These are A Few of My Favorite Startup Tools: Part 2 – Editors, Tools, and Useful Open Source Software

Aug 09, 2010

In my last post I talked about some of the tools I've been using since I waded back into the world of startups and coding, and discussed some useful hosting services, languages, and frameworks.

In this post I'm going to talk about some of the other tools I use to develop in. Before I go into the tools I should talk about my development machine, my several year old MacBook Pro 15". According to "About This Mac", it's a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 3GB of RAM, and it's running snow leopard (10.6 - does any one else find Mac's naming scheme confusing?). I switched from windows to the Mac primarily because of the external aesthetics, and I have mixed feelings about the machine (more on that some other time, perhaps).


  • Komodo Edit - Komodo Edit is a great freeware editor, derived from the full IDE Komodo IDE (which is not free). It's not a full-featured IDE (no source control integration, for example), but it does syntax highlighting and supports intellisense (auto-completing method names, signatures, etc.) so it gets the job done - and of course the price is right ;)

  • I don't know how most startups afford a full-featured image editor like Photoshop, so thankfully there is a decent open source competitor - the Gimp. It's a strong knockoff with a ton of capabilities, and once you get by the interface idiosyncrasies you'll wonder why you need to spend almost a grand on the real-deal. For those who are baffled by it I highly recommend this bit on getting unstuck.

  • For those who have windows I also highly recommend paint.NET - it's a less full-featured image editor than the Gimp, but it's also a heck of a lot easier to use. It's got some great features to do simple but useful things, like extending the length of a specific region of an image.

  • For mockups I've been using the adobe air app Balsamiq since I discovered it while working on new features for Hark!. It's not free (I believe it's $79), but it supports all platforms as an air app (even linux, albeit poorly), and you save a lot of time creating mockups in it over drawing (and it's cheaper than a license of Visio).

  • I recently stumbled on Mockingbird, which looks a lot like a web knockoff of Balsamiq. It's free while in beta, so it looks like it might be worth a whirl.

  • When working with java two editors I used were Netbeans and Eclipse. Both are free, with the former being a Sun-sponsored (I think they bought the company) product, and the latter being a community based one, largely driven by IBM. I found both to be really useful, but Eclipse to be excruciatingly slow in some cases, so I ended up using Netbeans as the go-to.

Useful Frameworks

  • For pulling data from the web you used to have to right your own web scraper/spider to gather data from different sites. But now a host of sraping frameworks have sprung up, and I highly recommend scrapy, which is written in python. There is really no reason to have to write your own spider anymore.

Mobile Tools

  • Anyone can create a great mockup of a mobile app using MockApp, an open source mockup framework for powerpoint/etc. It basically gives you great widgets to use to make a mockup of your app.

  • If you want to take your mockup a little further and actually build something, check out jQTouch - it's a framework for developing apps that look like native iphone apps, but run in safari. If you want to have something that looks like an iphone app in a hurry this is the way to go.

  • I'm going to talk about Titanium more in a later post, but it's a javascript/html framework that allows you to build native mobile apps. The idea is that you write your app in javascript, and it compiles it to native code for iPhone, Android, and even Blackberry (if you pay for it). It's awesome in theory and somewhat good in practice. There are other frameworks that do this as well, such as PhoneGap, and it's in theory it's a great way to write a native app for the mobile platform if you're a web guy. In practice I've found Titanium to have mixed results, which is probably worthy of a future post on it's own.

I'm sure all of you have discovered a ton of other great tools - what else should I be using?