It started with this tweet from Ajay Balamurugadas (@ajay184f):

“I use Texter to write the steps for my bugs. Jing to capture screenshots. Brain to think new test ideas. Freemind to note the ideas #testing”

I hadn’t heard of Texter or Jing or Brain. And because Ajay has credibility with me, I quickly ALT-Tab’ed out of TweetDeck, clicked on my XP toolbar to launch Chrome (which has the “WebPage Screenshot” plug-in next to the URL-finder) typed in Google, and started searching.

In that two-paragraph story above, did you notice there were 9 tools?  It made me think about writing this blog. 

How many times have you been to a co-worker’s cubicle or seen someone do a really good demo at a conference and stand in awe and excitement at a tiny little thing they did on their keyboard without thinking about it — maybe something that had NOTHING to do with the demo itself?

That happened for me back in 2006, when I saw someone using notepad, which I had used for years.  They hit F5 when they were typing test notes.  (I’m not going to tell you what it does, so you get the same A-Ha moment when you try it.)

We trade ideas all day on Twitter, in meetings, in email, and in blogs, but rarely in any of those media do we actually SEE each other test, or even type.  The means by which we use our computers in testing is usually hidden to each other.

I found Jing and Texter right away and found value in them, making Ajay even MORE credible to me.

That’s what colleagues do — they help each other solve little testing problems fast with tools that are either free or easy.

But I also like the way Ajay fit that into a tweet.  It read to me like a user story in a way.

So I tweeted back:

“I use EE4 for screencasts, to collaborate w/ remote testers, Dropbox for file sharing, Rapid Reporter for quick ET demos. #testing”

Ajay soon tweeted another:

“I use MindMeister for mind map collaboration, Skype to get coached, Perlclip to generate text, Color Cop to identify RGB values. #testing”

I suspected he and I could go several rounds like this, leaving each other with more than a handful of good ideas.

But before I could even think to tweet that, he said it better:

“We exchange a dollar, we still have a dollar. We exchange an idea, we have two ideas now 🙂 cc @jbtestpilot Thanks for sharing tool names.”

I encouraged him to write a blog about any of the other tools he used, and I promised I’d do the same:

He did.  

My list of tools these days is mostly eBay-specific and were built-in-house. They include dependency mappers, perf counters that monitor key site functions (Bids, Checkouts, Listings, etc), a searchable index of customer comments, alerts in our Knowledge Base, and JIRA for bug-tracking, Confluence for intranet wikis.

But the tester is still alive in me, so here’s my list (all are free):

Rapid Reporter — Shmuel Gershon’s nifty lightweight tool to manage exploratory testing sessions.

PerlClip – James’ nifty little tool to create long data strings for testing.

Expression Encoder 4 — Microsoft’s nifty little tool for recording screencasts (for bug repro or short how-to training videos) — the non-profit Etherpad Foundation’s nifty little tool to (almost) instantly start collaborating on a document or strategy. – Tim Coulter’s nifty little post-it note creation site (collaboration allowed). 

dxdiag (from the Run command on XP) — meant for info bout DirectX on your Windows PC, but the main screen shows immediate info about onboard BIOS, Memory, Processor, etc.

Ctrl-Shift-Esc — shortcut for bringing up Task Manager in Windows.

Skype, Trillian, Office Communicator – coaching, chat, instant communications

eBay Toolbar — Quick lookup for item IDs and alerting for items I’m watching as part of Live Site testing

FireBug — Firefox (or Chrome) plug-in to quickly find JavaScript errors.

Xobni — quickly searches existing email

FreeMind — for mind-mapping — brainstorming ideas and creates visual “relationships” to other ideas

What’s on your list?

(Maybe I’ll do one on bookmarks next…)