Today there is a kinda unusual entry, because instead of solving another mankind problems I will provide a list of my favourite applications for everyday use without which I cannot imagine working as a developer / designer. But selected programs are also great for common activities performed by average users. Entry may be interesting because I tend to use a rather interesting, rare and exceptionally functional software, which, for most of people, may be unknown. There won't be any kind of categorization of programs - just plain list with screenshot and short description. Some of the suggested applications could be mentioned or described in earlier entries. Also, as a continuous user of software designed for systems branded with Microsoft's logo, I will limit my list to applications dedicated for the Windows platform.
So, let's begin!!
Sublime Text 2
My totally favourite text editor, which has been already mentioned on my blog in the special entry. Since then I am very enthusiastic fan of this application and I have loved it even more. Moreover I have started using nightly builds available on this page and some plugins which makes this editor extremely useful. Right now half of my "coding time" I spend in Sublime Text 2 writing even in pure C# (I am still using Visual Studio, but rather to check if written code is correct and, when necessary, build the solution)
It's maybe not as powerful as vim or emacs, but as a replacement for classic notepad available in Windows it is just amazing. And moreover - it's easy in use even few minutes after installation. Right now Sublime Text 2 is in beta version (and under active development), so you can use for free to try and test it. Normally - application costs $59 and definitely is worth these money.
Of course there is not only work. Your computer should also provide at least some entertainment. For me - when it comes to listening music - I'd prefer AIMP rather than other popular programs like iTunes or Winamp. You may wonder why I don't use so great and so popular Winamp and the answer is very simply - the moment when this program started to play almost everything (especially videos) was the moment when I dropped it. I really hate programs for everything (not applicable to Sublime Text 2 ;]). What more does make AIMP better?
It's super fast, super small, with absolutely great functionalities and is just beautiful with clear design. Moreover - is free to use and has a very good polish translation (actually it has a lot of translations, not only polish). When you have AIMP installed there is no audio file format that you couldn't play ;] Additionally - if you use Last.fm client, then you can forget about it, because the newest version of AIMP 3 does have an integrated plugin for Last.fm.
Apart from the player, there are also some tools that come with the default installation. That's: Internet radio browser, Audio Library and Tag Editor. You can also find on the AIMP3 web page and download additional package with even more tools like Audio Recorder, Skin Editor, Audio Converter, etc.
Some users may be disappointed by the AIMP's website, which by default is in Russian language. Fortunately you can change it to English, but, still, some may be scared that have encountered some kind of hacked website ! :)
For playing videos, in my opinion, there is no competition for The KMPlayer (which stands for The Korean Media Player - another funny and foreign application). Similar to AIMP, also this player is very lightweight, with amazing functionalities, very simple yet elegant design and ability to open almost every video and subtitle file. Someone may say that configuration is too sophisticated and enhanced, but for me it's a pros. In this application you can configure almost everything starting with selecting video surface renderer (there are plenty of renderers included in standard installation) and ending on subtitles rendering method (e.g. you can render subtitles around the screen… because why not? xD)
The KMPlayer is free and the easiest way to download it is going to, for example, dobre programy. Downloading application from the producer website isn't a very easy task.
Staying in touch with other people is essential, especially for me. For now I've used 3 different IM - firstly it was legacy Gadu-Gadu, which is very popular in Poland (but it was, like, centuries ago). After that I've moved to the Konnekt, which was absolutely great, however project started stagnating and finally died. I've tried Miranda after, but it wasn't really that superb as it was supposed to be. And finally I have found WTW, which I really fall in love with ! :)
Main pros: very simple and intuitive with a very minimalistic look. It is also very fast and very lightweight; it's also very easy to write custom themes and there is plenty of plugins made by the community. Out of the box there is support for most popular protocols in Poland like GG, XMPP (Google Talk, Facebook and other Jabber implementations) and Tlen. In the newest version there is provided a solid Skype plugin which allows you to use WTW as a legacy Skype client (this is, after Trillian, second implementation of Skype protocol in a third-party IM, and first in Poland).
This program is dedicated for all of you who are still using WinRAR (especially on the never-ending trial ;]). HaoZip perfectly replaces WinRAR and is free. Moreover, as opposed to, for example, 7-zip, design of presented application is very similar to WinRAR, which makes very easy to migrate. Other pros: HaoZip is a little prettier, has more functionalities (can handle more file types than WinRAR, in default there are also installed some useful applications like, for example, tool for batch renaming, replacing multiple files at once, or tool for generating hashes for files). After installation you will have also access to console version of the application, which is really handy if you want to compress or decompress files by your scripts in PowerShell or BAT files.
There is alas one limitation: you can't create RAR archives (but you can access and use already created archives in that format).
When it comes to managing MySQL database many people almost instantly thinks about PHPMyAdmin as an ultimate and best solution for that kind of activity. And we should know that there is a fantastic tool provided by MySQL developers (and Oracle didn't kill this project after acquiring Sun Corporation) - MySQL Workbench. Apart from the really high functionality and a lot of really useful and well-thought details, this application has extremely good design, it looks just cute and is extremely useful. I can proudly recommend EER diagrams, which you can use to design a database structure or modify existing one. And again - it is a pretty well piece of software and design. While designing new database structure you will see that all your changes aren't actually "pushed" to the physical database, but are stored locally and when you're done you can easily merge your changes with the actual database. Because of that using EER diagrams will be very responsive and lag-free. You will appreciate this feature after any experience with the SQL Server Management Studio ;]
If only Microsoft could produce useful developer tools, we would have MySQL Workbench but for SQL Server :)
Another tool for database administration and performing common tasks. This time it's dedicated to almost all relational database engines. Database.NET is freeware for non-commercial installations. What distinguishes this application is minimalistic design, high flexibility and functionality. It's an ideal replacement for SQL Server Management Studio or TOAD for SQL Server if we want to perform only some simple actions and don't want to wait for start of whole IDE for database management. What's worth mentioning, is a full support of SQL Azure, which was a really great help while migrating a big portal on the Windows Azure platform
Microsoft Office 2010 OneNote
First minimally popular program in this article. It's popularity derives from availability in the installer of Microsoft Office platform and a lot of people actually have this application installed on their computers, but not many people actually use it, and it's a shame. OneNote is an application for creating, storing and synchronizing notes within some closed network, which perfectly fits into a small or medium company environment.
What's interesting you don't need a special Microsoft's server for preparing a central storage of notebooks. In minimal configuration you need only the network share (for closed network) or accessible Live SkyDrive account for globally synchronizing notes without maintaining physical connection to the company's network. Application is very easy in use and using it is rather stress-free. You can easily attach files, images, tables to your notes. Unfortunately it is still a shareware application (and kinda expensive), but frankly you can have a free copy if you are student with an active MSDN Academic Alliance account.
Windows Live Writer
About this application I have already written a special entry few months ago. And I still use this app for creating and publishing entries on my blog. It isn't perfect of course but it's still a much better tool compared to the built in browser editor in WordPress.
In the newest version, application has been applied with a Microsoft Ribbon and whole design has been refreshed (because of that size of the installation package has drastically increased). Functionality stayed unchanged and application now works slightly better with WordPress.
Another notepad in my article. In spite of Sublime Text's divinity and high usability, it's a good practice to have some alternative which become handy in situations when Sublime Text isn't as good as it could. Notepad2 is especially useful when we need to quickly change something in a file or check the file's content. Moreover it has a syntax colouring and knows many file formats. It is also extremely fast and can easily handle files up to 50MB (for example Sublime Text 2 can't handle such files, because while opening file, there are performed actions analysing file's content). On the project's web page you can find installation package which can replace standard notepad built in Windows and I suggest using that package.
Every programmer should also have some piece of software for using FTP servers. I am using FileZilla for at least one year and I have found it's very useful and much better than Total Commander (at least in FTP connections management and usability). There is also a very useful feature in FileZilla for showing which files have changed, which is actually really great while synchronizing files with remote server. There is a screen attached with the sample view of synchronizing directories.
Moreover, FileZilla is an open source software.
Ufff… There are plenty of software described in this article and that's definitely not all! So, you can be sure that there will be a continuation… And in the meantime I hope that some of you find my list of software interesting and useful or at least life-saving! :)
If there are some application's suggestions - please write down your favourites in comments