Set Up Environment

Set Up Developer Tools

Learn how to set up essential tools for the multi-device development workflow. Your tools should test your site's responsiveness and performance with minimum manual effort.


  • Make the command line work for you; create aliases that are easy to remember and fast to type.
  • Don't check responsive layouts manually; get a tool to resize and capture screen views.
  • Set up build tools that automatically optimize, build, and live reload your testing URL.
  • Don't wait to see your site on a device; use device emulation and remote debugging now not later.

Tools you need and why

There’s no shortage of options when it comes to tools in the web development world. There’s often so much choice, it’s daunting. You find the simplest path to building a great site and stick with it as long as it’s working for you.

But if you want your site to work on small devices with unreliable network connectivity, you must invest the time and effort it takes to learn how to use build tools that will optimize performance and check your site’s responsiveness across devices.

Tools for testing across devices include a combination of actual devices, device emulation, and device debugging tools. It’s kind of scary, the thought of testing your site on any number of devices. But you need to do this and you need the tools to make this possible:

lots of devices open to same URL

Set up aliases for common commands

You need to save as much time as you can for the extra effort it takes to test across devices. If you are still looking at a list of command shortcuts every time you make your way into the terminal and/or you are manually typing the same long commands, it’s time to create some short-cuts.

How to create command-line short-cuts

The easiest way create command-line short-cuts is to add aliases for common commands to your bashrc file. On Mac or Linux:

  • From the command line anywhere, type open -a 'Sublime Text' ~/.bashrc.
  • Add a new alias, for example, alias master='git checkout master'.
  • From your source directory, run master.

Another slightly more advanced way to create short-cuts is to store dotfiles in GitHub. One major gain: your short-cuts won’t be device dependent.

List of common aliases

You don’t have to, but we recommend aliases for these common commands:

Command Alias
Launch a server alias server="python -m SimpleHTTPServer"
Fire up your editor alias st='open -a "Sublime Text"'
Go to a directory you commonly work in alias p="cd ~/projects"

Set up responsive tools

Checking your site’s responsiveness needn’t be a manual task. Get at least one tool to resize the browser, and preferably one with image capturing so that you can compare multiple views.

For Chrome, the Responsive Inspect Chrome extension visually shows the media queries of an opened site, including the min-width and max-width of each media query specified in CSS stylesheets. Use this tool to resize the site in the browser and take a screenshot:

Responsive Inspector Chrome extension

To set up and use the extension:

  • Download the extension from the Chrome Web Store.
  • On any opened site, press the Responsive Inspect icon in the extension tool bar.
  • Resize screen and take a screen shot.

To test on the Firefox browser, enable the Responsive Design View. Use this view to change the size of content area without having to resize the entire browser window.

Set up build and live reloading tools

Build tools streamline the process of transferring source files to a target result. You want build tools that keep track of your site’s performance; they optimize source files automatically and measure your site’s performance. We recommend Gulp. Other examples include: Grunt, Broccoli, Make.

You also want live reloading which will automatically update the page with any changes you make to your HTML, CSS, Javascript and images. No more manual refreshing of the page after every tweak.


The Web Starter Kit does all this and more: watches for changes, optimizes files, builds your site, reloads the browser live and synchronizes scrolling, clicks, and navigation across all your devices. Follow the instructions in the next guide to set up the Web Starter Kit.

Set up emulation and debugging tools

Don’t put off debugging your site across multiple devices. A very simple first step is to set up device emulation that integrates with debugging tools.

Using device emulators, such as iOS Safari Simulator, GenyMotion and the Official Android Emulator for Android devices as well as for versions of IE; you can see how your site works across a range of devices.

Chrome DevTools has a device emulation feature built in which mimics some device behaviors such as screen size, screen density and touch support; learn how to use DevTools emulation.

Emulation is a good start, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. Eventually, preferably as soon as possible, you must debug your site on actual devices. Remote debugging tools let you debug your site on a desktop and see changes on remote devices.

Here’s a brief comparison of remote debugging options, with links to set-up documentation:

Remote Debugging Tool Description
Chrome DevTools Remote Debugging Use Chrome DevTools on your development machine to inspect, debug, and analyze browser tabs and WebViews on your Android device.
Weinre Remote debugger for web pages. This is helpful when there is no remote debug tools available for a browser, for example the Android Browser on older devices (pre-KitKat).
Firefox for Android + ADB Inspect or debug code running in Firefox for Android over USB.
Safari Web Inspector - Safari on iOS Debug web content on iOS device directly from your desktop.

Updated on 2014-05-29


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