7 Fresh and Simple Ways to Test Cross-Browser Compatibility

Mason Hipp

New member
This post is written for designers, developers, or anyone else who has struggled with testing their websites across multiple browsers.

As little as one year ago, there were almost no good options for testing cross-browser compatibility of websites. The tools out there usually had significant drawbacks — either in cost, capabilities, or time required. Lately, though, there have been a lot of newcomers to the browser testing world, some of which offer truly excellent services.

In this article we’ve listed 7 fresh and simple tools for cross-browser compatibility testing, tools that actually make this stuff pretty easy. Not only that, but every single one of these tools can be used for free.

#1 — Xenocode Browser Sandbox​

The Xenocode Browser Sandbox is a game-changer for browser testing on Windows-based machines. With a single click of your mouse you can have an open and working browser without any installation. You can test in various IE versions, Firefox, Google Chrome, and even Safari. And really test, too, not just screenshots. To top everything off, the entire service is provide free of charge. Zip, nadda, nothing.

Alas, this isn’t yet the perfect solution. There is currently no Macintosh support, which is definitely a significant problem. I’ve heard rumor that this may be coming in the future, though, and at that time this service will be in a class of its own.

#2 — CrossBrowserTesting.com​

Free 5 minute test sessions for registered users, and a lot more than that for paid users. CrossBrowserTesting.com makes things as easy as logging in and selecting an available machine with the browser/os you want. Once you pick your machine and browser you can begin your testing.

You can use a web-based java applet to connect to their remote test machines, or you can use a local VNC client if you have one installed. Their system allows full testing of a site’s interactivity and, like Xenocode’s solution, is not just screenshots.

#3 — IETester​

This is a free downloadable windows program that is still in the early stages of development. That being said, it is a single free resource that will allow you to fully test all of the relevant versions of Internet Explorer.

Just download and install their free browser, and you can easily select which IE rendering version you want to browse in. The program even allows comparing two different versions side-by-side. Did I mention it’s free?

#4 — BrowsrCamp​

With all of the IE-Only test sites out there, it was about time someone joined in and created a site that allows testing on Safari/Mac. The free version of their service offers near-instant screenshots on the newest stable release of safari, and though it’s lacking a bit in browser versions it definitely makes up for it in rendering speed.

For a few dollars extra, they offer the ability to take over an entire machine and perform much more in-depth testing.

#5 — Litmus​

Over a period of just a few months, Litmus has risen in popularity to become one of the most favored cross-browser testing tools on the market today. Unfortunately, their free options are very limited and only allow testing in IE7 and FireFox 2.

The paid version of their app is significantly more robust, and allows testing in dozens of browsers and even email clients. Unfortunately again, with a single-user subscription starting at $49/mo, this isn’t cheap either. For those who need a robust test suite, though, it can be worthwhile.

#6 — NetRenderer​

NetRenderer is a slightly more humble-looking option for testing IE compatibility. Like many of the other services, NetRenderer creates screenshots of your website in various browsers. It currently supports everything from IE5.5 all the way to IE8, and creates your screenshots very quickly without needing to wait.

They also provide a browser toolbar that allows you to quickly test any of the pages you are visiting with their service. This is also a free service, and they don’t even offer a paid version of the tests.

#7 — BrowserShots​

BrowserShots has become one of the most common methods of testing lately, and with good reason. They allow testing in almost any browser/os, including some very rare combinations. The free version of the app only has one limitation — you must wait for paid users to get access first.

Because of their popularity, though, it can be very slow to receive the test screenshots at certain times of day. Since they rely on member computers to provide the screenshots, the more popular the browser/os combination you select the faster you’ll receive your renders. Unless everyone else is trying for the same one :)

Bonus #8 — Adobe MeerMeer​

Adobe MeerMeer is a sweet looking test suite that is going to be released very shortly from Adobe. They previewed some of the features at their Adobe MAX event, and since then nearly everyone who’s heard about it is excited.

MeerMeer will offer a significant number of benefits compared with existing test suites. The most notable is probably the “onion skin”, or the ability to overlay one rendering on top of another from a different browser. Keep your eye on this one, it is going to be big.

How do you test browser compatibility?​

Did you know of these resources already? Do you have a few of your own tools stashed away? Let us know in the comments.

Do you use an entirely different way to test browser compatibility? If you do, there are undoubtedly a lot of people who would love to hear about it. Awesome private cloud storage.