[This article was written by David Catuhe]
Vorlon.js is powered by node.JS, socket.io, and late-night coffee. I would like to share with you why we made it, how to incorporate it into your own testing workflow, and also share some more details into the art of building a JS library like it.
Vorlon.js itself is a small web server you can run from your local machine, or install on a server for your team to access, that serves the Vorlon.js dashboard (your command center) and communicates with the remote devices. Installing the Vorlon.js client in your web site or app is as easy as adding a single script tag. It's also extensible where devs can write plug-ins that add features to both the client and the dashboard, for example: feature detection, logging, and exception tracking.
You mentioned Vorlon.js has plug-ins?
Vorlon.js has been designed so that you can extend the dashboard and client application easily by writing or installing additional plugins. You can resize or add extra panes to the dashboard which can communicate bidirectionally with the client application. There are three plug-ins to begin with:
Logging: The console tab will stream console messages from the client to the dashboard that you can use for debugging. Anything logged withconsole.log(), console.warn() or console.error() will appear in the dashboard. Like the F12 Dev Tool DOM explorer, you can see the DOM tree, select a node (which will be highlighted on the device, and update or add new CSS properties).
DOM ExplorerThe DOM inspector shows you the DOM of the remote webpage. You can inspect the DOM, clicking on nodes will highlight them in the host webpage, and if you select one you can also view and modify its css properties.
ModernizrThe Modernizr tab will show you the supported browser features as reported by Modernizr. You can use this to determine what features are actually available. This might be particularly useful on unusual mobile devices, or things like games consoles.
How do I use it?
From you node command line, just execute this:
$ npm i -g vorlon
Now you have a server running on your localhost on port 1337.
To get access to the dashboard, just navigate to http://localhost:1337/dashboard/SESSIONID. Where SESSIONID is the id for the current dashboard session. This can be any string you want.
You have then to add a single reference in your client project:
Please note that SESSIONID can be omitted and in this case, it will be automatically replaced by "default"
And that's it! Now your client will send debug information to your dashboard seamlessly. Let's now have a look at an example using a real site.
Debugging babylonjs.com using vorlon.js
Let's use www.babylonjs.com for our example. First, I have to launch my server (using node start.js inside the /server folder). Then, I have just have to add this line to my client site:
Because I am not defining a SESSIONID, I can just go to http://localhost:1337/dashboard
The dashboard looks like this:
Sidenote: The browser shown above is Project Spartan, Microsoft's new browser for Windows 10. YO can also test your web apps for it remotely on your Mac, iOS, Android, or Windows device @ http://modern.IE. Or try vorlon.js too.Back to it: I can see console messages for instance, which is useful when I debug babylon.js on mobile devices (like iOS, Android or Windows Phone).
I can click on any node on the DOM Explorer to get info about CSS properties:
On the client side, the selected node is highlighted with a red border:
Moreover, I can switch to Modernizr tab to see capabilities of my specific device:
On the left side, you can see the list of currently connected clients and you can use the [Identify a client] button to display a number on every connected devices.
A little more on how we built vorlon.js
From the very beginning, we wanted to be sure that vorlon.js remains as mobile-first and platform-agnostic as possible. So we decided to use open source tech that worked across the broader number of environments.
Here's a global schema of how it works:
Here's are the parts with built with:
- A node.js server is hosting a dashboard page (served using express) and a service
- The service is using socket.io to establish a direct connection with both the dashboard and the various devices
- Devices have to reference a simple vorlon.js page served by the server. It contains all the plugins client code which interact with the client device and communicate with the dashboard through the server.
Every plug-in is split in two parts:
- The client side, used to capture information and to interact with the device
- The dashboard side, used to generate a command panel for the plugin inside the dashboard
For instance, the console plugin works this way:
- The client side generates a hook on top of console.log(), console.warn() or console.error(). This hook is used to send the parameters of these functions to the dashboard. It can also receive orders from the dashboard side that it will evaluate
- The dashboard side gathers these parameters and display them on the dashboard
The result is simply a remote console:
You can get an even better understanding of vorlon.js extensibility including how to build your own plug-ins here.
Vorlon.js is built on the idea of extensibility. We encourage you to contribute! And we're already about how we might integrate vorlonJS into browser dev tools as well as Web Audio debugging.
And before closing this article, I just want to give credits to all the core team:
- Justin Garret (@justgar)
- Pierre Lagarde (@pierlag)
- Etienne Margraff (@meulta)
- David Rousset (@davrous)
- Myself (@deltakosh)