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Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 10 May 2011.
Planet PHP

Webshell is a console-based, JavaScripty web client utility that is great for consuming, debugging and interacting with APIs.

I use Firefox as my primary browser. The main reason I've been faithful to Mozilla is my set of add-ons. I use Firebug regularly, and I'm not sure what I'd do without JSONovich.

Last year, as I built Gimme Bar's internal API, I found myself using Curl, extensively, and occasionally Poster, to test and debug my code.

These two tools have allowed me to interact with HTTP, but not in the most optimal way. Poster's UI is clunky and isn't scriptable (without diving into Firefox extension internals), and Curl requires a lot of Unixy glue to process the results into something more usable than visual inspection.

I wanted something that would not only make requests, but would let me interact with the result of these requests.

When working with Evan to debug a problem one day, I mentioned my problem, and said "I really should build something that fixes this." Evan suggested that such a thing would be really useful to him, too, and that he'd be interested in working on it.

I'd planned on building my version of the tool in PHP. Evan isa not a PHP guy. He's a [whisper]Ruby[/whisper] guy.

If you've seen me speak at a conference, lately, you've probably seen this graphic:

It shows that we have diverse roles in Gimme Bar, but everyone who touches our code can speak JavaScript. (This is another, much longer post that I maybe should write, but in the meantime, see this past PHP Advent entry.)

Thus, Evan suggested that we write Webshell in JavaScript, with node.js as our "framework." Despite the aforementioned affinity for Ruby (cheap shots are fun! (-:), Evan is a pretty smart guy. It turns out that this was not only convenient, but working with HTTP traffic (especially JSON results (of course)) is way better with JavaScript than it would have been with PHP.

So, Webshell was born. If you want to see exactly what it does, you should take a look at the readme, which outlines almost all of its functionality.

If you use curl, or any sort of other ad-hoc queries to inspect, consume, debug or otherwise touch HTTP, I hope you'll take a look at Webshell. It saves me several hours every week, and most of our Gimme Bar administration is done with it. Also, it's on GitHub so please fork and patch. I'd love to see pull requests.