Browser Testing for Internet Explorer

As a web designer, you should make sure that you test your designs across all major browsers. Here is the list of browsers you should be testing on, if you aren’t already, in no particular order.

  1. Internet Explorer 7
  2. Internet Explorer 6
  3. Firefox
  4. Safari
  5. Opera

Of those 5, I find that IE6 is the one that gives me the most trouble. I recently changed jobs which resulted in me having to come up with different ways to test in IE 6 and 7. At my previous job and in my house, I test different versions of IE on different computers. In my new job, I don’t have that luxury anymore, so I had to find a different way to test on one machine.

One option that was recommended to me was Multiple IEs. This is a program to use if you have IE 7 installed and want to install multiple versions of IE below version 7 that you can have running at the same time. I found that this didn’t work well enough for me. The reason is that running IE 6 through Multiple IEs is not stable. Also, you can’t use the IE Developer Toolbar with IE6 in Multiple IEs. Since IE 6 is the main browser I debug in besides Firefox, I found that I had to find a way to have IE 6 running as the main IE version on that machine.

Another solution that was recommended to me was Virtual PC. Virtual PC for Windows allows you to have another versions of Windows running on your PC. This way you can have different versions of IE running at the same time. Plus, Virtual PC is now a free download from Microsoft.

So I decided to uninstall IE 7 and reinstall IE 6. This allowed me to have a stable version on IE 6 running with the IE Developer Toolbar. I then installed Virtual PC. Microsoft has also made a Virtual PC hard disk image with an evaluation version of Windows XP with IE6 or 7 available as a free download which you will need to run IE on Virtual PC. Keep in mind, this version has an expiration date of April 1, 2008.

Once I had that installed I was able to run Virtual PC with XP and IE 7 on Windows while running IE 6 at the same time. You can also install the IE Developer Toolbar in Virtual PC. In fact, Microsoft includes the developer toolbar with this version of the hard disk image. I found this to be the best solution so far for having multiple versions of IE running on the same machine. Not surprisingly, this is the same method that Microsoft itself endorses. Which method do you prefer?