I just had to rebuild my work machine, so I figured I’d get a cheap blog post out of it discuss the tools that I use regularly. I’ve broken these down by category. As a quick note, this is on my main work machine, so there are some things which I use on other PCs but don’t here. Part of that is the nature of the job. This also isn’t everything on my machine, but does cover most of the day-to-day tools I use.

Got something you really like but I don’t have? Let me know in the comments.

Connecting To Databases

  • SQL Server Management Studio 17. I don’t have any SQL Server 2019 instances yet, so no need to move to SSMS 18 just yet. Plugins I rely on include:
    • devart SQL Complete. Their snippet management, intellisense improvements, and (most importantly) document formatting work great for me. This plugin also works with Visual Studio.
    • Tabs Studio. I tend to have dozens of SSMS tabs open at once. Tabs Studio lets me use the vertical space on my monitor instead of having 4 visible tabs and a drop-down with a couple dozen others. This plugin also works with Visual Studio.
    • SentryOne Plan Explorer. The best way to view execution plans.
  • Azure Data Studio. I don’t use this quite as much as SSMS, but I’m moving in that direction. A couple of plugins and I’d be there. Key plugins:
    • SQL Server 2019 support. This adds some nice functionality including notebooks in Azure Data Studio. That’s a feature differentiator between ADS and SSMS.
    • SSMS keymap. I have too much muscle memory tied up in Ctrl-R and the like to give it up.
    • High Color Queries. I like the color sets. Because I am a monster, I prefer the light theme.
  • Aginity Redshift Workbench. I don’t use Redshift often, but when I do, this is my go-to app.
  • pgAdmin 4. Same as Aginity: I don’t get into Postgres very often, but when I need to go there, this is how I do it.
  • Power BI Desktop and Power BI Report Server. We use Power BI Report Server internally rather than deploying to Azure. I also use Power BI Desktop for my own personal dashboards that don’t make it to the outside world.

Writing Code

  • Visual Studio 2017. Pretty much all of my .NET development happens in Visual Studio. Visual Studio 2017 also installs Anaconda and Jupyter if you install the Data Science tools, so I include them here rather than as separate line items. Key plugin:
    • BimlExpress. If you’re doing SQL Server Integration Services development, you really need to know Biml. There’s a lot more you can do with Biml as well.
  • Visual Studio Code. I haven’t gotten quite into VS Code but I’m starting to use it for Python code dev and other non-.NET languages.
  • R Studio. It’s still the standard for R development.

Checking In Code

  • TortoiseGit. This is a tool that I have mostly because a lot of other developers at the company have it, so sometimes it’s easier just to have it installed when working through issues.
  • SourceTree. This is my primary Git client.

Wrangling Text

  • OneNote. I really don’t like the new version and highly prefer the Office 2016 version. The only thing I like about the Windows app version is its superior touchscreen support, but on my non-touchscreen devices it’s a pain. It’s also not close to feature-complete. So it’s the Office 2016 version for me.
  • Notepad++. I’m using it a bit less and VS Code a bit more, but it’s the first thing I look for when I right-click a text file.
  • Liquid Studio. This is a tool that I used to have. I used it specifically for its large file support, being able to read multi-gigabyte text files without choking. Honestly, I just want good versions of head, tail, and the like on Windows. And I’m still not really sold on Cygwin though I might install it yet again.
  • KDiff3. Yeah, the last update was 4 1/2 years ago, but it’s still my go-to diff and merge tool.

Dealing With Files

  • MultiCommander. The dual-pane layout is great for my purposes, as it’s sort of like having two Windows Explorer windows open, except a lot more functional.
  • S3 Browser. This is one of the better Amazon S3 file browsers that I’ve seen, particularly given the price.
  • Azure Storage Explorer. Free and deals with Azure storage. That works for me.
  • WinDirStat. Ever wonder where all of your disk space went? WinDirStat will tell you exactly where it is and give you a treemap to visualize whether that’s one giant file or a bunch of smaller ones.
  • 7-Zip. The 7z format is rather efficient, though I tend not to share those files. I do use it for compressing files local to my machine, and I like its interface for extracting files. I’d like the .tar.gz process to be a one-step process instead of two, though.
  • Sysinternals Utilities. I include this here because I didn’t want to create a “miscellany” section just for it. I use ZoomIt frequently, especially during code reviews. Presentations aren’t always in front of large groups.

2 thoughts on “What’s On My Work PC?

  1. This is great; I like when professionals in our industry/community tell us what tools they use to get their jobs done. Gives us ideas on alternatives to what we currently utilize. Two comments and a question, though:
    1) Agreed that Plan Explorer really is the best for execution plans, but it always makes me wonder how the default plan viewer in SSMS isn’t as robust, particularly for indexes.
    2) I am shocked – shocked – to find that Redgate tools are not listed here. Granted, I’ve been spoiled on SQL Prompt and SQL Source Control (among others), so there is a bias.
    3) Any virtual machine software? Or does this only focus on the main work machine tools themselves and not a remote server, so no need to include them?

    1. Thanks, Chris. Notes on your notes:
      1) I think it’s mostly a priorities thing. The SSMS team has introduced live query plans (which are usually nice), but ultimately they have a big code base and probably wouldn’t want to make the kinds of changes necessary to out-do Plan Explorer. Back when there was a pro version of Plan Explorer, there was a financial incentive to make that product superior to SSMS—why pay for something when I can get it for free? So I think that’s why there’s that gap in quality.
      2) SQL Prompt is nice but my testing a while ago found that SQL complete was better for my corporate circumstances. We have licenses to the Red Gate toolbelt and a bunch of database people at work use those tools, so I’m not knocking them.
      3) On my side of things, I don’t need virtual machines. Most of my analytics team has Docker installed, but we’re probably under-utilizing it. I don’t need to run VMs from my work PC, though I definitely have VMs at home and flit between Hyper-V on my desktop and VMware Player on my laptop.

      As far as remote desktop software, I use mRemoteNG because it usually works pretty well with 4k displays. The built-in RDP client can be terrible when connecting to an older Windows host from a machine with a high-resolution display. mRemoteNG also lets you store profiles for a bunch of different servers, which is nice for consulting because there’s no way I can remember all of those details. But for the work machine, I rarely remote to another box; I’m much more likely to SSH into one with PuTTY.

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