Recently, I had been contacted by one of the Chainsaw‘s developers – Scott Deboy (no blog yet). He asked if I had any feedback on the tool’s new iteration as it would seem to be a good match to my interests and blog’s goal.
I had looked at the Chainsaw a while ago, but it was not quite up to scratch then. Looking at it again, the tool feels much better and if you have to look at the log files, I strongly recommend to check it out (and/or Splunk).
Initially, Chainsaw may feel a little forbidding due to a large feature set. But as with other strong tools, such as Ethereal and XMLStarlet, if you have to deal with the problem space repeatedly, these tools make it worth your while. And all of those features are actually useful and come from attacking real problems. This is quite a different feel to some of the vendors’ tools which look shiny, but fail in real use.
I do however have some gripes that I feel would make troubleshooting much faster if resolved. Most of them are around (otherwise great) highlighting and expression facilities.
- For the fields that take an expression, it would be good to see whether the expression typed in so far is correct. Ethereal does this quite nicely. Expression builder is good for beginners, but immediate correctness feedback would be useful for those that are more advanced.
- It would be good to have the highlight rules available as a view/pane. In Vim (with OTF script installed) – I can highlight with as little as :1OTF XYZ (1-9 is a color index). So, the price of verifying an idea is very quick. I feel both Ethereal and Chainsaw are slightly behind in that respect. In addition, I can highlight multiple elements in a line with different colours. That really helps sometimes. Again, nothing else I have seen allows me to do that.
- The expression window for Next/Previous navigation does not seem to have keyboard shortcuts equivalent to the buttons and requires switching hands from the keyboard to the mouse. Having keyboard mapping would be faster. Some other window also did not seem to respond to Enter key and required switching to the mouse, but I did not note which one.
- Bookmarking a particular line and ability to come back to it quickly would be great. This feature however is more nice than important.
So in summary, Chainsaw is very nice, but still with some room to grow.
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