< expLog

DevTools > Inspirational Tools

There are many excellent tools out there that I often find myself thinking about as I work on and build tools; shaped by the ones I've had a chance to use and see. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive – and I have several blind spots around otherwise excellent tools (particularly those built by Microsoft and Apple).

I'll use this note to highlight what I think some tools got exceptionally correct:


eBPF checks several boxes: it enables insights and modifications that used to be impossible, composes remarkably well to allow building several meta-tools, and is fully customizable (you write eBPF programs, and you can modify your code to support eBPF better with uprobes).


Emacs's excellent extensibility is the core of the program. With primitives designed for editing, it's one of the simplest ways I can imagine to build an editor perfectly suited to you.

I know I have, and so have others.


Where Emacs is an extensible meta-program, Vim is a knife for editing text as efficiently as possible. Particularly the editing "language" to quickly navigate and change text: everything from macros to mnemonics. I greatly appreciate the speed and simplicity.


The newest addition to the set of tools I use: I appreciate the care taken to ensure the backing data is under my control; the ability to use Org-mode is terrific. But the reason I include it here is how well it lends itself to organically creating different systems for organizing information.

As well as Roam Research, Athens, and other tools. I've only used LogSeq aggressively and regularly

Suckless (dwm, st)

The simplicity of suckless tools also makes for lean, fast, and unsurprising tools. The code is far more compact than any equivalent tools, making failures easier to debug.

Rust Analyzer

The rust analyzer shifts compile-time feedback into editing and acts as a significant force multiplier: I can see types get reified as I write code, making it significantly more straightforward and faster to iterate.


GitHub pays a lot of attention to make it much easier to get started: there's consistent documentation on what commands to run and how to run them at every step of the way.

IntelliJ IDE

IntelliJ gets a ridiculous amount of things right: everything is accessible by the keyboard, and there's a shortcut to list out all the commands you can run – excellent affordance.

Android Studio

Android Studio takes care of most of the boilerplate for Android, making it much easier to get started. Android has several peculiarities around how file organization and Studio helps smooth over a lot of them – establishing a pit of success for Android Developers who might otherwise waste obscene amounts of time simply setting up projects correctly.


Android's Systrace is striking and straightforward; it's easy to use to visualize any traces and not just the ones generated by systrace. Several different systems use systrace for visualization, demonstrating how well it composes with other tools thanks to the simple trace format and decoupled UI.

Navigating inside a trace with a keyboard reminds me of playing a video game: WASD moves within and zooms into the trace. Finding out-of-the-box support for Dvorak with ",aoe" as alternatives made me very happy.

Chrome Web Inspector

The sheer interactivity and thoughtful design of the console are delightful. I particularly appreciate how well the developers handle logging large amounts of data: large objects and arrays are automatically shown with strategic "…" to prevent overwhelming the browser.

I've always found the web inspector – and Firebug, the OG predecessor – to be carefully designed by people who actively use it, and it shows in all the little behaviors.


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