This year, at the annual New Relic Product Offsite, in Sunriver, Ore., the New Relic blog team conducted a totally unscientific survey. The goal: ask attendees to name their favorite software development tools. Specifically, we wanted to know which tools have the biggest positive impact on their day-to-day development work.

The theme of this year’s offsite was New Relic One, the industry’s first entity-centric observability platform that we announced on May 14. But a perennial highlight at every product offsite is the annual “poster session”: a science fair-like event (complete with cocktails and snacks) where  groups and individuals from around New Relic come together, in a delightful open-air setting, to display DIY posters that highlight key aspects of their work.

This year, the blog team also used the poster session to connect with our friends from the Product organization and conduct our (we’ll say it again!) totally unscientific survey.

Just how unscientific was it?

Totally unscientific: We got 28 responses from the more than 700 attendees—hardly a statistically significant sample.  But that’s fine; we weren’t shooting for statistical validity, just a snapshot of the tools our product teams like to use these days.

The responses came from software engineers and managers, technical writers, product managers, designers, security experts, and a scattering of other roles within the company. Across this diverse set of respondents, however, we still noticed two clear favorite choices:

It’s a small sample size, but based on the comments our respondents shared, we’re pretty confident that IntelliJ and Visual Studio have a decent foothold throughout the company.

Kevin Corcoran, Lead Software Engineer—on IntelliJ: “IntelliJ is my most valuable tool because it’s extremely powerful, and it works across all of the dozen or so languages that I need to deal with. It’s best at Java, and that’s the one that I spend the most time on. Our internal tooling integrates with IntelliJ well enough, and I’ve tried other IDEs for non-Java languages, but I keep going back to IntelliJ.”

April Leonard, Manager, Software Engineering—on IntelliJ: “New Relic uses Java services to handle the enormous amounts of data we process. IntelliJ is the best IDE for the Java ecosystem. Its deep integration with the language, templates, and shortcuts take the toil out of coding and let you focus on business logic.”

Jemiah Sius, Senior Product Manager—on Visual Studio Code: “It’s my most valuable tool because it’s fast, the extensions allow me to customize it to my needs, and I enjoy having the build in terminal when I need it. A good code text editor should be every developer’s best friend.”

Clinton Langosch, Software Engineering—on Visual Studio Code: I think it’s gaining a strong following because of its simple, lightweight feel. And it has powerful IDE-like features like debugging, git, and source control tools, code outline, IntelliSense code tools, and a built-in terminal out of the box. It’s also updated frequently and well maintained, which is always a plus. I was skeptical about switching until a friend made me switch. Glad I did.”

Honestly, though, we were really more interested in gaining some insight into why people prefer particular tools. This is an area where the comments on other tools mentioned in our survey were also quite revealing:

Dan Sullivan, Principal Engineer— on Bash:Bash is the Swiss Army knife of data: It slices, dices, finds, filters, sorts, transforms, and formats all in one line.”

Betsy Roseberg, Senior Product Language Writer—on Keyboard Maestro: “Keyboard Maestro saves me time everyday while writing in HTML, because I’ve converted all my most common formatting and words to macros. Instead of writing a new <a href= and manually inserting a URL, I have a macro that creates a new <a href= with the last thing I copied automatically formatted as the URL.”

Mitchell HuffMenne, Senior Manager, Software Engineering—on Trello: In my role as an engineering manager, I have to keep ahead of my teams to keep them from getting blocked, so that requires me to keep track of many different tasks–some of them my own, and others that I need to drive forward outside the team. I use Trello so that I can rest easy knowing I haven’t missed anything, and to help me make tradeoff decisions among the many different ways I could spend my time.”

Haney Badran, Senior Product Designer—on Sketch: “When designing anything from icons to wireframes to high-fidelity mockups you need a fast, reliable tool. Sketch provides this, and allows me to extend the application through plugins. When I switched to Sketch, it was clear that my efficiency increased significantly.”

Chuck Lauer Vose, Senior Software Engineer—on curl: “curl is my most valuable tool because I can use it to ask Docker/Kubernetes about their states, and also validate network connectivity across the network. By no means is it the best tool, but I find myself using it often when everything else falls apart.”

Matthew Wear, Lead Software Engineer—on Sublime Text: “I tend to work with lightweight technologies, so I spend less time fighting my tools and more time writing code. All you need to write code is a good text editor, which is why Sublime Text is my most valuable tool.”

Xavier Le Hericy, Chief Privacy Officer—on pen and paper: “It’s always available, doesn’t run out of battery, and it’s not dependent on any service availability (wifi, etc.).  I can capture words or drawings together. I can jot down notes without even looking at it, making it less intrusive when carrying on a conversation.”

Looking forward to next year

Software engineers being the creative people that they are, we also got a selection of “interesting” responses that included “sleep” and “a table saw.” Sleep definitely makes sense for busy engineers, but it’s not clear how a table saw might contribute to our mission of helping our customers build a more perfect internet.


Isaac Eldridge is a technical content editor at New Relic. View posts by .

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