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Welcome to Tools of the Trade

This podcast of an ongoing IEEE Software column explores the interplay between you, the software practitioner, and the tools you apply to the development problems you face. Skilled craftsmen set themselves apart from amateurs by the tools they use and the way they employ them. As a professional, I feel I'm getting a tremendous boost in my productivity by appropriately applying tools to the software construction problems I face every day. I also often find myself developing new tools, both for my personal use and for wider distribution. Column installments will discuss specific software construction activities from the standpoint of the tools we can employ — the tools of our trade. Future topics include editing, compiling, documentation, debugging, testing, configuration management, issue tracking, the development environment, tool building, and domain-specific tools. Of course, your suggestions are always welcome; email me at Diomidis Spinellis

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Project Asset Portability

Source code makes up only a small part of a system's assets; we also have specs, design diagrams, build rules, version history, documentation, regression tests, and more. Chances are you dread even the thought of changing the tools you use.


Working with Unix Tools

With modern shell command-line editing facilities, we can build commands bit by bit until they are exactly what we need. Nowadays, many systems offer the original Unix tools, so there's no reason not to add this approach to your arsenal.


Version Control Systems

Many software projects limp along without using a version control system. If you or your project isn't using a VCS, adopting one might well be the single most important tooling improvement you can undertake.


Tool Writing: A Forgotten Art?

Finding the right solution to a problem is more effective than simply adding features. When trying to create a tool for collecting metrics, the author discovered something important: writing stand-alone tools that you can combine efficiently with others to handle more demanding tasks appears to be becoming a forgotten art.


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About the Speaker

Diomidis SpinellisDiomidis Spinellis is a professor in the Department of Management Science and Technology at the Athens University of Economics and Business and the author of Code Quality: The Open Source Perspective (Addison-Wesley, 2006). Contact him at