A Review and Overview of the Charles Web Debugging Proxy Application
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This application is probably older than you are.
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A Review of the Charles Web Debugging Proxy Application
Charles is a web debugging tool that is designed to allow developers to monitor all traffic between a browser and the Internet. While the application is probably older than some people reading this article (2002 - why am I so old), it remains useful to this day (08 March, 2019).
On Linux the installation process is to:
- Download the files
- Extract them
- Go to
charles/binand run the file
- That’s it.
See this image if this is unclear:
This is surprising, because if I had a dollar for every application that required some troubleshooting to get functioning consistently on Linux, I would have a fair number of dollars. The MacOS and Windows installation process are described as being comparably straightforward. A README.md with those instructions would be a nice addition to a future update for convenient.
Charles proxy is written in Java, which allows for programs (such as Charles) to be run on the Java virtual machine. This allows for applications to easily function between platforms, since the programmer (Karl von Randow) is able to write an application once (for Java), and then the Java VM handles the lower-level communication with different machines.
Tested Over a Long Lifespan
While version 1.0 was released “sometime in 2002,” the application continues to be maintained and expanded on with the last release (version 4.2.8) being published on 28 February, 2019, which is nine days before the date this review was published. Stable software is, in general, a better choice than cutting-edge tools that will plausibly fall off the face of the planet in three days.
Documentation and Support Exists
There are two types of tools: Tools that have good documentation and tools that nobody uses. The Charles documentation is concise while answering most questions you’d run into during the application’s use.
Arguably more importantly, the application is actually used by real developers, which means that there are other people around who have also posted additional information, like the 1981 Stack Overflow threads that exist at the time of this post.
If you’re a software developer or otherwise in the target demographic for Charles, you likely have an above-average Internet connection, which makes this self-explanatory feature convenient for simulating real-world situations.
Cross-Browser Setting Autoconfiguration
While there are many standards between browsers, getting applications to work with them often requires some adjustments out of the box. Charles autoconfigures proxy settings for most common configurations, including Windows/IE, macOS, Firefox, and various other setups.
Charles also features a nice vase.
In addition to the features highlighted here, other features of the Charles proxy application include image previewing, use with iOS and use with Android, JSON and XML rendering, header parsing, HTTP and HTTPs support, HTTP/2 support, DNS spoofing, port forwarding, support for reverse proxies, and various other functionality.
Should You Purchase Charles?
Plausibly - It depends what you need to do. Charles is specialized tool, but is also versatile. If you work in information technology, web development, computer programming, or other similar careers, there are a lot of tricks you can do with Charles that you might not have thought of offhand. It’s certainly worth downloading the free trial and testing out a few use cases.
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