“What developer doesn't love a new toy? Especially if it's free and actually solves a problem that you face every day. Tools, however, are a very personal thing -- just because something works for someone else doesn't mean it will fit your style of development. You need a variety to pick from to find one worth keeping.
This is why I sifted through dozens of tools and utilities to come up with a list of free tools that can help .NET developers do their jobs better. I looked at both standalone tools -- which can be of value no matter what version of Visual Studio you use -- and Visual Studio add-ins, which integrate directly into the IDE UI.
I have a lot of respect for the people who created these .NET tools and Visual Studio add-ins (and the many others that didn't fit in this article). Many of these tools have been created by individual developers who have not only built the products, but have been actively supporting them for years and through several versions of the Microsoft .NET Framework. They're heroes. You should try out what they've created for you.
With two exceptions the tools in this section run independently of Visual Studio. Some of them (Regulator, for instance) have been around since the .NET Framework 1.0 and Visual Studio .NET, yet some developers don't seem to know about them. Others, like LINQPad, have appeared more recently to support new .NET technologies.
Visual Studio Add-Ins
Unlike the previous tools, add-ins integrate into the Visual Studio UI and respond to Visual Studio events. Microsoft has incorporated a gallery of add-ins into Visual Studio 2010 through the Extension Manager on the Tools menu. If you're a Visual Studio 2008 developer, you can find the Visual Studio Gallery tools at http://bit.ly/dxCqnl . While it's worth browsing through that list to see what interests you, it's very long. Here are some of the best tools from the Gallery, plus a few add-ins that can't be found in the Microsoft listing.
These are some of the top tier, must have, Visual Studio tools/extensions. Many I’ve blogged about before, or I’m sure you’ve heard of before (who hasn’t heard of LINQPad? ), some that might be new to you…