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My Development Setup

In the following article I will present you what tools I am using during my day-to-day development workflow. Also, I will show you a list of extensions and their purpose that will help me and probably you too being more productive.


Introduction

As a developer I always give my best to be productive, to write good and well documented source code and to share my knowledge. For all this I use great tools and extensions that will help me to get the most of it and working faster and cleaner. Those tools and extensions help me during my everyday life as a developer for:

  • Development of Angular, Vue.js apps,
  • sharing knowledge with recordings, GIFs, screenshots, code snippets etc,
  • writing good documentation, and
  • being more productive in general.

Both at work and in my free time I am working on an Apple MacBook Pro. But most of the tools and software listed here is available for Windows, macOS and Linux distributions.

Software

Let's get started with some basic software that I use.

Terminus / iTerm2

The default Terminal app for macOS fulfills its purpose but for being more productive I can recommend the alternative terminal applications Terminus and iTerm2.

I used iTerm2 for a long time and it's a great tool with lots of configuration options. You can create tabs, use profiles and customize styles and layouts.

Screenshot: iTerm2

However, a few weeks ago I switched from iTerm2 to Terminus. Terminus is a quite new terminal app and it's Open Source! Behind the scenes it's an Electron App using Angular. You can also customize it a lot. A feature I like particularly is that you can define SSH and Serial Port profiles. You can then later activate those profiles so that you can access an SSH remote host or a serial port without entering anything manually in the terminal.

Screenshot: Terminus

Cakebrew – macOS only

If you are on a Mac, you probably know Homebrew – the package manager for macOS. If you don't know Homebrew: You should definitely check it out. Personally I prefer to install most of my Software via Homebrew as I can easily manage updates later without having to manually download the packages. However, since I don't remember all Homebrew commands all the time and to get an overview of the installed packages, I use a Homebrew GUI called CakeBrew. This lets me easily update and manage my installed Homebrew packages.

Screenshot: CakeBrew

Fork

As a developer, version control with Git is essential for your development workflow. Personally I do all of the basic operations via the command line, like creating commits, adding files to the staging area, pulling and pushing. However, there are some things where I prefer to use a GUI for assistance:

  • graphical overview of commits and branches (history)
  • interactive rebase
  • managing multiple remote repositories

Fork is a very nice, clean and powerful Git GUI that helps you to control Git in an easy and interactive way.

Screenshot: Fork

Visual Studio Code

In the last years, Microsoft has improved its free IDE Visual Studio Code a lot, and with every frequent release it gets even more powerful. One of the things that makes VSCode such a great IDE is the wide range of available extensions and plugins. VSCode is a very universal and adoptable IDE which has great support and tools for lots of programming languages. So it doesn't matter if you develop a web application, a mobile app using e.g. Flutter, a C# or a Python app: You can use VSCode for all of that and you don't need to get start using a new specific IDE for each and every specific language.

Screenshot: VSCode

Later in this article, I will present you a list of my favorite extensions for VSCode.

Chrome

As a web developer, a modern browser like Google Chrome is essential. In my opinion the developer and debugging tools are more mature compared to Firefox. Chrome is also very up-to-date in terms of the latest JavaScript features and it has a wide range of extensions you can install that will help you to even be more productive developing web applications.

Screenshot: Google Chrome

A list of my favorite extensions for Google Chrome can be found further down in this article.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a great and simple tools that's very easy to use when you want to interact with REST or GraphQL endpoints. It has a very simple UI but it's powerful nonetheless. You can call endpoints, check their responses and also create batch requests or save your requests for using them later again. I personally prefer Insomnia over Postman which I used before and which is also very powerful. However, in my opinion the UI of Postman got a bit confusing during the last years by introducing new features.

Screenshot: Insomnia

draw.io

From time to time as a developer you need to illustrate things and flows. For this, I mostly use draw.io. It's available as a web application but also as an installable desktop version. Draw.io provides a lot of basic icons and vector graphics for network illustrations, UML, diagrams, engineering icons for circuits and much more.

Screenshot: draw.io

RecordIt

When I develop extensions for VSCode or other tools I always give my best to present users how to use these tools. The best way to present things is in a visual way as a screenshot or a GIF / video screencast. This supplements the textual description and thus, can be processed more easily by users. RecordIt lets you record your screen and create small screencasts that can be shared via a simple URL as a video or GIF.

Screenshot: RecordIt

KeyCastr

Recording screencasts can be supplemented by displaying the keys you are pressing during the recording. This is a great way to present keyboard shortcuts without having to manually explain which keys you're using. For that purpose I use the tool KeyCastr.

Screenshot: KeyCastr

Visual Studio Code Extensions

Since Visual Studio Code Version 1.48.0 the Feature Settings Sync became stable and available for everyone. This feature allows you to sync your settings between different installations of VSCode using your Microsoft or GitHub account. When you've installed VSCode on multiple machines and you always want to have the instances in sync, you should definitely set up this feature.

The next part is all about the VSCode extensions I am using so let's walk quickly over the plugins I've installed on my VSCode instances:

Appearance

Bracket Pair Colorizer 2
This tool will colorize opening and closing brackets in different colors so you get a better overview in your code.
Color Highlight
After installing this extension it will highlight all valid web color values with their appropriate color so that you can directly see the color.
Image Preview
After installing this plugin, you will see a little preview image right next to your code line number when a source code line contains a valid image file path.
Indented Block Highlighting
This extensions highlights the intented area that contains the cursor.
Indent Rainbow
This plugin colorizes the different indentation levels. This is especially helpful when writing YAML files or Python applications where the indentations play an important role for the code semantics.
Log File Highlighter
If you ever have to investigate a bunch of log files you will love this plugin. It highlights log information like the severity or timestamps so it will be easier for you to inspect them.
Peacock
Peacock is great when you are working with multiple VSCode windows at the same time. You can simply colorize them to quickly find out which project is currently open.
Rainbow CSV
This extension will colorize each column in a CSV file in a different color, so you can better read the file contents.
TODO Highlight
This extension will highlight TODO, FIXME and some other annotations within comments in your code.

Docs

AsciiDoc
The AsciiDoc Plugin gives you syntax highlighting, a preview and snippets for the AsciiDoc format.
Code Review
This is an extension I wrote by myself. It allows you to create expert reviews / code reviews for a workspace that can be exported as a formatted HTML report or importable CSV/JSON file.
This extension is pretty helpful if you are doing for example one-time code reviews for customers or probably students but you don't have direct access to a Gitlab or GitHub repository where you can directly add comments in a merge/pull request.
emojisense
I personally like using emojis and I use them in README.md files for my open source projects at GitHub. However, one thing I always have to look up are the emjoykey for the supported GitHub emojis. With this extension I have an autocompletion and I can search for them.
File Tree to Text Generator
An extension I created by myself: It lets you generate file / directory trees for Markdown, LaTeX, ASCII or even a custom format right from your VSCode file explorer.
Markdown Preview Mermaid support
Have you ever visualized things in your README.md file? Thanks to Mermaid.js you can easily create beautiful flowcharts, sequence diagrams and more. This plugin enables the preview support in VSCode for mermaid diagrams embedded in your markdown files.
Markdown All in One
This extension enables some great helpful features when writing Markdown files such as table of contents generation, auto-formatting the document and it gives you a great autocompletion feature.

Graphics

Draw.io Integration
This extension integrates the draw.io editor in VSCode. You can directly edit draw.io associated files.
SVG
This extension will give you SVG code highlight and preview support. You can even export the SVG directly from the preview as a *.png graphic.

JavaScript / TypeScript

ESLint
This extensions detects your ESLint configuration for code conventions and displays the violations. Furthermore, it offers you to quick fix detected violations against some rules.
Import Cost
With this plugin installed, projects using webpack will be analyzed for their imports and the bundle size they will have. The resulting size is displayed right next to the import. This helps you to identify very big imported libs.
JavaScript (ES6) code snippets
This extension brings some great snippets for JavaScript / TypeScript like a short snippet clg for writing console.log() or imp for import <foo> from '<foo>';.
Jest
The Jest extension gives you auto completion and color indicators for successful / failing Jest tests.
JS Refactor
This extension gives you a lot of JavaScript refactoring utilities like convert to arrow function or rename variable.
LintLens
With this extension, metadata and usage information for ESLint rules will be displayed beside each rule.
npm
This extension let's you run your NPM scripts right from your package.json file.
Sort JSON Objects
With this extension you can simply right click on a JSON object and sort the items inside.
TSLint
This extension enables TSLint support for linting TypeScript files in VSCode.
Visual Studio IntelliCode
Installing this extension will give you an even better IntelliSense which is AI-assisted.
Version Lens
With Version Lens you can directly see the currently installed and the latest versions of a package in your package.json file.

HTML/Handlebars/CSS/SASS/SCSS/LESS

CSS Peak
With this extension you can see and edit your CSS definitions from a related stylesheet directly from your HTML files.
IntelliSense for CSS class names in HTML
This plugin gives you auto suggestions for CSS class names in your HTML templates.
Web Accessibility
Using this plugin helps you to find accessibility violations in your markup and displays hints for WAI-ARIA best practices.
stylelint
Lint CSS/SCSS/SASS/Less Style definitions

Angular

Arrr
Arrr is a great extension for the Angular Framework. It lets you easily refactor code and for example mark some lines in the template and move it into a child component.
Angular Language Service
When you are developing an Angular app, this extension is essential: It gives you quick info, autocompletion and diagnostic information.
Angular Follow Selector
This extensions allows you to click on Angular selectors in the template and get redirected to their definition in the component.
Componizer
Componizer let's you easily refactor Angular components into separate child components.

Vue.js

Vetur
Vetur gives you tooling for Vue.js development.
Vue Peak
This extension gives you Go To Definition and Peek Definition support for Vue components.

Handlebars

Handlebars
This extension provides you with code snippets for Handlebars files as well as with syntax highlighting.
Handlebars Preview
With the Handlebars Preview extension you can put a JSON file right next to your Handlebars template and the plugin will inject the data into the template to display a preview of how it would look like.

Git

Git Temporal
Git Temporal is a great plugin for interactively searching in your git history based on a timeline. You can even mark ranges on a timeline to see all the changes in between the chosen time range.
GitLens
Show the authorship of code lines right next to them. This can help you a lot if you may not understand some part of the code: just check out who created it and ask for support.

Other

Auto Correct
You may be like me and there are some words you'll always spell wrong or you making the same typo all the time. One of my common mistakes is to write seperate instead of separate. With this plugin you can define such words or patterns that will be automatically replaced with the correctly spelled word.
Code Spell Checker
With this extension your code is checked for common typos and such unknown words will be highlighted as you may know it from Microsoft Word or other text editor software.
DotENV
This extensions highlights the configuration in .env files
Excel Viewer
If you open and edit CSV or Excel files from VSCode, you will probably need this extension. This allows you to display the data in a formatted table that you can sort and filter.
Debugger for Chrome
This debugger extensions allows you to debug your JavaScript code in the Google Chrome browser from your code editor.
Docker
The Docker extension easily lets you create, manage, and debug your applications containerized with Docker. It also gives you IntelliSense for your related Docker configuration files.
EditorConfig
This plugin will check your workspace for an EditorConfig configuration file and applies these settings to your workspace.
Live Server
With the Live Server extension you can open an HTML file in the browser and the server watches for changes and refreshes the Browser preview.
Nx Console
This plugin gives you a UI for Nx Monorepos and the Nx CLI.
Path Intellisense
This plugin brings you autocompletion for filenames.
Polacode
With Polacode you can mark code lines and create screenshots from the selection. This is great for e.g. presentations or sharing stuff on Twitter.
Prettier
Prettier is – in my opinion – the best code formatter especially when working with JavaScript / TypeScript. The extension for Prettier will allow you to set up Prettier as default formatter for VSCode or just for specific programming languages.
{
"editor.defaultFormatter": "esbenp.prettier-vscode",
"[javascript]": {
"editor.defaultFormatter": "esbenp.prettier-vscode"
}
}
Visual Studio Code Commitizen Support
This plugin adds a command panel for creating Conventional Commits with support.
YAML
This extension gives you a comprehensive YAML language support.
Zeplin
If you work with Zeplin, this official plugin provides you with quick access to your designs.

Google Chrome Extensions

Google Chrome is great and it already brings a lot of possibilities that help developers to improve their web apps. However, there are some really great plugins I am using that I can recommend:

Aqua Buddy
Stay hydrated by using Aqua Buddy! It will notify you to drink some water frequently.
Axe
Axe helps you to improve the grade of accessibility of your site.
Chrome Capture
This extension lets you record and share screenshots, videos and GIFs from a website.
JSON Viewer Awesome
This extension will automatically detect and format JSON files once you open them by calling the URL.
Lighthouse
Lighthouse analyzes your site for performance, accessibility and other common things and gives you a site score as well as some useful information how to improve your site.
Pesticide
Activating these extension lets you outline all elements on a site so that you can easier analyze paddings, margins and borders.
Web Developer
With this extension you will get a toolbox for website manipulation and testing tools. You can e.g. easily disable JavaScript or styles to see how your site behaves.

Scripts and other tools

Dotfiles

Personally, I like to keep my Mac up-to-date and therefore I will install most of my software via the Homebrew package manager. Also, to be more efficient I use the oh-my-zsh framework for managing my shell configuration. Most of my configurations is also published in my GitHub repository called .dotfiles.

Exclude all node_modules from TimeMachine backups (macOS only)

One thing I learned during my career is: backup, backup, backup. It's better to have one more backup than data loss. Fortunately, on a macOS system it's possible to set up Apple's TimeMachine for creating continuous system backups. However, backing up everything takes a lot of time and there are things you don't need to back up like directories syncing with a cloud provider like Dropbox, Sharepoint, etc. Those directories can easily be excluded from the TimeMachine backup by configuration. This will keep the backups smaller and also in case of a restore, the system ready to use after a much shorter time. But what about node_modules directories? For sure: You can exclude them in the same way, but this is very sophisticated and you always need to remember this step once you create a new project. Therefore, I am using a simple script. It looks for all node_modules directories in my development directory (~/dev in my case) and excludes them from the backup:

#!/bin/bash
# exclude all `node_modules` folders within the dev directory
find "$HOME/dev" -name 'node_modules' -prune -type d -exec tmutil addexclusion {} \; -exec tmutil isexcluded {} \;
echo "Done. The excluded files won't be part of a time machine backup anymore."

To be sure the script updates the list of excluded directories frequently, I added a cronjob:

crontab -e

The actual cronjob config is the following:

0 12 * * *  cd $HOME/dev/.dotfiles && ./time-machine-excludes.sh # every day at 12:00

Feedback

Now as you know my dev setup, it's your turn! Is there any great tool or plugin you can recommend? Then just contact me via E-Mail or Twitter and let me know!

Thank you

Special thanks goes to Ferdinand Malcher for revising this article.


Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash