Glimpse and Why You Should Care

Glimpse and Why You Should Care.jpg

In the world of web development, there are many roles involved. They include front-end developers, database administrators, testers, framework writers, those folks in DevOps, accessibility folks... the list goes on and on.

One trend I've noticed is for developers to specifically identify as a "front-end web developer". My experience tells me that the world of web development is more than just that. In fact, I find it odd to see developers differentiating themselves on which side of the fence they sit on; those on the front-end and those behind the firewall (or in the cloud).

I bring this up because in order to be a successful web developer, you have to know what is going on in the back-end. Treating the edge of your browser like the Gates of Mordor serves you no good. There's simply too much going on behind-the-scenes that you need to be aware of.

Which brings us to our tools.

Today, web developers have all sorts of tools at their disposal, from integrated tools inside the browser to trace inspectors that allow you to watch what is hitting the wire. At the risk of sounding like a grizzled, old man: these days, the web development kids have it pretty good. Back in when I was cutting my teeth on angle brackets and Java applets, we didn't even have the console object to log to! We had alerts and we loved them, dammit!

Coming back to reality.

As I stated before, in order to be successful as a web developer today, you've got to know what's happening on the server. The problem is that most of our tools still treat the divide between the browser and back-end as a boundary that few should have to cross.

Enter Glimpse.

Glimpse is a tool that bridges the gap between knowing what's happening on the client-side with knowing what's happening on the back-end. It runs inside the context of your browsers. There are no tools to install, only a minor installation and configuration change to your server.

Once installed, Glimpse will run at the bottom of your page. New to Glimpse is a supremely-awesome HUD view that gives you the most important information that developers need when clicking through their web applications:

The supremely-awesome HUD of Glimpse

The supremely-awesome HUD of Glimpse

(Image shamelessly stolen from the Glimpse homepage blog. Sorry, guys!)

For a breakdown of the HUD, make sure to check our Anthony van der Hoorn's post entitled Glimpse Heads-Up Display released. Alternatively, you can watch his presentation from NDC.

I reacted when I first saw the HUD:


Anyway, there are numerous tabs that ship with Glimpse. One of the cooler ones is the SQL tab which shows you the actual T-SQL statements that execute against your databse.

It's insanely cool.

SQL tab for all your database-y goodness

SQL tab for all your database-y goodness

Glimpse provides boat-loads of information to better understand your server's configuration, HTTP-related "intrinsics" (like what the server actually saw as the request and what it actually sent as the response), and a whole bunch more. It's particularly useful for developers targeting ASP.NET, as it provides diagnostic information into the ASP.NET runtime, including route resolution. This includes insights for ASP.NET MVC too. And, as I stated earlier, if you're doing anything against a database via ADO.NET, Glimpse can offer insights into the T-SQL that's between executed against your database. You can think of it like having SQL Profiler inside your browser.

In short, Glimpse is a must-have diagnostic tool for web developers wanting to learn more about what's happening on the server.

My reaction after installing Glimpse and gaining insights into what's happening on the back-end:


So, what's next? That's easy. Head to the Glimpse homepage, download the bits via NuGet, and start poking around.

In the meantime, I'll be working on a plugin for Glimpse that I'm working on. More on this later...