Testing multiple versions of multiple browsers

There are a lot of browsers out there – IE, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, etc. – and so many versions of each. That doesn’t even count all the mobile browsers.  So how do you make sure your website work across all the different versions? 


You can install the latest version of each browser on your development machine, and that does help work out many of the cross-browser kinks.  But you can’t really install the older versions on your machine too.

Internet Explorer’s Dev Tools (just press F12 in IE 9) do give you a way to see your site in IE7 or IE8 mode.  And it’s pretty faithful, though I’ve read it does have some discrepancies, especially in the JavaScript engine.  And that only would solve the IE testing issues – not all the other devices.

When I searched for solutions, Adobe’s BrowserLab kept coming up.  It’s currently free so that’s a plus, but it only shows the layout of a page.  It doesn’t let you interact and actually test.  And it doesn’t support all the different browsers.


Enter spoon.net.  This site is a public-facing, cloud-based application virtualization service.  You sign up, install a small browser plug-in, and then it runs applications looking like they are just part of your OS, but they are really just virtual windows.  It gives access to lots of open source apps, but it also gives access to lots of browser versions.  Just look at the list below.


You just click Run, wait a few moments if it’s the first time, and you have your browser to test in.  Here’s the Firefox 6 instance I launched (I have Firefox 9 installed on my desktop, so this is definitely the virtualized app):


They do offer a free tier that gives access to just one device simultaneously.  You are supposed to be able to us all open source and purchased apps with the free version, but I did find that when I tried to launch some browser versions with the free version it said I could only use it for 2 minutes per 24 hours.  I’m not sure why some versions are free and others are not.  But the cheapest pricing tier is just $8 per month (or $60 per year) and gives you 5 simultaneous devices, access to all apps, the ability to install other apps, and more storage.  Quite reasonable.

Caveats:  They only have a Windows version of the plugin and they don’t have virtualized Mac or Linux instances.

It doesn’t solve the dilemma of how to test on the plethora of mobile devices out there, but this definitely simplifies testing all the desktop PC browsers!

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