Why has no one built an all-in-one cross-browser testing application?
January 22, 2010 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Why has no one created an application for web designers that allows you to test your website in various browsers?

I know all about the screencap services, but they pale in comparison to actually browsing and using the site on various browsers. I'm tired of using virtual desktops with hacked versions of IE to test my designs.

I assume that the size of an application with four distinct web engines would be massive, but what other limitations are keeping software engineers from creating what would probably be the most successful piece of web development software ever?
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm pretty sure Firefox has a plugin for this.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:10 AM on January 22, 2010


Firefox on Windows has an IE-view plugin, but it uses whatever version of IE you have installed. Also, you can't test webkit browsers with it... and it doesn't work on a Mac.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:12 AM on January 22, 2010


Because you can just go look at your website in the different browsers. All you need is one Mac and one PC, and copies of Firefox, IE and Safari, and you just go look at the site. Why do you need an app?
posted by musofire at 9:12 AM on January 22, 2010


Hell, you don't even need a separate Mac and PC. Use Parallels on your Mac with an XP image and you're covered.
posted by Oktober at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2010


Convenience. Why do you need a car if you can just walk everywhere?
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:14 AM on January 22, 2010


You mean like this?
http://browsershots.org/
posted by tehdiplomat at 9:15 AM on January 22, 2010


Wow. Does anyone read the [more inside]?
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:17 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's called Expression Web, and it's made by, of all people, Microsoft.
posted by zsazsa at 9:18 AM on January 22, 2010


Adobe Browser Lab
posted by bristolcat at 9:20 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've used Expression Web SuperPreview, and it didn't seem to work. Perhaps I was doing something wrong... I might give it another shot.

ABL is a screencap service wrapped in flash.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2010


I assume that the size of an application with four distinct web engines would be massive

You'd need source code for all the browsers and you can't get it for IE, Opera and the non-open source bits of Safari. It's like asking why they can't grow an animal that's a combination of rats, dogs and pigs for drug testing. It's because it's not possible. Now you're testing against something different again.
posted by GuyZero at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I assume that the size of an application with four distinct web engines would be massive, but what other limitations are keeping software engineers from creating what would probably be the most successful piece of web development software ever?

Four? More like two hundred and eighty six, unless you consider IE5, IE6 and IE8 to be even remotely the same thing, or use the same 'engine'. What about IE5 on MacOS, Safari on iPhone, or Blazer, for example?

Basically, you're asking for a sort of frankenstein project that would need to combine incompatible code from dozens (maybe even hundreds) of different applications/versions... and the whole thing is supposed to somehow run them all at the same time... not to mention somehow being a Mac, a PC and a Linux computer all at the same time, each with their different underlying engines for display, color, font-rendering and so on. It's like asking for "someone" to combine Photoshop, Microsoft Word and Tetris for you... and make it run on every kind of computer, too, please.

In other words, even though it would be a great magic tool, as you say, what you're asking for just doesn't make sense. The only way to genuinely test actual browsers on actual platforms is to do just that. Run the actual browsers.

Only big web shops have dedicated labs for that sort of thing, of course, with dozens of computers (and staff) dedicated to testing. It's a pain, and an enormous waste for smaller efforts... which is why things like that scripted screenshot-testing service are popular and useful.
posted by rokusan at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thank you gents. I was needing an explanation as to why it wouldn't work, and you provided just that.
posted by (bb|[^b]{2}) at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2010


And for smaller budgets, all you really need to test is IETester, Gecko Rendering and Webkit rendering.
posted by sleslie at 9:32 AM on January 22, 2010


If you can take one more person not really answering your question... But I put it out there cause I find it useful.

I've had good luck with Spoon Browser Sandbox.

It allows you to run IE 6, 7, 8, FF 2, 3, 3.5, Safari 3, 4, Chrome, and Opera 9, 10 from the web.
posted by ninebucks at 9:41 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was playing around with spoon.net's plug-in and "Browser Sandbox" recently. It seemed to show compatibility problems pretty accurately for me, but I haven't used it to look at very complex designs, and of course the virtual apps don't have developer tools installed.
posted by aught at 9:48 AM on January 22, 2010


Does Browsera help with some of the testing aspects?
posted by phatkitten at 10:38 AM on January 22, 2010


Actually, what you're describing is kind of like Adobe Browserlab, isn't it? It's certainly much more sophisticated than a simple screenshot tool. It doesn't have full flash support, so I guess it's not perfect. But still, you might find it a lot less clumsy than other methods.
posted by Vorteks at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


An application that embedded multiple versions of IE would be a headache because they'd presumably shell out to the DLL for each version, each of which would have the exact same function names. You'd end up having to do so much wrapper creation that it'd be easier to make each version a standalone. Which they already are.
posted by mikeh at 12:44 PM on January 22, 2010


We have built (I think) what you are asking for - still don't have the mobile platforms yet, but moving that direction next.

crossbrowsertesting.com gives you vnc sessions to Windows (98,Xp,Vista,Win7), OSX (10.5.7 & 10.5.8), and Ubuntu configurations which each have 5-10 browsers loaded on them so you can actually use and interact with your site to test not just the appearance, but also the functionality. Also has an integrated screenshot system to allow you to quickly test the appearance across a bunch of browsers (manually checking a page in 20 browsers is takes time - automated screenshot systems are great for this). Once you see one with a problem, you can hit the 'live test' link next to the offending screenshot to drill into that browser with a live test session via vnc.

Ken
Disclaimer - I one of the 3 founders and way biased...
posted by kdhamric at 1:11 PM on January 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


genuinely test actual browsers on actual platforms is to do just that. Run the actual browsers.

This is exactly where you can leverage virtualization. Unfortunately (for me) your best bet is to actually use a Mac as your host platform and then run virtual guest OS/browser combinations within that.

Why? AFAIK, you cannot legally run MacOS in a virtual machine on non-Apple hardware. Hell, I don't even know if it is "technically" possible - most "hackintosh" links talk about modding PC-hardware to run MacOS, not a virtual machine...
posted by jkaczor at 2:33 PM on January 22, 2010


Whoa - kdhamric - sounds like a wonderful service - definately looking forward to mobile versions...
posted by jkaczor at 2:34 PM on January 22, 2010


I don't even know if it is "technically" possible

It is most definitely possible. Go to any popular torrent site and search for "os x vmware" and you will find a turnkey image.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:38 AM on January 23, 2010


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