Hey Foxy!

For developers contemplating switching to Firefox, be aware that there’s much more recommend the browser than awesome standards compliance. With the addition of a couple of extensions, you can turn it into the developer’s wet dream (or equivalent—if there is one*—for the ladies). Here’s my quick list:

  • Web Developer: there’s so much to see and do that it’s hard to know where to begin. This toolbar allows you to disable all sorts of web functionality to see how your app looks in barebones format. It’s got a form population feature that’s tremendously helpful when testing interfaces. There’s some great features that help you visually see different elements of the page that you’d normally have to go down to source to view. The clincher, for me, are the CSS features. The option entitled “View Style Information” shows the complete cascade when you hover over an element and the exact set of styles being applied when you click on the element. The “Edit CSS” option is an absolulte godsend when doing any sort of complex CSS, which is what I’m great at. It opens up a sidebar with the external stylesheet. You can then edit the styles and it dynamically displays the results in the page. No reloading, no save-and-refreshing. You can then save the stylesheet or revert back to the unaltered one. If this feature sounds impressive, it’s even better when you see it in action.
  • Venkman: this is an extension that adds a full-featured Javascript debugger to Firefox. Yeah, I know you can use Microsoft’s debugger for Javascript but I’ve never gotten it to work to my satisfaction. From what I have seen of it, Microsoft’s version lacks a lot of neat stuff in Venkman. I love how you can debug all Javascript, even the stuff that the browser is using internally. There’s even syntax coloring and profiling, though I’m not sure how useful that really is. If you’ve ever used VisualStudio’s debugger, then you’ll be right at home in Venkman and you’ll understand its utility.
  • DOM Inspector: Venkman has a DOM inspector side to it, but it’s overkill for most DOM inspection needs. You can do searches for a particular ID and then see the node from all sorts of different angles. I use it a lot when I didn’t have the foresight to start up Venkman but I need to see the state of a Javascript object or all the CSS being applied to a particular element.

There are tons of other great extensions out there, but this triumvirate is downright indispensable to the web applications developer.

* The female orgasm is always trumpeted as the best and most powerful but I don’t think any lady has ever had one in her sleep.

[UPDATE (8/2/2005): Did I really discuss “nocturnal emissions” in the context of recommending Firefox? Weird.]


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