Three handy utilities

Volume 12, Issue 1; 07 Jan 2009; last modified 08 Oct 2010

For the New Year, three handy tools. Two for the Mac and one for everyone.

In the past few weeks, I've found myself relying on three new tools. Well, knew to me, anyway. In case you haven't discovered them, here are three tools you should check out.


The first is ack!. If you find yourself typing:

find src -type f -name "*.java" -exec \
    grep PipeNameBinding {} /dev/null \; \
    | grep -v \.svn

or things like it, ack! is for you. Ack! searches over heterogeneous source code directories, knows how to skip revision control files, and pretty prints the results. FTW!

The second two are Mac only. Probably not reason enough to swtich, but you never know.

HTTP Scoop

I don't know how I developed web applications before HTTP Scoop. HTTP Scoop watches network traffic. It identifies HTTP requests and responses, parses them, and presents them in a clear, easy to analyze manner.

If you need to know what you sent to the server and what it said in response, HTTP Scoop is just the ticket.


ExpanDrive turns any host you can reach through SSH (among other things) into a disk drive.

Want to edit some files on your machine at work? Turn the home directory on your remote machine into a mounted disk and use your favorite tools. In fact, my favorite tool, Emacs, has this ability built in, but it's still convenient to be able to have such transparent access to any server.


You can pass -H to grep to force it to prepend matching lines with the filename, instead of giving it a dummy /dev/null second file to search.

But yes, that's a common enough task that I have a tiny shell script called 'g' that removes CVS/*, .svn/* and .hg/* files from the results, too.

—Posted by Cameron McCormack on 08 Jan 2009 @ 05:49 UTC #

A free alternative to ExpanDrive is MacFuse. It's a port of the FUSE filesystems in userspace and supports ssh, ntfs, and several other neat tricks.

—Posted by Martin Probst on 08 Jan 2009 @ 07:07 UTC #

Norm, have you checked out sshfs? (GNU/Linux and OS X)

You can even put it into /etc/fstab!

—Posted by Noah Slater on 08 Jan 2009 @ 12:25 UTC #

A not-Mac-specific alternative to ExpanDrive:

Not tried it yet but keeping it mind in case of circumstances where it would be useful.

Just installed ack-grep on Ubuntu. Looks very handy, thanks for the tip.

—Posted by Ed Davies on 08 Jan 2009 @ 12:56 UTC #

re: HTTP Scoop -- as a free alternative in FireFox, you could use FireBug and its Net tab.

—Posted by Rob Koberg on 08 Jan 2009 @ 03:46 UTC #

Yes, FireBug is great for transactions in the browser, which is the example I mentioned. I've actually been working with non-browser AtomPub tools, too. That's why a tool that works at the OS level is so useful.

—Posted by Norman Walsh on 08 Jan 2009 @ 06:43 UTC #