Consider that in 2012, the largest share held by any web browser in any one month was just 37.3 percent — Chrome in March. So if you do not ensure cross-browser compatibility, you could alienate 60 percent or more of your potential audience. With that in mind, here are ten free tools to test compatibility:
BrowserLab is a complimentary online service by Adobe that allows the webmaster to test websites through a wide range of browser configurations. It supports most browsers, and even lets you choose the operating system. The most powerful feature is its custom sets that you can define, name and persist. BrowserLab is polished and has a sleek interface, and it only requires you to have a free Adobe membership.
Formerly Xenocode Browser Sandbox, Spoon.NET is a powerful, web-based cross-compatibility tester that includes support for Chrome, Firefox, Firefox Mobile, IE, Opera, Opera Mobile, Safari, and even some prerelease browsers. Simply choose the browser you want to test, and then Spoon runs an instance of it within your current browser. The entire process is very fast and stable. The service does require a free membership, and it does not yet support Mac computers.
Browsera is a commercial web-based cross-compatibility solution. Since Browsera has subscription-based plans, they add new browsers and other options to the service at a fast and steady rate. Browsera also offers a powerful free service, which is why it made the list. The main limitation with the free test is that it is limited to 25 pages, but that should be enough to test a small site’s framework.
SuperPreview is a component of Microsoft Expression Web. SuperPreview is not free long term, but Microsoft does provide a 60-day trial with no limitations. Sixty days is more than enough time for webmasters to assess a single website. SuperPreview is powerful and robust. It is fully standards-compliant, and it boasts many features you won’t find elsewhere. The main limitation is that you must install it, so it is not nearly as user-friendly as other items on this list are.
Orion is the sixth iteration of the Lunascape browser. Lunascape is not a cross-compatibility tester per se. It is a triple-engine browser. It runs Gecko, Trident and Webkit simultaneously, and it supports mobile versions of those platforms as well. So webmasters can view a website with it and change the vantage on the fly, which is a very hands-on approach to cross-compatibility testing.
Sauce Labs is a full-blown QA lab for websites. One aspect of that QA is powerful cross-compatibility testing. Sauce Labs is a commercial solution with many subscription-based plans. It also has a free plan called Stay Basic. Sauce Labs markets it as “try before buy,” but you can use the free service long term: It provides 45 scout minutes per month, 200 OnDemand minutes per month, and 2 parallel tests at a time.
BrowserCam is a web-based service with a wide range of cross-compatibility testing tools, including browser capture, device capture and email capture. BrowserCam is a commercial service, but it provides many of its services free with a free membership. They do not limit features with free services, but they do limit the number of captures; however, they provide more than enough for the small website.
Browsershots is a free web service that lets you test a website for compatibility by viewing it as a screenshot. What makes Browsershots so powerful is that it has extensive web browser support, and you can even choose the operating system. Although quite popular, we don’t rank it higher due to some limitations, such as having to wait for the screenshots to upload and be viewable.
Although we’ve tried to avoid tightly focused compatibility testers in this list, IE NetRenderer by GEOTEK has a special place in the testing world: This is by far the best way to test Windows-based Internet Explorer on a Linux or Macintosh computer. Webmasters can couple this with a local compatibility tester to achieve a full-blown solution.
AnyBrowser takes a different approach to cross-browser compatibility: It defines a set of standards that ALL browsers will handle in the same way. This simplifies things a great deal since the webmaster only has to strive for one set of rules. A limitation of AnyBrowser is that it is lacking support for some of the most popular modern web features.