What I Use–Software Edition

I’ll update this list from time-to-time.


The #1 criteria for any software I use is first, do no harm. There’s a lot of great software out there that’s ruined by side-effects, including security problems, performance problems, advertising, and anything else that makes my computer worse for having it installed. In some cases, I’ve simply written my own software (usually uglier and with fewer features) because I’m not willing to compromise on this principle.

What I’m using

Fiddler (free) – For someone who doesn’t really build or test web applications for a living, I still find myriad uses for Fiddler, and I’m always adding more. Current boot count: 13,689.

Chrome (free) – I recently changed my default browser to Chrome on most of my computers. After years of suffering daily crashes in Internet Explorer (known to the IE team, but unfixed), I got tired of waiting for relief. I’m less pleased with Chrome than I hoped to be (their add-ons site is a cesspool of bugs and malware, just like IE’s) but the browser itself is great, and it’s clear that most web developers are building in Chrome first and only later testing in everything else.

Internet Explorer (free) – I use Internet Explorer because it works well with most of the sites I visit, it’s familiar (muscle memory built over a decade), and it supports TPLs, making for a more pleasant browsing experience.

Visual Studio 2013 (commercial) – While I gripe about Visual Studio a fair bit, I can’t imagine using anything else. (I still play with Delphi XE4 once in a while to remind myself how bad things could have gotten.)

SlickRun (free) – This powerful application launcher is one of the first GUI programs I ever built, and it’s now old enough to drink. I’ve modified it over the years to support the latest Microsoft OS’s and hardware (a 64-bit version is now available, for instance) and it remains the first thing I install on every new PC I use. Commands executed: 142,672.

MezerTools (free) – I wrote this simple Software Designer’s toolbox to quickly collect screen-snips, get pixel-perfect measurements (via calipers), and collect color information. You can also quickly convert to/from hex and interact with clipboard text.

Windows Live Writer 2012 (free) – It’s buggy, but better than web-based editors. This tool is on-track to be open-sourced, per Scott Hanselman. Now open-source (minus a few features) as OpenLiveWriter.

Windows Live Mail (free) – No-frills email software with solid integration to Hotmail/WindowsLiveMail/Outlook.com/WhateverItIsCalledThisWeek.

File Locator Pro (trialware, freeware) – Windows has flailed around for almost twenty years trying to create a working file search experience. File Locator Pro (and its free cousin, Agent Ransack) neatly fill the gap with powerful search.

EditPad Pro (trialware, freeware) – My favorite text editor offers high-performance (even on obscenely large files), syntax highlighting, a great hex mode, and much more. A freeware version (EditPad Lite)  is available, but this software is worth buying. I originally thought that its support for FTP/FTPS was utterly ridiculous “feature bloat”. Then my ISP stopped working with Expression Web (FPSE fell out of support with Win2k3’s retirement) so EditPad has become my primary web authoring tool.

Camtasia (commercial) – The industry-leading screen recording software. It has more features than I’ll ever use, and it’s not cheap. But if I had it to do all over again, I’d buy Camtasia immediately and save myself the hours of wasted effort trying to get lesser software to work.

VLC (freeware) – This media player seems to be able to play back everything I throw at it, and gets updated as new formats arise.

Microsoft Word 2010 (commercial) – I wrote my book using Word 2010 and it worked much better than anything else I tried (more on this in a later post). I tried Office 2013 and uninstalled it quickly—beyond the confusingly “extra flat” user-interface, the later version of Office couldn’t handle my book without slowing to a crawl (“background save” locks the UI for 5-15 seconds).

Paint.NET (freeware, be careful) – When Microsoft Paint can’t do the job, I turn to Paint.NET, a powerful alternative. Warning: Be sure to click the right download link, there are many misleading advertisements on the download page. Also, note that it does a terrible job encoding PNG files, so be sure to recompress them.

Axialis IconWorkshop (trialware) – When I need to build icons, this tool takes the pain away.

Start8 (trialware) – Makes Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 bearable.

7-zip (freeware) – Archive compression and decompression software.

Day One (Mac, commercial) – Journaling software, with the right mix of beauty and power.


Published by ericlaw

Impatient optimist. Dad. Author/speaker. Created Fiddler & SlickRun. PM @ Microsoft 2001-2012, and 2018-2022, working on Office, IE, and Edge. Now a SWE on Microsoft Defender Web Protection. My words are my own, I do not speak for any other entity.

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