Tune Up your Web Development on Windows.

Submitted by hc on Tue, 2015-09-29 09:36
hc's picture

It might feel like that we Windows users are second class citizens compared to our brethren on MacOS or even linux, but it's not all bad. Here's a list of tips, and tools I use day to day, that make developing on Windows not just 'less painful', but actually a whole lot easier.

1. Get a keystroke launcher

I use Launchy. There are others out there. If you're still using Win7, you might not necessarily need one, if you're comfortable tapping the windows key, and waiting for a search to complete. If you're on Windows 8, having to disappear into the Windows Metro tile interface, just to launch an app you don't want to pin to your taskbar is excruciating

Launchy, on the other hand is instant, and pretty forgiving in terms of search accuracy. 

2. Customise your Explorer context menu.

Get a copy of Default Programs Editor and have a poke around. This is a very powerful tool that allows you to easily add context menu items as required. An example; if anyone's ever handed you a PDF file, from which you have to extract a vector logo, then first, you'd be opening Illustrator and navigating to the file on disk, or using the 'Open With...' context sub-menu to find Illustrator. A nicer way to do it, is create your own menu entry, ie:

Default Programs Editor at work

3a. Copy as path

Shift-right-click on any file or folder in Windows Explorer, and 'Copy as Path' appears in the menu, allowing you to put the selected file or folder path as a string in the clipboard. Useful for folders if you want to save a download in a location that's already open in an Explorer windows (copy folder paths from the Explorer address bar too), or files if you want to upload them. 

Such a simple thing, it's not clear why this is hidden.

3b. Paths are strings, so type them...

If, like me, you're mouse adverse, and find it frustrating double-clicking your way through a maze of subfolders to get where you are going, then make use of the excellent autocomplete that's built into the Explorer address bar, and just about every file dialog in the system, to get around. Typing a few characters, review a list of matches, use the down arrow to select a match, then typing a few more characters again to choose a subfolder, and so forth. So much quicker.

3c. http:// URLs are valid paths.

See an online image you like? Want to open it in Photoshop? Right-click, Copy URL, and then paste it straight into the image open dialog. Boom.

4. Get a command shell replacement

If you're running command line tools, having to do so from a cmd.exe window is quickly limiting. Tools like ConEmu let you have tabbed windows, support copy and paste, coloured script outputs from tools like node.js's chalk. All up most

5. TortoiseGit

It could be argued that we never get to grips with the minutiae of how git works in the way our commandline cousins on MacOS do. Do you know what? We don't have to, because we've got a fantastically integrated solution only a right click away in Windows Explorer. Powerful, simple, and above all free. 

6. A good FTP client

I use WinSCP. I've tried a number of others. but it's far and away the most powerful, elegant and clean two-panel interface I've seen. Synchronized browsing, directory watching, direct edits of server files with upload on save, it's really nice. It supports  SCP, SFTP, and FTP protocols, key based auth, a properly secured password store if you want to keep your passwords saved.

6. Local hosting - XAMPP, mod_virtual_host_alias

To be continued - get named local sites set up- not that bad. 

7. set up preprocessors for your stylesheets

If you need to create CSS, don't write CSS - use LESS or SCSS and compile on the fly. To be continued.

Other miscellaneous tools

Bulk Rename UtilityHostfile Manager are a few that come to mind. Ugly, but get the job done.

Tools I haven't tried

CygWin is the most obvious; every time I've looked at it, I've thought that it looks a bit nutty, a bit like WINE for Linux users, it will only ever take you so far.

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