12 tools every software developer should try

12 tools every software developer should try

Software tools are the key to help and speed up through development process. In this article, you will find a complete list with the necessary set of tools that can improve the daily work of not only a developer but any other role in the development team.

Having the right tools set for starting a new project is an important part to speed up your development, be able to share your work, and finally test and monitor your products.

In this article, we are going to cover the 12 most important companion tools you should be using in your daily work. Let’s start!

Tools for software development:

1. IDE

Integrated development environments (IDEs) are by far the most useful tools for your development. Depending on the language you use for your solution, you can find IDEs full of features to expedite your work. Let’s dive into the most common operations you can do with these tools:

  • Write code and keep your project source code organized with a folder navigator view to jump from one file to another in the same window.
  • Use visual help with colors for specific pieces of your code like class names or variable declarations.
  • Organize blocks of code using pragma marks to group related actions and logic.
  • Run and debug your application to step into the different stages setting breakpoints to inspect the application state.
  • Employ a unit test runner to check your changes against the rest of your application.
  • Integrate source control managers and deployment tools.
  • Utilize autocomplete functions to speed up your code writing.
  • Run a code analyzer to check for warnings against best practices and errors before compiling your applications.
  • Apply code compilation, depending on your language of preference.
  • Use an application runner, including deployment in your local machine, serving and bootstrapping.

2. DBMS Client

Normally, applications of different natures save data into databases. Either your database is a traditional relational DB or a No-SQL database, and you need a client to be able to inspect your data.

Each major vendor will provide a product to query your data or to perform edits. Your DBMS client should be able to access all of the objects and normal operations to run your business and will take care of the access control, as well as manage users and privileges for performing destructive actions.

Also, a great feature any DBMS client should provide is the ability to do backups and dumps of your data that will help you generate reports without the need for a client application that consumes your data storage.

3. SCM

Source control managers (SCMs) are systems dedicated to code sharing and vaulting. You can choose between fairly old systems like Ant, SVN, and TFS or choose to use a modern SCM like Git, but in general, these systems let you:

  • Save your source code in a safe server.
  • Share your changes within a team.
  • Access control over the files.
  • Use different commands to push changes, resolve conflicts, and manage versions.
  • View historical trees to inspect changes.
  • Track changes with annotations or blaming tools at file line level.

4. Diff tools

While many times SCMs and even IDEs come with a built-in diff tool, it is always a good practice to have a separate tool to do this operation.

Diff tools have the simple mission of giving you a comparison view between two or more files. You can use their integration with different SCMs to check the historic changes of a file, thereby enabling you to see the differences between versions.

Diff tools can compare not only source files but also binary files by checking their size and checksum.

On top of that, diff tools can also work at folder level which analyze the difference between two folders and returns a report of those objects that have differences.

5. Tracking system

To track your requirements, it is important to think of a tracking system that will cover your needs. There is a large list of products that cover different aspects of your daily work. However, it is crucial to consider the following features when choosing one of them:

  • Work item/requirement management to track the work orders including steps to accomplish the goal, expected results, and status of the ticket.
  • Assignments that can change over the lifecycle of the ticket.
  • Tasking out to help describe the different steps to meet the requirements.
  • Taskboard view to organize your daily work and prioritize the pending items.
  • Team sharing to have a global view of your team status.
  • Reporting tools to share your work with other stakeholders.

6. Deployment automation managers

These systems let you automatize the operations involved during the deployment of your solutions.

Depending on the nature of your servers to be either Docker containers, on prem servers, or a cloud infrastructure, you will find different options to handle the scripting of your deployment process, code signing, access control for private resources, and staging management for all of your environments.

The mission of a deployment automation manager is to give you a tool to create the scripts for your deployment but also a dashboard view to monitor the status of each application deployment.

Another important feature is the access control over power users that have different abilities depending on the stage and an approval process for those operations that need elevation to progress.

7. Application monitor and log reducers

When the infrastructure of your IT solution starts to grow, it is important to have a monitoring tool that will help you check the health of your system.

There are spans available not only pinging your application to check that it is up and running, but it can also include the ability to restart the nodes, send email/IM alerts, and reroute the traffic in case one instance of the application is down.

In addition to that, modern application monitors also offer a log reducer that will take any logs from your applications and save them in a secure place for you to query that data like a conventional database. The filters you can develop with log reducers are powerful that let you be even more granular to receive alerts when certain messages are logged.

8. Mockup tools

Mockups are important to give different stakeholders the possibility of seeing the application interface without the need to code for it.

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These tools have evolved significantly in the past years to give the users the ability to create realistic UIs with navigation actions, transition effects, and a countless list of customization tools to present an approach on how your application will look.

The mockups give you the opportunity to graphically show the expected result of an application, so it is helpful for developers to know how to code, for testers to know what to expect in a particular action, and for leaders to propose new features in the solution and have the approval needed before coding.

9. Integration testing (automated tests)

Different products are offered to approach this topic. Basically, integration testing suites have the mission of providing a framework to create tests that will mimic user interaction with an application and will collect the results in a report that is helpful to prove the solution is working as expected in different target cases.

These frameworks need some coding skills to create good integration tests, and the resulting units will cover not only tests over the results displayed on a screen but also the navigation and transition effects in an app. The tools have the ability to create scripts to trigger mouse events, keyboard inputs, and other user interactions to create realistic cases where the target solution will react as if a real user is in front of the screen.

The results of an integration test run can accept or reject an application build so it could be triggered as part of the deployment process, thereby giving different deployment automation managers the ability to connect to integration testing suites.

10. API testing

Another entry point of your applications could be using API invocations, in which case there are different products that let you run test batteries for those interfaces.

An API testing tool gives you the chance to create collections of tests that will send parameters to an exposed application interface by using a particular protocol (normally SOAP or REST). This invocation will follow the same form other real clients will use in the live environment.

Finally, API testing tools are a good way for QA analysts to test a piece of the system without the need to complete a complex chain of calls in case of a workflow. If the architecture of your applications follows a microservices approach, API testing for isolated units is especially important for narrowing down the root cause of different issues.

11. Device emulators and cross browser testing tools

Not only with mobile applications but also for any web application with complex UI interaction or many dynamic widgets, device emulators are a good way to expose your application to different versions of devices, operative systems, and browser versions.

The tools are presented in two flavors: emulators and cross browser tools. While the first are adaptations for mobile capabilities and screen sizes, cross browser tools provide real devices hosted and available for the user to use and compare the experience in different contexts.

12. Online fiddlers

Lastly, online fiddlers are tools that are the simplest compared to all of the above options but can be really helpful in cases where you cannot load an entire development environment. They are language specific online tools that can run short pieces of code that are extremely helpful with showing an approach, testing a behavior in a particular language version without the need to install it locally, and even for tech leads in the task of demonstrating a point to a developer.

To sum up

We have already listed a set of tools for the daily work of a developer, but they are also helpful for any other role in the development team, including QA analysts and BAs, project managers, as well as others.

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It is important for a team to share this list to use to convert this into an alignment. The tools can create their own lingo for the team to improve their communication.

In conclusion, all of these tools are supposed to help and speed up the development process, but an evaluation must occur at a certain point to check whether or not the current set of tools is the most appropriate for your team.

Be open to change and give the team the opportunity to include new shiny tools in their toolbox that can assist in aspects you never thought of before.

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