developer productivitydevelopment processesweb design

Blisk – a Browser to Make Web Programming Easier

Mobile first! Seriously? Do you really optimize your application for mobile usage?

Actually, you can’t. The current state-of-the-art makes it difficult to adopt the “mobile first!” approach seriously. Mind you: that would require you to program your application on the phone instead of using your desktop browser. Until today, I’ve seen such an approach only with iOS programming and with UWP/Xamarin. The application is developed on the desktop, but run and tested on the cell phone or the tablet.

The other day a friend of mine, Dario DĀ“Urzo, showed me another option for web developers. What started as a small JavaScript plugin two years ago has evolved to a full-blown browser in 2016. More precisely, it’s a browser based on Chromium which adds a number of tools dedicated to web designers and web programmers.

Targeting multiple devices

When you open a URL in Blisk you’ll see the web page twice. On the right-hand side, there’s the desktop view you expect. On the left-hand side, you see the same page in a simulated smartphone. As you can see in the screenshot, both views are remarkably different. It’s great to be able to seem both views at a glance. This enables you to truly adopt the “mobile first!” slogan. Even better: if you scroll one of the windows, the other windows scrolls simultaneously. Thus you can compare both the look and the feel of both displays.

Blisk supports a number of devices out of the box. It doesn’t cover every smartphone and every tablet available on the market, but the number of devices seems to cover almost every use case.

Multiple inspect views

Seeing multiple devices at a glance is just a start. You can also open device-specific developer tools and keep them open simultaneously. That, in turn, allows you to find differences between devices a lot faster than with the traditional single window.

Limitations

Being a browser based on Chromium, I’m pretty sure Blisk has an annoying limitation: it doesn’t simulate the device completely. It only modifies the screen estate the replaces the mouse pointer by a large finger touch point. What it does not do is to simulate the rendering engine. If there’s an incompatibility because – say – Safari implements a feature differently than Chrome does, you’ll still miss it with Blisk. You still need to test your application with the real device.

Automatic reload

That’s another feature I’m told to be very useful. You can configure Blisk to watch certain files or folders. When you edit and save a file, Blisk automatically reloads the page. I suspect that’s one of the features that are useful to some and annoying to others, so probably it’s good news you can also switch it off. However, if your application supports reloading, I imagine that’s a tool boosting productivity.

Code analysis

Currently, that’s only a promise. The module providing static code analysis is still under development. I’m looking forward to it. Integrating code analysis into your browser (i.e. your runtime environment) might make you aware of problems much earlier than with traditional approaches such as SonarQube.

Screen shots

Another feature that’s still under development. However, I doubt that’s a killer feature to me. Tools like Greenshot integrate so nicely into my PC I never considered taking screenshots awkward. So I’m curious – maybe the developers have a clever idea I missed?

Integration with other tools

That’s something offering more potential to boost productivity. Blisk offers to provide integration with third-party tools, such as bug trackers and project management tools. Unfortunately, this is another module still under development.

Licence

Blisk has a long licence agreement, but basically it’s free both for commercial use and for personal use as long as you don’t modify it.

Wrapping it up

As long as you are aware on the limitations, Blisk is a great tool for every web designer and web developer targeting multiple devices. At the time of writing, many interesting features are still missing. However, what’s already there looks interesting enough to adopt Blick for development.


Dig deeper

Blick project page
Blick license agreement


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