Version 0.6.8 of the User Agent Switcher extension has been released. This is a minor update containing bug fixes and code optimizations.
Web Developer Beta 0.9.9—a preview release of the next version of the Web Developer extension—is now publicly available. This release is for testing purposes only—for a fully supported version of the extension or localized builds please see the latest official release.
Note: If you are upgrading from a previous version it is strongly recommended that you uninstall the extension and restart the browser before installing the beta release.
As a beta release this build is not guaranteed to be stable and does contain some known issues in addition to those listed on the known issues page:
- File size features do not work with files that are not in the cache
- Opening the page in another application does not work on Mac OS X
- ‘View Frame Source’ does not work in Firefox 1.5
The idea behind this beta release is to give people the opportunity to provide feedback about this next version as well as report any bugs. Please report any feedback or bugs in the beta forum or via the contact form.
I have read a few posts online recently that started to make wonder if the Web Developer extension has too many features and that this feature overload is reducing the usability of the extension.
What Started Me Wondering
First, Garrett Dimon posted Be Careful What You Wish For in which he says:
Knee jerk feature addition involves little to no deeper understanding and can be very harmful to the success of an application.
Then Jason Fried posted Forget Feature Requests and suggested this method for dealing with feature requests:
So, ask for requests, read the requests, listen to your customers, and then forgot what they said. Let them remind you over and over and over again. That’s how you find the real gaps in your product.
I found both of these posts interesting, but what really made me tie them back to the Web Developer extension was Roger Johansson’s post about Evaluating Web Sites For Accessibility With Firefox where he writes:
I regularly use the Web Developer Toolbar for evaluating accessibility, but I never realised some of the commands Patrick mentions existed. Outline Custom Elements, Linearize Page, and View Form Information are all very useful commands that I’ll be using a lot now that I’ve been made aware of them.
Feature requests for the Web Developer extension come in via either email or the forums and as long as I feel the request makes sense then it is added to the to-do list. I typically then work on the features that I consider to be the most useful or are getting the most requests, as well as any that can be implemented easily.
This is fairly unstructured and means I do not necessarily have a clear vision of what I am going to be including in the next release. Over time this has contributed to the menus becoming more cluttered and harder to navigate.
In version 0.8 of the extension the menus were tidied and I have repeated this exercise for the next release. In addition to adding menu separators, I have also replaced the alphabetical sorting of features with something hopefully more intuitive. Now the features under each category are grouped by behavior in the following order:
- Disable functionality.
- View functionality.
- Edit functionality.
The new CSS menu can be seen here, for example. As soon as I made this change I found the menus easier to navigate, although it will take a little time to get used to some of the new feature locations.
I think the biggest improvement that could be made would be to write some better documentation, but this is always a lower priority than development.
As much as anything this post is about soliciting feedback from users of the Web Developer extension.
Do you find the extension confusing and unintuitive? If you do, is this because of the menu layout or has the extension just become bloated with unnecessary features? Do you think some features should be removed from the extension and, if so, which ones? What other solutions would you suggest to make the extension more intuitive to use?
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then I am honored by the beta release of the Internet Explorer Developer Toolbar. While the AEVITA Web Inspector was a blatant rip-off, the IE Developer Toolbar, although clearly inspired by the Web Developer extension, is a separate and potentially useful tool.
The structure of the menus resembles the Web Developer extension with ‘Disable’, ‘Images’, ‘Misc’, ‘Outline’ and ‘Resize’ all being common between the two tools, as well as the ‘Validate’ menu correlating to the ‘Tools’ menu in the Web Developer extension. Most of the features have an equivalent in the Web Developer extension, although the IE Developer Toolbar contains fewer features – particularly those related to CSS.
There are three unique features of the IE Developer Toolbar that stood out for me.
Firstly, ‘View DOM’ which is similar to the DOM Inspector in Firefox. What makes this feature unique is the option to ‘pin’ the DOM Explorer as part of the browser window which is useful.
Secondly, the ‘Show Ruler’ feature which gave Ben some ideas on how to improve the ‘Display Ruler’ feature that is part of the Web Developer Alpha.
Finally, the ‘Outline Positioned Objects’ feature which I have already added to the to-do list for the Web Developer extension and I am hoping to include in the next release.
A Promising Start
Overall, I think the IE Developer Toolbar is an interesting tool which, while clearly immature, shows some promise and it will be interesting to see how it improves going forward. For a more in-depth review of the IE Developer Toolbar with screenshots check out Cow’s Blog.