What's the best way to run Internet Explorer in OS X?
December 7, 2010 9:07 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to run Internet Explorer in OS X?

I'm developing websites on a Mac. I need to be able to manage some browser compatibility issues with IE (big surprise). So I want to actually run the Windows-native IE on my Mac.

What's the best way to do this? I've looked at an application called WineBottler, as well as considering installing Parallels / VMware Fusion with a full installation of Windows.

I would like IE to run exactly as it would in Windows, obviously so that I can be sure what I am seeing will look and function as it will on a Windows PC.

Ideally, it would work as just an icon placed on my dock that I click and IE opens like any of my other Mac-compatible browsers. I am willing to do extra work during the initial setup to make the regular use this simple, if that is needed.

I am concerned that a simultaneous Windows installation will have a lot of resource overhead unnecessary to simply run IE. So, does anyone have experience with WineBottler? Does it leave a lot of extra crap or consume extra resources?

Are there any better solutions? The ultimate goal is to easily and accurately test my websites for full cross-browser compatibility.
posted by doomtop to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
WineBottler is super easy and really nice. I don't remember if it's easy to uninstall, but it definitely contains everything to a couple folders. Some things don't work that well with WINE, but I think IE does.
posted by wayland at 9:18 PM on December 7, 2010

Some good comments recently.
posted by nonliteral at 9:32 PM on December 7, 2010

I would like IE to run exactly as it would in Windows, obviously so that I can be sure what I am seeing will look and function as it will on a Windows PC.

Then you're going to need to run IE in Windows, because the Wine implementation of the Windows APIs is neither complete nor fully compatible. It's virtual-machine time for you!

I've generally had very good results from VirtualBox for this job in Linux. It's possible to set up a launcher shortcut that brings up a selected app inside a selected VM, and it's also possible to run the VM in a "seamless" mode where its windows appear to be sharing your native desktop with your native windows. If VirtualBox works as well on the Mac as it does on Linux, it should get you what you want. And it's free (you will still need to pay for a Windows licence, though).
posted by flabdablet at 11:36 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I tried running the IE5/6/7 package that the WineBottler guy does a while ago, back when I still cared about IE5 compatibility, and WineBottler more recently, and both times gave up pretty quickly (as in, didn't try that hard). These days I just run XP in VirtualBox and know that I'm getting exactly what my clients get. (Heh. The client in question only just got their desktop SOE upgraded to XP SP3 - bah humbug)

The other big advantage to VirtualBox (and presumably the other Windows virtualisation options) is that you can snapshot the virtual machine - I can install whatever crap needs installing whenever I need to, and when I'm done I just roll back to a plain XP SP3/IE6 install and never worry about b0rking all of Windows.

I believe Parallels and VMWare Fusion have better OSX integration (rootless mode, dock integration, etc) but I find VBox plenty good enough plus it's free. If you don't have site-licensed Windows then you'll need to pay for that, and the cost of the commercial virtualisation options is probably not that much on top of the Windows license.
posted by russm at 1:07 AM on December 8, 2010

(noting flabdablet's response)

I never knew VBox supported seamless/rootless mode - I'll have to check that out. Or external app launchers. In that case I don't see any real advantage to the for-pay virtualisation tools.
posted by russm at 1:09 AM on December 8, 2010

I long ago gave up and use this online service to check IE compatibility.

One obvious question you don't seem to be addressing. There isn't just one "IE". There are, well, nine. You only really need to worry about 6 onward, but still.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:04 AM on December 8, 2010

I never knew VBox supported seamless/rootless mode

It works pretty well, though it doesn't play nice with Compiz - to make it work right with a compositing window manager, you need to make sure there's always at least one app window open or Bad Things happen to the Windows task bar. Fortunately, even a nearly-undetectable and utterly unresponsive 1x1 window in the top left corner of the desktop is enough and even more fortunately, a generous soul has written a .NET app to display one and another generous soul has hosted a somewhat funhouse mirror of it.

Download vboxworkaroundtar.gz, extract vboxworkaroundtar (7-zip will do this on Windows), rename it to vboxworkaround.tar, and extract the vboxworkaround folder. Drill down into vboxworkaroud\VBoxWorkaround\VBoxWorkaround\bin\Release, then copy the 20kB VBoxWorkaround.exe file into C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Programs\Startup and launch it.

You will need to have installed .NET first. I forget which version is actually needed, but whatever the 3.5 installer does works. I am amused beyond laughter at the idea of needing to run a 200+MB installer on my Windows box to make it draw one pixel onto the desktop.

The only other slight weirdness with VBox seamless mode on Linux is that if a Windows window has had mouse focus, you need to click a blank area on your Linux desktop before any Gnome panel will respond to subsequent clicks.

I'd be interested to hear whether the Mac version needs any of these shenanigans.
posted by flabdablet at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2010

Another nice VBox feature is the ability to export VMs as appliances. This makes setting up multiple Windows environments with variants a fairly painless process. After spending the countless hours required to get a Windows VM configured and installed and updated with service packs and updates and VirtualBox guest additions and maybe a nice free antivirus, you can shut it down and export it as an appliance. Then you can create multiple clones of it easily by importing the appliance. Snapshotting a machine you're about to do Bad Things to is indeed a fine thing. You can even choose to power down and revert to the most recent snapshot in one step when you close your VM's window if you're after a Steady State sort of effect, with the additional bonus that if your VM was running at the time you took the snapshot, it won't make you wait for Windows to boot up again when you next start it. I like VirtualBox.
posted by flabdablet at 8:06 AM on December 8, 2010

VirtualBox won't work with BootCamp partitions (yet). The paid apps (Parallels, etc.) will. I have found some software that actually refuses to run correctly or at all in a virtualized environment. In those instances, I need my BootCamp partition to work and don't want to maintain two different Windows installs.

In terms of web browser testing, there's no reason at all why you shouldn't use VirtualBox and build a bunch of Windows machines to test if you have the drive space. Make one, get it set up, then clone the bugger and install different IE versions in those.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:05 AM on December 8, 2010

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