Develop Better Ethereum DApps With These Tools

Writing code is certainly the first step in coming up with a smart contract once you are clear on the overall plan of what you need from said contract and why you need it and have already gathered the necessary tools to get started.

Then, you are going to need to analyze and test the code -- test, debug and deploy to ensure it is functioning well as planned/desired. There may be other several steps required but in any case, before going live, you are going to need to test your smart contract on a public or private testnet for functionality, while keeping in mind the most important analytics for your dApp.

Below, I have compiled a number of tools you would need to do exactly that, below:

IDEs for writing code

Remix IDE, which is an open-source, browser-based compiler, lets developers write Solidity contracts in-browser and features its own code analyzer to ensure developers can consistently write better code. In addition, it also supports the testing, debugging, and deploying of Solidity smart contracts.

These particular features are now available as separate plugins that can be added separately whenever a person wishes. This is done by clicking on the “PluginManager” in the console, which will then allow you to see the different plugin modules that need to be activated, from the debugger to the compiler. The ability to test a plugin is activated by clicking on “Solidity Unit Testing” from the "Plugin Manager." Here you can also find examples that can be used to build your own Solidity tests and related documentation.

EthFiddle, which is named after the Javascript online editor JSFiddle, is also an online IDE that allows developers to create Ethereum smart contracts over the web. One feature that sets it out from the crowd is the ability to perform security audits inside of its environment. That also allows developers to discover errors without compromising the contract once it goes live.

Truffle IDE also offers a development environment with a testing framework and asset pipeline for blockchains that use the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). With it, you can develop, initialize, compile, link, deploy, migrate, and test your code with Mocha and Chai. You can also use network management to deploy it to public and private networks as well as use the environment's interactive console for more direct contract communication.

Finally, it comes bundled with a local development blockchain server that will launch automatically when you invoke the "Truffle Compile," the "Truffle Migrate," and the "Truffle Test" commands.

Intellij IDEA also offers relevant suggestions for code completion, analysis and refactoring of the tools. By predicting these needs, it automates what are traditionally tedious, repetitive development tasks and this way, also boosts productivity. This, in turn, helps with in-depth coding assistance, speeding up navigation, and improving the analysis of errors as well as refactoring. Finally, the Java IDE tool also offers coding assistance for other programming languages like SQL, JPQL, HTML, and JavaScript.

It features in-build building tools, version control, a de-compiler, coverage and database tools and support for SQL. By clicking Ctrl+Shift+Space, a developer can find out which symbols are applicable in the current context, because the tool is learning from your context and moving the most relevant and most used classes and packages to the top of the suggestion list. It also features static members completion, data flow analysis, language injection and cross-language re-factorings, as well as the ability to detect duplicates, inspections, and quick fixes.

Other IDE tools that are widely used in the development of Solidity smart contracts include Atom; Visual Studio Code with a Solidity extension installed from a marketplace; Visual Studio Community; Sublime Text; Eclipse-based Yakindu extension, which features code completion, quick fixes, templates, live validation, and compiler integration; Etheratom, EmbarkPragma, the Solc compiler, EtherScripter, a novice builder tool which allows building of smart contracts using drag and drop functionality for code, and the Ethers.js library for building a client-side JavaScript-based wallet, as well as Vim.

On top of all of this, Geth is also used as a command line tool and an implementation of an Ethereum node in the programming language called "Go." With it, developers can mine for Ether tokens, transfer tokens in-between addresses, create smart contracts, then later enact them on the Ethereum Virtual Machine, and explore the history of the relevant blocks. It is supported on the Linux, Mac and Windows operating systems. 

Code analyzer tools

These tools assist in the writing of clean and secure code, especially if the code will be handling other people's money as mistakes in this respect could lead to major losses of said money. Solium and Open-Zeppelin are some of the code analyzer tools that can be used in analyzing in this context.

Solium acts like an analyzer by checking code for style and security issues, and issuing instant style warnings via its editor. In addition to using it for analyzing and fixing errors in smart contract code, developers can use Solium to standardize smart contract practices across their organization and integrate their build system to deploy it with confidence.

Open-Zeppelin can be used alongside Truffle in the building of distributed applications, protocols, and organizations while ensuring reliable contract security patterns.

Testnets: Blockchain test network/tools

Testnets are blockchain copies and not real blockchain networks, which are used to experiment with ideas that are still under development. This means they allow you to play around with and optimize features before you can go live on the main network.

A testnet can be public or private. With public ones, any user or development group can connect through existing bridge interfaces such as MyEtherWallet or MetaMask to begin testing their platform. Testnets supported by these interfaces include Rinkeby, Ropsten, and Kovan.

GanacheCL, a NodeJS bundle that works like a blockchain emulator, creates a virtual Ethereum blockchain alongside some 10 fake or test accounts that are used for development, complete with private keys. Each of these virtual chains goes live with 100 Ether that may be used for the purposes of testing. A Ganache test blockchain does not have "mining," but transactions are instead, immediately confirmed. In other words, it allows for the deployment of a virtual Ethereum node running like a real node, with real connections to the real wallets, mentioned as interfaces above. 

Ganache is used to simulate full client behavior and make the developing of Ethereum applications faster, and easier. It also allows for the unit testing of code on a simulated blockchain, the testing of the deployment of smart contracts on a blockchain, and the playing around with all of said blockchain's relevant features. On top of all of this, It is also possible to connect Ganache to the Remix IDE in order to test additional features such as debugging, compilation, the overall interaction with contracts, and so much more.

Kaleido is used to spin up a consortium blockchain network (Ethereum and Quorum-based Blockchain networks) and to launch a private blockchain. Therefore, a private Kaleido Ethereum Blockchain can be used alongside a Truffle Framework to test smart contracts. The Project Ubin, a project initiated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, used a private blockchain to test the use of a private distributed ledger for the clearing and settlement of payments and securities between banks.

Creating a private blockchain is done by installing Kaleido and then creating a Consortium, which is a collection of participants coming together for a common purpose, stating the mission and location where the consortium will be hosted, and then starting a nodes to get new blocks mined.

You can then connect a wallet like MetaMask to the related blockchain to execute and test smart contracts. Once the contract is deployed on your private blockchain, you can check detailed data about transactions for each of the blocks mined. From the "Block Explorer," you can click "Explore" to begin doing so. 

Pantheon Private Network allows developers to run a private network of Pantheon nodes in a Docker container, run Orion for performing private transactions by PegaSys and run Artemis, a Java implementation of Ethereum 2.0, as well as Beacon Chain by PegaSys.

Cliquebait is used to integrate and test smart contracts with Docker instances that closely resemble a real blockchain network.

The Docker image will spin up a single-node Proof of Authority blockchain with Geth and generate some accounts and give the resultant, unlocked Ether to the community for usage with testing the chain's web3 applications. It also awards a shorter blocktime for transactions and a very high gas limit from the start. You can connect it to MetaMask and manage all of the network's supported accounts in one interface.

Local Raiden: with the experimentation of the Ropsten testnet version, you get faster and more predictable blocktimes with Local Raiden, the ability to tear-down everything and reboot, with the added obligation of keeping a synced Ropsten node up and running. There also are no tricky NAT issues to deal with and no need to hold Ropsten test Ether.

Local Ethereum Network lets you set up Ethereum nodes through Geth, run multiple nodes, mine, transfer between accounts, connect to other nodes on your network, test smart contract deployment in Ethereum environments.

Other similar tools are Ethereum on Azure that allows users to deploy and govern a consortium Ethereum Proof of Authority networks; getho, a DApp development platform that packs a PoA private blockchain and Smart Contract testing tool; and Ethereum on Google Cloud, which allows for the building of an Ethereum network based on a Proof-of-Work consensus protocol. 

Ethereum Web Clients and Dapp browsers

These tools allow developers to access dApps over the web or on other platforms, send transactions, store crypto, deploy contracts, and experiment with in-dApp features. 

MetaMask is by far the most popular web client for Ethereum and which lets developers access and use Ethereum network and Ethereum-based dApps directly from the browser and not only connects to the main Ethereum network from the browser but also to testnets such as Ropsten and TestRPC local network. MetaMask works for Chrome only and once installed, a user can be able to create a wallet.

It connects to the main Ehereum network by default, but by clicking on it, you can be able to change the network and choose a different one to connect for instance to the local network. With it, you can create a new Ethereum address, send transfers, sign transactions with dApps etc.

Mist, an Ethereum dApp browser, can also be used to run a local Ethereum network, create wallets, store Ether, send transactions, deploy contracts and play around with blockchains or testnets.

The Parity Chrome extension also renders the benefits of Parity dApp browser possible over the web, which includes the ability to browse Ethereum dApps in-browser. It comes with built-in wallet capabilities such as the sending, confirming, receiving, and storing of Ether transactions. It can also be downloaded from the Chrome appstore and hence, there is no need to access Github to find the relevant files.

You are, however, required to install and using it alongside the desktop application in order to enjoy the full benefits such as the support for ERC20 tokens or the in-app participation in ICOs. 

Smart Contract Analytics Tools

These tools help to know how users are interacting with your dApp, what issues are presenting difficulties, and to decide what you can do about the challenges to improve on performance metrics and usability of the dapp.

Leaderboard Tools such as DAppBpard provide a visual way to keep track of the number of users using the supported applications, the number of daily active users, the number of transactions, the number of senders and receivers, the Dapp's transaction volume and the Dapp's Ether volume. Furthermore, the tool also provides metrics for ETH, ERC20 and non-fungible tokens.

Trixta is another smart contract analytics tool that may be used to track actions, errors, and volumes of Dapps through its dashboard, simply by using Ethereum Contract ID to connect their smart contract to their Trixta workspace. It allows clients to build custom dashboards based on their data requirements, relying on the pre-built templates. It will also support analysis of smart contracts across multiple blockchain.

When connecting these contracts, developers can add any type of graph by which they want their data organized, time frames and groupings. Some of the data to track about a contract include transaction volume over time, gas used over time, etc.

Dap.com- in addition to being the App Store that aims to help users discover the best Dapps they can use for their endeavors based on gathered market intelligence, it features a Dapp Analytics tool that helps to provide unique data and insights to developers to better measure and better understand the performance of their dApps. It provides metrics such as customer behavior, trends, and other data that can further help developers understand user acquisition, activation and retention. No technical integration will be required to access these functionalities for their dApps.

Through a Cross-Chain Dapp SDK, Dapp.com also allow developers to deploy current d to multiple blockchains instead of building a dApp for each chain, and the Dapp can be accessed from different browsers. Using the BIP39 protocol, they hope to introduce Multi-chain Identity Network to let customers manage multiple account from different blockchains from a single account and place.

David Kariuki

David Kariuki likes to regard himself as a freelance tech journalist who has written and writes widely about a variety of tech issues that affect our society daily, including cryptocurrencies (see cryptomorrow.com and coinpedia.org); climate change (cleanleap.com), OpenSim and virtual reality (see hypergridbusiness.com). He is currently pursuing a MSc in Environmental Management at Open University. He does write here not to offer any investment advise but with the intention of informing audience, and articles in here are of his own opinion. Anyone willing to use any opinion here as advise to invest in crypto should obviously take own responsibility and accountability of their losses (or benefits) thereof. You can reach me at eqariu@gmail.com or david@cryptomorrow.com

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