Whether you’re a pro or just getting started on your developer journey, you’re going to have your share of ups and downs. As you conquer more and more challenges, you’ll build up your own list of resources and tools. In this post, I’m going to jumpstart your toolkit if you’re just getting started and give you some ideas of possible alternate tools if you’re already deep in your career! Let’s dive in!
I’d consider Stack Overflow to be the coder’s troubleshooting bible. There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer asks “Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that even he himself could not eat it?” and I ask a similar question of Stack Overflow: Has there ever been a coding question that Stack Overflow hasn’t answered? If the answer is yes, I almost always stop what I’m doing and look in the mirror! Seriously, almost any kind of problem you’ll have in your coding journeys has almost certainly already been asked and answered on Stack Overflow. Stack Overflow, or SO for short, is a community based platform, basically a glorified super popular forum where folks ask and answer each other’s questions.
The best way I find to access SO is just by typing my question into my search engine and then typing “stack overflow” at the end. This will bring up all the search results on SO where someone has asked a question similar to mine. Since it’s a forum, the best thing is usually to read the question and then scroll down the first answer which usually has a checkmark indicating it’s not only the right answer, but usually the community’s agreed upon answer (although in rare circumstances there’s some disagreement). If you’re speedrunning your development, you can also just hit the SO link and then jump straight to the checkmark and hope their question is similar enough to yours. But especially if you’re early on in your career, reading the questions can also be very helpful. SO has their own search, you can try that as well, although I haven’t ever really needed it because I find the SO results are indexed so well into search engines.
Real Code Editors
While the DAT viewers and editors inside of TouchDesigner are getting better over time, those should generally be backups for professional developers. There are tons of features you’re missing out on when you don’t use a proper code editor for writing scripts and Python inside of TouchDesigner. Picking a code editor and actually using it for a while and becoming comfortable with all it’s tools, plugins, and shortcuts can make a huge difference in your daily productivity. The two code editors I recommend are Sublime Text and VS Code. When it comes to speed of use, easy to install just about anywhere, and with extremely sane and useful default settings, it’s hard to beat Sublime Text. You can download and use it for free, although you’ll get an occasional pop up asking you to support the developer (which I highly recommend doing!!). Some of the features I like best are:
- Autocompletion of variable names and similar
- Automatically helps you close brackets, quotation marks, etc
- Amazing search and replace functionality
- Able to drop multiple cursors at once so you can avoid having to retype something you might need on a few lines
- Super lightweight and extremely fast feeling
- Great themes and colour palettes to use so it’s easy to read any language of code
- Can make managing lots of conditional statements a lot easier with how they visualize indentation
Those are only some of the basic features I use every day but there are a ton more. If you’re doing more full stack projects, another extremely (and possibly the most popular code editor at the moment) is VS Code from Microsoft. It has all the features I mentioned above as well as amazing support for managing larger projects. Download links for both are below:
You might not think this at the beginning of your journey, but being able to quickly take different kinds of screenshots, screen recordings, and GIFs of something happening on screen can be EXTREMELY useful. Especially when it comes to such a visual artform and style of development, being able to use a few clicks and say “this is what I’m seeing!” is amazing. This tool was only recently introduced to me by the lovely Matthew Ragan and since then I’ve been using it full time. It’s like the built in Windows/macOS screenshot tools on steroids. Some of my favourite features:
- Quickly make custom shortcuts for grabbing different kinds of screenshots/recordings
- Can grab standard full-screen screenshots, region of interest shots, GIF screenshots, and full on screen recordings quickly and easily
- Has full functionality built in to quickly upload the captured asset to the service of your choice from Dropbox, imgur, twitter, pastebin, and more
- Has a ton of built in utility tools like colour pickers, image resizers, OCR to pull text out of images, image combiners, and more
- Supports tons of automation so you don’t actually have to hit more than one button to run a series of actions like take a screenshot, resize it, and automatically put it on dropbox for you, then give you the dropbox link to share
It’s really an amazing tool! It’s free and open source and can be downloaded below:
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Let’s face it, Dropbox is the best file syncing option. Period. End of story. Whether it’s tons and tons of small files (like in code repositories), giant media files (like HAP files), or anything in the middle, it handles them with speed and reliability. Every other platform I’ve tried or been forced to use over the years has always failed me in some way or another. Dropbox also handles huge folders well, I think at this point I have a few TB of projects on Dropbox and it doesn’t slow down the startup of the app or anything (I’m looking at you google drive….). While I don’t use a lot of it’s fancier “app features” like the Paper docs or similar, for what it does at it’s core, which is quickly get files up and down off their servers and between your computers, it’s hard to beat. There is a free version of Dropbox that gives you 2GB (last I checked) it’s honestly worth just upgrading to the cheapest personal edition so you have enough storage for years worth of projects and storage.
Anydesk / Parsec
I’ve written about remote access before, and I can’t stress how useful it is to have all your machines ready for remote access. This is especially the case if your work involves you traveling a lot or going to job sites. Being able to hop into your computer from anywhere to fix a render pipeline that crashed, check the status of a file upload, or making a quick bug fix on an installation is amazing and will save you from pulling out your hair or making drastic U-turns on the road! The two options I’ve settled on recently are Anydesk and Parsec. I consider Anydesk my more “work-based” remote access software. It handles things like connecting to multiple machines, changing my connection methods and functionality based on my needs, and sharing remote access via the easy share codes much better than Parsec. Where Parsec does have a huge advantage is the quality and latency of the screenshare. So depending on your needs you may find the more feature-rich Anydesk will be better, or if you’re only logging into one machine at a time and prefer lower latency and high quality video, Parsec is your go-to.
Similar to Dropbox, you can technically use both of these tools for free especially if it’s for your personal use, but once you start using this for work and on a bunch of machines, you’ll definitely want to upgrade your account and pay for their affordable subscription plans to unlock all the features and machine management.
Whether it’s code editors, knowledge bases, remote access, file sync, or screenshots, there are tons of tools pros use to make their development time easier. If you’re just starting your journey, I highly recommend checking out these tools and if you’re already further along in your career hopefully these offer you some new finds or alternatives worth checking out. Enjoy!