On DOM Inspecting

I’ve gushed here numerous times about the Mozilla / Firefox DOM Inspector tool and how the insights it provides into the way the page is parsed and rendered by Gecko are indispensable when building a web site. What I haven’t spent nearly enough time doing is gushing about similar tools in other browsers—specifically Internet Explorer and Safari.

Safari Web Inspector

Safari, err, WebKit nightly builds have had a DOM Inspector tool of their own since January, Web Inspector, announced in this post. The tool really holds up well to its older counterpart listing node information, all individual and combined style rules, highlighting the active element in the browser window and more. It also has some interesting new features—two shown here—identifying what style properties have been ignored or overridden by another rule and a ‘metrics’ view which shows the box, padding and margin dimensions of any given element.

Screenshot of Web Inspector - Ignored rules

Screenshot of Web Inspector - Metrics

The only feature I find that I miss from the other tool is the ability to change CSS properties on the fly, but its an easy one to work around.

IE Developer Toolbar

What did I do before this thing? Seriously.

Screenshot of IE Developer Toolbar

Its kind of a mix between toolbar and inspector with common items like outlines and validation tools, but the key feature is certainly the ‘View DOM’ window. Again, the features are in line with the other available tools, you can walk the DOM tree, inspect properties, change attributes of individual nodes and see important information like ‘hasLayout’ values right along side the CSS properties. But there seems to be one big missing piece that I find getting caught up on regularly when working on complex sites—no view of individual CSS rules, only combined rules—this can make trying to trace values through different style sheets (and sometimes IE only ones) still a bit hit or miss on complex sites.

Don’t let that prevent you from installing it, even without that key-to-me feature it still is a tool that has saved me countless hours since I’ve installed it. You can grab the IE Developer Toolbar here for IE6 and IE7 and read up on it here.

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