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Look for Productivity Aids

You probably repeat some manual processes over and over, and those processes become error-prone if you deviate the slightest from your routine. Are you trying to accomplish a task that has already been mastered quite elegantly by a software tool? Even if your company is reluctant to purchase a product that can help, you still may be able to locate useful freeware or shareware with a simple Internet search.

It’s not always possible to find such a tool, but if one exists, economics may dictate purchasing that tool or even a suite of tools. How much is a couple of days of lost programmer time worth to your company, while you reinvent the wheel?

After a programmer left a company in which I was employed, I inherited his code to maintain. The SQL stored procedures were the most problematic because of their amorphous structure—and there were hundreds of them! It would have taken many hours of reformatting complex SQL joins, unions, correlated subqueries and case statements just to understand the code. Red Gate’s SQL Refactor tool enabled me to look at a clearly defined structure in seconds and begin my analysis and changes.

If I were building a large ASP.NET website, I would leverage tools like those from Infragistics that encapsulate a lot of functionality in a product—including an AJAX wrapper. If I were doing data modeling, tools such as Visio, CA ERwin Data Modeler, and Rational Rose would be indispensable.

Despite the downtime required to learn a new tool, the ability to produce cleaner code and generate SQL stored procedures, views, and even .NET classes outweighs the loss of the learning time.

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