Wednesday, 29 April 2009

How on earth did we test the web without these tools?

I've done a fair bit of Web and Flash testing recently and I suddenly realised how much I rely on various tools I have installed to help me. In fact, I don't know how I ever managed to test web sites without these. So in this post I'll provide a wee introduction to the tools I've used in the past few months. If you don't use the following tools then I'd love to know which tools you use to get visibility into, and control of, your testing.

to finish this draft post and kick it out into the live environment
- thanks Julian :)
Fiddler... ah... my current favourite web testing tool. An easy to use proxy that records all the traffic between your browser and the server. It lets you set breakpoints and 'fiddle' i.e. change, the responses and requests - great for simulating odd conditions and conducting exploratory testing.
It has an 'autoresponder' facility where, given a url pattern, you can have fiddler respond with 404's or saved files. An absolutely essential tool. I had to test a flash app recently and I could not have setup some of the conditions I needed without Fiddler. Did I mention I consider this tool as absolutely essential? Download it now. (I use the latest BETA - it always seems stable enough for me). Watch the webcasts to get up to speed quickly.
Julian mentions Firebug in his post and I concur - a great little Dom explorer, cookie explorer (with the Firecookie addon), performance checker (with Yslow) JavaScript viewer and debugger (although for JavaScript development I prefer Opera Dragonfly), and more. Another great tool for exploratory testing since you can amend the Dom directly and send odd values back to the server nice and easily.
For years I wanted a 'testers browser' which would let me easily view and mess about with the web pages I tested. FireFox with Firebug has turned out to have all the functionality I wanted back then, and with the addition of Fiddler you have an amazingly powerful and free set of testing tools.
If you only download two of the tools listed here - download Fiddler and Firebug.
If you have to check the styling of certain elements. The Firefox plugin "CSS Viewer" makes that task easy. This way I don't have to hunt through the Dom and trace back through the CSS files.
A plugin for Firefox and IE that we mentioned before. And still great.
Despite using Fireshot I still use 'normal' screenshot tools - sometimes for taking a capture of the CSS Viewer dialog to paste into a bug report. And at the moment my "opensource screen capture tool of choice" award goes to... Greenshot.
I use the XPather Firefox plugin all the time when I write automated tests. It helps me optimise my xpath statements and test them out before I pop them into the scripts. I could not automate as well without it.

The above set of tools represent my minimum toolset for web testing.


  1. I would add a firefox plug in called link checker. By just right clicking on the page, it would check which links on the page under test and which are not valid. Cool tool!

    Thanks for the reminder Samuel. I do have LinkChecker installed - a very convenient way of doing a quick check on the page with the results report visually. Everyone - follow Samuel's suggestion and install it too.

  2. I'd also add the firebug extension Dust-Me Selectors to check for unused CSS.

    Also for firefox the Web Developer Toolbar is very useful.

    Thanks Nick, I haven't come across Dust-Me Selectors before - I shall try it out. And I thought I had Web Developer Toolbar installed, but I don't - so I shall do that. Thanks for the pointers.

  3. [...] How on earth did we test the web without these tools? – Alan Richardson (Evil Tester); [...]

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