Metal (Technical)

Developer toolbar for Internet Explorer

Thanks to Victor Boctor, I discovered that Microsoft have released an Internet Explorer Developer toolbar. I got quite excited, as one of the projects I’m currently working on uses quite a lot of frontend JavaScript, and debugging it for non-standard IE is so much less fun than than getting it working on standards-compliant Firefox. I switched on my venerable Windows 98 test machine, only to find the toolbar requires Windows XP. So, I had to reboot my dual-boot Mandriva/Windows XP laptop. I haven’t used Windows on the machine for ages, so of course first there were a wad of critical security patches to download.

Finally, the machine was safe, and I installed the toolbar.
Sadly I’d got it wrong in my head. I use quite a few Firefox extensions, and I’d thought that the JavaScript debugger was part of the developer toolbar. Sadly it isn’t in Firefox, and nor is it in the Microsoft version. Still the developer toolbar in Firefox is exceptionally useful, and I started playing around with the IE equivalent. Only to find it froze IE after approximately two clicks. The tool is still in beta, but I suppose I’ve become spoilt by Open Source beta software that is generally quite solid. Sadly that wasn’t my experience with the Microsoft version.

It also underscored for me how difficult it is for Microsoft (or Opera for that matter, which recently has got some buzz after the latest version was released for free) to compete with Firefox, even if Microsoft does match it for features with their upcoming IE 7 release, and Opera arguably exceed it. With their existing development methodologies, these browsers simply cannot match the scores of developers contributing hundreds of great Firefox extensions, which for me are the biggest advantage of using the browser. I have around 20 installed, and some of them have made themselves indispensable.

Meanwhile, back to my JavaScript on IE hell.