What are ESP Web Tools?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

With ESPHome now under Nabu Casa's wing, the open-source community has eagerly awaited advancements in this beloved application. The wait is over with the introduction of ESP Web Tools. These innovative tools not only elevate ESPHome, but also significantly increase the ease of use for projects using ESP8266 or ESP32 microcontrollers.


Simplified Terminology for ESP8266/ESP32 Projects

Accessibility is crucial in the ever-evolving world of ESP8266 and ESP32 projects. A shift towards user-friendly terminology is replacing technical jargon. For instance, “flashing firmware” is now “installing projects.” This change is reflected in the interfaces of WLED and ESPEasy, both powered by ESP Web Tools, and ESPHome's dashboard, which has updated its “Upload Firmware” button to “Install.”

Esp Web Tools 09

ESP Web Tools: A New Era for IoT Projects

ESP Web Tools, though developed by ESPHome, are open-source and available to all. These tools enhance a variety of projects beyond ESPHome. Popular open-source projects like WLED, ESPEasy, Clockwise, and Squeezelite-ESP32 have already integrated ESP Web Tools. As more developers recognize their potential, these tools have the potential to become a standard in open-source IoT projects.

Screenshot of the ESPEasy installation page. The page instructs the user to connect their ESP device to the computer, select a variant from a dropdown menu, and click the 'Install' button to install ESPEasy.
Screenshot of the WLED web installer. The screen shows instructions to plug in an ESP device to a USB port, hit 'Install' and select the correct COM port. It advises that the process is faster if the user stays on the tab. The installation progress bar indicates 40% completion, with details showing WLED version 0.12.0 for ESP8266 and 281.6/703.8 kB written. The bottom of the screen notes the installer is powered by ESP Web Tools.

Installing Projects Directly from Your Browser

ESP Web Tools allow users to install projects on microcontrollers directly from a browser, eliminating the need for downloading binaries and using ESPHome-Flasher. At the core of ESP Web Tools is the Web Serial API, which connects to serial devices via USB or Bluetooth. This API enables websites to interact with physical serial devices, bridging the digital and tangible worlds.

For example, with WLED, users no longer need to download firmware binaries or tools to flash the ESP. The entire process is handled through the browser. Users simply navigate to the WLED web installer and click the “Install” button. Once installed, the ESP8266 or ESP32 microcontroller creates an access point. Users can then connect to this access point and set up their device using the WLED app, streamlining the entire process.

Screenshot of the ESPHome dashboard 'Pick Install Target' menu with four options: 'Install wirelessly - Requires the device to be online,' 'Install via the browser - For devices connected to this computer,' 'Install via the server - For devices connected to server running dashboard,' and 'Download - Install it yourself using your preferred method.' A 'Cancel' button is at the bottom.
Screenshot of a browser window showing install.wled.me requesting to connect to a serial port. Two options are listed: 'CP2104 USB to UART Bridge Controller (COM3)' and 'USB2.0-Serial (COM6) - Paired.' At the bottom, there are 'Connect' and 'Cancel' buttons.

Limitations of ESP Web Tools

However, ESP Web Tools have limitations. They require a secure HTTPS connection, which can be problematic for the ESPHome dashboard typically accessed via HTTP. Additionally, the Web Serial API is currently supported only by Edge, Chrome, and Opera. This may be a drawback for those avoiding Chromium-based browsers.

During testing with WLED and ESPHome, a slower installation speed was noticed when the window was hidden. To avoid this, keep the tab visible in a separate window. This minor adjustment can significantly improve the installation process.

Screenshot of the 'Pick Install Target' menu with four options: 'Install wirelessly - Requires the device to be online,' 'Install via the browser - Dashboard needs to be opened via HTTPS,' 'Install via the server - For devices connected to server running dashboard,' and 'Download - Install it yourself using your preferred method.' A 'Cancel' button is at the bottom.

Installing WLED with ESP Web Tools: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a real-world example of using ESP Web Tools to install WLED on a NodeMCU ESP8266 microcontroller. Connect the board to your computer with a Micro-USB cable and navigate to the WLED web installer. Click the “Install” button, and Chrome will prompt you to select a serial port. If unsure, unplug and replug the NodeMCU to see the correct port (e.g., COM6).

The installation process is quick and straightforward, taking under two minutes without needing to specify the board type or enter credentials. This example highlights the efficiency of using ESP Web Tools for IoT projects.

Initial Impressions of ESP Web Tools

ESP Web Tools have the potential to transform the DIY IoT landscape for ESP8266 and ESP32 devices. They simplify the installation process, making it accessible even for beginners. By lowering the entry barrier, ESP Web Tools encourage more enthusiasts to explore budget-friendly ESP8266 and ESP32 devices.

In summary, ESP Web Tools enhance the usability and accessibility of IoT projects, offering a streamlined approach to installing projects directly from a browser. Despite some limitations, their potential to simplify and democratize IoT development is substantial. For detailed guides and examples of projects using ESP Web Tools, visit Home Assistant Guide.

A portrait photo oif Liam Alexander Colman, the author, creator, and owner of Home Assistant Guide wearing a suit.

About Liam Alexander Colman

is an experienced Home Assistant user who has been utilizing the platform for a variety of projects over an extended period. His journey began with a Raspberry Pi, which quickly grew to three Raspberry Pis and eventually a full-fledged server. Liam's current operating system of choice is Unraid, with Home Assistant comfortably running in a Docker container.
With a deep understanding of the intricacies of Home Assistant, Liam has an impressive setup, consisting of various Zigbee devices, and seamless integrations with existing products such as his Android TV box. For those interested in learning more about Liam's experience with Home Assistant, he shares his insights on how he first started using the platform and his subsequent journey.

Leave a comment

Share to...