Article: Application Top 10 »
FERDY CHRISTANT - JAN 16, 2008 (07:56:33 PM)
Below is a list of my current 10 favorite applications. I have enlisted them in alphabetical order, since I cannot decide which one is the best. In this particular case, the term application can be a program, service, or an entire OS/platform. I have included a tip per application.
I'm a long-time fan of Adobe Photoshop. I use it for some simple graphic design work, photo manipulation and such. Stuff that I probably could do in cheaper, light-weight programs. Once you get used to the Photoshop flow though, there is no way back. Consider me a general fan of both Adobe and Macromedia software, they produce good-looking, robust software that does what I need.
I am not even close to even being a rookie 3D artist. I'm interested, but cannot find the time to learn it. Still, in my early steps I have relied on Blender, the open source 3D content creation suite. I cannot help but be amazed at this program and its community, it is unbelievable that such an advanced tool is completely free and open. Another cool thing is Blender's stand against popular convention. For example, the UI of Blender is out of the ordinary, unlike anything you have seen in any other program. Still it somehow works great.
Tip: The free open source movie Elephants Dream is made in Blender.
I use Bloglines to manage my feeds. I like it because I can access it anywhere and because it does exactly what it should, minus the bullshit, ads, and other crap. Simple, accessible and without the bloat...just the way I like it.
Tip: In Bloglines you can create playlists. The idea is that you check the feeds from your subscriptions that you want to create a playlist for, after which these feeds will appear on a single page that looks & feels like a portal.
I have to cheat a little here. I like multiple Google services but will display them as a single entry in the list:
- Gmail. Fast, non-bloated email anywhere I go. Fast search, multiple email accounts all coming together in a single interface, without having to worry about storage or spam.
- Google Search, still the best in class search engine, no need to say more.
- Google Bookmarks, not the best-known service, but it has saved me a lot of time and frustration. Using this service I can conveniently access my bookmarks from anywhere, using any browser. No more bookmark synchronizations.
- Google Documents, definitely not an alternative to a desktop office application, but very useful for maintaining simple documents and lists, and sharing them with others, without worrying about client software or viruses.
Tip: This page lists all Google services, I'm sure there's a few you didn't know about?
The LAMP stack is my favourite platform for developing personal web solutions, as well as one of my favourites for enterprise usage. LAMP development is fast, simple, and very cost-effective. Despite its image as a hobby platform, one should not underestimate the capabilities and value for money factor of this platform. I have seen it in use on a large scale in a huge enterprise in very demanding projects, and there was nothing that could beat it. There are many huge internet sites which run on LAMP. From a technical idealism point of view, the PHP language does inherit a messy API from its past, but with proper architecture and a good framework makes up for that a lot.
Tip: Ever wanted to write and run a chat bot in PHP? Try my very own PIMB project! A shameless plug, I know, but I run this site :)
Linux as a whole is to me the best operating system for my general purpose needs. I use it to power my home server, the laptop I'm writing this on, it runs my router, and probably much more. To me the power is in its stability, versatility and because it is free. I do not oppose Windows in any way, as I use that too. The Linux community is awesome, and it is hard to grasp that all of it is free, and often behaves and performs better than commercial offerings. It can be a struggle to let Linux do what you want, but once that's settled, it is rock solid. No matter who owns the desktop in the future, Linux to me has already won as the best general purpose OS.
Tip: Learn how to setup your very own Debian home server.
Lotus Notes & Domino
Lotus Notes and Domino is the software that started my career as a developer. Throughout the years I had a love/hate relationship with it, love for the unique capabilities and productivity that it offers over other platforms, hate because of its clunky interface, poor designer software and slow adoption rate of new web trends. It is mostly love though! Whilst it is no longer my day job to work with Lotus Notes, I still cherish it as an amazing platform and one of my core skills. I still maintain a Lotus Domino-based blog engine, Blogo, and have no intention to stop doing such things.
Tip: You can keep track of the Lotus blog community from Planet Lotus.
Microsoft Office 2007
I'm quite the casual Office user, and have never bothered investing too much in learning about advanced features. With Microsoft Office 2007, the interface gives me content-sensitive features that I can actually find, revealing a myriad of features I did not know about. New features such as Smart and its various effects allow me to produce good looking documents and presentations, with very little effort and skills. Whilst the suite feels clunky and at time instable, it is the productivity and results that make this a winner to me.
Tip: Creating random text in Word
Imagine working on a complex project as a developer. How do you keep track of your changes, releases, etc. How will you be able to quickly tell the difference between versions, and how will you be able to quickly revert to a previous version? Now imagine working on the same project with 10 people across the world. How do you know who changed what and how do you resolve conflicts? Now imagine your work in an environment where there are multiple application platforms. The answer to all of this is Subversion, the open source source code control system. Subversion can handle all of the above very effectively, at nearly zero costs. I have witnessed the above situation without a source code control system, and with Subversion. This is the only tool I have ever seen that makes such a positive impact on professional software development without the hassle of large investments. I even use it as a single developer of my home projects.
Visual Studio 2005/2008
I'm slowly starting to appreciate the elegancy of the C# language and the richness of the .NET framework, but what strikes me as even better is the IDE, Visual Studio. I have been using various IDEs for Lotus Notes, Java and PHP development, but Visual Studio is simply light years ahead. It supports various languages, is advanced, developer-friendly (awesome type-ahead, code snippets, etc), integrated (work with code, database, anything...and directly edit it all in Visual Studio) and fully extensible (project and item templates, guidance, DSL). Of all the features, I'm most impressed by the DSL kit. How awesome is it to be able to create your own visual model language and be able to fully control what code gets generated from the model? This makes a lot of 3rd party MDA tools obsolete.
Tip: Learn more about DSLs