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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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Debuggers and Logging Frameworks

Debuggers are cheap and effective tools. Typically we use them in a bottom-up fashion starting from the problem going to its source, but when this strategy fails, we might have to resort to a more tedious top-down breadth-first search.


Bug Busters

Stringent quality control helps eliminate bugs. Tools can help prevent them from ending up in production code. We can use type-safe languages, heed compiler warnings, adopt specialized bug-finding tools, and adjust our code to locate bugs during testing.


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.


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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