Essential Webmaster Tools
While building and deploying a website, there are several tools that you will need beyond a contact management system. There are various applications that you'll need to help you work with web servers, edit files and generally make your life easier. In this video, we're going to review some of the applications that you should keep in your webmaster toolkit. Each of the applications we're going to review in this video are open source and can be downloaded and installed for free on your computer.
Introduction & Webmaster Tool Kit
I'm using a Windows machine so I'm running a Windows version of these applications. There are equivalent tools for Macs and Linux computers; some are included in the OS and others can be downloaded. One thing that you'll find is that when you start using a set of tools together you get used to having them. However, there are times when you might not have access to your personal computer or you might not want to install additional applications on it. To solve that problem, I like to maintain a portable copy of these tools so I can put them on a thumb drive or in a Dropbox. This allows me access at all times.
I've created a package that you can download called the Webmaster Tools Kit - in a single download you'll have all the tools you need! Plus they're portable, so you can use the same apps and settings on multiple computers without having to re-install. Simply download, copy, and you're ready to go.
To download your own copy of the webmaster tools kit simply go to www.leveltendesign.com/wtk. Once there, click on the download button and then select the archive that matches the OS you're using. I'm on a Windows machine so I'm going to go ahead and click on this one. Click Save; it will take a few minutes to download as there are a quite a few files in this archive. Now that the archive is finished downloading, I just need to decompress it - to do that I'm simply going to drag it to my desktop. It will take a few minutes for this to decompress. Now that the archive is finished decompressing I can run the applications. I simply click into the files, select the app I want to run, and double click on executable.
So now I've got running apps without having to do an actual install. It also comes with an interesting task toolbar that I like to use; it's back at the root and it's just this p-start. If I click this it gives me this pop up. Normally I like to use the smaller version (down here) - it just gives quick access to all the applications for working with my website.
The first application we're going to look at is an FTP client. FTP clients allow you to transfer files to and from your local computer in a web server. The one that I like to use is called Filezilla - let me go ahead and launch that now. The first thing you do is you want to put in the credentials of a website you have. So, I've already setup a website at Acme Example and I'm going to type in some information here. For the domain name, I want to do a normal log in, AcmeExam is my user name and I'm just going to put in the password; now I can go ahead and connect. What we see is that over here I'm browsing files about my local machine, while over here I'm browsing the server. If I go to the right place, for example, where my web files are, and I go to Documents I can simply drag-and-drop to transfer files from one place to the other.
The next app we're going to look at is the terminal emulator - these are also called SSH clients or Telnet clients depending on what protocol we're using. Terminal emulators are a way for us to work with the web servers at a command line level. Using command line and the right credentials, we have full control over our server. On a Windows machine, I like to use a one called Putty. I should note that on a Linux machine or a Mac you don't actually have to download a separate terminal emulator because it's built into the OS. However, we do on a windows machine. Let's go ahead and log into our example website. We type in the URL that we want to log into and then we type in our credentials, then my password, and now I have access to the command line of our server. I can use Unix commands to do various different things; of course the drawback is that if you don't know any Unix commands that you might be better off using FTP to transfer files. Ultimately you might run into some things that you can only do through a terminal emulator.
SSH and FTP clients are must-have apps but there are many more nice-to-have apps - let's do a quick look at what some of these are.
The first are various web browsers, now it might seem a little odd that we want to have multiple browsers on our computer, most people only have one probably what was installed when they first bought it. But web developers love to have multiple browsers! There's a few different reasons for this.
- One benefit is that in a CMS system like Drupal, it can be useful to be logged in as multiple people at once and see things from their viewpoint. Having different browsers allows us to do this easily, we can log in using different ones and switch back and forth.
- The other thing is that a lot of times you want to know what your website looks like and acts like in different browsers and of course you need to have them to test.
- The third is there are some advanced tools that are offered in different browsers that different designers like. For example, in Firefox there's a tool called Firebug that a lot of designers like to use - it allows them to dig deeper into the code.
With a system like Drupal, there's an awful lot you can do without coding. However, if you want to dig into the code you're gonna want a good editor. I like to break editors up into two classes:
- One is lightweight text editors like Notepad Plus Plus that are pretty good at working with text type files similar to a word processor.
- The other are the more advanced integrated development environments like Genie. These are built to work with code and as you get more technical in your skills, you're going to appreciate some of the advanced features they have to offer.
The last tool I want to show you is called an IRC client. IRC stands for internet relay chat; it's actually decades old (even older than the web itself). It's a place where technical people still get together and talk about various subjects. Drupal has many different chat rooms and all you need is the IRC client to access it. These are places where very knowledgeable people hang out and many people can use it when they get stuck as a lifeline. There is some "netiquette" you need to follow which you can learn more about that at drupal.org/IRC.
In this video we looked at a lot of utilities to help you master your website. While only a fewer must haves there are numerous others that are good to know about. The good news is that often you can find these tools for free although it may take a while to download and install them. That's why we also took a look at the portable webmaster's tools kit - it provides us with everything we virtually need in a single download and it's free.