Cross-platform browser testing

Published August 9th, 2006

One of the recurring problems of developing web pages is testing on multiple browsers. Particularly challenging, given that I use a PC running Windows, is getting access to browsers that aren’t even available for Windows such as Safari and Konqueror.

One answer is to use one of the numerous services that host multiple OSs in such a way that you can test your pages remotely: yesterday I stumbled across BrowserPool, which allows you to connect (via a VNC client) to five different testing environments including Mac OSX and Linux. It’s a subscription service but there is a free option, although they reserve the right to kick you off at any time, without warning.

There are alternatives, such as BrowserShots (free) and BrowserCam (subscription), which take static images of your pages so you can check layout (BrowserCam also has a VNC option).

But I was most excited today (I don’t get out much…) to see the arrival of Swift, a port of Safari (or strictly speaking, WebKit) for Windows. It’s very early days (it’s currently listed as Alpha 0.1) but it does already work well enough to render pages. Javascript support isn’t quite there yet, but it’s a very promising project.

As for getting Konqueror working on a Windows PC, well it seems like the only current option is to install some sort of virtual Linux (eg. CygWin (tutorial), coLinux, or perhaps VMWare (tutorial)) and install KDE. It’s a bit involved, but it does work…slowly.

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  1. Pingback: Cross-browser testing: IE6 and IE7 (and maybe more…) » StickBlog on December 1, 2006
  2. Pingback: Updated: Cross-platform browser testing | Stickblog on May 22, 2008


  1. Jens Wedin on August 9, 2006

    I saw that you linked to my first serie, check out part III if you want to try out the WmWare solution, quite simple I must say.

  2. Jose on August 10, 2006

    Many of my clients demand that their render/behave identically in a wide array of browsers, which is one of the reasons I use Mac OS X for development work. I typically test in Safari/Firefox/Opera on the Mac and have two separate virtual machines running in Virtual PC so I can test IE 6/7 also. That allows me to test as I go on the major browsers. Virtual PC is a little slow but I find it a lot faster than testing via a VNC connection. I’ve used some sites that take a screen capture of the site, but that only works to test the page in it’s initial state, and cant help you with any DHTML/AJAX/DOM manipulation of the page that may occur after the page loads in the browser.

  3. Stickman on August 10, 2006

    Jens: Thanks, I’ve added that link to the article. And I tried it myself yesterday — a big download but it worked out of the box, so thanks for that.

    Jose: Yes, the screen capture route is very limited in its usefulness, but I suppose it’s better than nothing. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before it’s possible to run OSX on Windows through some sort of virtualisation (or dual boot a la BootCamp), which would make it all much easier.

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