10 Tools that a Web Developer ought to have

2008/02/25 |

i'm alive, but not kicking. I'm dead lazy nowadays. Don't ask me why, but I just am into several other things.

Anyway, to break the ice (again), I'll start with a tip for the budding developers out there. Most of the seasoned folks already know about most of these tools. This is just my personal list of essential tools used for my web development.

1. Mozilla Firefox
If you love customizations, Firefox is the browser you want. It is not "the" complete browser around, but its extensibility is enough to make it a clear winner.
As I read somewhere out on the internet, Firefox's secret is the same as Jessica Simpson's: it's chic style is the result of... ahem... extensions.

The single best thing that I love about Firefox is extensions... extensions for any damn thing you can do in the universe (Except, maybe, brewing a cup of coffee )
In fact there are so many Firefox extensions around, that your head will spin.
Now the interesting part. Even you can create an extension yourself. You just have to have a basic knowledge of XUL and Javascript, which is so easy to be called a trifle.
Firefox is a much better browser than Internet Explorer (On second thought, a real browser unlike IE, as Aditya once pointed out.)

So what are you waiting for? Just dump Internet Explorer and start using Firefox.

2. Firebug
This was the first extension I looked for after I installed Firefox in my new laptop at office. I cannot live without this extension. This is a very desirable tool for any web developer.
It lets you inspect and edit HTML, change the CSS style on the fly, debugs javascript code and even monitor the loading times of the components in a web page.

I'm particularly impressed with the CSS/HTML editing on the fly, because I can perfect the CSS without the toiling job of saving the page-loading-saving again.
The AJAX debugging capabilities are also too good. I still don't know of any other method to debug AJAX calls.

3. IE Tab
This is for those people who just can't ignore their readers who still use Internet Explorer. Even if I loathe IE, I can't turn a blind eye towards that pathetic software which calls itself a browser.
This Firefox extension adds an option to open in IE Tab in your Status Bar and in the right-click menu.
If you open in IE Tab, it uses the rendering engine of Internet Explorer, so you will get a view just like in IE, without going out of the luxury of Firefox.
This is useful to fix the nasty IE bugs.

4. Ning
Ning calls itself a personal Social Network creator. But it is more than that. It can do a lot of things like hosting server side scripts for free. Of course, I know it is not all that Ning can do.
I myself am not very much aware of the power of Ning, because I haven't ventured into those seas yet. I'm still in a learning phase with Ning.
Several of the PHP scripts of the bleet are hosted in Ning:
a. Wrinks
b. Javascript Minify
c. Native Search Suggest

All I can say is that very few people have usefully tapped Ning's power.

5. Macromedia Dreamweaver
I'm so spoilt by this software that I can't think of anything else to edit my XHTML/CSS/JS code. I don't use it for any pleasure other than proper syntax check and coloring while I code.

6. TidyJSON
Programmers working with JSON feeds encounter a very irritating problem. The feed you get will usually be a one-liner, and it is a toilsome, if not impossible effort to check the objects inside the JSON feed. This is where TidyJSON comes in handy.
It is a commandline utility to read JSON from a file and format it with good coloring and indentation. Working with JSON will never be the same!

7. URI Encoder
You will definitely need this if you are posting some code in your blog. You'll need to convert all those tags to corresponding URIs. There are umpteen number of online tools to do that. This is just one of them.

8. Javascript Compressor
You can always save some valuable load time by compressing your JS code. This basically removes all unnecessary stuff like extra newlines, comments and renames some variables, so that you end up getting a much smaller file size.
For those crazy ones, you can obfuscate the code too. I don't do that. I want my readers to read and understand the code, if they want.

There are umpteen number of static compressors out there. One which needs particular mention is Stephen's JScripts Minify. It is a dynamic Javascript compressor which requires you to just host the original JS file in jscripts.ning.com and access the file with argument ?minify. Check his post for more info.

9. JavaScript Code Improver
This does just the reverse of the previous. This converts compressed or obfuscated code into a more readable format. Very useful in reverse engineering.

10. The Prototype API document
This is a very useful document for people who use Prototype library extensively. Available as a PDF document as well as a sidebar extension for Firefox.