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5 Useful Tools/Resources for Web Developers
There are a plethora of things I use to make my job as a web developer simpler; from good IDEs, to community-maintained documentation. This, however, is just a round up of five tools and resources I seem to use a lot - the list is absolutely not exhaustive!
An on-line tool that can be used to write and test regular expressions. Totally invaluable if you like to validate your user input, parse strings, analyse patterns, search and replace text or, well, any number of things really! It has a variety of useful little features built in:
- The ability to see explanations for the exact rules in your regular expression by hovering over them
- Tick boxes to add flags like global and multi-line
- Analysis of the way your regular expression has been parsed, including listing the full expression, capturing groups and flags
- The ability to test search and replace as well as matches
- A list of samples with explanations for you to use and learn from
- A list of community-contributed expressions that match specific patterns e.g. pattern for UK drivers license numbers
Similar: Regex Colorizer
Pendule (Chrome Extension)
For all those who were wondering if their beloved web developer toolbar from Firefox has an alternative in Chrome; yes, it has! Check out your page with and without styles, enable/disable images, use the ruler to measure for pixel-perfection, validate code, pick colours from the page… it’s all there!
Whilst we’re on the subject of Chrome, I find that the built-in developer tools are nothing short of fantastic. Since switching to Chrome I have not missed Firebug at all. You can monitor pretty much everything you could ever wish if you just hit ctrl+shift+i.
Similar: Firefox Web Developer
There is also a useful ‘embed’ feature that will allow you to display a fiddle on your web page, or your blog. A bit like this…
A simple but valuable tool that will display your website as it is seen in common resolutions for alternative devices; so you can see how well your website behaves responsively.
There are various tools that can be used to physically resize your own browser, but if you don’t want to do that, or want to see the various resolutions quickly side by side to compare, this site really does the trick.
More of a resource than a tool. Narrow down by tag(s) and you can find the answers to most of your pressing development questions. Or if you can’t, just ask!
The great thing about Stack Overflow is that it is essentially run by the community. Questions are asked, answers are written, and people can edit content so that questions and answers always remain clear, concise and relevant. You can also vote up and down questions and answers, so that you find the best content quickly.
Similar: There are various other stack exchange sites for roles that might overlap with web development, including Programmers, Database Administrators, User Experience, and Server Fault (systems administrators)
What are your favourite web development tools and resources?
How I Think Google+ Should Be Used
Google+or ‘Google Plus’ is Google’s latest brainchild, a social network to rival both Facebook and Twitter. I was fortunate enough to be given an invite just days after its initial launch, and have been using it happily since. I have a good idea of where its benefits and drawbacks lie, and a good idea of how to use it to its full potential.
Why Google+ is like Twitter
You can add people to your circles, which are a bit like Twitter’s lists - only much easier to manage with a swanky drag and drop interface. You can add as many people as you like to your circles, and filter and share posts based on them. People are under no obligation to add you back, but unless they do, you will only see their public posts. You can re-share content, but messages can be over 140 characters in length.
Why Google+ is like Facebook
It is very easy to have a conversation on Google+, as people can comment on posts you submit (so long as you don’t disable comment posting). There is also a ‘+1’ button similar to the ‘like’ button for posts and individual comments. This gives much more of a community feel to the whole Google+ experience. You can post links, photos, videos and more to Google+.
Steps To Becoming a G+ Guru
Get Signed Up
You’ll need to grab an invite. I’ll happily send you one if you comment here with your email address, or email me at email@example.com.
Complete Your Profile
Choose a good profile photo and a good tagline to appear underneath your name - these are the things that people are most likely to use to identify who you are and which circles to put you in. It also helps to list links of all of the other social networks you can be found on for people to recognise you.
After that, follow Lifehacker’s guide to migrating all of your facebook data to Google+.
Add People To Your Circles
You can start by adding me, and your Facebook friends by following the aforementioned guide to migrating Facebook data to Google+. Then perhaps take a look through the groups at group.as to find people with similar interests. Don’t be afraid to add people, the worst that can happen is that they won’t add you back, but you can still interact on their public posts.
There are many different ways of interacting on Google+, and don’t just involve telling the world what you happen to be doing at this instant. Post related updates to circles of people who have a common interest, comment on other people’s posts, create a poll, share links, videos and photos from the web, or upload your own. You can even join a hangout and video chat online… something I’ve not been brave enough to try yet!
Make The Experience Better
Dig in to the countless online services and extensions available for both Chrome and Firefox that will make your Google+ experience much better. Here are a few of my favourites:
- gplus.to allows you to create a special short URL for your Google+ profile URL, you can visit mine at gplus.to/maccath
- Start Google Plus for Chrome and Firefox allows you to cross-post to Twitter and Facebook, and view your Twitter and Facebook feeds in your Google+ stream.
- Google Plus Minus for Chrome allows you to choose exactly which circles show up in your stream, instead of having to flick through individually.
- Check out The Mother Of All Google+ Resource Lists for even more G+ goodies.
People have spoken about Twitter and Facebook becoming obsolete with the introduction of Google+, but I don’t believe it to be true. Google+ is a beautiful Twitter-Facebook hybrid, but I still use Facebook to share things with close friends, and Twitter to publically share nonsensical little things on a whim. Nevertheless, Google+ is a great addition to the social media arsenal, and I hope to see you there!
Night With An iPad
We just got a new iPad at work. To take to meetings, perform demonstrations of mobile applications and the mobile web, and goof around on. It’s currently doing the rounds - each of us gets to take home the iPad for a night, and it was my turn first. Well, excluding the boss, of course. Here’s what I thought.
The first thing you’ll notice when you pick up an iPad is damn, it’s heavy! Most of what I did with it was for brief spans of time, but I can imagine if I were sat on the tube train, holding it in one hand, playing a game with the other… it’s going to get pretty achy pretty quick.
We got a lovely orange (peach, like our company logo, get it?!) coloured magnetic cover to go with our iPad. It simply sticks itself to the edge of the iPad through magnetism, which is nice and simple… but it’s not that secure! Don’t be fooled and try to pick the thing up by its cover. I almost made that mistake but thank the lord it didn’t have very far to fall into my arms or I may just have forfeited my life. The cover isn’t just a cover, though. As you can see in the first photo, it also doubles up as a stand. Takes the weight off your hands, phew!
It also came engraved. So, what did I actually do other than admire the thing? Well first of all I connected it to my WiFi and posted a tweet, of course! Then I went searching for apps.
The app store has a nice layout, very uncluttered… but somehow I couldn’t just find a simple list of all free applications. Maybe I was being blind, but it at least suggests that the navigation wasn’t as intuitive as one might hope. I managed to do a bit of searching, through both the app store and on the internet and picked up a gem - Autodesk Sketchbook Express. That’s the free version, but there is also a paid version.
As a sketching app, I thought it was great. Simplistic enough so as not to overpower the casual doodler, but has all the features you would need - layers, a paintbrush editor, shapes and an undo button! So, I did a doodle that was praised in the office the next day - not bad for a finger-painting non-creative, I suppose.
I also had a little game of Angry Birds (and sucked at it, as usual), and played around with the Books app - downloaded some Jane Austen in case any of the guys fancied reading a bit of 19th century chick-lit. Love it!
I can’t say I’m an Apple convert, though. The only Apple product I’ve ever owned was a first generation iPod Nano and only because, let’s face it, Apple hold a pretty hard monopoly on portable music players. Well, at least they did at the time! The iPad is fun, but once the novelty has worn of it seems to me like it would just be an oversized smartphone, or a very expensive netbook without a keyboard. Sorry guys!
10 Favourite Social Media Websites
I’ve been on a little bit of a social media kick recently, and with the release of Google+ I thought I might share what I consider to be my social media top ten. I don’t blog enough geekery here!
Social media websites are a way of connecting with others and sharing what is happening in your life. They are a trend that has really boomed over the past few years, and you’ve probably heard of at least some of them! Social media websites can be topical, or they can be general - there’s a site for everyone. I enjoy social media as a way of keeping up to date with real-world and on-line happenings.
1. Twitter (Microblogging)
Twitter is a place where you can share everything and anything. You can add links to videos, photos, websites, and other Twitter users in your 140-character ‘tweets’. Connect with others by following them, share insightful or interesting remarks and people may follow you back! Add clickable hashtags (e.g. #knitting) to your posts to link to similar tweets. There are various Twitter applications available for mobile devices so you can tweet on the go. You can find me on Twitter as @maccath or @GP_Katy.
2. Facebook (Social Networking)
Facebook currently has over 500 million users worldwide which makes it the most popular social networking site ever created. Make a profile, search for your friends, update your status, upload photos, play games, create events and keep in touch. There are a wide variety of fan pages that you can ‘like’ and comment on. Facebook is a lot more personal than many other social networking sites, and I mainly use it to keep in touch with old friends - people I may not have kept in touch with otherwise. You can find me under Katy Ereira.
3. Foursquare (Location Sharing)
Foursquare is a location sharing social network. Connect with your friends and check into venues around the world - pubs, restaurants, offices, shops, gyms, train stations and more - to gain points and special badges. If you frequent a place often enough you can earn a mayorship. Leave tips for other visitors to try out, and discover new places near you using the Foursquare search. Because Foursquare is location based you need a mobile device (iPhone, Android, Blackberry etc.) to play. I can be found at Foursquare as Katy E. / Maccath
4. Flickr (Photo Sharing)
Flickr is a site where you can upload and share your photos, as well as discover other people’s photography. A basic Flickr account is available for free, but a pay-for pro account has no limitations - highly recommended for shutterbugs. Visit the Creative Commons section to search for photos that are free to use under certain terms. There are a plethora of different groups under various topics that you can join and share your snaps with and create and partake in discussions. I can be found at Flickr as Maccath / k4chii.
5. Ravelry (Knitting and Crochet Community)
Ravelry is a relatively new knitting and crocheting community. Thousands of patterns are linked on the site for you to browse and search through by yardage, weight, needle gauge, difficulty and more. You can add projects to your profile, upload photos, update your progress, and rate patterns. You can even display your project progress on your website using the Ravelry API. Unfortunately you need to be logged in to access most of the site. I can be found at Ravelry under the name Suinoko.
6. Wikipedia (Collaborative Authoring)
Wikipedia is a giant multi-lingual encyclopaedia written by anyone who wants to share what they know, and can used by anyone who wants to know anything about anything! Some of the things written on Wikipedia must be taken with a grain of salt since anyone can contribute. Check out the citations to find out where information was obtained from and judge its authenticity. It is said that if you choose a random article, click on the first article link in that article, you will eventually end up at Philosophy.
7. Forrst (Web Development and Design Community)
Forrst is an invite-only community for web designers and developers. It can be used to ask questions, share code snippets and previews of design work, and follow the work of other designers and developers. There isn’t really very much to it, but it helps to keep on top of trends and news in the web development world - very handy if it happens to be your career! I can be found on Forrst as Maccath.
8. Tumblr (Microblogging)
Tumblr is a microblogging service like Twitter, but slightly different. Your posts are not limited to a certain number of characters, but are usually short, sweet and frequent. Each post has a type - text, image, video, quote, link, audio or chat log - which is displayed on your ‘tumblelog’ accordingly. Posts can be reblogged by others - much like Twitter’s retweet functionality. I mainly blog on Tumblr about World of Warcraft. My tumbelogs can be found at Maccath and Out of Character.
9. Last.FM (Music Community)
Last.FM is a music community. Its main function is to record what you are listening to through the Scrobbler, and post statistics on your profile page. People can see what you’re currently listening to, your top artists, your top tracks, and compare musical compatibility. Using these statistics, Last.FM can recommend new music to you, and you can even listen to some tracks on-line! Find me on Last.FM as kachii.
10. LinkedIn (Social Networking for Professionals)
LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals. Your profile reads a bit like a CV - listing your educational achievements, previous work experience and special skills - so you can connect with people you could work with or for. Everyone knows how valuable contacts are in the business world, and LinkedIn could widen your circle of influence without even needing to leave the office. I’m of course listed on LinkedIn as Katy Ereira.
What do you think of social media, and which are your favourites?