev-favorite Sublime Text has these things too, but Notepad++ was my first and it fits my needs nicely.)

SourceTree – an essential tool for Git users on Windows.  I just started using Git (yeah, I know I’m late to the party) and SourceTree has made the transition from TFS to Git that much more smooth.  Not perfect, but very helpful.

dotPeek – my favorite way to decompile .NET code, free from JetBrains.  It even has the ability to break a .NET DLL/EXE down into a fully-structured Visual Studio project!  (I actually have a client whose previous developer wouldn’t hand over the source code for their main application, and dotPeek made the decompile way more convenient.)

Postman (Chrome extension) – my second-favorite way to test HTTP services is Postman.  Postman has an easy-to-use interface and provides a straightforward way to make HTTP requests.

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Marqueed – Online Collaboration (FREE)

Marqueed is a free way to markup and discuss images online. You can easily add multiple images with the drag and drop interface, either from your computer or another browser window. Adding collaborators is simple via email.

Collaborators can point to areas and have threaded discussions right on the image. There’s even a freehand drawing tool for more options.


C#7 – Design Meeting Notes for Jan 21, 2015

Working with data

Today’s programs are connected and trade in rich, structured data: it’s what’s on the wire, it’s what apps and services produce, manipulate and consume.

Traditional object-oriented modeling is good for many things, but in many ways it deals rather poorly with this setup: it bunches functionality strongly with the data (through encapsulation), and often relies heavily on mutation of that state. It is “behavior-centric” instead of “data-centric”.

Functional programming languages are often better set up for this: data is immutable (representing information, not state), and is manipulated from the outside, using a freely growable and context-dependent set of functions, rather than a fixed set of built-in virtual methods. Let’s continue being inspired by functional languages, and in particular other languages – F#, Scala, Swift – that aim to mix functional and object-oriented concepts as smoothly as possible.

Here are some possible C# features that belong under this theme:

  • pattern matching
  • tuples
  • “denotable” anonymous types
  • “records” – compact ways of describing shapes
  • working with common data structures (List/Dictionary)
  • extension members
  • slicing
  • immutability
  • structural typing/shapes?

A number of these features focus on the interplay between “kinds of types” and the ways they are used. It is worth thinking of this as a matrix, that lets you think about language support for e.g. denoting the types (type expressions), creating values of them (literals) and consuming them with matching (patterns)

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Cassandra Succinctly
by Marko Švaljek

Step outside the relational world and learn how to store data with Apache Cassandra, the massively popular NoSQL distributed database system.

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Easily manage network resources by automating tasks.

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Use that high-end graphics card for more than games—use it to run massively parallel operations with CUDA, NVIDIA’s technology for programming with its hardware.

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Incorporate Microsoft Unity when writing enterprise applications.

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Visual Studio and Git

So it happens that the company I started working for yesterday uses Git for all their source control needs. Having heard a lot of positive stuff about Git, but having no experience of actually using it,I had to dig around to find some decent integration tools that work well with Visual Studio 2013.

To my surprise, as of Visual Studio 2012.2, Microsoft already supports Git (I had to double check this and pinch myself!) There are Visual Studio Tools for Git available for download directly from Microsoft and there is quite a chunky write up Getting Started with Git in Visual Studio and Team Foundation Service

Will try it out at work today!

C#6 – String interpolations

String interpolation lets you more easily format strings. String.Format and its cousins are very versatile, but their use is somewhat clunky and error prone. Particularly unfortunate is the use of numbered placeholders like {0} in the format string, which must line up with separately supplied arguments:

var s = String.Format("{0} is {1} year{{s}} old", p.Name, p.Age);

String interpolation lets you put the expressions right in their place, by having “holes” directly in the string literal:

var s = "\{p.Name} is \{p.Age} year{s} old";

Just as with String.Format, optional alignment and format specifiers can be given:

var s = "\{p.Name,20} is \{p.Age:D3} year{s} old";

The contents of the holes can be pretty much any expression, including even other strings:

var s = "\{p.Name} is \{p.Age} year\{(p.Age == 1 ? "" : "s")} old";

Notice that the conditional expression is parenthesized, so that the ‘: “s”’ doesn’t get confused with a format specifier.

Note: This describes the syntax that works in the Preview. However, they have decided to change the syntax, to even better match that of format strings. In a later release you’ll see interpolated strings written like this:

var s = $"{p.Name,20} is {p.Age:D3} year{{s}} old";

They are adding a scheme so that you can influence the formatting behavior; e.g. to use Invariant Culture.

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