Taking inspiration from a post by Chris Coyer on Web Developer Economics, specifically that of One Off Software Costs I’ve decided to put together my own list of figures. Unlike Chris however, who had a start up cost of $1,779.98, I think you’ll find my costs are far lower.
These are the applications and software without which I would be unable to do my job.
NetBeans (Free / Open Source)
Having tried a number of different text editors over the years (including PSPad and NotePad++) I’ve settled upon NetBeans as my editor of choice. Netbeans, being an IDE however, is more than just a text editor, and while I have to admit that I probably don’t use anywhere close to all its tools and features, the tools and features that I do use (PHP syntax checking, Git diff highlighting, syntax autocomplete, source formatting, et al) are invaluable.
VirtualBox (Free / Open Source)
A valuable piece of software that lets me run guest operating systems on my PC. My initial reason for using this was to run copies of Windows XP (for IE6), and Windows Vista (for IE7 and IE8) for backwards compatibility testing of Web sites, but in recent months I’ve started using it to run a LAMP development server.
Debian (Free / Open Source)
Used as operating system, this is the L of the aforementioned LAMP development server. There seem to be as many different flavours of Linux as there are religions (and their followers are just as ferocious), but current poster child is Ubuntu, which is built upon best practice and designed to make things as easy as possible. I’ve chosen Debian however, as I’m new to managing a Linux server, so wanted to learn best practice for myself, rather than have it all done for me.
With the first letter of the LAMP abbreviation being filled by Debian above, the last three are filled by Apache (a web server), MySQL (a database) and PHP (a scripting language), which combined, power most of the Web sites I build.
SASS (Free / Open Source)
SASS is a CSS preprocessor written in Ruby which “makes CSS fun again”. It does this by adding a number of features sorely missing in vanilla CSS, including support for variables, calculations, functions and mixins. SASS files need to be compiled before they can be used, but this is handled by running a simple script on the command-line which does this automatically every time they’re saved.
FileZilla (Free / Open Source)
Although I use Git to deploy my sites, no web developer can survive without an FTP client, a piece of software that allows me to transfer files between two computers, such as the local machine and a server.
PuTTY (Free / Open Source)
This is an SSH client which allows me access to the command line of my remote servers. Nuff said.
KeePass (Free / Open Source)
As I mentioned in my article on, in addition to keeping a secure copy of all my own login details, I have a duty to do the same for the login details of my clients. KeePass, an encrypted password manager makes this easy.
Although not needed to do my job, this list of software and applications which do make my job easier.
Synergy (Free / Donationware)
I work in an office full of iMacs (my own personal hell) and was given an iMac of my very own to use (f7u12) – so from my second day of working here I brought in my own Windows 7 laptop to use instead. Quickly realizing the benefits of being able to use two separate machines simultaneously however, lead me to Synergy: an application which allows me to share the keyboard and mouse of my Windows 7 machine with the iMac via the network.
Thats right, I’ve actually paid for something… Much like the aforementioned benefits surrounding the use of two separate computers, as a result of working for Propeller I discovered the benefits of having multiple monitors on a single computer. At a minimum DisplayFusion adds a taskbar to the second monitor, but also makes it easy to setup multi-monitor wallpapers, window snapping, and buttons which send the applications to the other monitor.
Wow, so while Chris’ one off costs amount to $1,779.98, mine are a fraction of that at $25 (and even that is optional extra).
By now however, I’m sure that many of you will be painfully aware that I’ve neglected to list Creative Suite (or even one of the many free alternatives such as GIMP or Pixlr) which accounted for $1,299 of Chris’ budget. This is because, as a developer (rather than a designer), I don’t actually have to do all that much image manipulation. What little I do do is limited to basic stuff like image cropping and sharpening, for which I do use Photoshop (a cost of $699, which thankfully has been absorbed by my various employers), but could just as easily do this using either of the free options listed above.
But even removing this from the equation only reduces Chris’ budget to $480.98, which is still almost 20 times higher than mine. And it’s not even like I’m missing out on anything. I’m able to do my job as efficiently and comfortably as he does his.
Anyway, the next post in this series will be in response to Chris’ Monthly Service Costs – watch this space.