Robert Glass, in a reflection on Fred Brooks’ Famous “No Silver Bullet” (NSB) essay, wrote in 1988:

“So what, in retrospect, have Parnas and Brooks said to us? That software development is a conceptually tough business. That magic solutions are not just around the corner. That it is time for the practitioner to examine evolutionary improvements rather than to wait – or hope – for revolutionary ones.

Some in the software field find this to be a discouraging picture. They are the ones who still thought breakthroughs were near at hand.

But some of us – those of us crusty enough to think that we are realists – see this as a breath of fresh air. At last, we can focus on something a little more viable than pie in the sky. Now, perhaps we can get on with the incremental improvements to software productivity that are possible, rather than waiting for the breakthroughs that are not likely to comes.”

So, while the real bang for the buck will come in attacking what Brooks calls the “essence” of software complexity rather than “accidence” (e.g. like intellisense), it’s still important to get the accidence stuff down to taking as little time as possible. That’s because accidence stuff adds up.

All that to say that I really dig “Path Copy.” Simply right click on a file in Explorer and it will let you copy the path to your clipboard. How many times have you needed to add a path to your environment variable? How’d you do it? Did you right click and do a properties and then copy and paste? Did you shell out and do a mark and copy? I doubt it was faster than using Path Copy. This is also a really great tool for putting links into an email about a file on a server like <file://myserver/really/weird/and/long/directory/to/some/obscure/file.txt>

The time savings adds up. It sort of reminds me of the time when Steve Jobs was trying to convince Andy Hertzfeld to reduce the boot time of the first Mac. If Steve were to sell the tool, it’d be like this: “Think about it, every time you use it you probably save 5 seconds. Say you need to do that two times a day. That’s 10 seconds a day, or around 42 minutes a year! Do you know how many MILLIONS of developers need to do this each day? Let’s say a measly 5 million do, that’s about 400 years or FIVE LIFETIMES. If people just used Path Copy, we could save 5 lives!! Stop wasting time! Install it today, save a life!”

OK, if we can’t get Steve’s salesmanship, maybe we could cajole Scott Hanselman to add it to his great list of tools.

Now go, install it already – save a life!

UPDATE: It appears that Vista has this built in. Simply hold down shift and then right click on a file and then “Copy as Path.” Read here for more.