T-SQL Tuesday #135: Outstanding Tools

2021-02-09 4 Comments

Dave Mason T-SQL Tuesday

For T-SQL Tuesday #135, Mikey Bronowski (b|t) asks us about the tools we use. What are the most helpful and effective tools you use or know of? Great questions, Mikey! I've got a few in mind for sure. And although I usually blog about SQL Server or something data-related, these are more generic minded tools...at least for us Windows folks.


Yep, Notepad. I use it for all sorts of things. Whether it's code files, configuration/settings files, files for third-party apps, or just plain old text/log files, Notepad is my go-to plain text viewer and editor. Want to level up your Notepad skills? Create a shortcut to the Notepad.exe file and drop it in the "SendTo" folder. Now you can open any file with Notepad easily from Windows Explorer. Neat!


I'm a proponent of "Show me, don't tell me". Screen captures go a long way toward that. Sure, Windows has Paint, but Paint.NET is a bit more advanced. I almost always have an instance of it open in the background. Hit the Print Screen keyboard button and paste (CTRL + V) it into Paint.NET (you can also use the ALT + Print Screen key combination to screen capture just the active window). From there you can do anything: trim down to just a specific part of the image, add some red arrows or circles for emphasis, blur/obscur any sensitive data that's in the image, etc. I take tweaked screen shots and paste them into just about anything...Word documents, email, even Twitter.


Running low on disk space and having a hard time figuring out where all your free storage went? There are numerous utilities that can help out. My favorite is SpaceSniffer. There's a zipped download that doesn't require a typical setup.exe installation. This makes it very convenient to copy to other machines you may be repsonsible for.


If you're not using a password manager, I strongly suggest it. There are many good ones out there with different features and pros & cons. I've settled on KeePass. But if it's not KeePass, please use something!


Windows' built-in zip/compression functionality does what I need most of the time. If I need to password protect a zipped file, though, 7-Zip is the tool I use. It also has many additional features above and beyond what Windows provides (archive format, compression level, split to volumes, etc.).

Remote Desktop Connection Manager

If you find yourself connecting to a large number of virtual machines, managing those connections can be a chore. Before using Remote Desktop Connection Manager (aka "RDCMan"), I used to open the built-in Windows Remote Desktop Connection tool, hope the computer I wanted to connect to was in the drop-down list of computers, and manually enter my credentials. I got fancy and started using a DOS batch file for each computer I connected to regularly. But I still had to manually enter credentials. Enter Remote Desktop Connection Manager: it lets you create and organize groups of remote desktop connections. It handles credentials and a few other things too. Unfortunately, a vulnerability in the tool was discovered and Microsoft decided to retire the tool. If you have a different one to suggest, please drop me a note in the comments!


The pandemic has resulted in many of us working from home. I'm sure we've all struggled during online meetings with poor audio and feedback that makes it hard for everyone to hear each other. Headphones are immensely better than using the built-in speakers and microphone of a laptop or desktop computer. This headset that I've been using for a few years is a Logitech model. It was cheap too--only about $30 (US). The microphone arm can be adjusted in different positions, and you can even flip it up and entirely out of the way if you just want to use the headset to listen to music. There's a physical mute button that is very handy, along with volume controls. It's USB too--I didn't have to install anything on Windows. Audiophiles may turn their noses up at this model. You can spend more (a lot more!) on a better microphone/headset setup that sounds ostensibly better. But compared to everyone else without a headset, you'll be playing chess while they're playing checkers.


  1. I'll admit I'm more of a fan of Notepad++ over Notepad if I have the choice, but ... if I have the choice. :)

    As for the RDCMan replacement, "mRemoteNG" might be an option. It can import your current RDCMan connections and is still in the open source community so people can do work on it. There are a couple of others, but I've started using mRemoteNG (the latest/preview version) and it works pretty well. It even has an option to store your connections in a database if you want to go that route. :)

    1. I'll have to take a look at mRemoteNG sometime. Thanks, Peter!

  2. This is a nice list of useful utilities. Thanks for the post!