First off, I apologize for the title – I couldn’t resist. (If you don’t know what the title is talking about, see this video). I am a web developer, as many of you may know. I use software on my computer like Zend Studio, WinSCP, and Putty, as many developers would. But as I was working a couple weeks ago, I wondered what kind of web-based tools other developers use. There are a couple that I use for planning, documentation, and testing, but it’s not often I hear of a developer using web-based products, aside from source code repositories. I’m talking actual products for project planning, system administration, usability testing, collaborative development, and web services. So, I decided to make a compilation of products that developers may find useful. There’s a little bit of everything in here – some are still in private beta, but still worth mentioning. Let’s start things off with project planning.
Basecamp is a communication and project management application which has become a no-brainer for many in the industry for its simplicity. I personally use Basecamp everyday, whether it’s in my own company’s account or on a clients account. It has taken away much of the stress that usually comes with project planning and communication. Users can send messages, share files, manage tasks, track time spent on tasks, set milestones, and more.
Planix is a new product soon to surface from its private beta stage. It’s an interesting application which I think will appeal to many startups. Planix essentially aims to make it as painless as possible for you to estimate resources, scheduling, and the cost of projects in development. Its system allows you to input all your projects features, number of team members, and other details which it then uses to accurately predict development hours and delivery.
PlanHQ, an application which I’m personally excited about, is designed to help you and your team create and maintain your company’s business plan. It provides sections for each area of a business plan as well as financial predictions and growth graphs. How does this help with development? Well, it’s good to fully understand the product you are building and your goals with it. I have recently started using it with my team for our company, but its one of those things you have to really work on for a good while. It’s could be best looked at as a system as flexible as a wiki with focus on business plan development.
Competitious is a unique service that aims to improve your companies competitive edge allowing you to track and gather information about competitors. You can add competitors, track news clippings, and manage a comparison matrix of product features. Using Comptetious, you and your team can easily find what your product is missing and plan accordingly.
Unfuddle is a software development environment and projects management application. It’s focus is primarily on the development and maintenance of your software where you and your team can track bugs, use source control (subversion), track development time, send messages, and set milestones. In ways it feels like Basecamp, though where Unfuddle really shines is with bug tracking and source control.
Gliffy offers a great service that allows its users to draw and share diagrams online. Create flowcharts, wireframes, and even network diagrams. Have an idea for your server architecture or development process? Diagram it online, collaboratively work on it with your co-workers, and print it out when complete. There are other options out there, but I personally keep coming back to this one.
Springloops is a source code management tool focused on web development teams for rapid collaboration. Springloops provides teams with source repositories (Subversion) for each server they add to their Springloops account. Team members can easily commit changes, view logs, back-up to previous versions of code, and easily deploy changes to your servers. Springloops also provides Basecamp integration allowing you to easily import projects and contacts to your account.
FiveRuns is, as they put it, “Web 2.0 system management nirvana.” It’s a hosted applications that watches your servers every move through a small virtual client installed on your system to monitor, analyze, report and predict the behavior of your systems. In other words, FiveRuns allows you to gain insight and understand what is happening when your server or application fails. And being that FiveRuns acts remotely, you can view your systems status from anywhere even if your systems are down. Looks promising, but what it does is beyond my experience to accurately assess.
CodeIDE is an interesting site that actually lets you program on the web. You can manage files, program in numerous languages, run your creations, and use command line. It even has a real-time chat where you can talk to other users who are programming on the site and watch as their errors come and go. As I said, it’s an interesting site, but I can’t see myself developing with it anytime soon. And they need a logo ;-).
OpenCode is a service for all you Java/Processing buffs out there. Developed by students at MIT Media Labs, OpenCode is a web-based programming tool which lets you compile and run Java applets online using Processing libraries. The site allows you to browse through works by other users, create your own applets, manage resources, and meet other programmers. I used to develop applets with Processing a few years back, experimenting with mathematical art, and it’s great to see such a development.
Mashery is a unique service for API developers that provides API security, usage/access management, tracking, metrics, commerce, performance and developer/community tools. Just create an API, plug it into the Mashery service, and build a developer community with documentation for your API, a forum and wiki. You can also track API usage, manage API keys, and even limit API use. For an example of Mashery in action, check out Truilia’s developer site.
Code Search and Manuals
Krugle is an innovative code search engine which allows developers to easily search for code within source code files, technical pages, and open source projects. It’s interface allows you to open multiple tabs of results and documents as well as view web articles without navigating away from the site. Another unique feature is the ability to add notes and tags to source code files.
Google Code Search is another code search engine which crawls and indexes publicly hosted archives (.tar.gz, .tar.bz2, .tar, and .zip) and CVS and Subversion repositories. It’s very light weight and accurate supporting the usage of regular expressions and advanced operators for quick filtering. I like to use Google Code Search for because it’s fast and simple, but Krugle wins on the feature end of things.
GotAPI is an excellent resource for developers that provides quick access to dozens of reference manuals on one site. I can make a search through all the languages I work with daily and instantly find what I’m looking for or simply browse through a languages API tree. GotAPI also has a neat API search start page that allows you to instantly search through multiple manuals at once.
FiveRuns, the system management product mentioned above, is also developing a troubleshooting site, FiveRuns.net, to help you maintain and monitor your systems. The site has not launched yet, but from what I can gather on the coming soon page, FiveRuns.net will integrate with the FiveRuns.com system management service and provide information around all system types such as MySQL, JBoss, Ruby, Linux and Oracle. The information will be accessible in central information repository to help you resolve problems quickly and move on to other tasks.
Helphee is an interesting service in closed beta which allows you to quickly author and publish help documents online for your products. You can’t find much about the service yet, but what I do know is that it provides a simple means of structuring your documents in an Ajax interface with a WYSIWYG editor. I’ve also learned that you can collaborate with multiple authors and view advanced reports providing information about possible problem areas with your product based on user activity, which I think is particularly neat.
Betabug is another soon to launch bug tracking site that titles itself, “Bug management for the 2.0 age.” Even though the service is in closed beta, you can find a live example of the system running to give you a rough idea of what to expect. The service has a big social feel to it allowing users to signup, add tags, comment, submit tickets, and more.
Porchlight is a simple bug tracking solution designed for small teams that allows you to manage projects, bugs, milestones, and team members. It also provides RSS feeds, email notifications, and iCal files to make it even easier for you to track bugs and keep up with milestones. Porchlight also has an API in the works and has recently announced Microformats support.
From the makers of Mephisto, a popular rails based blogging system, is soon to launch Lighthouse. Lighthouse aims to be “beautifully simple” and features email integration, private projects, extension by plugins, and a developer API. It also supports commenting on submitted tickets, messaging, and project milestones. What’s also interesting is the ability to add pages to your account for public viewing.
Usability Testing and Tracking
CrazyEgg is a useful service that lets you analyze click activity on your site through heat maps, percentage overlays, and raw click summaries. It can help you learn what site design performs best, where ads could be placed on your site, and what areas of your site needs most improvement. Just run CrazyEgg on your site for a week and you may be surprised with what you find.
If tracking clicks isn’t enough for your testing needs, check out ClickTale. ClickTale allows you to track a visitors every move on your site. See what they click, where their mouse moves, and watch how they scroll through your site. Normally, when doing our usability testing for clients, we setup screen recording software and cameras, but using ClickTale would be much simpler. The product is in closed beta, but you can find a video of it in action on the ClickTale blog.
Wufoo, one of my favorite services, is an online form builder that makes it easy for anyone to create great looking forms and generate detailed reports on collected data. I use Wufoo for Solution Watch’s forms and have found the reports and statistics particularly helpful in deciding on a forms structure. Now, developers can harness the powerful reporting features offered by Wufoo through the new submit API allowing them to easily connect any form to its web service, collect data, generate reports, and view statistics.
Widgetbox is an open widget marketplace and syndication platform. It allows developers to publicize their widgets and widget users to customize widgets for use on their sites. In terms of tracking, Widgetbox provides developers with rich metrics covering widget subscription count, daily hits, referrals, and conversions. You can think of it as a Feedburner for widgets.
Widgets and Web Services
Pipes, Yahoo’s latest service, is an interactive feed aggregator and manipulator. Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Basically, Pipes allows you to grab feeds from services like Youtube, Flickr, and eBay and mash them up with in an interface allowing for the sorting, joining, formatting and querying of the aggregated data. Once you’re done mixing and mashing, you can create a custom feed that accepts user input and re-use on your sites. Really, I recommend just trying it to fully grasp its capabilities.
Dapper is a useful service that allows you to grab and use any web based content from a website. Dapper provides a simple interface that allows you to grab specific parts of a site, add some options to it, and turn it into exportable data for your own projects. You can look at it as building an API for any website. I could, for example, make a custom “Dapp” that grabs headlines from Digg for a specific search term on a certain page that would then notify me of any occurrences of my website. Combine this with Yahoo Pipes and then we’ll really have something special.
Teqlo, the most recent mashup service, allows users to mix and mash widgets from various services into one application. You can, for example, add a LinkedIn widget to your application with a search field by name and connect it with a contact list that interacts with Google Maps. It’s drag and drop style interface makes it relatively easy to use, though I still found it a bit confusing and you can’t yet publish your applications to the web.
What would a development roundup be without Amazon S3? Amazon S3 (simple storage service) is a storage solution for developers that allows them to store and retrieve any amount of data through simple web services. You can look at it as a big file system without a GUI (graphical user interface) that can only be accessed using REST/SOAP. It’s become quite the popular option for developers for its cheap prices and scalability. You could, for example, store images on Amazon S3 while running your service on your production server to cut down on bandwidth costs and scaling issues. Amazon has a good news release that talks about various companies Amazon S3 that’s worth a read.
- WriteMaps is a web-based tool that allows you to create and edit sitemaps online. Add a site to your account, start the first page and simply branch off your sites architecture from there. WriteMaps also allows you to zoom in and out of your sitemaps and view sitemaps in an outline form.
- CSSFly is a very helpful, lightweight tool that lets you temporarily edit any public site in real-time. You can edit the sites HTML as well as select from style sheets used on the website. It’s even better when you’ve got the bookmarklet set to your browser for quick editing. Firefox only.
- Tingelets are a set of bookmarklets for web developers that highlight specific elements on a page allowing developers to quickly see how their web layouts render in different browsers. At the click of a button, see if a divider element is spanning the correct width, or that a header element is offset.
- Ready.mobi provides an analysis of how your web content is likely to function on a mobile device. I’ve been meaning to make my site mobile friendly for a while now and I’m certainly going to be using this to validate it.
- Subtlety lets you create an RSS feed for any remote subversion repository. Handy for those who only use subversion and want to keep track of changes without having to check the repository.
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