looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Essential Software List 2007

Time for a round-up of the Free and/or Open Source tools I've been using on my work laptop.

1. Eclipse 3.3 (IDE, Java and generic)

I've been dipping into various versions of Eclipse for Java development for years. Its plugin architecture is brilliant (see below). Out of the box it handles Java development as sweetly as any "Professional" edition out there. It also has a built-in editor for Ant build files (an XML dialect) which I'm finding particularly handy right now. One feature I really appreciate is the ability to create a "generic" project that basically just lists all the files in a directory, regardless of what type of file they are. Very handy for my current work which involves a series of versioned directories containing  various flavors of text files. Which brings me to:

2. Afae Plugin for Eclipse

"Afae" stands for "Another Freebooter's All-purpose Editor". It doesn't appear to be under active development and has stalled at version 0.9, but don't let that stop you from using it. It adds a TextMate-flavored text editor to Eclipse that allows me to edit .sh, .bat, .sql, and other types of files in syntax-colored goodness. It has a bunch of other features that I'm not using (such as a "post to blog" button on the toolbar?) but I've found the text editing to be solid.

3. DiffMerge

I've mentioned this before. Since then it is up to version 3.1 but it is still free, and although other file comparison tools probably have more features, I've grown to like this one.

4. AstroGrep

I have long ago given up on making Windows Search find anything on my file system. How I long for the File Manager applet in FoxPro for DOS 2.0. That thing was fast. AstroGrep is a GREP utility for Windows, with a simple UI on top. It's fast, and I can search the contents of text file with regular expressions. On my latest project I have found it invaluable.