When a new web browser garners headlines around the developer community such as ‘The browser every developer has been longing for’ and ‘Web developers dreams come true’, as a developer your ears perk up and immediately you launch a few tabs to investigate further, or at least I did this week.
Seemingly a Chromium based browser called Blisk is taking on simplifying some basic automation tasks and baking them into the browser itself without the need for externally configured tools, services or plugins. The developers also seem to be taking the approach of emulating a range of mobile devices that can be presented on screen alongside the desktop version of a site under development. Both of these tools alone stand to speed up development and debugging of responsive layouts. Although you cannot replace testing layouts on native devices, the emulation does at least expand the range of device screen sizes that a developer can debug media queries against.
I ran one of the responsive sites that I developed through it and placing an iPhone as the device I could take a look at how the footer would respond to the smaller screen size, without having to load up a separate device.
Auto Refresh and ‘Scroll Sync’
Browser Sync, then at the moment still seems to be the best option for device testing because right now it looks like the latest release of Blisk allows for automation just in this one browser. However it doesn’t take much imagination or time looking over the settings panel to realize that Browser Sync capabilities might be coming to Blisk soon! If that happens Blisk could easily become a GUI to all those separate automation tools. Not everyone is comfortable on the command line, visually focused designers in particular would favor this over a bunch of terminal windows.
Setting up auto refresh was pretty easy! Particularly if you have a well structured local dev environment like I have which involves Virtual Hosts and such. It’ll work with localhost for sure if you’re doing flat file development. The domain that you want to auto refresh to work on does need to be open in a tab before trying to set this up. I went ahead and set my .local domain version of my site to be watched and then linked that to the document root of that virtual host. Any changes then made to the files in that document root will be shown in Blisk without needing to refresh the browser.
Full Scroll Sync looks set for future releases. Emulation of scroll sync in the mobile device seems to allow the device in the left pane to follow the action in the desktop pane. In addition to these features there are also the standard dev tools as you would expect to see in Chrome, such as the inspector and console. There are also things baked in to Blisk such as screenshotting, video capture and even better bug reporting capability. It is certainly worth checking out and as far as setting up local environments goes, the less setup work to achieve a basic level of automation is very welcome! I would still use Browser Sync at this stage for cross browser and multi device refreshing.
Here is an introduction video to chew over …