This post is written for designers, developers, or anyone else who has struggled with testing their websites across multiple browsers.
As little as one year ago, there were almost no good options for testing cross-browser compatibility of websites. The tools out there usually had significant drawbacks — either in cost, capabilities, or time required. Lately, though, there have been a lot of newcomers to the browser testing world, some of which offer truly excellent services.
In this article we’ve listed 7 fresh and simple tools for cross-browser compatibility testing, tools that actually make this stuff pretty easy. Not only that, but every single one of these tools can be used for free.
The Xenocode Browser Sandbox is a game-changer for browser testing on Windows-based machines. With a single click of your mouse you can have an open and working browser without any installation. You can test in various IE versions, Firefox, Google Chrome, and even Safari. And really test, too, not just screenshots. To top everything off, the entire service is provide free of charge. Zip, nadda, nothing.
Alas, this isn’t yet the perfect solution. There is currently no Macintosh support, which is definitely a significant problem. I’ve heard rumor that this may be coming in the future, though, and at that time this service will be in a class of its own.
Free 5 minute test sessions for registered users, and a lot more than that for paid users. CrossBrowserTesting.com makes things as easy as logging in and selecting an available machine with the browser/os you want. Once you pick your machine and browser you can begin your testing.
You can use a web-based java applet to connect to their remote test machines, or you can use a local VNC client if you have one installed. Their system allows full testing of a site’s interactivity and, like Xenocode’s solution, is not just screenshots.
This is a free downloadable windows program that is still in the early stages of development. That being said, it is a single free resource that will allow you to fully test all of the relevant versions of Internet Explorer.
Just download and install their free browser, and you can easily select which IE rendering version you want to browse in. The program even allows comparing two different versions side-by-side. Did I mention it’s free?
With all of the IE-Only test sites out there, it was about time someone joined in and created a site that allows testing on Safari/Mac. The free version of their service offers near-instant screenshots on the newest stable release of safari, and though it’s lacking a bit in browser versions it definitely makes up for it in rendering speed.
For a few dollars extra, they offer the ability to take over an entire machine and perform much more in-depth testing.
Over a period of just a few months, Litmus has risen in popularity to become one of the most favored cross-browser testing tools on the market today. Unfortunately, their free options are very limited and only allow testing in IE7 and FireFox 2.
The paid version of their app is significantly more robust, and allows testing in dozens of browsers and even email clients. Unfortunately again, with a single-user subscription starting at $49/mo, this isn’t cheap either. For those who need a robust test suite, though, it can be worthwhile.
NetRenderer is a slightly more humble-looking option for testing IE compatibility. Like many of the other services, NetRenderer creates screenshots of your website in various browsers. It currently supports everything from IE5.5 all the way to IE8, and creates your screenshots very quickly without needing to wait.
They also provide a browser toolbar that allows you to quickly test any of the pages you are visiting with their service. This is also a free service, and they don’t even offer a paid version of the tests.
BrowserShots has become one of the most common methods of testing lately, and with good reason. They allow testing in almost any browser/os, including some very rare combinations. The free version of the app only has one limitation — you must wait for paid users to get access first.
Because of their popularity, though, it can be very slow to receive the test screenshots at certain times of day. Since they rely on member computers to provide the screenshots, the more popular the browser/os combination you select the faster you’ll receive your renders. Unless everyone else is trying for the same one 🙂
Adobe MeerMeer is a sweet looking test suite that is going to be released very shortly from Adobe. They previewed some of the features at their Adobe MAX event, and since then nearly everyone who’s heard about it is excited.
MeerMeer will offer a significant number of benefits compared with existing test suites. The most notable is probably the “onion skin”, or the ability to overlay one rendering on top of another from a different browser. Keep your eye on this one, it is going to be big.
About the author:
Mason Hipp is a designer, entrepreneur, and writer. He is co-author of the Book The Unlimited Freelancer
, and has just recently launched a collection of premium graphic resources for web designers called MediaLoot
. Follow him on twitter @MasonHipp
10 Helpful Resources for Cross Browser Testing
By Steven Snell | Published October 19th, 2008 in Resources
Every web designer knows that browser differences can create plenty of headaches. Finding and fixing problems can be difficult if you’re not equipped with the right tools. In this post we’ll take a brief look at 10 of the leading resources for making your browser testing less time consuming and more productive.
Browsershots is a popular free service that will provide screen shots of a page from just about any browser from all of the common operating systems. All you have to do is enter your URL and select the browsers and operating systems that you want to test. Browsershots will then enter your information into the queue, and in a few minutes you should have the screen shots.
There is a paid option that will give you priority over the free requests. When the service is busy it can take a while to get the free screen shots, but you can pay $15 per month for priority processing.
BroswerCam is a paid service with options for daily, monthly, or yearly. They also offer a free trial that will allow you to test the screen capture service by getting up to 200 screen captures within the 24-hour trial.
NetMechanic Browser Photo
Brower Photo from NetMechanic is a paid service that will allow you to test different versions of Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox and Safari on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can test on various screen resolutions as well.
Browser Photo has a nice print-friendly feature that will help you to show clients or bosses how you’ve test the site and how it appears on different browsers. You can get Browser Photo for $15 for one-time use, or $150 per domain per year for unlimited use.
Litmus provides testing on all major browsers and also produces bug reporting to help you identify and correct any errors. Once the testing is complete you can produce a compatibility report to share with clients. In addition to website testing, Litmus also offers testing of HTML emails in all major email clients, and also runs your messages through spam filters and identifies any problems so you can get more of your messages read.
There is a limited version of Litmus available for free. Additionally, there is a day pass with full access (minus spam analysis) for $24, an individual subscription for $49 per month, or a team subscription for $199 per month.
IE NetRenderer is a free tool that’s great for testing websites in Internet Explorer, typically the most troublesome browser. With IE NetRenderer all you have to do is choose a version of IE and enter the URL that you want to test, and you’ll instantly get a screen shot of the page being tested.
BrowserCamp allows you to test the compatibility of your design with Mac OS X browsers. You can quickly enter the URL that you want to test and get a full length screen shot at several different screen widths. Additionally, for full testing you can pay $3 for a two-day subscription, or $99 for a one-year subscription, with a few options in between.
IE Tester from DebugBar
ieCapture is a free tool for getting screen shots from websites in Internet Explorer. It’s very simple, just enter a URL and in a moment your screen shot will appear.
iPhoney is a free iPhone web simulator for designers. To use iPhoney you’ll have to download the program, but there is no cost.