Improving your toolset

The problems

After I had thrown away Flash CS3 and started to work with HaXe, I found myself in a somewhat spartan situation. Manually linking art resources by handcrafting a xml document isn’t exactly the most fascinating or fool-proof part of game-development. Notepad++, the text editor I’m using, offers syntax highlighting for a wide variety of languages and has tabbed browsing and can display function lists, but that’s where it ends, too. I don’t have auto-completion, compile buttons and visual settings interfaces, and so on.

Also, I’m spending a lot of time on school these days, so where possible, I want portable solutions. I want to be able to plug my USB stick into just about any computer and start developing right away.

The solutions

So far, I’ve found a few helpfull tools. One of these is LetMeType. Basically, it monitors what you type, and offers suggestions based on what you’ve typed before. It’s pretty customizable and provides a nice auto-suggestion ‘feature’.

To log my progress and to keep track of bugs, todo-lists and anything else, I’m using EverNote 2.1. The free version provides more than enough functionality: a database of post-it notes, where notes can contain anything from text to images and graphs. All organizable, you can even place checkboxes in notes and filter them for done and to-do checkboxes. I used to hate documenting and logging, but this has made it a lot easier.

Besides that, I’m also using simple batch files. They’re pretty usefull for automated processes like creating archive swf’s and compiling code into them.

And just recently, I got back into Python. I’ve written a script that easily adds a class file for me, places it in the right folder and adds the right package information into the file. I’ve written some more quick tools while I was at it, and within a few hours I added 3 usefull tools to my toolbox. With an average size of 60 lines of code each. smile.gif

I’ve also tried some png optimization tools to cut down on .swf filesize, but it seems that SwfMill is pretty good at optimizing them itself: the 70 kB that PngOptimizer gave in a certain situation (a 50% gain) turned into a marginal 2 kB .swf filesize decrease. Optimizing the smaller images didn’t have any effect at all.

Further plans

I’m still editing the archive xml by hand though, but it looks doable to create a quick tool for it. Something that’s crawling through my resource folders while creating a suitable xml archive file should be easy, given my productivity with Python. Or perhaps a drag ‘n drop management tool. I still need to give this some more thought.

I’m also backing up the development files each day, and the backup is then automatically sent to my mail account. I’ve looked into some SVN tools before but couldn’t really get the hang of it, but maybe I’ll need to give them another look. I guess I’m just not fast at adapting a workflow without having experienced the reasons that go behind it.

Either way, I’m improving my toolset and my workflow, and that’s a good thing. It makes me more productive, it’s encouraging and on top of that, it’s fun too. smile.gif

Improving your toolset

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