Monday, June 28, 2010

What is NetScanTools?

Let's start with a little history. Back in 1995 - the dawn of the public's awareness of the internet when the World Wide Web was still in it's infancy, there were very few network enabled applications for Windows 95 or Windows NT 3.5. Many of those tools that were out there were simple one function tools. A couple that I specifically remember were WS_PING and WS_FTP written by John A. Junod. I still have a very old functioning copy of WS_FTP. Those tools were eventually marketed by Ipswitch.

Junod's tools, along with others inspired me to combine several tools together in a convenient package rather than having multiple programs each doing a single task. Because I thought networking, specifically the internet, was the direction things were going, I decided to put together a simple DNS lookup tool (IP address to hostname and vice versa) called Get Host Name, Finger and Socket Info and make it work in Windows. (Remember that in 1995 Unix, BSD, Solaris etc, completely ruled the networking roost. Windows and networking were mutually exclusive ideas to Unix experts - they chuckled at the thought of even seeing a Windows machine on a network.) NetScanTools was compiled using Visual C++ 1(?) - a 16 bit version. I quickly wrote the program simply to boost sales of a long since dead duplicate file location utility called SystemScanTools. Since my new tool worked on a network, I called it NetScanTools. Here is a picture of the v1.10. Believe it or not it still works - I took this picture today.

See the tabbed interface? It's something I think I used before anyone else as the basis of this type of multifunction tool application. This type of interface is still popular with some of long time customers because you can run more than one tool simultaneously. Unfortunately our current 'Outlook' style interface didn't allow more than one tool at a time. But in NetScanTools Pro version 11 we are bringing back the ability to run more than one tool simultaneously.

One thing lead to another and NetScanTools got popular. Really popular. So popular that we were doing 3 GB transfer of downloads a day - we had to have multiple download sites. In 1998, we decided it was time for a more advanced 'Pro' version. So in July 1999 NetScanTools Pro 1.0 was released. We continued on with NetScanTools Standard as it was now known until August 2004.

Fast forward to now. I'm working hard on NetScanTools Pro version 11. It will have an updated 'Outlook' style interface with a Favorites left panel group and it supports simultaneous tool operation. Plus it has the ability to automatically save all results to a database. Just like NetScanTools LE (Law Enforcement) version. The program is being refocussed to make it very clear what each tool does and to separate the tools into more logical functions.

What is NetScanTools? Quite simply, NetScanTools brings together a wide variety of networking tools into one easy to use package on a Windows 7/Vista/XP/2008/2003/2000 environment. The tools range from simple tools like NTP Time Sync to complex ARP tools and even more complex DNS tools.

So who needs NetScanTools Pro? Lots of people. It's primarily useful to network engineers or network technicians because it puts many tools they need in one place. The tools range from specialized DNS tools to ping sweep, arp sweep, packet generation, packet capture and a fairly complicated whois tool. Much of what is in there was added as a result of customer feedback. Although it has been historically IPv4, I am going to be putting more IPv6 functions in it because that's where the future is.

Why should you pay for something that you can get for free? Good question. I've looked at quite a few of those free Windows based network tool apps. The ease of use is often not there. The freeware ones simply don't always function as advertised, and some that are advertised as free are not really free - many of the coolest functions on that not-really-free popular app stop working after X days. And as is the case with most freeware, development goes along for a few years then suddenly stops. I've seen it happen to several apps. But we are still here. If you need to call and ask a question, I'll talk to you. If you need to email, I'll email back (please whitelist or you may not get a response - personal rant against those blasted overzealous spam filters). So thanks to all those who have supported us over all these years. We hope to continue providing this tool for a few more years.

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