Art Imitates Life

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One of the great annoyances in web design is testing multiple versions of the execrable Internet Explorer. Since it’s used by such a large percentage of people browsing the web, problems with its display of elements on a web page can’t be ignored. Thankfully, Microsoft has been addressing the issues, and their version 7 of Internet Explorer is not too shabby. However, since so many people haven’t yet upgraded, this means testing your design in multiple versions of the browser. This is where Microsoft falls flat. They decided to bundle the browser into their Operating System years ago, with mixed results. It was not a popular decision, and it makes it impossible to install more than one version of IE on your machine. Not under normal circumstances, anyway.

There are a few ways around it. Install a Virtual Machine with IE6 on it. That’s handy. Keep a spare computer lying around, with IE6 installed. Not handy either. A few years back, Joe Maddalone came up with a way to put a standalone version of outdated IE releases on your computer. Tweaks were made by others, culminating in TredoSoft’s MultipleIE. It made it pretty easy to run multiple instances of Internet Explorer on your PC. I found a few issues (some JavaScript problems, mostly) but it’s a handy way to get a quick look at your design in multiple browsers.

DebugBar has taken it one step further with the release of IETester. It operates on the same basic principle as the other method, with one major difference – it’s a tabbed interface, and each tab can display your page in the version of IE of your choice. For example, you can load your page in one tab that uses the IE 5.5 rendering engine, one tab in IE6, one in IE7 and one in IE8 beta. I’ve found it a little easier to use, since each tab displays the version of IE you are using.

It’s still a bit buggy (I run XP with IE7, and I get random crashes). Most issues are discussed in the forums. Give the software a try. It might speed your troubleshooting up a bit.

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