Christian Heilmann

Author Archive

What if… you could use Visual Studio Code as the editor of in-browser Developer Tools?

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

Starting with the next version of Microsoft Edge, we are running an experiment that allows you to use Visual Studio Code as the editor of the in-browser Developer Tools. Here’s a three minute video explaining why we think this is a good idea.

Developer Tools have excellent visual tools that allow you to tweak and debug front-end code. The problem is that the changes aren’t synced and once you reload the page, all is lost. Workspaces are a feature to work around that issue and I blogged about those some time ago. We wanted to use the sync capabilities of Workspaces and replace the in-built editor in the Sources tool with Visual Studio Code, effectively giving you the convenience of the editor you are used to and the visual tooling the browser DevTools provide.

To this end, we came up with a new way to invoke a Workspace and make VS Code the editor of the browser. It is an experiment you need to turn on in DevTools by choosing the gear icon.

Turning on the experiment

Once you enabled the “Open source files in Visual Studio Code” experiment, the browser will automatically detect when you work on a local file or local server.

Working on a local file in Edge

It then prompts you to define the root folder of this file and tell DevTools where to find it.

DevTools asking you to identify the root folder

You can get more information, or skip setting up the functionality. Once you pressed the “Set Root Folder”, you can pick the folder using Finder or Explorer (or whatever other file manager you use).

Picking the root folder

Once chosen, DevTools needs access to this folder to write files to it.

DevTools with toolbar asking for access to the folder

If you grant DevTools access, activating any link in the tools will now open the folder with all the files in Visual Studio Code instead of the in-built editor in the Sources tool.

A link to a CSS file

You get a new instance of VS Code and the file opens on the correct line.

CSS file openet in VS code

Any of the changes you do now to the CSS in DevTools changes the file and is reflected inside VS Code. If you do a change in VS Code and save the file it also syncs live in the browser.

You can change the settings of the experiment to not open files in VS Code and to not live sync the changes.

Experiment Settings

You can read more about this on the official docs and we’d love to hear what you think of it. You can comment on Twitter at @EdgeDevTools or use the feedback mechanism built into the tools directly.

CSS Mirror Editing in Edge DevTools for VS Code

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Summary: With the release of 1.3.1 of the Edge Tools for VS Code we introduce a better way to get changes you made in the Styles tool back into your source code. We’d love to know what you think of it and what we can do better. There’s a GitHub issue dedicated to feedback.

CSS Mirror Editing in action - any change in the styles editor reflects in the source code

Developer Tools in browsers are a fantastic way to debug, edit and tweak the CSS of your web product. You get detailed insights into what CSS is applied to which element, and you get visual tools to aid you on your journey to create a beautiful and working interface.

The big drawback of Developer Tools is that you do not work on the source code of your product, but instead you work with what the browser created from these source files. This means that whilst you can change the code that runs in the browser to find out what needs to get fixed, you are not actually fixing the source code. You are debugging, not developing.

One of the unanswered questions of this process is how you get the changes to your styles back into your source files. The current solutions are suboptimal, as they mean you copy and paste what you created using the browser developer tools.

There is a bit of help available. Chromium based browsers like Microsoft Edge or Chrome have a Changes tool, which shows you what you changed in each file:

The changes tool shows you what you added and deleted in each CSS file

Firefox has a live version of this that changes whilst you tweak your CSS and has a “copy all changes” button that results in a CSS document with helpful comments.

Firefox changes bar next to the styles editor

Another existing process is that you can set up a Workspace in Developer tools, which means that any change to the styles will also change the source file on the hard drive.

This solution has the problem that you are constantly changing the files. This can have annoying side effects if you’re using a live reload server. And – even more importantly – it means that you have to undo all the changes you made during debugging. Often you will make a lot of changes until you end up at the desired outcome.

With the browser developer tools inside Visual Studio Code, we have a new environment to think about this issue and we would love to hear what you think of the solution we have right now in the Edge DevTools for VS Code extension which we call CSS mirror editing.

When mirror editing is enabled, any change to the CSS done in the Styles editor will also reflect in the source document. However, the document is not automatically changed, which means it doesn’t trigger any live server or watchers on the folder. Once you are happy with all the changes you did, you can save the document.

CSS Mirror editing explained

You can enable and disable Mirror Editing using the button in the extension side bar for now. We are looking into a few better ways to place this, and would like to know what would be best for you.

The interface to turn CSS mirror editing on and off

We would love to hear from you about the feature and what we could do differently. The best way to do that is to add to the Issue on GitHub provided as a link in the CSS Mirror Editing Sidebar.

Locking editor panes in Visual Studio Code prevents unwanted multi-tab experiences

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

When using the Edge DevTools for VS Code extension inside the editor, one thing that I kept doing wrong was opening files accidentally next to the tools.

By default, the tools show up as their own pane next to the main editor. This is an editor pane of VS Code, and thus supports many things, including tabs.

Edge DevTools open in Visual Studio Code

When I use the tools, this group has focus. And when I go open another file to edit, it opens as a new tab next to the tools. Many a time this messed up my screencasts.

File accidentally opened next to the DevTools instead of the main editor

The trick is to lock the group with the tools in them. You do that by activating the … menu of the tools pane and select “Lock Group”.

Locking the pane with the DevTools Extension

The locked group then shows a lock icon and no other files will open as tabs on it, even if it had the focus.

Locked pane

You can see this in action in the following screencast.

Using console.log() on any website? Logpoints let you do that!

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

The demo page with developer tools and the logpoint editor open.

If you want to know the value of a certain expression in any JavaScript on the web, you can use logpoints for that. It is like injecting a console.log() anywhere you want.

Here’s a quick demo:

Here’s how the demo works:

  • Open https://codepo8.github.io/dog-browser/ in the browser
  • Open Developer Tools, go to the Sources tool
  • Locate ‘walkies.js’ and open it
  • Right-click the line number where you’d like to add a logpoint – in this case line 57
  • Select Add logpoint to open the editor
  • In the Editor, enter the expression that you’d like to log – in this case “data”.
  • Hit Enter to save and a badge shows on the line number.
  • Go to the Console, interact with the site and every time line 57 executes, you see the result of the logpoint expression to the console.

You can set as many logpoints as you want. Clicking the badge again removes them.

Quick tip: creating round “talking heads” videos in Screenflow

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Adding your face in a small circle to videos has become fashionable lately and some extensions do that automatically for you. Good old Screenflow, which I’ve used for years now, has no masking option though. But you still can achieve round videos using a setting and learning that screenflow’s sliders are weird.

By default, Screenflow will record the video in full size (in my case 1920 by 1080 pixels), resize it and place it on the bottom right.

The default size and setting of the camera recording in Screenflow

Make sure the video is active, indicated by a yellow border around it, and select the Video tool. This gives you all kind of settings to play with. First, reset the scale to 100% and the position to 0 and 0, which shows the video as full screen covering the other recording.

Resizing and placing the video to be full screen so that you can change the dimensions

Now you need to ensure that your video is square and that you set the right border-radius. The problem here is that Screenflow’s sliders don’t go further than 400. I suppose that’s some legacy debt when videos were 800 by 600 pixels. You can, however, enter any number in the text fields.

In my case, the video is 1920 by 1080, so in the crop setting I need to take 420 pixels from the left and the right as (1920 – 1080) / 2 = 420. For the radius I need to set 540 because the final video is 1080 by 1080:

The video settings panel with the right settings

And that results in a rounded video:

Final version of the rounded video

The last step is to set the scale and place the video. And you can add a drop shadow if you want to:

Scaled rounded video, placed bottom right with a drop shadow