Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Must Have Tools

We've added some extra staff to help out with our work load. One thing that keeps surprising me is that there are tools that I use every day (hour, minute ...) that other web developers haven't heard of. This doesn't reflect poorly on them. Really it's more about how we create our own development culture and forget that it might not be the norm. But rather is based on a fairly random sequence of events and connections that are unique to your situation. Anyway thinking about all this it seemed a good time to talk about the tools I use everyday and can't live without. I'm not talking about the big things (ie Dreamweaver, Flex Builder etc). But rather the extensions and services that fill the gaps the core applications can't or don't do. So here they are :

Firefox Extension : Firebug

The Firebug extension for Firefox allows you to view the html, javascript and css of any web page you can view in your browser. More than that it allows you to navigate the code view by selecting elements of the page (and visa versa) and to modify the css (temporarily) to discover how things work in that page or to debug problems in your page. For me working in a browser that doesn't have Firebug is like trying to eat porridge without a spoon.

Firefox Extension : Web Developer Toolbar

The Firefox Web Developer Toolbar does some of the things that Firebug does and a bunch of things it doesn't. Somethings can be done without the toolbar. But the toolbar makes it easier. For example, you can disable/enable javascript, clear the cache, resize the browser, disable/enable css (just to name a few) all with a couple of clicks. Between Firebug and the Toolbar there isn't much you can't do that you might want to do.

IE : Developer Toolbar

Sure most web developers have realised what a piece of junk internet explorer is. Unfortunately most of the world still has some catching up to. So we still need to make websites work for Internet Explorer. In fact most of the problems that need to be solved relate to making things work in IE. So the good news is that the IE Developer Toolbar is a really good. It features cover most of what the Firefox Toolbar does and some of what Firebug does. It even does some things better than either of the Firefox extensions.


Not an extension but a web service. A search engine for the API's of most of the programming languages a web developer will ever need. For example, select PHP and it will search and display documentation from Very fast. Very useful.

Social Bookmarking : BlueDot

There are obviously a few social bookmarking services on the web and they all have their strengths. I started using BlueDot in January this year and have never regretted it. It is a great way to maintain and access your bookmarks. What is essential isn't BlueDot but rather using online bookmarking. You will see tools and solutions that you don't need today or that you'll need again in a few months. You need to be able to find them quickly wherever you are. I think this is more important for web developers that for most other groups. A good bookmarking service consistently maintained is essential.

That's it. I may think of more over the next few days. But these are the things I really couldn't live without. Maybe you already know about these. Maybe you don't. What are your must have tools?

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