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HttpWatch is a developer’s tool that captures a wide range of HTTP related data. It helps users to watch precisely which HTTP traffic is triggered when one accesses a web page. The program integrates as an Internet Explorer and a Firefox plugin. This plugin works perfectly to show custom website loads and performance. The full list of the network analysis tools is available here.  

It is feature rich, working equally for HTTP and HTTPS. For secure HTTPS connections, HttpWatch displays only the decrypted form of network traffic. The program is available in the Free Basic Edition, where extended functions are restricted to sites in the Alexa Top 20, and the full Professional version which is priced from $395.

Features

HttpWatch is a feature rich HTTP transactions sniffer. Its basic features are:

  • Monitors HTTP, HTTPS and SPDY (Chrome and FF specific protocol) displaying most of its parameters.
  • Records the HTTP traffic
  • Decrypts HTTPS traffic
  • Provides information about the compression savings
  • HttpWatch can be configured to automatically record and save log files
  • It can be automated using common programming languages to control the plug-in in order to access data in HttpWatch log files

The full list of plugin features can be read here. Below I share on the most remarkable ones, those which make it stand out among other traffic sniffing tools.

Filtering and Log Summary

Filtering (Filter tab, Ctrl+F9) – it is possible to filter the lines of interest, whether by URL, content type, status code or headers contained. After that, one can obtain statistics (Log Summary) on those requests by selecting the Summary tab:

HTTP Authentication

HttpWatch supports the use of several authentication mechanisms to control access to pages and other resources.

HTTP Compression

HttpWatch supervises HTTP compression. It provides information about the compression savings achieved:

http compression

Automating

HttpWatch can be controlled from custom written programs (as well as through its user interface). Someone may want to integrate an HttpWatch program into automated tests and custom reporting functions. If some HTTP transactions go over a certain limit, the automated scripts can get info from the sniffer and sound alarms. The automation is done by almost any programming language compliant to .NET.

Free Analogue

Its free analogue is the browsers’ built-in Web Developer Tools such as Google Chrome Web Developer Tools, FireBug for FireFox, Web Developer Toolbar for Internet Explorer, Opera Dragonfly and others. Web Developer Tools work to show the details for all the HTTP transactions, rather than for only the top 20 Alexa Rank pages in the Free Basic version of HttpWatch. Web Developer Tools aren’t all-inclusive, but the developer can survey all protocol details such as headers, cookie, cache control, status codes and timeline. They doesn’t provide as many statistics, logging and saving, as the HttpWatch, yet they still work for most developers’ needs.

Summary

The HttpWatch program is a good tool for overseeing the browser’s HTTP transactions network for busy traffic. It features an overview of all possible HTTP transactions. Its provision of the means to save the transactions log for later analysis and possible automation are good merits. I would also recommend HttpWatch as good tool for learning how HTTP works.