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Category Archives: jQuery

JavaScript: Noteworthy Tools & Libraries

Last Updated: 2013-03-19

I am the co-organizer of the Twin Cities JavaScript users group known as JavaScriptMN.  At one of our recent meetups (2012-05-31), we were set to have 30 minutes of discussion and/or lightning talks on the theme of “tools and libraries that you couldn’t live without”.  While the goal of the theme was to point out the most valuable tools and libraries available, our main speaker for the night was missing in action and so we continued discussing tools and libraries for the entire duration of the meetup.  I’ve put all the suggestions together into a composite list and categorized them all, though the order of the categories themselves is definitely a bit askew.

Please note that this is not intended to be a list of the best tools/libraries in each category but rather providing a small set of those available.  The reason behind this is that many of them are still actively in development (the coverage tools are a good example), and so I don’t want to only list the single option that I feel is best at this point in time as it may be eclipsed by one of its listed competitors (or something totally new!) in the near future.

My intent is to keep this blog post up-to-date as time marches on, so be sure to keep a link to it handy (or just to my main blog page, as I’ve made this post “sticky” as well).  Now, on to the list!

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State of the Art?

As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about JavaScript but my world has changed dramatically in that period that I’ve been away.  For a quick glimpse of what I’m working on and what’s to come, here are the technologies and libraries that I’ve been working with more recently.

Actively using:

  • JavaScript in general (duh)
  • jQuery (for core awesome-sauce, e.g. DOM manipulation, AJAX network requests, Promises/Deferreds)
  • RequireJS (for Asynchronous Module Definition, async script loading, and dependency management)
  • Backbone.js (for MV* structuring)
  • Underscore.js (for client-side templating) — Not a huge fan, really only using it because it’s integrated with Backbone.js)
  • QUnit [and its alternate upcoming site] (for JavaScript unit testing)
  • Jetty (for an on-demand HTTP server to execute HTTP-bound JavaScript unit tests during CI)
  • JsMockito (for mocking) — I’ve heard praise that Sinon.js is better. Any feedback?
  • JSCoverage (for code coverage) — Isn’t there something better than this yet? Can someone explain how I can use NodeCover to gather the same/better metrics?
  • PhantomJS (for headless execution of unit tests during CI) — Rocks so hard!
  • JSDoc Toolkit (for documentation generation from comments)
  • Ant plus Ant Contrib (for main build) — Old, I know, but struggling to find better alternatives. Do you know of any?
  • Rhino (for running the r.js optimizer via Ant)
  • YUI Compressor (for JS and CSS minification) — Employer is understandably hesitant to switch to a minifier that rewrites our code (e.g. UglifyJS, Google Closure Compiler) on a large, existing JavaScript web app. Do you have any info/stats to help me push them past this?
  • JetBrains WebStorm (for IDE on Windows)
  • SASS (for “more awesomer” CSS)
  • IE Dev Tools, Firebug, & Chrome Dev Tools (for debugging)
Investigating:
  • Node.js (as potential replacement of Ant as a build tool, as potential replacement of Jetty as an on-demand HTTP server, and other experimental purposes)
  • TestSwarm (for cross-browser unit testing during CI)
    • Beautiful reporting grid output
    • Requires pre-attachment of browsers
    • Definitely alpha software, though
  • Selenium Grid (for cross-browser unit testing during CI)
    • Much more robust than TestSwarm
    • Can launch its own browsers
    • Crappy reporting output

Evaluated and didn’t see any immediate use for:

  • CoffeeScript (for “more awesomer” JavaScript?) — Seemed more like a learning curve for our large employee base of non-Rubyists/non-Pythonistas
  • Dart (laughably heavy, plus yucky old Java syntax)
  • Jasmine / Pavlov (for BDD testing)
  • JsUnit (used to use it for unit testing before QUnit)
  • JavaScriptMVC (too heavy-handed compared to Backbone)
  • Knockout (preferred Backbone)

Help me out!

Do you know of tools I should utilize for use cases not mentioned (e.g. tool to detect changes to JS/CSS and auto-refresh my browsers)?  Do you know of better alternatives for a given use case mentioned above?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!  Please leave a [constructive] comment.