The solution is using a local proxy and replacing certain requests with local files. That way custom files can be injected based on regular expressions and tests can be performed on the production site or even on sites without access to the system itself.
While Fiddler works great on Windows and Charles Proxy does the same on OSX I want to present the poor man’s solution which makes use of any local Apache installation (i.e. MAMP).
The required changes in the httpd.conf are:
# Enable proxy requests
# Secure the proxy to allow localhost requests only
Deny from all
Allow from 127.0.0.1
Allow from ::1
# replace some files with local copies
RewriteRule myfile.js http://localhost:8888/test/myfile.source.js [P]
# Disable caching
Lets go through the changes line by line:
The first two lines enable the Apache Proxy support (ProxyRequests On); the <Proxy *> block then configures the proxy further. As stated in the documentation multiple times it is a good thing to secure the server, that’s why only access from localhost is permitted. The important part are now the RewriteRules – they proxy certain requests to the local server instead of the remote server, in the sample above all requests that contain myfile.js will be replaced by the version served from the local server. This could as well be any other remote machine serving the file, as the request is proxied again ([P] flag). Finally caching is avoided by setting all files to expire right now (while this adds more load to the proxy it is not that bad to do during testing).
Now the proxy has to be used in the browser or application of choice; once the proxy settings are changed within the networks settings the access log of Apache should become quite busy when browsing around and, depending on your mod_rewrite settings above, some requests should be replaced with the local copy of a file, making debugging way easier.
Of course the drawbacks of the poor man’s solution are that Apache has to be reloaded in case the RewriteRules change and changing the configuration is not as comfortable as with the dedicated proxy solutions mentioned above. Nevertheless this solution works, is fast and very reliable… and free