Updated: Cross-platform browser testing

Published May 22nd, 2008

A while back I wrote an article about testing HTML on multiple browsers, bemoaning the difficulty of testing on platform-specific software such as Safari and Konqueror. Of course, since then Apple has released Safari for Windows, which takes care of that problem quite neatly.

However, what of Konqueror? Putting aside the point that it’s very much a minority browser, the virtualisation options that I suggested in my previous article really are rather involved for what should be a simple ALT+Tab to browser / Refresh / Check page / ALT+Tab back to editor operation. And no virtualisation software I’ve yet tried offers any kind of acceptable performance on the frankly weedy PC I’m stuck with at work.

So I was intrigued by Ulteo, which is a form of Linux designed to run as a ‘virtual desktop’ on top of Windows. Meaning that rather than running inside a self-contained window, applications running on Ulteo appear to be native Windows apps. Each has its own Windows taskbar icon (although XP’s grouping mechanism can rather spoil the effect) and can be accessed with ALT+Tab as if it were running on Windows itself. In operation, it’s entirely seamless: Ulteo itself manifests as a self-hiding application launcher at the top of the page, giving access to a whole range of Linux apps (including Konqueror).

This screenshot shows Konqueror running alongside two instances of Firefox — Windows and Linux (click for larger version):

Speed-wise, Ulteo takes a good while (on my wheezy old desktop) to boot up, but once it’s going it’s plenty fast enough that you wouldn’t really be aware that an app is running through Ulteo rather than Windows itself. It takes up its fair share of resources, but not so much that it interrupted the normal operation of my PC.

It’s a decent compromise for a tricky situation and well worth a look if you’re interested in testing on Konqueror, or indeed just giving Linux a spin with the minimum of upheaval/effort.

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