Tim’s toolbox

One of the few universal rules of the developer community (and database people are no different), is we are all fascinated with what tools the next dev is using.  As I prepare to move from one job to the next I’ve done some thinking about what my ideal setup would be.  Here then, is a peek into my toolbox.


  • 15(ish) inch, something light and sturdy with a good screen and a long battery life.
  • At least 16 gb memory, the more the better.
  • Fastest available video card.
  • At least 3 USB ports (at least one of them USB3, the more the better)
  • HDMI and VGA output.
  • At least one solid state hard drive (minimum 250gb, the bigger the better)
  • A good laptop keyboard (comfortable, nice spacing).  I’ve always wanted a backlit keyboard but never tried one.
  • A numeric keypad is nice but not required.
  • I like to be an administrator on my laptop.  Some corporate environments don’t allow this, but when possible I push for it.  It makes life a lot easier when you find new tools you want to try.


I’m a multi-monitor guy.  I’ll take three 19 inch (or larger) monitors over one gigantic monitor any day.  I like to be able to spread my work out across a lot of monitor space, it makes it easier to compare things, keep an eye on processes while they run but still work on other stuff in downtime.  I could definitely get by with two monitors, but I’m of the more is better camp.  Honestly, I never thought much about monitors, any would do.  Now that my eyes are starting to get older (just my eyes mind you), I appreciate higher quality monitors that are easier to look at for long days of writing queries.


I’ve used the Kensington Orbit trackball at home for years.  It’s a great mouse.  Recently I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Logitech MX Master.  I like the idea of programming the buttons for common tasks (like SAVE).


  • SQL Server Developer Edition (local instance, newest version available)
  • Redgate SQL Toolbelt.  I LOVE this suite of tools.  Losing SQL Prompt would significantly impact my productivity.
  • Redgate SQL Search.  I use this free add on for SQL Management studio every day.  If you don’t have it already, download it now.
  • SQL Smash.  If I couldn’t get SQL Toolbelt, THIS is the tool I would fall back on.  It does all the things I need the most (code formatting, find dependencies, recent tabs and a LOT more) and it is significantly less expensive.  There’s even a free community edition available now!
  • BIDS helper
  • BIML Express
  • Tableau.  I LOVE Tableau.  It’s an amazing tool for ad-hoc data visualization.  I’ll likely start to branch out and try PowerBI soon, but Tableau will always have my heart.  Note:  If you want to get your feet wet with Tableau (for free), try Tableau Public.
  • Notepad++ or Sublime text editor.  I’ve used both, I love both.
  • Microsoft Office Suite.

Online Tools

  • MightyText.  I’m remarkably frugal (cheap).  This is one of the very few tools I pay for every month.  It let’s me handle all my phone texting from my laptop.  It’s wonderful.
  • Online storage.  Box.com, DropBox, Google Drive.  I’ve used them all and they are all good.  I find myself moving more and more of my storage to the cloud.
  • Slack.  I love/hate slack.  It can be overwhelming when there is a lot of chats running at the same time, but the ability to search any past chat is wonderful.
  • WordPress.  I’m a blogger now.  This is how I get it done.
  • IFTTT.  IF This Then That.  This is a remarkable tool.  The more I use it, the more I love it.
  • Buffer.  A great tool that I haven’t utilized to it’s fullest yet.
  • Spotify.  Sometimes I just need a little Motown to make the query work.  This might be the best $15 I spend each month.


This really should be (and likely will be) a post of it’s own.  To keep it simple, my go-to for high quality video training is Pluralsight.  If I need a blog post to help me figure something out I know I can always count on Simple Talk to have an answer.  My current favorite video training for personal development is Verbal to Visual.

So there you go.  My setup is pretty simple really.  I’m always on the lookout for new tools (especially free or inexpensive ones).  I’ve moved away from a lot of the online productivity tools I’ve tried over the years (Asana, Trello, Toggl).  Of the three, I think I liked Trello the best.  They are all good tools, but I’m having better luck with my bullet journal now.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *