There's something of the geek in me — I get excited about reference books and free software. I like maps and encyclopedias. I even blogged about it once. And there are things about the writing life that appeal to that inner geek. Here are a few:
MacJournal is a truly nifty and useful journaling program. As I wrote in the post I mentioned earlier, I use it almost everyday and have entries related to all kinds of things I want to remember for work or for writing. I save song lyrics in MacJournal, or J. Mark Bertrand's essays about writing, or blog posts or just random thoughts. I still use the free version I got several months ago, but an updated and beefed up version is published by Mariner Software. At around $30 it's still pretty inexpensive.
I also find some books indispensible for writing: a good dictionary ( I use Webster's New World College Dictionary or the American Heritage Dictionary the most), of course. But I also like some other types of grammar references.
Working With Words, by Brian S. Brooks, James L. Pinson and Jean Gaddy Wilson (Bedford/St. Martin's) has been on my desk for years. It's marketed as a textbook, so it's not cheap, but you can find used copies in college towns. The authors give a clear, concise treatment of grammar, but the most helpful things in the book I find are the lists and guides -- a usage guide, words that present spelling challenges, a guide to avoiding stereotypical language (including words to avoid) and, most helpful to me, words that are (and are not) hyphenated.
I've also become something of a fan of Robert Hartwell Fiske. I own two of his books: The Dictionary of Disagreeable English (Writer's Digest Books) and The Dictionary of Concise Writing (Marion St. Press). Both books are good reads and helpful when you're wondering about usage or trying to reduce the fat in your prose.
There's more: I enjoy reading books about writing. They inspire, encourage and help me see where I might go with this. I've especially enjoyed Stephen King's On Writing and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Both books are engagingly written and deal with writing on a practical level, as well as addressing some of the more esoteric aspects of the craft.
So there's a few of the tools in my writer's toolbox. I'm sure you would have others. But that's what so great — no toolbox is ever too full.