Monday, January 5, 2009

Benefits of writing a new tool

[This was originally posted at]

I'm a big tool fan. I especially get a kick out of writing my own, custom tools - if it doesn't exist yet. Here are some benefits for writing your own, new tools:

  • Very practical - A custom tool can fill a very practical niche, and let you complete a task much faster than the alternative. Usually if there's some tedious task that takes more than an hour, and I can write the tool in an hour, I'll write the tool to do it.

  • You can consume it - There's something special about seeing your own code in action, especially when it's sparing you from a lot of tedious grunt work. I still get a kick out of running the MassDataHandler tool which makes it trivial to insert test SQL data.

  • Small scale - If you're working on large (legacy) applications, whipping out a small tool can be refreshing. Some custom "throw-away" tools can be as quick as an hour to write.

  • Huge variety - It's easy to get pigeon-holed into a specific technology or application framework. Writing a tool lets you explore areas of .Net that you might never get the chance to look at else wise. For example, some application developers might never touch reflection, diagnostics, threading (!), networking, or even streams because their application framework (usually written by someone else) abstracts those all away.

  • You can share it with the world - Tools are usually isolated and self-contained (i.e. not glued to a huge framework), and hence easy to share. They are often business-independent, so you can open-source a development tool without revealing any business secrets.

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