Whenever a Web browser downloads something from a server, the conversation between the client and the server includes a slew of information that the user almost never sees. Most of this information is contained in the HTTP headers—the first part of every response sent back by a Web server, describing the document about to be sent.
The user almost never needs to know about this information because it doesn't affect them. But if you're trying to troubleshoot a response from a Web server that doesn't seem to be working correctly, this tool can help you see HTTP headers 'live' and in context.
Programmer Jonas Blunck has created a toolbar for Internet Explorer (IE) called ieHTTPHeaders, which lets you view the exact HTTP headers for all the documents downloaded by IE when you click on a link. When installed, it's off by default: You have to enable the header window by selecting View | Explorer Bar | ieHTTPHeaders from IE's menu.
Click on a link while the ieHTTPHeaders window is open and you'll see a bunch of information flash by, which you can then scroll through. Headers for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) traffic are also shown, although the data itself is not. Information in blue is the HTTP headers returned by the server; information in black is the data sent by your browser (such as GET or POST actions). This lets you debug not only what you receive but what gets sent by the browser—for instance, you can determine if cookies aren't transmitting correctly or if data in a POST form is not rendering properly. Right-click on the header pane, select Settings, and you can choose whether you want to see only sent information, received information, or both.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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