Blog: I Update My Blog and Discover Testing Tools

For the last few weeks, I’ve been updating my blog and my Web site.  This was inspired largely by Blogger’s decision to drop support for blog publishing via FTP.  That would mean moving the blog to a .blogspot.com site, or to a custom domain that wouldn’t be developsense.com or a subdomain of it (later:  not a subdomain, but a subfolder of http://www.developsense.com).  Ugh. Many of my colleagues have taken to using WordPress, and I’ve been admiring the look and feel and features of their blogs, so off I went.  Making the conversion has been a little arduous, but that’s largely because I’ve done a few things in addition to the conversion; I’ve made the blog look much more like the rest of my site, I’ve fixed a number of problems, and added a number of new features.

Along the way, I got quite a bit of help from a number of online resources and tools that I feel are worth mentioning, especially for testers who seek to learn about some of the underlying technologies.

W3 Schools (http://www.w3schools.com).  This site offers tutorials and references for most of the important Web technologies, including HTML, XHTML, CSS, PHP, and plenty more. One of the coolest things about the W3Schools site is its ability to provide you with interactive examples via the TryIt editor: in one pane, you type text; in the other, you see the effects immediately. Short feedback loops are a great way of learning, for me.

Rubular (http://www.rubular.com). This handy online tool focuses on regular expressions.  Like TryIt, it allows you to experiment with regular expressions and see their effects immediately.  When you make a mistake, it’s easy to do experiments that explain it.

Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox (https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60). I found this browser tool indispensible for figuring out gnarly (and largely self-imposed) CSS problems.  Among many other things, it allows you to trace the trail of styles that apply to a particular element in the browser window. Once you’ve done that, you can review the style sheets that are being applied to a page, and edit the styles on the fly.  This is to CSS what a really good debugger is to other kinds of code.  I now find it really easy to figure out problems not only on my own site, but also on other people’s sites, and I can perform experiments that test out possible solutions.

CSS Based Design (http://adactio.com/articles/1109/).  This article by Jeremy Keith (who happens to be the fellow behind The Session http://www.thesession.org, a wonderful Irish traditional music resource) is so old, by Web standards, that it might as well have been written on stone tablets.  But it’s also as direct, clear, and authoritative as other stuff written on stone tablets. It also provides the clearest and simplest explanation of margins, borders, and padding that I’ve been able to find.

BrowserShots.org (http://www.browsershots.org).  Want to know what your page looks like on another browser?  Want to know what your page looks like on another 46 browsers?  Pass the address to BrowserShots, wait a while, and you’ll get to see the page on (as of this writing) up to 47 different browsers. (Admittedly, this begs the question as to why there are 47 different browsers, but I digress.) It’s a free and popular service, so there is a queue.  Submit your page, go off and do something else.

The WordPress Codex (http://code.wordpress.org).  This one is of less general utility, but if you’re setting up or troubleshooting a WordPress blog, it’s indispensible.

As for offline tools, the hands-down award winner is TextPad.  I registered my first copy of it in 1997.  It probably has the highest value per cost ratio for any software product that I’ve ever purchased.

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One response to “I Update My Blog and Discover Testing Tools”

  1. Nice overall post, but i don’t understand your issue with blogger. You CAN use a subdomain of developsense.com with blogger: just insert that data in the right form on blogger settings (e.g. http://subdomain.developsense.com), then create a CNAME in your dns pointing to ghs.google.com. I think it’s even easier and quicker than the old FTP publishing method.

    Thanks for the comment. I guess I didn’t mean subdomain; I meant a subdirectory of the original domain, like https://www.developsense.com/blog. I was concerned that this kind of move would break search engine data and links that other people had created; I wanted to preserve those. Other points: I prefer to keep my entire Web site in one place, on server over which I have (at least theoretically) some level of control. The lack of consistency between my blog and the rest of the site bugged me for a long time, and WordPress afforded the opportunity to fix that. I really appreciate all the extra features that WordPress gives me (like being able to respond to this comment in situ, rather than in a subsequent comment. Plus in the process of doing the switchover, I’ve learned a lot about a number of technologies. All good things, to me.

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