First, let me clear things up by saying that I'm not trying to be dogmatic here (unlike Richard Dawkins for example..what an irritating plonker). I will not say that this tool is better than that tool, and I've already explained why. I'm going to describe the tools and why are they useful. It's up to you to try them out and decide for yourself.
Some may say - move to Linux, it has many powerful tools. Those people would be right, and I'm in the process of doing that. I've recently bought a notebook and installed Ubuntu on it, but for historical and other reasons (I tend to play a game or two now and then) my desktop PC will remain on Windows.
This is an attempt of creating a less sucky environment. Let's begin.
- Website: http://www.ghisler.com/
- Main purpose: file management
Total Commander is an amazing file manager. I used to be against it, because I thought it had the same amount of features as the standard windows explorer. Boy was I wrong. There is nothing this baby can't do. From multiple tabs browsing and FTP to batch file renaming (with regex!), windows services management and registry editing. And these are only just a few features.
At the first glance, the interface might seem old and ugly, but TC's purpose is not to be nice, but to be highly functional. And it does that job very well. Most (if not all) of it's features can be triggered by keyboard, so you can finally let go of that mouse and increase your speed and productivity.
- Website: http://www.netbeans.org/
- Main purpose: code editing, debugging
There was a lot of discussion lately on this, but it has to mentioned whatsoever. An excellent IDE for daily use, has all the standard stuff you need, and more to come. Compared to some other IDEs I won't mention here it is very lightweight and responsive.
- Website: http://www.editplus.com/
- Main purpose: text editing
OK, this one might not be obvious at first but it has it's purpose. If you try out TC, you'll notice that it has an external editor feature. Well, that external editor is Notepad by default, and as we all know - Notepad sucks. This is where EditPlus comes into play. You set it as external editor in TC and you have a decent editor available all the time; just select a file and press F4. Voila!
- Website: http://tortoisesvn.tigris.org/
- Main purpose: source control
I assume there is no need to describe TSVN. It integrates into your shell, it's easy, fast and useful - after all - it keeps your code safe.
Update 26/05/2009: Successfully switched to git. It has many advantages over SVN, so do check it out. Warning: Gui tools for git are a bit rudimentary, but they are working on it..
- Website: http://www.mozilla-europe.org/en/firefox/
- Main purpose: testing, debugging, exorcising demons
Well, this one really needs no introduction, but is here for two special reasons: Firebug and Web developer.
Web developer is another very useful extension for Firefox, which might save you a lot of time.
- Website: http://www.wampserver.com/en/
- Main purpose: Apache + MySQL + PHP
Obviously, if one is trying to do work in CakePHP, one would need PHP. WAMP does a decent job of making development easy with it's upgrade modules for all it's components. Or to put it more clearly: it works and I don't have to waste time on it. I've also seen a lot of people preferring XAMPP over WAMP, but I've never tried it so I can't comment. My guess is that it's equally good.
Test Mail Server Tool
- Website: http://www.toolheap.com/test-mail-server-tool/
- Main purpose: mail preview, mail "debugging"
Here's a little gem you probably don't know of. It's a small app which is actually an SMTP server. It sits in your system tray, picks up your emails and stores it in a folder of your choice. Optionally, it can open the aforementioned emails when it receives them. No more outputting your EmailComponent debug in the browser, or spamming your own inbox. See what it looks like immediately and fix the damn thing.
- Website: http://www.aimp.ru/index.php
- Main purpose: mood creator, productivity increaser
Not necessarily development-related, but worth mentioning. For those of you who remember the good old days when Winamp was fast and nice, meet AIMP. Fast, configurable, good looking and highly functional audio player. It is so good I can't even remember where's my Winamp at. Honestly. Just don't give up on it until you've explored all the preferences.
That's all for now, I hope you'll try some of these if you're not using them already. If you have your own supertools, feel free to mention them in the comments.