Which browser do you use for daily web development tasks? If my recent Twitter poll is to be believed, three quarters of us use our default browser. Perhaps that’s understandable:
- it’s the application we have open most often
- we have it configured exactly as we like it
- it offers excellent development tools (they all do!)
- we are comfortable using those utilities, and
- it’s the browser we prefer.
But is it practical?
If you’re anything like me, your default browser has 57 tabs open at any time with various applications, tools and articles you intend to read later (… but rarely do!). Development in that browser is possible, but the application already uses many resources. Memory and processing speed may be negatively compromised. A crash can be catastrophic!
You may also have plug-ins enabled which affect code — for example, advertising or script modifiers. You can spend hours debugging a system only to realize the problem is caused by one of your extensions, which wouldn’t be installed by “normal” users. You may be able to temporarily disable those plug-ins, but that choice can affect every tab.
You may also need to perform development actions such as removing cookies, clearing local storage or accepting insecure, self-signed SSL certificates. That can cause complications if you have more than one test application running on the same domain, or accidentally wipe data from a regularly used website.
Despite these issues, only a quarter of web developers open another browser for primary development tasks. Fewer than half of those use a dedicated application such as Firefox Developer Edition or Opera Developer Browser. Vendors work hard to provide these tools since they realize no browser can be successful without support from the web development community. They usually offer beta versions of the latest tools and rendering engines, so they’re a great option. However, if you have an immediate delivery date, you’ll need to test your application in the mainstream edition of that browser to ensure you’re not dependent on a technology that’s not yet available or has a different implementation.
Is Blisk Beta Better?
Blisk is a new browser aimed solely at professional web developers for prototyping, coding, debugging and testing tasks.
The Blisk Beta is available for Windows only, but Mac and Linux editions are in the pipeline. Installation is slightly disconcerting since there are no dialogs or options: Blisk simply installs and runs immediately. (The website suggests registering. It’s not necessary to do so, although future features may require it.)
The application uses the same Blink rendering engine you’ll find in Chrome, Opera and Vivaldi. That’s a safe option, providing the standard development tools you find in those browsers (and, yes, the tools are dockable). That’s where the similarity ends and Blisk enhances your web development workflow …
Scroll-synchronized Device View
Pages display in a dual window consisting of:
- a standard desktop view, and
- an emulated mobile/tablet view.
Nine smartphones and four tablets are currently supported. You can switch by clicking the device icon to emulate screen resolutions, pixel ratios, user agents and touch events. The devices are provided within the browser, so they work offline and don’t require a cloud-based service.
Scrolling is automatically synchronized (although you can disable it):
Auto-refresh on Change
You can associate a URL with a folder location. Blisk will monitor for file updates and auto-refresh both devices as soon as a change occurs:
If you’ve not used similar systems before, it’s the web equivalent of witchcraft. It saves considerable time, since you no longer need to switch between your editor and browser to see updates.
Blisk is an early beta, but some exciting new features are promised in future editions:
- device rotation into landscape orientation
- one-click device screenshots and sharing with colleagues
- integration with third-party services such as GitHub, BitBucket, Dropbox, Google Drive and Trello.
Should You Adopt Blisk?
Blisk shows promise. Mac/Linux support is required, the interface needs polishing and device rotation is essential, but it’s already good enough to use for general purpose development tasks.
Features such as scroll-synchronization and auto-refresh can already be achieved in a more sophisticated way with tools such as Browsersync. However, Blisk works out of the box on any web page with minimal configuration, and there’s less need to open multiple browsers.
I like the idea behind Blisk. A dedicated development browser makes sense, and I’m a convert! Will it entice you away from your default browser?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.