By Alyssa Gregory

Alkaline by Litmus: Windows Browser Testing for Mac Users

By Alyssa Gregory

Alkaline is a product just released by Litmus, a company that focuses on developing applications for browser and e-mail newsletter testing. Alkaline was developed by Shiny Development for Litmus and is geared toward Mac users as a way to test on Windows browsers and e-mail clients without having to use Parallels or VMware. It’s a desktop application that pairs with your online Litmus account to allow you to do some very powerful testing.


Browser Representation

You can select up to 17 browsers for testing. One very useful feature in Litmus is that the browsers are separated into Popular and Edge-Case categories, which is great for prioritizing the results and focusing your efforts on improving performance for the most popular options.

For e-mail newsletter testing, you can select from a number of e-mail clients, separated by Business and Consumer. For both browser and e-mail testing, you can select overall defaults to test on or choose on a test-by-test basis.

Ease of Use


To capture screenshots, all you do is enter in the URL or send a test e-mail newsletter (an address is provided) and off it goes. Within a couple of minutes, the test is complete, including screenshots of each of the browsers or e-mail clients, HTML and CSS validation results, and an option to download the screenshots into a ZIP file.

Reviewing and Retesting


Once the test is complete, you can easily navigate through the screenshots to review. The screenshots are available within their individual browser windows and as full-page views (you can zoom in on both). From each thumbnail, you can mark it as compatible or incompatible, which makes it much easier to revisit later without going through all of the screenshots.

Another great feature is the option to retest on an individual basis. This is a huge timesaver that avoids having to wait for the entire batch if you need to retest a certain browser.



Litmus provides a dashboard setup for managing your existing tests and running new tests. You can see at a glance what you have tested and what the results were, which make future reference much easier and more manageable. And it automatically pulls in any tests you’ve run directly in Alkaline, so you have everything in one place.

Other features include:

  • Integration with other Mac development applications — like Panic’s Coda and Macromate’s TextMate
  • Extras that include the ability to run e-mail tests by sending your messages to a static address and a bookmarklet that lets you test any web page you’re currently viewing.
  • An option to publish compatibility reports for team members and clients to view.

Alkaline is free to download and use with your free Litmus account. This free access includes testing on Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2.0. You will need a paid Litmus account to access the full range of browsers and the other features listed above. Pricing options include a 24-hour pass ($24 USD), or a monthly subscription ($49 USD).

If you’re a Mac user, what do you think about Alkaline and Litmus? Will you add it to your cross-browser testing tools?

  • Will you add it to your cross-browser testing tools?

    No, it’s just too slow + I didn’t find a way to navigate around the page I was testing. If your site requires authorization, you’re stuck.

  • W2ttsy

    a single VM running XP and IE Tester ( will also work well on a mac. alot better than running several VMs or relying on screen shot style debugging

  • Anonymous

    There are better options. This is limited since IE6 still forms a big user base – there should be more browser version options. And the price also seems quite high.

  • John is a great way to go.

  • aemciv

    @W2ttsy well said

  • Dan Romanchik

    I like the concept, but it’s way too expensive. For testing IE6 compatibility, I bought an old laptop with IE6 installed for only $200. This might be affordable for a big shop doing lots of development, but for freelancers it’s much cheaper to go the route that I did.

  • The trouble with services like this is that it’s verging-on impossible to make incremental changes. You know – you take a screenshot, see something’s wrong, edit some CSS, take another screenshot, make another change … it will take hours to do what you could do in a few minute if you actually had the test environment available.

    For a professional developer I think it’s basically pretty slack to not have development environments available – things like VMWare – that you can use to do cross-browser testing.

  • I agree with brothercake! My general practice is to build in Firefox and then debug for IE7 and IE6 (though bring on the day IE6 can be happily forgotten about…) and there are things you just can’t test with screenshots! navigation and javascript for two – and the speed of being able to make changes and then test immediately suits me too.
    I can see the advantages of being able to present a report to your clients with the screenshots as assurance of cross browser compatibility, but I don’t see any practical use during development, and if depended upon could lead to some unpleasant surprises!

  • It’s really nice not to have to virtualise an entire operating system just to see what one little thing looks like in one browser. But if you have a spare PC it is a piece of cake to install a couple of VMs and just use Remote Desktop to connect over there.

    Generally the stuff I do is more complex than just ‘does it look ok’; I also need to see the behaviour. For email, though, this looks like it could be pretty good.

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