The Good Old Browser

Following up on my earlier post (oh how time flies)... I thought I'd continue my conversation on tools. Usually when I give a presentation - someone always asks about some of the tools I'm using - so I thought I'd start with the basics... the browser.


I'm not going to go into which browser is better. With the latest crop of browsers - they are all full of useful features, fast, standards compliant (not 100%!), and free. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember when you could buy a browser!)

My theory is pick one and learn to use it - dig into the settings, find add-on's and really learn to use all the browser has to offer. In our job - we spend a considerable amount of time using the browser - you should be comfortable with your choice!

Currently I use Firefox. I used IE for a long time but when Netscape was reborn as Mozilla I started using early betas and have continued using it ever since. Another benefit: now that I'm 'cross platform' - it's nice using Firefox at work on Windows and going home and using Firefox on Ubuntu with no big differences.

One of the biggest selling points of Firefox is the extensions or add-ons as they are now called. These are small 'plugins' which extend the functionality of Firefox beyond just basic browsing. Similar tools are also available for IE7 and Opera though I don't think there are nearly as many.

You can find a huge list of extensions at the Mozilla site.

Probably the most popular developer extension is the aptly named "Web Developer Extension" by Chris Pederick.

This toolbar has so much functionality built in it's difficult to remember everything it does. Some of the functions I use daily:

While I still use the Web Developer toolbar frequently - I've started using a new extension - it's called Firebug.

Firebug started off as a Javascript debugger but has evolved into a very robust tool. One of the neatest features is the 'inspect' tool - it will allow you to hover over elements in your page - and you can visually see those elements in your page. Very handy for hunting down troublesome CSS. Firebug is still a great Javascript debugger and if you are doing anything with Ajax or one of the many javascript frameworks (jQuery!) it's a lifesaver. Also check out Ray Camden's Coldfile - which is an extension of an extension - it provides ColdFusion debugging within Firebug! (see screenshot above)

Some other extensions which I have installed:

What are your favorite extensions? Or if you use Opera, IE or another browser - I'd love to learn if there are similar tools available.