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Browser checking tools allow you to test your website in a variety of different web browsers easily

Browser checking tools allow you to test your website in a variety of different web browsers easily

Browser checking tools are important and can be a life saver, as they allow you to test or check your website in a variety of different web browsers.

It is not possible for many web designers and developers to have physical installations of each browser type and version on each operating system out there. I do know of digital agencies that have a number of testing PCs dotted around the development studio for quick testing of work or perhaps a testing server with 8 or 10 different browser versions and operating systems installed.

But for many of us, especially freelancers, having this number of browsers and operating systems at our finger tips is not possible unless we fork out money for the hardware ourselves and install the required browsers.

For instance, I have 3 computers, running Windows 7, Windows Vista and Mac OSX 10.5. On those computers I can test using the following browsers – IE7, IE8, Chrome, Firefox 3.6 (PC), Opera 10, Safari 3 (Mac) and Firefox 3 (Mac).

So that is a decent number of browsers, but there are times when I need to test on IE6 or a different version of Firefox, Safari or Chrome that I don’t have running on any of my machines. Plus, when new browsers are released, I have to decide whether I can accommodate it within my existing setup or whether I need to do things differently.

Thankfully, the last couple of years have seen a number of good browser checking software solutions launched, which allow me to check the website over in pretty much whichever browser I want installed on any of the main operating systems.

Here are 3 of the most popular browser checking tools taken from the relevant category of our Testing Tools Directory, which contains 9 browser testing tools in total.

CrossBrowserTesting.com

CrossBrowserTesting.com allows live testing and automated screenshots

CrossBrowserTesting.com allows live testing and automated screenshots

Allows live testing on an OS and Browser of your choice plus the ability to take screenshots across a range of browsers.

Features:

  • Offers live testing – for in depth testing, using the browser you need remotely
  • Automated screenshots – to identify display issues
  • From 150 minutes per month
  • 1 week free trial
  • Pricing starts at $20 per month

When you sign up you get access to the live testing and automated screenshot features, whilst all packages come with a 1 week free trial. Packages are based on a usage allowance with $20 per month getting you 150 minutes.

Browsrcamp

Browsrcamp focuses on Mac browsers

Browsrcamp focuses on Mac browsers

Focusing on web browsers running on a Mac operating system, such as Safari, Firefox and Flock, which allows those who don’t use a Mac to test the compatibility of their websites on Mac browsers.

Features:

  • Gain access to 12 browsers on a remote machine including Safari, Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer plus other lesser known browsers.

With prices starting at $3 for a 2 day subscription, Browsrcamp represents good value for money for website testing on a wide range of Mac browsers.

Adobe Browserlab

Adobe Browserlab is free for a year if you sign up to CS Live

Adobe Browserlab is free for a year if you sign up to CS Live before the end of April 2011

Now a part of Adobe’s CS Live, Browserlab integrates with CS5 allowing you to access it from Dreamweaver and starting testing straightaway.

Features:

  • Zoom – allows you to zoom in to see more detail and spot bugs more easily
  • Rulers and Guides – display rulers along the x and y axes and display a guideline at the point of the screenshot
  • Screenshot Delay – you can take a screenshot several seconds after the page loads allowing time for flash animations to start to play and show content
  • Customisable settings – configure up to 10 browsers sets for different projects
  • Multiple viewing modes – compare 2 browsers side by side or overlay one over the top of another with the Onion Skin view
  • Covers all leading browsers

If you sign up by end of April 2011 you get Adobe Browserlab free for a year as part of CS Live, which also includes CS Review, Acrobat.com and a couple of other online services.

Conclusion

I think each of the 3 browser testing services has its merits. Browserlab from Adobe has some good features, getting free use for a year is also a big bonus and, even if you don’t use their Creative Suite then Browserlab is still a good standalone testing suite.

CrossBrowserTesting.com was pretty much the first service to move beyond just taking screenshots and allow you to access the browser itself to conduct real testing. They have the widest range of operating system and browser combinations and so are worth a look from that point of view.

I would use Browsrcamp for any specific Mac browser that you can’t get on either Browserlab or CrossBrowserTesting.com or if you just need access for a short period of time, as $3 is peanuts for 2 days access.

Tom Batey
Tom Batey, founder of Testing Web Sites & WebDepend, is a hands on website tester focusing on quality across web, mobile and email.