Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Laurel Reitman, IE Program Mgr, on the Ajax Experience

Category: Browsers, IE, The Ajax Experience

We were happy to have Laurel Reitman, the lead program manager on the IE team, out at the Ajax Experience. There was a lot of good dialog between her and Alex, Brendan, and others about the future of browsers in general and IE in specific. She has written a post on the IEBlog recapping her thoughts from the conference, and also pointing to some tools for folks struggling in IE.

One question on the top of everyone’s mind is how to debug and get more information about what’s going on with their AJAX-style applications. I wanted to point folks to some of the tools that are available today with Internet Explorer, many of which I mentioned at the conference.

She mentions the Web Development Helper that Nikhl Kothari developed, and of course the IE dev toolbar that is similiar to the Firefox toolbar. From Nikhl’s post on the Helper, it sounds like it requires an ASP.NET page on the server side?

Of course, the comments echo a common sentiment – give us a working javascript console for IE! Then we can worry about fancy extensions – but until we can actually see all the javascript errors thrown in IE, its still a massive pain tracking down IE-specific bugs when we only get “property not found at line 65” and nothing else.

Posted by Rob Sanheim at 10:26 pm

3.8 rating from 37 votes


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This “common sentiment” that there is no decent debugging for IE is completely misguided.

I have been using Microsoft’s Visual Studio debugger for Javascript debugging in Internet Explorer since at least Visual Interdev 6. It has had full breakpoints, watches, call stack trace, step, step over, step into, etc etc etc for YEARS AND YEARS AND YEARS.

Venkman was playing catchup when it was introduced and it’s still lagging behind the utility of the client-side IE debugging in Visual Studio 2005, with collapsible object inspection on hover and other such features.

Anybody who’s seriously developing for IE should be using the proper tools. They’ve been there all along.

Comment by Brent Ashley — May 26, 2006


But… man…, you gotta PAY for it… and… people don’t want to PAY for anything… man… everyone should like, totally, make their stuff FREE, man… If you have to PAY for it, well then it must not exist, or it must be horrible.

I use Venkman… slow as molasses compared to VS.NET js script explorer. But I develop for FF and IE, so have to use both.

I definitelt benefit from all this open source hoo-haa, and contribute to the prototype/scriptaculous/ruby-spinoffs list, but people really need to open their eyes to the awesome tools and platforms out there for serious, scalable, maintainable development, and YEP that includes Microsoft.

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006

*definitely (typo)

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006


Your comment posting tool has been broken since I found your site. For a while it would spit out obscenities after a post, and now it just hangs after clicking submit (I see only a blank page).

For a site that’s supposed to be all about the bleeding edge, COME ON FIX YOUR DAMN COMMENTING SYSTEM!!!



Poo on sites that don’t make sure their shit works right!!

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006

Quick couple of notes:
1. Web Development Helper – doesn’t require ASP.NET on the server; the client-side tools work against any page, incl. vanilla HTML pages. There are some ASP.NET development scenarios too, which obviously require ASP.NET on the server. The tool started there, and it looks like I forgot to update the text on the page.

2. Visual Web Developer is the Web-focused SKU for visual studio, and features the same debugger as in Visual Studio, and is small in size, and free… so check it out.

Comment by Nikhil Kothari — May 26, 2006

Quick note on Web Development Helper – the client side HTTP tracing, script diagnostics etc. do not require ASP.NET. The tool started as an ASP.NET diagnostics tool, and has some of those features, but this is just a case of the page not having been updated…

Comment by Nikhil Kothari — May 26, 2006

I’m sorry, but I can’t beleive that you are suggesting we all install several Gb worth of Visual Studio, just so that we can get debugging in IE? You are kidding, right?

I do think the simple addition of a JavaScript console would be a hugely worthwhile addition to IE. Not even a debugger. Just some way to see what mistakes you’ve made. Oh, and if we’re doing feature requests, console.log would be handy too.

And a pony.

Comment by Dominic Mitchell — May 26, 2006

You’d use alerts/logging rather than spare a few hundred meg on your hard drive ?? Get yourself a bigger drive, man, they’re cheap nowadays.
lets keep to the facts – unless you install the whole MSDN documentation, we’re talking a few hundred MB for a basic install (mine is 358mb).
There is now a FREE version – the web express version.
I too have used Visual Studio since interdev days to debug client side JS in IE – its pretty much as good as any debugger I’ve used in any other language. I’ve never understood the massive misinformation around debugging JS. (and lets face it – for many years IE was the only browser worth coding complex dhtml stuff in, so the lack of support in other browsers hardly mattered). I love Venkman, but its so slow compared to VS, and now there’s Firebug, which looks fantastic, might even tempt me away from VS – but lets not pretend there hasn’t been good debugging support for JS.

Comment by heswell — May 26, 2006

Dominic – Since Windows 2000 there has been a small, free MS script debugger that provides not as much as Visual Studio but much more than plain JS console, with breakpoints, step in, step over, yadda yadda. You don;t even have to download it, you just enable it in control panel..add programs..add windows components. It was even available as a download for NT4 and Win98.

Why do so many people who develop for the internet-facing web (that is to say a largely IE audience) not know about this stuff? There has been a free, no-download fairly useful script debugger available since the last century, and a serious advanced tool available for a price since before that even.

I can see independent small-time developers limiting themselves to free tools, but companies building business apps need business tools. I’m an independent consultant but when I have had to shell out serious dough for MSDN Universal to invest in the tools necessary to do my job, that’s just been part of the business..

Comment by Brent Ashley — May 26, 2006

Heswell – have you been able to get javascript debugging working in the web express version? I haven’t yet and I’d be grateful if anyone could tell me how.

Comment by Brent Ashley — May 26, 2006

never tried, I just assumed it supports this. Pretty poor show if it doesnt do client-side debugging especially given that (as you point out above) there has been a free MS script debugger in some form or another for many years.

Comment by heswell — May 26, 2006

“Anybody who’s seriously developing for IE should be using the proper tools. They’ve been there all along.”

Therein lies the problem. I don’t want to develop for IE, I want to develop for the WEB!

Comment by kelly — May 26, 2006

Yes, the web express version js debugger works just fine. Make sure you enable client side debugging from IE. Tools > Options > Advanced > uncheck both “Disable Script Debugging” options > witness the speed and full feature debugging.

And yea, I had totally forgotten that now it absolutely FREE. And people STILL complain??? OMG, a high quality development environment takes a couple hundred MB of HD space? You people will never be happy, if someone says “Here, have a free Ferrari, we’ll pay for the gas and insurance for life, but oh yea, Bill Gates used to drive it”, you’d turn it down because of its ties to Microsoft.

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006

And Kelly, LOL.

Go ahead, develop for the “web” and just ignore IE. You speak as if FF/Safari/Opera all behave exactly the same.

Try to use that line in an interview, LOL.

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006

One more thing, if I built THIS site on .NET… it’d be pretty much the same BUT THE COMMENTING TOOL WOULD NOT BE BROKEN.

Comment by Ryan Gahl — May 26, 2006

I just need to point out that there is such a thing as developping for the web!

Serious developpers should be aware there are web standards ( just as there are international standards (

Unfortunatly, the web is growing so fast that it’s hard to keep up.
In my view, anyone claiming to have a good web browser must be standards compliant. This is something Microsoft is seriously behind and
makes IE look very shabby and unprofessional.

Don’t take it from me, take an objective test called the acid2 test:

One thing for sure is the web IS free and we would be idiots to develop for only for IE and their lack of tools for the open web.

Comment by Jonathan Bond-Caron — May 26, 2006

If you want to debug in IE then download the Microsoft Script Debugger:

I’ve been using it for years. It’s not Firebug but it is pretty good.

Comment by Dean Edwards — May 26, 2006

FYI, after installing the Atlas stuff, JIT debugging with VWD now magically works.

The only problem is that there is no way to display the “running documents” tab without pressing Ctrl-Alt-N, which is easy to do, it’s just that you have to know the Ctrl-Alt-N key combination because there is no menu selection for it and no toolbar button.

If you customize the toolbar you can find buttons for Immediate mode too for instance.

So the bottom line is now that really there’s no reason to lament the state of IE js debugging unless you don’t want to take up a few hundred megs on your drive with free tools that make your life easier.

Comment by Brent Ashley — May 26, 2006

One more thing, if I built THIS site on .NET… it’d be pretty much the same BUT THE COMMENTING TOOL WOULD NOT BE BROKEN.

No doubt anyone that frequents this place would have the commenting system work – regardless of platform.

Comment by Asbjørn Clemmensen — May 26, 2006

[…] Ajaxian ConferenceTo us, the conference is all about the quality of the people that we can all meet up with. We are proud of our speaker list, which keeps growing. Alex Russell: […]

Pingback by » Blog Archive » Conference - ABEC South 11th Conference 2006 — May 27, 2006

Be aware that unfortunately the free MSScript debugger may not actually work in IE7 as MS has classified it as obsolete technology.

Comment by H — May 31, 2006

The MS Script Debugger also works with IE7. Because I have both installed, when I get an error, I am now asked which of the two debuggers I want to use: MS Script Debugger or Visual Web Developer Express

Comment by Brent Ashley — June 2, 2006

IE6 had the “break at next statement” option in the menu. I don’t see this in IE7 ???

Comment by Andrew — September 26, 2006

I don’t think Meg will ever top her performance in When Harry Met Sally.

Comment by mr skin — October 26, 2006

comment to “working right” everything that I have used seems to work pretty good when you set it uo right.

Comment by Richard — January 8, 2007

I’m getting really tired with those people that tell that so many options are available for debugging Javascript with IE. Granted, there ARE debuggers BUT NONE OF THEM WORK EVEN REMOTELY WELL!!!
I’ve tried all of the garbage that came out of Redmond but all debuggers have the same problems:
– It’s HELL to OBTAIN them
– It’s HELL to get them to pop up! Installing one disables the other and it’s a black art to get the ^&*(%*&%& piece of crap Windows to use the previous one again.
– If you can get a debugger to run it hardly ever pops up when needed. And if it does most of the times the error’s location is WRONG! Those idiots at Microsoft even find counting line numbers hard appearently.
– All of them popup only after several errors. The earlier errors that CAUSE that later errors are reported by IE (“do you want to debug”) but pressing YES just shows the next error without any debugger showing.
I find it incredible that a company with billions on the bank cannot even remotely compete with open source offerings like Firebug or Venkman. And I think whomever is in charge of this part of MS should be SHOT for wasting so many people’s time.

Comment by Frits Jalvingh — February 22, 2007

I’m running IE7 on XP SP2.

I downloaded and installed Microsoft Script Debugger 1.0.7295.

I can make it pop up by giving the View:Script Debugger menu command. But I can’t get it to DO anything.

When a script error occurs, a popup appears, asking if I want to debug it. But nothing happens when I click Yes.

Anyone know how to get this to work ?

— stan

Comment by Stanley Krute — April 1, 2007

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