Web client side programming... how to make life easier

Last weeks I had to do some extensive client side programming in good old Javascript, and I used a set of tools that made life a lot more bearable than it was in past development where I had the feeling I was completely working in the dark. My last client side project was a tree menu navigation web part for SharePoint portal server 2001 (have a look at: http://spsutil.sourceforge.net), and did I get frustrated not knowing what was going on...

OK, the set of tools I used this time (they deserve some plugging!):

Instant Source, from Blazing Tools (http://www.blazingtools.com). Great tool to look at the code in your browser: both the code that came from the server as the current state of the DOM. The “element under cursor” view is also very useful. 30 day full test version available for download.

PrimalScript 3.1 from Sapien (http://www.sapien.com). The best script editor I have ever seen (did also use it for ActionScript 2.0 editing, I love it!). It interprets the MSDHTML and uses the found info for code completion, it knows your Javascript functions and shows a list of them as children of your file in the file list, it can find the declaration of functions... I was working on HTC files (HTML components, IE specific) and I had to add the HTC extension to HTML file types to get it working.

VS.NET 2003 from Microsoft, great for debugging!!!

HTML debugger in Javascript (http://www.bitesizeinc.net/project/jsDebugger - thanks Daniel) I just stumpled into this one, check it out, looks really promising!!! Catches Javascript bugs in a meaningful way, and it allows you to explore the DOM visually and even change the values. Client side programming and debugging becomes fun again..

There are even unit test frameworks (http://www.jsunit.net/, look also at http://www.xprogramming.com/software.htm if you are interested in unit testing) available!!

The power of client side code is overlooked by most programmers, especially in the current .Net era with ASP.NET server controls where programmers don't look at the resulting code thrown at the browser. All those postbacks... all those HUGE pages (OK, gzip compression solves a problem here, but is OFF by default in many browser configurations. IE sets it OFF by default within the intranet zone!). Would't it be great if web applications were written like Microsoft Outlook Web Access, the online “Outlook” client  (great work!).


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