Essential browser tools for Web developers

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What it does: Runs an Internet Explorer browser session inside a Firefox or Chrome tab on any Windows computer. It loads the IE browser version currently installed on the host computer and is compatible with IE versions 6 to 9.

Who recommends it: Ryan Burney, 3 Roads Media

Why it's cool: IE Tab lets you view ActiveX controls without actively firing up Internet Explorer. (Technically, IE is running, but it appears inside a Firefox or Chrome tab rather than as a separate browser instance.) Using IE Tab saves time when doing browser compatibility testing, says Burney: "It's one less browser window you have to have running on your computer."

Boosting SEO

Web analytics services such as Alexa, Quantcast and Google Trends provide all kinds of statistics on websites, from search analysis to page ranking to average time spent on a site. The add-ons below aggregate all of that top-line data into a single view, with hot links that let you drill down.

SEO for Chrome

Author: Google

Browsers supported: Chrome

Price: Free

Where to get it: Install SEO for Chrome

What it does: Provides search engine optimization statistics for the currently displayed Web page.

Who recommends it: Joe Raio, developer, 561 Media in Boca Raton, Fla.

Why it's cool: The most popular Chrome extension, SEO for Chrome, instantly shows pages indexed, social media statistics, back links and other critical SEO data. "I use this when talking with clients to show them how little visibility they have. It gives a bird's-eye view of how many pages are indexed on Bing, Google, etc., and I get those stats instantly," says Raio.

WebRank SEO/WebRank Toolbar

Author: ProbCOMP

Browsers supported: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari

Price: Free

Where to get it: Install WebRank SEO for Chrome, Opera or Safari, or WebRank Toolbar for Firefox

What it does: Shows a Web page's rankings from Google, Alexa, Compete and Quantcast, and provides information on website backlinks, the number of pages indexed with popular search engines, and related social network activity. WebRank SEO is available for Chrome, Opera and Safari; the Firefox version is called WebRank Toolbar.

Who recommends it:

aC/ Steve Herz, president, Web design firm Moonstone Interactive in San Ramon, Calif.

aC/ Josh Singer, Web312

Alexa, Compete and Quantcast use different formulas to get to the same metrics. WebRank puts the results from all three in one place. "We look at them all, and if they're consistent, that tells us something," says Herz. If they all agree, he can feel confident that the volume rank and other data are accurate, he says.

"It gives you an idea, at a very high level, of how your page is doing, search-engine-wise," says Singer.

SEO Toolbar/Mozbar

Author: SEOmoz

Browsers supported: Chrome, Firefox

Price: Free (SEOmoz Pro account: $99/mo.)

Where to get it: Install Mozbar for Chrome or SEO Toolbar for Firefox, or start SEOmoz Pro trial

What it does: Offers basic SEO data, including page rankings and page/domain authority (a prediction of whether a page you've created will rank well once it launches). The Chrome extension is called Mozbar; the Firefox version is called SEO Toolbar on the downloads page but appears in your Add-ons Manager as MozBar.

Who recommends it:

aC/ Shawn Nafziger, SEO director, Effect Web Agency

aC/ Jason Hipwell, Clikzy Creative

Why it's cool: "SEO [Toolbar] for Firefox puts everything I need in one place. I can compare the important metrics of an entire page of Google search results at one time," says Nafziger.

The free toolbar provides basic SEO metrics such as inbound links, top pages and linking domains. To get more detailed data, such as keyword analysis and optimization recommendations, or to run more than three reports per day, you'll need an SEOmoz Pro service subscription, which costs $99 per month.

"The toolbar is extremely helpful because it pulls back-link data automatically into the toolbar," Nafziger adds. "It also allows me to highlight no-follow, internal and external links. Plus, I can quickly see page elements using the Analyze Page overlay."

Collaboration

Working with clients on website designs requires a lot of back-and-forth. The following tool can facilitate that communication by allowing online collaboration as the design progresses.

Notable

Author: ZURB Inc.

Browsers supported: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 8 and 9, Safari

Price: Starts at $19/mo.

Where to get it: Sign up at the Notable site

What it does: Allows Web-based collaboration for website development and review. The service includes a browser add-on that lets you upload screen images for group review and markup.

Who recommends it: Jason Hipwell, Clikzy Creative

Why it's cool: "Notable makes it easy to share designs with a client," Hipwell says. Anyone can make comments directly over a shared image, which can help expedite design approvals.

"We use it for internal designs and client material. Then when we move to development, the page images are put in Notable and all aspects of the site are labeled so the entire development team has an idea of what each project entails," says Hipwell. "It's great for collaboration, and we can always go back and see what someone said."

Related reading: Real Web developers don't use browser add-ons

This story, "Essential browser tools for Web developers" was originally published by Computerworld.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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