A SharePoint Developer’s Toolchest

Posted on 5/24/2010 @ 2:34 PM in #SharePoint by | Feedback | 1002 views

When we develop for SharePoint, we end up using many tools, third party or Microsoft, to facilitate our development. What are some of your favorite tools? Mine are as below -

1. Reflector: When I saw reflector, I was pretty convinced that a tool better and more useful than it doesn’t exist. Well I was wrong! Redgate took over reflector and they still offer it as a free version, but they have a paid version called reflector pro. It lets you debug third party source code, as if you had the source code. Brilliant! Who needs documentation anymore when you have real code?

2. ULS Viewer: It is no secret, reading ULS logs is a pain in the rear. Well, not so with ULS Viewer, which does work with SharePoint 2007 as well. But it’s just way cooler with SharePoint 2010. You know when you get an error in SharePoint 2010 it shows you an error like as below:

Well, the ULS Viewer will allow you to set filtering critereon, allowing you to immediately zero in, into an error, across multiple WFEs even. Also there are numerous other facilities built into the tool, such as advanced filtering, critical error notifications, etc. A must have!

You can read the documentation of the ULSViewer here.

3. SPDisposeCheck: Did you know that the MySite object is strange? What is strange about it? That you have to dispose it even if you didn’t create it!? Well who the hell remembers all that! Honestly I do! And you should too. But there is a tool to help you sanitize your code. And that is SPDisposeCheck. You run it against your DLL or EXE, and it will give you suggestions on where you might have missed calling dispose on an object. You still have to use your head, but having this tool helps.

4. DebugView: Debugging for SharePoint can be difficult sometimes. Sometimes your breakpoints don’t get hit. And while you can try and make them hit, it is sometimes easier to just write a bunch of Debug.WriteLines, and catch them from an external application such as DebugView. You simply use your code, and DebugView will catch all the Debug.WriteLine’s in your code like this -

5. BGInfo: One annoying thing about SharePoint projects, it causes the number of servers to multiply like bunnies. As I’m RDP’ing into many computers trying to diagnose a crazy issue, sometimes it becomes hard to remember which machine is which. BGInfo puts all that on the wallpaper, alongwith a bunch of other useful info. A bit like this -

5. WSPBuilder: SharePoint 2007 only, but I think there maybe a version for SP2010 coming later. I think the VS2010 tools for SP2010 development are quite nice, so WSPBuilder, well so far I don’t miss it. But lets see what WSPBuilder for 2010 brings – I haven’t seen it yet. However, I want to confidently assert that WSPBuilder for SP2007 is simply awesome.

6. SharePoint Manager: The SharePoint Manager 2010 is a SharePoint object model explorer. It enables you to browse every site on the local farm and view every property. It also enables you to change the properties. The VS2010 dev tools now include a server explorer, which show you a subset of properties in read-only. I would LOVE to see SharePoint manager like functionality built into VS2010. SharePoint Manager, a total must-have.

// Thanks to a comment by Mohan Taneja below, I have some more tools to add.

7. ColorPro and Pixie: Pixie is free, but very targeted. You point an anything on your screen and pixie tells you what color it is. ColorPro is much more powerful, but not free. Both good tools for designer folks and developers pretending to be designer folks.

8. Fiddler: This tool inserts a proxy on your machine, so you can view all local TCPIP traffic. AMAZING for working with REST or anything ajaxy. I use this in my trainings. If you want to get a true sniffer, look at WireShark - invaluable for debugging reporting services setups in SP2007.

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..

On 5/20/2010 7:09:20 PM Lachlan Wetherall said ..
I would put SharePoint Manager at the top of the list. By exposing the SharePoint object model and contents in a hierarchical tree, not only does it allow you to diagnose and fix some hairy problems, but by browsing around the innards of the object model I have learnt heaps about how SharePoint hangs together.

On 5/21/2010 12:10:57 AM Sandeep said ..
Love the new look of your blog.. but you need to switch your IMAGE hosting asap.. :) They don't serve in india...

On 5/21/2010 12:15:41 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Sandeep, imageshack doesn't work in India? UR KIDDING!

On 5/23/2010 12:06:42 PM Wes Hackett said ..
Community Kit for SharePoint: Development Tools Edition (http://cksdev.codeplex.com) adds functionality to the Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Tools which integrates with the OOB features. It is available to download from the Visual Studio Gallery.

On 5/24/2010 7:44:44 AM Mohan Taneja said ..
Thanks for posting these Sahil.

I use most of the above posted (WSPBuilder, Reflector, SPDisposeCheck, SharePoint Manager & ULSViewer). ColorPro (for UI work with SPD), ListItemEditor (from codeplex), SharePoint Administration Toolkit, WireShark, Fiddler are few additional tools.