Thursday, May 29th, 2008

Testing IE Versions Just Got a Little Easier

Category: Microsoft

Testing your sites on different versions of Internet Explorer has always been notoriously difficult mainly due to the fact that Microsoft prevents you from running to different versions of the browser in Windows. Sure there have been solutions to get around this limitation but in my experience, they’ve always caused unexpected results and instability for the operating system or required you to run a VM. Not ideal.

Jean-Fabrice RABAUTE, the man behind the IE debugger DebugBar, has come up with a nice solution he’s called IETester. This free tool allows you to have the rendering and javascript engines of IE8 beta 1, IE7 IE 6 and IE5.5 on Vista and XP, as well as the installed IE in the same process.

You can check out IETester in action below:

ScreenCast IETester from on Vimeo.

Posted by Rey Bango at 7:00 am

4.5 rating from 46 votes


Comments feed TrackBack URI

Last time I checked, he ships the IE dlls along with his tool. That just has to be a violation of his EULA with Microsoft.

Comment by RichB — May 29, 2008

Can anyone confirm whether or not this is “exact”, in the sense that if I test IE 7 I will get the EXACT as if I was natively running IE 7 as my only browser?

Comment by Kaitlyn2004 — May 29, 2008

violation or not, it looks like a great, and usefull tool a near must have for front end developers.

Comment by V1 — May 29, 2008

Good idea. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m skeptical that it will be as accurate as testing through a VM

Comment by WillPeavy — May 29, 2008

If Microsoft was smart instead of enforcing any kind of EULA violation they would buy the technology from him and distribute it as official software. Their current solution of using multiple VM’s is an annoying hack that just increases the amount of animosity web developers already have with IE.

A tool like this would make developing with IE a breeze. Assuming of course that it renders the exact same as a normal copy of IE.

Comment by eric2 — May 29, 2008

I still have IE6 on my XP Pro box, but I use IE7 Standalone for that version.

Unfortunately, his disclaimer says right up front:

Minimum requirement : Windows Vista or Windows XP with IE7 (Windows XP with IE6 has some minor problems and IE7/IE8 instances do not work under this config)

and I have no interest in loading IE7 just to test IE8 which should work right anyway. IE5.5? they don’t read my stuff anyway…

Comment by BillyG123 — May 29, 2008


@Kaitlyn2004 : I can confirm that. Some things are not working yet, for instance using transparent effect under IE6 is not working and conditional comments on the IE8 beta 1 instance is also not working, but the rendering engines and JS engines for each instances are the one related to the version for sure.

I am working on correcting the bugs to have a 100% compliant version.

All the feedbacks and bug reports are welcome in order to improve the tool.


Comment by jfrabaute — May 29, 2008

Yay! Thank you J.F. This is awesome. Now I can retire that old P-733 that’s hogging my desk that I kept kicking around for IE6 testing.

Comment by Diodeus — May 29, 2008

Kind of useless if it doesn’t come with any debugging options.
If it just comes to checking differences between versions, I’d rather use Net Renderer.

Comment by Andy — May 29, 2008

That looks way cool, but just rendering is hardly enough when things don’t show up as you expect or a cryptic JScript error message pops up. Does it work nicely with debugging tools? Being from the same guy behind DebugBar, my hopes are up. And hopefully the script debuggers will hook without any problems, as they seem to work on standalone IE6.

I’ll certainly try this one next time I’m on Windows testing.

Comment by Danie Luz — May 29, 2008

@Andy : I am planning to integrate DebugBar and Companion.JS into IEtester so you will have a debugger tool to debug all IE instances into one tool.

Stay tuned.

Comment by jfrabaute — May 29, 2008

Great tool! Looking forward to Companion.JS integration.

Comment by ScottJehl — May 29, 2008

I’ve used this for awhile and it’s worked perfectly for me. I love it.

Comment by Nosredna — May 29, 2008

jfrabaute: Excellent. Another good feature would be if you could crosscheck the elements computed styles between the versions to display the differences.

Comment by Andy — May 29, 2008

I’d rather see one URL box and then automatically see different tabs for the different versions of IE. The odds are you’re using this tool for one purpose–to test out the same page/site to make sure everything is working correctly. So, I’d like to see a single URL address box that would change the location of all IE tabs.

Comment by Dan G. Switzer, II — May 29, 2008

@Dan: I will handle this using a “duplicate tab” menu entry. So you will be able to duplicate a tab in another IE instance tab.

Having one 1 address bar driving all tabs could be limitative as sometimes the user would like to open another page, even in a test environment.

Anyway, I will try to do my best to improve the way web developers can test their sites faster using IETester on future releases, so all feedbacks like yours are welcome.

@Andy: Good point on this one. Not so simple to implement as display, but I will think of it.


Comment by jfrabaute — May 29, 2008

jfrabaute: What about Flash not working on IE6 instance? Will you fix this in future release?

Comment by mmastro — May 29, 2008

@jfrabaute: Thanks so much for your continual work. It makes IE a little more human for us developers!

Comment by matanlurey — May 29, 2008

@mmastro: I already tried to correct the problem without success.
I will work on it until I correct it.
Same for other bugs like java applets, cookies on IE6, etc…

Meanwhile, I am releasing new version so users can have other minor bugs corrected and improved interface with their requested changes (refresh all, customizable homepage, etc…)

Stay tuned ;-)

Comment by jfrabaute — May 30, 2008

Excellent tool – thank you! I’d love to see Firefox integrated as well, plus some nice-to-haves that were mentioned before:
1) a way to compare-and-contrast the differences in rendering between two tabs (through computed style or somehow else)
2) a way to create a “profile” – for example, i care about ie 7 and 6, but not ie8, so that all pages that i open in one tab are also opened in all others.
3) integration with firefox/safari. I think this tool would be a great cross-browser rendering platform long-term.
4) integration with automated test tools like Selenium TestRunner – shouldn’t be too difficult, it’s just a matter of polishing the JS OM (doesn’t work right now).

Thanks again, looks very promising.

Comment by alex94040 — May 30, 2008

this is good but i had some problems under Vista, sometimes it doesn’t display exactly as a real ie6 would; but good attempt.

for now the best option is to use VirtualPC with Microsoft’s IE6 Virtual Machine (expires end of july), that way you know for sure how things look as your running a real copy of ie6 in the background.

for linux users, there’s ie4linux which works really well, and is pretty spot-on for browser compatability tests; plug in the 3d desktop and you’ve got a pretty sleek testing environment.

another fave of mine is x-ray, great for safari 2 debugging.

Comment by indiehead — May 30, 2008

@indiehead : Please feel free to send me the differences (url where I can see the problem), so I can correct the bugs on future versions.


Comment by jfrabaute — May 30, 2008

I had IE6 cookie problems yesterday. That’s a known bug?

Comment by Nosredna — May 30, 2008

@Nosredna: Yes this is a known problem I am working on.

Comment by jfrabaute — June 1, 2008

whats wrong with “multipleIEs” ?
I’m using it and its great.

Comment by vsync — June 3, 2008

@vsync: multipleIEs is not working on Vista :-O

Comment by jfrabaute — June 3, 2008

Talk about a blessing, once IE7 came out you’d think our IE6 woes were over but far from it, and as I had upgraded to IE7 I quickly realized that my audience hadn’t and my new CSS techniques came out as blunderous errors for anyone viewing through IE6, thanks for this contribution!!

Comment by MattFoster — June 18, 2008

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