A Few Software Recommendations

So, I’m now self employed. That means I need software, and I need it to be either free or inexpensive. Since my business is web applications, I put a little research into a cheap software kit for getting started on this kind of thing. Dreamweaver’s nice, but it’s pricey, and has less-than-awesome support for full-on software development. I’ll spare you the comparisons (for the most part) and just get right down to the results. These are all for Windows…

[edit: Added note to NetBeans bit to reflect irritation at them for republishing without permission.]

For PHP/Javascript: NetBeans 6.5 with PHP Plug-in

This took a while of jumping from site to site, checking out feature comparison charts, trying different software, and so on. I wanted something free, and feature packed. My main requirements were great handling of PHP code, and great Javascript – jQuery in particular. Ultimately it came down to a showdown between Aptana Studio and NetBeans, and while they were pretty close, Aptana’s PHP plug-in failed me miserably when it came to actual usage: When I launched the site (via “Run” function, if I remember correctly), my entire site was squished onto one line. That means that opening //<![CDATA[ comments would comment out entire scripts. Needless to say, that soured Aptana's viability completely, and after looking into a fix for about an hour, I declared NetBeans the winner. I'd say that it's a permanent replacement for Dreamweaver in my book; NetBeans is pretty much a PHP coder's dream come true.

[edit: Why yes, NetBeans, you can use this post on your testimonial page. No need to ask permission or anything. Just to clarify for folks that don't read the comments, I'll be giving Aptana another try if they fix that bug.]

For Database Design: MySQL Workbench 5

This was pretty much a no-brainer. There’s plenty of visual database designers out there, but before discovering this tool (I haven’t a clue as to how it escaped me for so long), I’d always written my CREATE files manually, sketching them out on paper or whiteboard, scribbling and erasing until everything meshed. No more of that. I’m sure there are some other freebie solutions out there, but Workbench does the trick. It has a few features locked out for the paid version, but the free version does everything I need it to. I slapped together a prototype db schema this morning in maybe an hour, and most of that was spent pondering usage.

For Twitter: TweetDeck and Twhirl

Yeah, yeah, you all know about both of these fine Adobe AIR apps, but few people really stress where one or the other really shines.

Simply put, Twhirl is awesome for plastering your desktop with as many Twitter accounts as you want. Before I consolidated my accounts, I had 4 of ‘em and had planned to create more. Had ‘em all lined up right on my second monitor, feeding me delicious tweets.

When I switched back to a single account (however briefly – my plans still call for twitter for some of my projects), I decided to try out TweetDeck, which pretty much is the polar opposite of Twhirl – One account, LOTS of info. I have it set up to watch friends, replies, and several Search panels set up to monitor what people are up to. The search panels are particularly awesome for marketing purposes: Watch what people are saying about you, find people that might be interested in your product, and connect with people in the same field. It feels stalkerish, but that’s what Twitter’s all about, isn’t it? You can easily fill a 22″ monitor with TweetDeck in this fashion. I find myself minimizing it to avoid staring at the wrong monitor all day. Very handy little app.

And the Killer: You Still Need Photoshop

Or at least I do. As much as I want to love GIMP, I just can’t. All of the Photoshop shortcuts and years of conditioning are next to impossible to break. What we really need here is for Adobe to just change to a subscription plan. Something like a $30 a month ($360/yr) subscription to have the current version of PS and subsequent upgrades. The main barrier to just buying it has always been the pricing. It’s too damned painful on the wallet, particularly for anyone with limited or non-existant funding. So, yeah. $30/mo is just two WoW accounts. Are you listening, Adobe? You’d see an enormous drop in piracy, I’ll bet.

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3 Responses to “A Few Software Recommendations”

  1. AptanaLoriHC says:

    Oy, sorry you had so much trouble with our PHP plug-in. Luckily the issue you ran into has already been fixed internally, and the fix will be available in the next release of the PHP plug-in. Hope you’ll give us another try when we get the release out!

    • James says:

      Hi, thanks for the comment.

      I would’ve thought something like that would’ve been considered a real showstopper. I actually liked Aptana for PHP dev, I think between Aptana and NetBeans, it was really almost too close to call. Ultimately that bug was the real deal breaker – all the awesome features in the world don’t mean much if one comment disables half your page, right? I pretty much found the bug, tried the suggested fixes for it (they didn’t work), looked at when it was expected to be fixed, and gave up.

      I might give it another try, we’ll see. :)

  2. Jestep says:

    I recommend Navicat as well for the MySQL, Postgre, or Oracle development. It doesn’t have the visual aspect that workbench does, but as far as administration goes, nothing is easier. I’ve probably saved a few hundred hours over the past years using it. It’s almost indispensable on large databases with many foreign keys, triggers, and other more complex features.

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