In theory you can do everything with a notepad and command-line compiler, but if you want to do something efficiently, it’s good to automate what can be automated and aid what can be aided. Fortunately, many of good tools are free and there’s no cost related, but … there are some tools I can’t live without.

I can consider myself lucky, as my current employer armed me with quite a nice set of tools (full Office + Gartner + Books24x7 + etc.) and if I need anything more (like MSDN), that can be arranged, but the cost has to be allocated on the project (so the tools are available for you only for the project duration…). That su$%^S…, erhm, … is unfortunate. That’s why I decided I need to spend some of my own cash, so I have my own tool workshop for proof of concepts and private stuff. Here’s my list with the estimated cost:
  1. ReSharper 7 C# Edition (http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/) - 142 EUR - Visual Studio IDE enhancement add-in (refactorings, navigation, test runner, correction suggestions, etc.)
  2. dotTrace 5.2 Performance & 3.5 Memory (http://www.jetbrains.com/profiler/) - 380 EUR - profilers for both performance and memory
  3. dotCover 2.0 (http://www.jetbrains.com/dotcover/) - 94 EUR - code coverage tool for unit tests in .NET
  4. .NET Reflector 7.6 (http://www.reflector.net/) - 190 EUR - decompiler (not that critical after dotPeek functionality has been included in ReSharper)
  5. Evernote 4.5 (http://evernote.com/intl/pl/) - 45 USD (per year…) - synchronized notepad / scratchpad I can access on tablet, Android, Windows Phone, PC, anything
  6. XYplorer 11.40 (http://www.xyplorer.com/) - 50 EUR (lifetime license) - best file manager with some feature that smash Total Commander dead and flat in no time
  7. BeyondCompare 3.3 (http://www.scootersoftware.com/) - 50 USD - if you want to do a proper merging (regardless of VCS) you need a good three-way comparison software and this one is the best
  8. SublimeText 2.0 (http://www.sublimetext.com/2) - 59 USD - ultrafast, ultraclear, has syntax highlighting and directory browsing - by far the best of simple programmer editors; I’ve abandoned Emacs’es win port for that
  9. Enterprise Architect 9.3 (http://www.sparxsystems.com.au/products/index.html) - 199 USD - doing any diagrams in Vision is … just nah. If you need a proper tool for UML, BPMN or any other diagramming, EA is the best choice on the market
  10. MetroTwit 1.0 (http://www.metrotwit.com/) - 13 EUR - whether people like it or not, Twitter ain’t just a social network - it’s an awesome source of information (if you follow carefully chosen people / companies); I can’t imagine my everyday work without Twitter and having a proper Twitter client is a nice help
  11. Pluralsight (http://www.pluralsight-training.net/microsoft) - 29 USD per month - it’s not a typical tool, but a monthly access to full library of video courses for Microsoft Technologies. A-MUST-HAVE
This list is not complete (I use Dropbox and some minor tools like Bins, Fences, etc.), but it covers all the basic needs I have. Total sum looks a bit crazy (especially if you keep in mind, that these are not one-time costs, but I have to pay for maintenance of the majority of those tools) - but if I had to compare the efficiency of myself working with those tools and without those tools - it would be few levels of magnitude difference.