Browser Compatibility Testing: Cross-Platform Cross-Browser Multiple Resolutions Compatibility Testing Tools - Sharewood Guide
To check the compatibility of your site across different browsers, operating systems, or screen resolutions there are a handful of little known tools which professional webmasters keep secretly inside their toolkits. I have gone out to find out what these are.
Photo credit: BrowserCam edited by Daniele Bazzano
As you probably know, you cannot take for granted how your web site will be displayed when called up on a computer running a different operating system than yours. In fact, there are at least three main issues that affect the way your web pages are displayed on other people screens:
- The browser (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc) and the specific version your viewers use
- The operating system (Mac, Windows, Linux) your viewers run on their machines.
- The screen resolution your viewers have set on their monitors.
To make this straight, a page rendered in Firefox 2 on a Windows machine probably won't look the same when opened again in Firefox 3 on a Mac. This is why as an online publisher you have to go out of your way to make sure your site displays almost identically across different browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.
But how can you test such a broad variety of possible combinations? Install all the available browsers and operating systems out there, and then test your web pages at each one of the different screen resolutions your monitor can handle?
If you want to maintain your sanity, don't even attempt the above. The sheer number of possible combinations you need to test is pretty scary: 15 basic setups that need to be tested at least at three different resolutions makes for positive extended nightmare. Trust me.
In this guide, I have personally hand-picked the best browser compatibility testing tools out there to help you check rapidly your site across different browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.
Cross-platform browser testing tools generally all work in the same way. You provide the URL of the web page you want to test, and then select the operating systems, browsers, and (when available) the specific screen resolutions you want to test your page on.
The browser compatibility testing service you choose will then proceed to take a screenshot of that very page according to the specifics you have chosen (operating system, browser model and version, etc.), so that you can immediately evaluate what are the key issues to be addressed inside your web page HTML code tags.
Here below is a comprehensive list of all the browser compatibility testing tools and services out there as well as a set of key basic criteria I have utilized to compare them:
- Price: Is the service free or does it require the payment of a fee to be used.
- Free Trial: Many services allow a free testing period. Find out who does.
- Browser: Which browsers (and browser versions) are supported by the service.
- OS: Indicates which operating systems are supported in the compatibiliy test.
- Screen resolution: Specifies whether you can test your web page across different screen resolutions.
- Unique characteristics: Discover the key feature that makes every service unique.
To make your analysis and selection task even most effective, here below I have also prepared a comparison table showcasing all of the available cross-platform browser compatibility testing tools, along with a full set of mini-reviews introducing each one.
Intro by Daniele Bazzano
Cross-Platform Browser Testing Tools Comparison Table
*Please refer to services sites for additional pricing solutions.
Check The Compatibility Of Your Site Across Different Browsers, Operating Systems, And Screen Resolutions
BrowserCam allows you to test your site across different browsers, and operating systems. The service works on any browser you can think of running on Windows, Mac, and Linux Fedora Core 9. Testing of different screen resolutions is also allowed. A unique feature of Browsercam is the possibility of testing how your pages are rendered on a Blackberry smart phone running Windows Mobile 5.0. BrowserCam is priced at $19,95 for one day of use, but there additional pricing solutions if you plan to use it for a longer time. Free to try for 24 hours and 200 screen captures.
Litmus is a web-based service that lets you compare the rendering of your site in different browsers and operating systems. Using the Basic (free) version you can run tests on IE7 and Firefox 2. By purchasing one of the additional pricing solutions you can access a wider choice of browsers and operating systems. Litmus offers no trial period nor the possibility to test your site at different screen resolutions. As a unique feature the service allows you to test the layout of your newsletters (only for MS Office 2003 and GMail in the Basic version).
- Browser Photo
Browser Photo is a web-based solution that takes screenshots of your web pages across different browsers and operating systems for layout-testing purposes. The service works with main browsers on the market (IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera) running on Windows, Mac and Linux. Browser Photo allows you to test browsers at different screen resolutions as well. No trial period is available. Priced at $15 for a one-time use, Browser Photo offers additional pricing plans to suit your needs.
BrowsrCamp is a web-based service that allows you to check the compatibility of your site across different browsers but only on Mac machines. Working on almost all the browsers you can run on OSX, BrowsrCamp also allows you to test your site at different screen resolutions. Starting at $3 for two days of utilize, the service offers additional pricing solutions for longer testing periods. Free testing on Safari 3.12 only.
- IE NetRenderer
IE NetRenderer is a free web-based service that lets you compare how a web site is rendered across different versions of Internet Explorer (from 5.5 to 8 Beta 2). Screen-resolution testing is not allowed. An useful and unique feature of IE NetRenderer allows you to compare at a first glance any difference in the way your page is displayed on the screen between IE6 and IE7 .
Multi-Safari is a free browser testing service that allows you to check the rendering of your site across different versions of the Safari. The service is designed to avoid different installations of OSX to test the your site on older releases of the Safari web browser. Multi-Safari does not allow any test on different screen resolutions.
If you are aware of other browser compatibility testing tools you tried and you think are worth mentioning here, please feel free to use the comment area below.
Originally prepared by Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia and first published on November 19th 2008 as "Browser Compatibility Testing: Cross-Platform Cross-Browser Multiple Resolutions Compatibility Testing Tools - Sharewood Guide".
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