3 min read

What is Firebug?

Firebug is a free, open source tool that is available as a Mozilla Firefox extension, and allows debugging, editing, and monitoring of any website’s CSS, HTML, DOM, and JavaScript. It also allows performance analysis of a website. Furthermore, it has a JavaScript console for logging errors and watching values. Firebug has many other tools to enhance the productivity of today’s web developer.

Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at our fingertips while we browse a website. Firebug allows us to understand and analyze the complex interactions that take place between various elements of any web page when it is loaded by a browser.

Firebug simply makes it easier to develop websites/applications. It is one of the best web development extensions for Firefox. Firebug provides all the tools that a web developer needs to analyze, debug, and monitor JavaScript, CSS, HTML, and AJAX. It also includes a debugger, error console, command line, and a variety of useful inspectors.

Although Firebug allows us to make changes to the source code of our web page, the changes are made to the copy of the HTML code that has been sent to the browser by the server. Any changes to the code are made in the copy that is available with the browser. The changes don’t get reflected in the code that is on the server. So, in order to ensure that the changes are permanent, corresponding changes have to be made in the code that resides on the server.

The history of Firebug

Firebug was initially developed by Joe Hewitt, one of the original Firefox creators, while working at Parakey Inc. Facebook purchased Parakey in July, 2007.

Currently, the open source development and extension of Firebug is overseen by the Firebug Working Group. It has representation from Mozilla, Google, Yahoo, IBM, Facebook, and many other companies.

Firebug 1.0 Beta was released in December 2006. Firebug usage has grown very fast since then. Approximately 1.3 million users have Firebug installed as of January 2009.

The latest version of Firebug is 1.5. Today, Firebug has a very open and thriving community. Some individuals as well as some companies have developed very useful plugins on top of Firebug.

The need for Firebug

During the 90s, websites were mostly static HTML pages, JavaScript code was considered a hack, and there were no interactions between page components on the browser side.

The situation is not the same anymore. Today’s websites are a product of several distinct technologies and web developers must be proficient in all of them—HTML, CSS, JavaScript, DOM, and AJAX, among others. Complex interactions happen between various page components on the browser side. However, web browsers have always focused on the needs of the end users; as a result, web developers have long been deprived of a good tool on the client/browser side to help them develop and debug their code.

Firebug fills this gap very nicely—it provides all the tools that today’s web developer needs in order to be productive and efficient with code that runs in the browser.

Firebug capabilities

Firebug has a host of features that allow us to do the following (and much more!):

  • Inspect and edit HTML
  • Inspect and edit CSS and visualize CSS metrics
  • Use a performance tuning application
  • Profile and debug JavaScript
  • Explore the DOM
  • Analyze AJAX calls

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