10+ Essential Tools for .NET Developers. Expert Roundup

Feb 13, 2018

Regardless of how skilled they are, developers rarely limit themselves to a default set of tools. Their preferences might vary depending on their technology of choice or a specific task, yet there are thousands of handy instruments that can make your life as a developer a lot easier.

As an open source technology, the .NET framework is used by millions of developers (there are over 6 million .NET engineers worldwide according to the latest estimates). This has spurred the growth of various third-party development tools.

To get a first-hand opinion on the most valuable and useful developer tools out there, we’ve teamed up with Jonathan Danylko, a person for whom .NET programming is bread and butter. He is an avid programmer with a primary focus on Microsoft technologies (ASP.NET, MVC, C#), web architect, and blogger.

Together with Jonathan, we have compiled a list of essential .NET developer tools. The roundup includes his personal commentary, utility rating, as well as his personal top 5 resources.

Let’s take a look at the 10+ most valuable tools every .NET developer should use.

1. Microsoft Web Platform Installer

This free package management software makes it easy to access the latest components of the Microsoft Web Platform, including IIS, SQL Server Express, .NET Framework, Visual Web Developer, and much more. The system keeps you up to date by automatically installing the latest versions of each component.

JD: “I would consider the Microsoft Web Platform Installer an important tool, mainly because the third-party community uses it to distribute products and code (along with NuGet).”

Utility rating: 6/10.

microsoft-web-platform-installer-best-.net-tools

2. Web Essentials for Visual Studio

This Visual Studio extension augments the core VS functionality with more powerful and useful features, including task shortcuts and improved Intellisense for CSS/HTML/JavaScript, etc. This is a handy tool for web developers using Visual Studio that can be a real productivity booster.

JD: “Where else can you get the basics of web development if not through the Web Essentials extension for Visual Studio? In one extension, you receive custom editors, a Browser Link to immediately see changes in the browser, TypeScript, Less, Markdown, and CoffeeScript support.”

Utility rating: 9/10

web-essentials-best-.net-tools

3. NuGet

NuGet is a package manager for .NET that allows you to access various third-party libraries, or to create and share your own tools. With over 98 thousand packages currently available, it is the largest database of third party components for .NET.

JD: “Before NuGet, the process for downloading components was, dare I say, medieval. NuGet streamlines the delivery of third-party components directly into your Visual Studio project at design time and contains a command-line for CI/CD automated deploys. It’s an absolute necessity.”

Utility rating: 10/10

nuget-gallery-best-.net-tools

4. Visual Studio Gallery

This is an essential tool that offers quick access to Visual Studio extensions, controls, and templates. The marketplace integrates with the IDE allowing you to access over 7,000 products currently available.

JD: “The Visual Studio Gallery is critical in how you locate the right extension for your needs. Without the VS Gallery, clicking on Extensions in VS just wouldn’t work.”

Utility rating: 10/10

visual-studio-gallery-best-.net-tools

5. LINQPad

This is a safe playground where you can test your LINQ queries or any C#/F#/Visual Basic program. The tool has built-in debugger and autocomplete features, and is a perfect platform for prototyping with instant feedback.

JD: “LINQPad is Notepad for LINQ (simple, I know). I’ve been using LINQPad for a while and see it as an essential tool for experimenting with LINQ and testing code snippets before they are introduced into your code.”

Utility rating: 7/10

linqpad-best-.net-tools

6 .NET Reflector

.NET Reflector is a decompiler and static analyzer for the .NET framework. It helps you understand and debug your .NET code, including third-party components, even if you don’t have any documentation or comments.

JD: “Reflector gives me a solid insight into what an assembly contains and what code is actually doing when decompiled.”

Utility rating: 8/10

reflector-best-.net-tools

7. ReSharper

This is a Visual Studio extension by JetBrains. ReSharper adds the power to analyze code quality, then to find and fix the errors quickly. It also has a number of shortcuts for quick and easy refactoring and navigation.

JD: “Any developer who wants to become more productive when writing C# code should run, not walk, to purchase this tool. I’ve purchased the Resharper Ultimate subscription and I don’t regret it at all. The package includes:

  • ReSharper (a code productivity tool)
  • dotTrace (a .NET Performance Profiler to optimize your code for performance)
  • dotMemory (a .NET Memory Profiler to avoid memory leaks)
  • dotCover (a .NET unit test runner and code coverage tool)
  • dotPeek (a .NET decompiler and assembly browser, which is free by itself).

These five tools are absolutely essential and I use them. Every. Single. Day.”

Utility rating: 10/10

resharper-best-.net-tools

8. ELMAH

ELMAH stands for Error Logging Modules and Handlers. It is an open source debugging and error logging tool for ASP.NET, and is provided by Google.

JD: “I use ELMAH to find out what’s happening in my code when an error occurs on a production site. This helps the developer in two ways: firstly, to record the error when it occurs, and then to eliminate the user from the equation (unless you REALLY have to ask them what key they pressed).

The tool is great for when a website is released into the wild because you want to know if you missed anything in your code, but after a certain number of users, it’s probably best to turn it off.”

Utility rating: 7/10

elmah-best-.net-tools

elmah-best-.net-tools

9. NDepend

NDepend is another Visual Studio extension for static code analysis. The tool helps you measure your code quality using various metrics, to visualize its design, and to accurately estimate your technical depth, right within the IDE.

JD: “For optimizing and refactoring code at a high level, NDepend is one of my favorite tools. It essentially allows developers to see the “wood for the trees”, giving you a 10,000-foot view of your application and how your code is organized. It also provides a custom querying language to examine your application’s coupling, as well as analyzing how well you adhere to standards.

After all the coding is done, I would absolutely recommend Ndepend for your toolkit.

(As a side note, I reviewed Ndepend 2017 for my own site as well).”

Utility rating: 10/10

ndepend-best-.net-tools

10. SQLComplete

SQLComplete is a productivity tool that augments the SQL Server Management Studio with a number of useful features, including tab coloring, script generation, navigation, and more.

JD: “As a full-stack developer, you always get your hands dirty with SQL. This is why I love SQLComplete. This freemium tool is the equivalent of Intellisense in C#, and plugs into SQL Server Query Analyzer and Visual Studio. Along with its exceptional Intellisense capabilities, it also has a handful of features to assist with snippets, templating, and SQL formatting. Best of all, it’s completely customizable.”

Utility rating: 8/10

sql-complete-best-.net-tools

11. GitHub Extension for Visual Studio

This extension connects your IDE directly to your GitHub repositories. This means that you can create, clone, and publish your projects, and create or view pull requests right within Visual Studio.

JD: “With version control being so popular, Microsoft couldn’t ignore GitHub by NOT including it within Visual Studio. For developers, GitHub is absolutely vital.”

Utility rating: 10/10

github-extension-for-visual-studio-best-.net-tools

Wrapping up

Of course, your choice of .Net tool will depend greatly on the specific task or situation. Using additional instruments can free you from routine tasks and automate many processes, thus optimizing your performance and eliminating errors.

Based on his own experience and preferences, Jonathan’s ultimate .NET development toolset is:

  • ReSharper Ultimate
  • NDepend
  • SQLComplete
  • Web Essentials
  • GitHub Extension for Visual Studio.

Do you use any of the listed tools? What would be on your ultimate list of .NET developer tools? Share your thoughts in comments below.

Read also:

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How to Select an Offshore .NET Development Company? 7 Not So Obvious Signs of a Winning Provider

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