Beyond the powerful laptop, the blazing-fast Internet connection, and the smart IDE, other important tools can impact the results we produce even bigger.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Once, the great American president Abraham Lincoln said:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Those are the ones we will talk about in the next couple of paragraphs. So without further ado, let’s start with the first one of the seven I frequently have “docked”:
1. A Playground Where to Unleash Our Creativity and Learn in a Fun Way
I can’t remember a single period (no matter how short) since 2006 when I didn’t have some kind of a “side project.” I have always had at least a personal blog (that nobody besides me reads). That’s how I learned to use scripting languages. That’s how I entered the field of web development. I launched a blog about how to make different animations with 3D Studio Max. But 3D modeling wasn’t my field.
It turned out that building websites interested me way more, so it quickly became my focus for many, many years. Though I have yet to build a “successful” personal website, I don’t regret all the time and effort I’ve invested in a plethora of cool side projects. It was an amazing experience full of new technologies, and dopamine bursts one after another while I was adopting them. And all this made me a decent full-stack developer. So always experimenting and refactoring my latest personal project makes it a tool that keeps me happy and competitive. And I really can’t imagine my work life without it.
2. API Client for Testing and Debugging Responses From the Backend
There are probably many such tools, but I’m still using the free version of Postman. It helps me a lot every time I build different APIs and web apps. I don’t remember whether there were API clients before 2010-2012, but even if there were, they probably lacked a lot of the handy features the modern ones have now. I was there! I experienced how tedious it was to create and test AJAX calls.
3. DB Client for Easier Database Management and Web Developing
For many years, the only DB client I was aware of was PHPMyAdmin. Because I used mainly PHP as a backend technology in the early years, I deeply relied on such tools from the start. Around that time, I wasn’t so good at using the command line, so the web tool’s graphic interface above was a necessity for me. And as you know – ingrained habits are difficult to change or give up.
Now I use the community version of DBeaver, which allows you to enter multiple connections to multiple databases, so your PostgreSQL or MySQL tables are always one click away. Probably front-end developers don’t need tools like this. They rarely handle tasks and issues related to this area of web development. But if you have any side projects where you’re responsible for everything, then apps like DBeaver (SQL) or MongoDB Compass (NoSQL) are real time-savers (and even life-savers in some instances).
4. A Note-Taking App: Hands Down the Best Kind of No-Code Tool for Your Money
I’m a power user of Evernote. It keeps for me more than 12,300 notes. And I’m not willing to part away with even one of them before thoroughly examining it.
Yeah, I’m a note-taking junkie. But my Evernote is like a second brain to me. It remembers my DevOps recipes, cloud and terminal commands, important code snippets, ideas, insights, writings, book excerpts, business plans, and everything other under the Sun, plus – saved web pages. More than 80% of this stuff I don’t read for years. But once in a blue moon, I will decide to review my notes for a topic of interest and will remain speechless before the golden vein I’ve just rediscovered.
By my troth, I’m passionate about all those! But sometimes I forget some of them, and later – when I’m again in a mood to play around, my notes help me get in a flow really fast. So Evernote, Notion, Onenote, or Google Keep… These are invaluable personal knowledge repositories.
5. A Terminal: The Highest And Mightiest Of Them All
“What a programmer is he if he can’t use a terminal?” – I once overheard somebody ask. The guy didn’t talk about me, but I felt insulted because I didn’t use a terminal too. Although I wasn’t a total virgin, you know. I’m kinda old, so one of the first computers I saw didn’t have Windows or macOS installed. It was a Bulgarian product named “Pravetz”. And later, my cousin was lucky enough to have a Compaq. All these had different versions of DOS installed on them, so you couldn’t use them effectively without knowing some commands.
But nowadays, it’s an entirely different story. Today, you just can’t be a productive web developer if you don’t know how to use a terminal effectively. So I discovered its might and glory somewhat late, but it quickly became an indispensable part of my work life.
6. Pre-Commit Hooks for All the Stuff I’m Too Lazy to “Remember”
I really like this entry…
And so on… And so on…
There is so much “office stuff” we need to do besides writing the code of new app features that sometimes… just sometimes… we decide we don’t have time for it. Or we “forget .” Or we’re in a bad mood. Or it’s a “hot fix” that must be deployed ASAP!
So I like the pre-commit hooks. Often they save us from little embarrassments like wrong spelling or code leftovers. Sometimes they allow us to catch a bug way before it goes on the production server. And they always, just always fight effectively our tendency to forget about things that bore us to death. I definitely prefer a work life full of pre-commit hooks.
7. A Personal Library: One of the True Reaches of the World
This “tool” is by far the most impactful in my work. I don’t know about you, but when I’m really serious about learning new technology, improving my coding skills, or researching how something is done, I always look for valuable tutorials, documentation, and books. The “written word” has no competition when we’re talking about absorbing information quickly, and at the same time, you’re not deprived of deep insights and discussions.
And the best part? You can scan the content and absorb just the new bits of knowledge — no need to waste time reading repetitive information or conventional wisdom. That’s why I like to collect books, not that I don’t have a lot of online courses, though. I collect them, too. And if there is something I can’t truly survive without in my field of work, that’s my library of proven titles.
I clearly remember how I learned to code. I was reading about complex software topics with my simple English. I had to reread some words nine or ten times before I understood them. I was often pondering for hours what this guy (the author) was talking about. And somehow, I made it! I became a web developer – my first significant achievement ever that opened the doors to prosperity for me. So there is no wonder that these days, I have great respect for the written word, and my collection of books on a variety of topics is one of my true riches of this world.
I started this article with a quote from Abraham Lincoln, which teaches us the importance of good preparation and tools. But there is another saying…
“The bad workman always blames their tools.”
Yeah, we all like dealing with the latest laptops, apps, frameworks, and libraries. And sometimes we can’t even compete with somebody better equipped than us. That’s why it’s worth investing in new “toys,” as one of my girlfriends once called them.
And in this short article, I talked about several of my “must-haves” that I can’t imagine my work without them.
But let’s never forget: They are just an extension that augments our own knowledge and skills.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.