Web Development Tools

Today’s blog post is going to be a little bit off topic for me… Still something that I deal with… but not 100% related to hosting in general…

Web development tools.

I do development in PHP. It helps pay the bills, and keeps me busy, plus in some weird sort of way it gives me a creative outlet.

Recently I had to build a rather large intranet/internet application for a gymnastics company (you know the kind where you take your kids there and the teach them how to tumble and not break their necks while doing so). Anyways… One of the design criteria that was imposed was to make sure that the site was standards compliant, with the client specifically outlining XHTML compliant.

So I setup the site with templates (since I am a PHP programmer and I know it well, I used Smarty). Making a site that is standards compliant as well as CSS enabled is not easy, as I quickly found out. CSS coding is an art form, because not only do you have to apply the CSS to the site and make sure it works as you intended, but you also have to check it in other browsers to make sure it renders properly there as well (a particular area that IE fails miserably at).

Enter one of the most useful extensions for the FireFox browser to date, Web Developer. To say that Web Developer, or webdev, is good would demonstrate a textbook definition of understatement. Flat out… IT ROCKS.

Probably the feature I use the most is the “View Style Information” feature that allows you to select any CSS element on a rendered page in your browser (regular web page) and see the CSS method behind it. This is such a great feature that it is the primary reason I started using webdev in the first place. About 8 months ago I had a page that I couldn’t figure out how to get to render how I wanted. I must have played with the style sheet for 3 hours before a friend recommended I try this FireFox extension. Within 10 minutes I had figured out the stylesheet quirk and fixed it. Amazing.

But it has other features too… It can outline block level elements (divs, p, etc..), tables, and table cells. It has built in menu items for CSS and HTML validation (using the W3 validator websites). It can display passwords hidden in input/password fields (you can view the source sure, but this is so much easier). You can automatically populate form fields for testing. You can even clear HTTP based authentication, session cookies… It is like the swiss arm knife for web development (complete with the little toothpick).

Another great extension that I use for web development is ColorZilla. It is another extension that sits in the status bar of FireFox and has an eye dropper that you can use to sample any color on the page. It doesn’t matter if it is a picture, a CSS style element, text, whatever… You can get the hex code for the color as well as RGB code for it. I think I use it almost as much as I use the webdev extension.

So there you go… Two of the most useful FireFox extensions for web developers. Load them into FireFox today and start basking in the glow.

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