The BI Software Tool Belt

Here’s What’s In My BI Tool Belt

1. BI xPress – Auditing, Notification frameworks and much, much more!  Number one for a reason…

2. Task Factory – Extra SSIS components.  SCD Merge Transform, Upsert, SharePoint Source/Destination and more

3. BI Documenter – Takes the pain out of documentation.  The easy button.

4. BIDS Helper (does some things BI xPress does not)

5. Parent Child Naturalizer (codeplex)

6. ResophNotes – code snippet organizer

7. Cube Player

8. Blitz! – SQL Server TakeOvers

9. PoorSQL SQL Code formatting

10. SQL Sentry Plan Explorer

11. Red Gate SQL Search

12. SMS Tools Pack

13. Open Modelsphere – open source modeling tool

14. MS Best Practice Analyzer (2005 & 2008 version)

15. Database Browser

16. SSIS Balance Data Distributer

17. Data Space Analyzer – Analyze space used by indexes visually

Data Surf – Use FK relationships to navigate from rows in one table to the next

Schema Surf – Navigate object tree for visualization of object dependencies

18. Data Inspector – SQL diff & database sync tool

19. Schema Inspector – Synchronization and script tool

20. SQL Everywhere IDE

21. ManicTime Time Tracking

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 Excel Add-Ins

1.  OLAP PivotTable Extensions

     Adds some nice features for working with SSAS in Excel.

2.  Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Data Mining Ass-Ins for Office 2010

     This Works for SQL Server 2008 too.  There is another download if you are still using Office 2007.

3.  FRED Add-in for Microsoft Excel

     Complements the data mining add-in nicely.  Easily bring external publicly available data into your forecasts.

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Mark’s List

PowerSE

Notepad2

Notepad++

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Jorge’s  List

Blogging:

Windows Live Writer (client)

WordPress (self-hosted or WordPress.com, although self-hosted gives you MUCH more flexibility in terms of plugins/themes/etc.)

Write or Die Desktop (Forces you to write constantly or it annoys you with sounds)

Compression: WinRAR, 7-Zip (alternate)

Utilities:

ZoomIt – Don’t have it yet and you’re a presenter? Go install it-right now

Beyond Compare (REALLY cool comparison tool. Quickly compare file/folder contents, awesome for quick editing and syncing file contents like XML files side-by-side)

RDCMan – Remote desktop manager, great for managing multiple RDP sessions. Can group RDC connections and stuff. Nice and FREE from Microsoft

Snagit (image capture/editor)

Camtasia (video capture/editing)

FeedDemon (RSS reader)

Virtual CloneDrive (virtual CD/DVD drive so you can mount ISOs)

Foxit (PDF reader, lighter alternative to Adobe Reader)

Defraggler (free defrag utility)

Dropbox (sync files/folders between PCs, mobile app also lets you get to your folders from phone which is nice too)

Windows Live Mesh (same as above, alternate)

Evernote (Note taking app, syncs across multiple platforms including mobile apps on all major platforms)

DemoMate (paid product but discovered it through MVP program. Create interactive/portable demos.)

PowerGUI (Great PowerShell IDE and helpful for learning PowerShell in general)

Microsoft Script Explorer (helpful beta program they released that gives you TONS of resources in helping you learn PowerShell including scripts, snippets, guides, etc.)

Antivirus:

Microsoft Security Essentials -or- Avast! Antivirus

Productivity:

Pomodairo (Adobe AIR-based app that tracks your time using Pomodoro technique)

Klok (Adobe AIR-based app that lets you track time across multiple clients/projects)

Virtualization:

VMware Workstation (desktop virtualization but not free, still, awesome)

[Free Alternates]

Oracle Virtualbox

VMLite

——————————————————————————-   Robert’s List

Here’s a few of my often used tools. Technically they aren’t BI only, but stuff I use while doing my BI job. Maybe others will find them useful.

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If you are a keyboard fanatic, you’ll love TouchCursor. It adds the ability to turn your letter keys into special keys. You hold down the action key (by default it’s the spacebar, but you can reassign it) then, for example the letter I, and it becomes the up arrow (moves the cursor up). SPACE+J moves the cursor left, SPACE+L moves it right, etc. You can also add your own mappings, for example I have SPACE+E map to F5 so I can quickly execute scripts in SSMS.

TeraCopy is great if you copy big files around a lot, it has a lot of nice features. It detects when a file already exists, and gives you the option to only overwrite older files. A great option when you are backing up a lot of files but aren’t sure what has changes. It also copies much faster than the copy function built into Windows.

Security should be important to all of us, especially since we handle sensitive client data on an almost daily basis. To keep data safe I use TrueCrypt. You can use TrueCrypt to encrypt your entire hard drive, and / or create encrypted file vaults. Similar to a Zip container only without the compression. It has literally unbreakable encryption. There was a case a few years ago where the FBI was asked to break the TrueCrypt encryption of a Brazilian (suspected) crime boss. They tried for five years and finally gave up.

Speaking of ZIP, I use 7-Zip, very easy to use and adds right click capabilities to quickly and easily zip and unzip files. Free, and much less overhead then using WinZip.

For mounting ISOs I use Virtual Clone Drive. Easy to use and setup, you can have multiple drives mounted at once, each with it’s own drive letter. Easy to mount an ISO, just double click on it.

For text editing I use UltraEdit / UEStudio. Not a free program, but worth the money. Supports macros, customizable code highlighting, can open from / save to FTP, and can handle huge files. I opened a 2 GIG file before and it flew through it with no issues. I’ve been using it for as long as I can remember. If you are looking for a free easy to use editor check out Notepad2. I think it’s easier to use and configure than Notepad++.

If you are doing PowerShell, and if you’re not you will be, I use the now free PowerSE app. Easy to use, fully featured, has become my favorite PowerShell editor even over the paid ones.

For video I use VLC, because it can play anything. Literally, I’ve yet to run across something it can’t play.

Sometimes I need a simple, easy to use image editor. For those times I use the free Paint.Net. Not a lot of bells and whistles but for me that’s good, just a simple easy to use editor.

I like to be able to keep my browser bookmarks in sync across all browsers, across all of my computers. For that I use an app called XMarks. To me, it’s what an app should be. It just sits in the background and works. Never pops up with a lot of questions or gets in my way.

For a password manager I’ve found none better than LastPass. From a security standpoint it’s rock solid. Even better, your password is never stored in their system, but rather an encrypted hash of it. It runs as a browser add in for all browsers, or you can go to their website and login and get to your passwords that way. You can generate one time use passwords, so if you go to a place where you might have some risk, say an internet cafe where there’s a risk of a key logger, all the bad guys would get is your one time password. It’s free, although consider making a donation. They also own XMarks.

We all need to read PDFs, but Adobe is over bloated and a huge security hole. It used to be Flash was the number one vector for security breaches, but lately that has changed to become Adobe’s PDF reader. I much prefer the free FoxIT PDF Reader, lighter weight and more secure.

Now, if all of this seems a bit overwhelming, I can make it very easy on you to install. Just go to Ninite.com. It’s a very cool site. They have a list of a ton of freeware apps listed in various categories. You simply go down the list and check the ones you want, then click the Get Installer button. Ninite will then generate an app which you download and run. It will install all of the apps you picked, and will select all the defaults you would. No, I don’t want your stupid toolbar Yahoo/Bing/Google/whomever. No, I don’t want you to track me. Yes, I agree to the license agreement I wouldn’t have read anyway. Those kinds of things. This is a great app when setting up a new PC or VM, many of the apps I listed here can be installed via Ninite.

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Special thanks to the following Pragmatic Works consultants for their input for this blog post:

Robert C. Cain, MVP, MCTS

Jorge Segarra, MVP, DBA/BI Consultant

Devin Knight Senior BI Consultant (MCTS, MCITP)

Mark Stacey

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What’s in your tool belt?  Got anything to contribute?  Please sound off in the comments.

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