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Jolt Awards 2014: The Best Utilities

, August 05, 2014 The best programming utilities of the year
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Ever since the days of UNIX, developers have appreciated the benefits of small single-purpose utilities that do one thing particularly well. These little programs are no longer so little, but they still focus on addressing one problem and they often fill the cracks left open by large packages that inexplicably leave out a key feature or implement it poorly.

In this category of the Jolt Awards, we examine just such handy software tools: the ones that repeatedly save us time or remove an annoying pain point and, in general, just make software development easier.

As such, this category covers a wide range of interesting, often inexpensive products, that make sense to have in your toolbox when need arises. As usual, the top product won the Jolt Award. Normally, the two runners up are awarded Productivity Prizes, but this time there was a tie for third place, so we have three Productivity prizes. We round off the list with the two other utilities that made it through to the final round.

As always, the judges use the tools extensively, discuss the pros and cons among each other over several months, compare notes, and then vote in secret for the winners shown here. What is clear from this year's winners is that UX has really become a much more important factor than in years past. Vendors are spending more time making their products intuitive. This is certainly one of the less-discussed benefits of the post-PC era. Software that does not work well right out of the box seldom gets a second chance.

Note that anyone — judge, reader, vendor — can nominate a product for consideration in the Jolt Awards. There is no entry fee. From the pool of nominees, the judges choose the top products to be finalists, where they are given a much more detailed workout and analysis; after which the voting takes place. To nominate a product for future categories of the Jolt Awards, see the Jolt calendar.

The Jolt Judges for this category were: Andrew Binstock, David Dossot, Robert DelRossi, Atul Khot, Gastón Hillar, and Mike Riley.

We thank the sponsors of the Jolt Awards: Rackspace and Safari Books Online for providing us the tools to assess various nominees. Now on to the year's best utilities…

— Andrew Binstock

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