Must Have Tools For Moonlighters

Many of us in the IT industry like to work on small personal projects for keeping pace with the ever evolving technical landscape. As technology and software development paradigms have evolved, so have the tools that support the new age SDLC frameworks. Software Development Methodologies are converging towards being more Agile and allowing widely distributed teams to function more effectively. The advent of the cloud and mobile app development has spawned an entire army of moonlighters who work for their organizations by the day and for their own selves by the night. It is only natural that the cloud and mobile revolution have influenced SDLC framework tools like project management tools, source control systems and bug tracking tools. These tools have become cloud enabled and seamless to use. Even if you are developing to just learn new technologies, these tools will help to stay on course and ensure security and high availability of any code you write. And it is highly likely that as cloud gains more traction in the software development space, you will inevitably have to learn some of these tools or maybe similar ones.

Here are some the tools that I have explored and found to be extremely useful.

Asana

Asana is a cloud based tool that allows users to perform a wide spectrum of tasks such as individual task management, project management, bug tracking, CRM, etc. I have only explored the project management features of this product and it has been a delight to use. The user interface is minimal and flat. The hallmark of a great productivity app is that it gets out of the way and allows the user to concentrate on the task at hand. And Asana does just that. It helps you escape email overload as it has a very powerful commenting system that allows the team to discuss any task or subtask. The best part is that since the entire conversation is visible in the context of the task or subtask, you won’t have to sift through your inbox looking for that important email. Asana is free for teams comprising 15 people or less. They have also published mobile apps for Android and iOS and there are a couple of very nifty third party Asana clients(AsanaWP and Winsana) available for Windows Phone.

Bitbucket

Bitbucket is a cloud based source control system provider. Teams comprising a maximum of 5 people can use Bitbucket for free and can create unlimited repositories. Bitbucket allows you to choose between Git and Mercurial as your source control system of choice. A client app (Source Tree) is also available for Windows and Mac. Bitbucket is easy to setup and getting started is just a matter of minutes. Bitbucket comes with a built in bug control system as well.

Team Foundation Service

Team Foundation Service (TFS) is Microsoft’s take on an integrated project management, process management and bug tracking toolset. If you use Visual Studio to develop then you are in luck. It integrates seamlessly with Visual Studio and works like a charm. It allows you to create Agile artifacts like product backlog and allows you to define your sprints. It generates artifacts like burndown chart. It even allows you to choose between various flavours of Agile. For source control it allows you to choose between Git and Team Foundation Server. Plugins are available for Eclipse but in my experience they don’t work very well if you choose Git to be your source control system. There is also a tool for tracking bugs through their lifecycle. All in all , a very nifty and well integrated toolset if you develop using Visual Studio. Free for team sizes up to 5.

SkyDrive

When it comes to the gold standard in office productivity applications, it is Microsoft Office that sets the benchmark. SkyDrive allows you to use web based versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint to create product documentation. The web based versions have support for most of the frequently using features of these products and are surprisingly fluid to use even when open in a browser. You can save your files in native office file formats or the open document format. One big advantage of using SkyDrive is that if you download these files to your local machine and open them using the Office programs there will ne no loss of fidelity. This is particularly important if you intend to share these documents with prospective clients, end users , etc. Google Drive is a worthy alternative but there is a loss of fidelity if you choose to save in the ubiquitous Office formats. SkyDrive also supports powerful collaboration and document versioning features.

So this was a brief lowdown on the tools that I feel are worth checking out whether you are starting on a small personal project or a small commercial project involving a few team members. Also, all of the products mentioned here have paid plans available lest your team grows in size.

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