Debugging client JavaScript in VS 2005

Client Java Script is one of the most important things in web development but not the best and easiest to develop. Building of bigger and more complicated scripts, especially using DOM model or form field values can cause a lot of frustration and head pain. Moreover, JavaScript debugging is not easy and obvious as should be. But there is a hope.

One of less known features of Visual Studio 2005 is Script Explorer, hidden in Debug menu where appears only when the debugger is running. This great tool allows easily debug JavaScripts.

Before start, we should ensure that client script debugging is not disabled in IE as it is by default. Suitable options are located on Advanced tab of Internet Options where both script debugging checkboxes should be unchecked.

We can come back to Script Explorer. As it was written before, it appears only while the debugger is working. So after starting project we can go do Debug->Windows where should be Script Explorer. Sometimes, don’t know why, it doesn’t so in this case we have to find it manually. Staying in debug mode right click on tool bar and go into Customize. Then select Debug in Categories on the left side of window and find Script Explorer on the right. Just drag it to Debugging toolbar.

After opening Script Explorer panel we will se the tree of active JavaScripts. At the first level are scripts that are imported from external sources or embedded in the page. There are also auto-generated scripts like postback scripts as well. By double-clicking on the selected script it will open in the main window.

At this moment, we can debug it in well known way using breakpoints, steps, Watch and QuickWatch, just like in the server side, including context variable browsing.

Breakpoints can also be set up in external *.js files before project will be loaded. Then, after loading project, the breakpoint will be activated by debugger. Note, that it is only possible to *.js files not for scripts embedded in pages. These scripts are available for debugging only after loading page.

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Jimmy Skowronski

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