As I wrote in Part 1 Chrome Developer tools is perhaps the most important tool for a Qlik Sense extension developer. Some important points in part 1:

  • you should turn caching off in the network tab, and keep developer tools open to make sure files are not cached
  • Qlik Sense client catches program errors in your extension, so if you need to see them temporarily check the box ‘Pause on caught exceptions’. You can’t keep this box checked all the time though.

In this post we will continue with some more useful stuff.

Checking web socket traffic

As you probably know communication with the Qlik Engine is over web sockets. You find the web socket in the Network tab, just click on WS and you will find it. Click on the websocket and then on messages, and you will see the communcation, something like this:

Lots of information, lots of transactions. Some things you should know:

  • messages from client to server has a dark background, messages from server to client a white background
  • all messages are in JSON format
  • if you click on a message it will be displayed in a format that’s easier to read in the area below
  • you can filter messages by typing in text in the field where it says ‘Enter regex..’

Connect request and reply

What you see in the web socket log is simply a list of all messages sent and received, in chronological order. Since commands are processed in paralell, the reply for a specific request might not at all be anywhere near the request. Request and reply are connected with the ‘id’ attribute (that’s a feature in the json rpc protocol, which Qlik Sense is built on). This means we can filter on the id attribute to find the reply for a specific request. If you try typing in “id”:1, in the filter box you will get request #1 and it’s reply:

Handling handles

So now we know how to find a request and it’s reply, but to really understand what’s happening we also need to understand handles.

Handles is a Qlik Sense specific concept, not part of Json RPC but an addition to it, made by Qlik. The QIX protocol is object-oriented, meaning that all commands are sent to an object. When you connect to Qlik Sense engine, the only handle available is the global handle, -1.

The first thing you do in most cases is call OpenDoc to open your Qlik Sense app (or Doc, as its called in the QIX documentation). If that succeeds you will get a handle (called qHandle) back in the reply. You can them send Doc commands to this handle (almost always handle 1). If you type in the filter “handle”:1, you will see all app commands used:

As you can see there is a lot of them. Most of them fetches or creates objects in the app, with GetObject or CreateSessionObject. You do not see the replies, only the requests, since the replies do not contain the handle. But if we instead filter by the id of one of the GetObject calls, (in my case id 13) we can see what happens:

As you can see in the reply there is a new qHandle in the reply, #5. So now we can filter on “handle”:5, and see what commands were sent to this object. If you want to know what handle is used for your extension, there is as far as I know no way to get that information from standard Qlik, but you can use my Chrome Extension Add Sense.

Find commands that invalidates object

Handles are used not only to refer to objects when you send commands, but also for invalidation. When you change selections (make a new selection, clear selection, apply bookmark etc) QIX engine tells you what objects are no longer invalid. It does this with the ‘change’ array (another addition to JSON rpc) which contains handles for the invalidated objects. So if I for example want to find commands that invalidated opbject 13, I can filter on “change”:\[.*13.*\] (note: a regex, since the handle can be at any position in the array):

We only get the replies for commands that invalidated the object, to get the actual command you need to use the id field to find the actual command and handle.

Perhaps the most important tool for a Qlik Sense extension developer is Chrome developer tools. You can use any text editor to write your code, or even Qlik Sense dev-hub for simple extension, but you really need to use Developer Tools. Debug your code, check loading of javascript, HTML and CSS, inspect HTML structure and CSS rules – there is a lot you need to use them for. So good knowledge of them is essential.

Always run Qlik Sense in a browser

Qlik Sense Desktop is a good tool for your extension development in most scenarios. But you should never use the browser bundled with it for development. Instead use Chrome, and use http://localhost:4848/hub to access the hub. This means you will have the full developer tools available, and also that you will have an up-to-date Chrome installation.

While the browser bundled with Qlik Sense Desktop is built on the same codebase, it is not updated, but will contain an old version. It looks like the Chrome version bundled with Qlik Sense Desktop September 2019 is Chrome/47.0.2526.16 while my browser Chrome version is Chrome/78.0.3904.70, so Qlik Sense Desktop is way behind. BTW Qlik Sense Desktop also reports my Windows version as ‘Windows NT 6.1’ while Chrome proper reports the real value ‘Windows NT 10.0’.

So now that you are happily in Chrome you need to open the Developer Tools. There are different ways to do that:

  • press Shift+Ctrl i (for inspect, this is the method I use)
  • from Chrome menu in the top right corner, under ‘Other tools’

When doing extension development, always keep the console open. We’ll come to why later.

Disable caching

When doing extension development, you want Qlik Sense to allways load the latest version of your code. The browser normally tries to cache loaded files, and not request the file from the server again, it it already has it in memory. The first thing you should do is to disable this caching.It’s easy to do:

  • open developer console
  • switch to network tab
  • click the ‘Disable cache’ checkbox

The disable cache checkbox only affects the browser when the developer console is open. When the developer console is not open, the browser will still cache javascript files. This is why you should always open the browser console when your are working with extension development.

Check installed extensions (and mashups)

There is a lot of information in the network tab. You can se all network requests made by the Qlik Sense client, and since the client is load in chunks there will be a lot of them. There are also requests for images, CSS stylesheets and other requests. To help you filter the requests there is a bar:

Click on XHR and you will get a list of other calls. One of them is of special interest when you are doing extension development, the one called schema (url is really /qrs/extension/schema). Click on that one, and then on ‘Preview’ and you will get a list of all extensions and mashups installed on the system, including all data in the qext file:

This is a good place to check that your extension is installed, and what version (just remember to keep the version number in the qext file up to date). It’s also a good place to start when you are troubleshooting an extension you did not write.

Debugging the extension code

The ‘Sources’ tab is what you use for debugging. If the code is minified (many extensions are) you can click the curly braches in the bottom left corner to get a somewhat more readable format.

The toolbar in the upper right corner can be used to step through your code. The stop button will make the browser pause when an error occurrs, which is very useful to find bugs. Unfortunately it does not really work in extensions. That’s because Qlik Sense catches all extension errors (and silently ignores them).

So to have the browser pause on your errors, you need to check the box ‘Pause on caught exceptions’. If you do that, the browser will pause when an exception is thrown from your code. Unfortunately it will also break on some exceptions (in libraries) that are perfectly OK, so you can’t really turn it on always. Just turn it on when you think there might be an exception thrown from your code and then trigger a repaint, for example by resizin the window.

Check files in extension

The navigator on the left side in the sources tab shows you extension files in a tree structure. But it will only show you javascript files, so CSS and HTML files are not included. If you want to see those, switch to the network tab, and filter on the extension name.

Note that the qext file is not included. That’s because the qext file is not loaded by the client, the information is instead included in the schema.

and there’s more

Of course there is more, but I couldn’t cover everything in one post. Look out for part 2, available when I find the time to write it..