Even with responsive design and ever-improving standards support, cross-browser issues are not a thing of the past. Since it’s neither possible nor feasible to manually test your site in the galaxy of popular browsers and OS’s in broad use today, cross-browser testing tools come to the rescue!
In the past we have covered both free cross-browser testing tools and paid cross-browser testing tools and the lists are not totally outdated. Many of the tools in this article have been around for years and fortunately, unlike some of the other tools, they still are.
So, here are the 7 cross-browser testing tools – both free and paid – I find especially useful.
Browsershots is a simple and very useful tool. It’s a free tool but it does provide functionalities you won’t find in any other tool, paid ones included.
The free service doesn’t offer much in the way of scripting and navigation testing and frequently takes a long time to return the results. There are no mobile browsers but it still offers a lot for a service that doesn’t ask for anything. It’s great for a preview before showing a page to a client.
If you require more features and priority testing, you can switch to the paid version for $29.95 a month.
2. Browser Sandbox
Another cross-browser testing tool with a good list of browsers is Browser Sandbox. Unfortunately, this tool is only useful for Windows users. Though this isn’t great news for Linux and Mac OS folks, the developers promise a Mac version is coming soon.
Otherwise, the list of supported browsers is good, including IE, Firefox, Chrome, Chromium Canary, Firefox Mobile, Safari, Opera, and Firefox Nightly. The limitation of the free service is that it allows testing in the latest version of each browser only.
If you need access to older browsers versions, you’ll need to get a plan. Thankfully, they are inexpensive with the personal plans starting at $4.95 a month.
3. IE Testers
If Internet Explorer is the browser of primary interest to you and you want to test your site in it, there are a couple of free IE testers you might want to consider.
With Net Renderer you can test your site in IE 5.5 to 11. It’s a quick and straightforward tool, though it doesn’t come with tons of features.
Microsoft Edge is a complete platform that goes beyond testing in IE only. As a matter of fact, it offers screenshots of your site in other browsers and on various mobile devices, too. The reason I’ve bracketed it with the IE testers group is that it offers virtual machines with different IE versions only and that it7 Cross-browser Testing Tools offers the Azure Remote App that allows you to remotely test in IE.
Finally, My DebugBar, also known as IETester, is one more tool to use if you want to test in IE. Unlike Net Renderer, this is a 60MB desktop app. It requires download and works only on Windows.
IETester has some known and well-documented limitations, so before you begin melting down over horrendous test results, make yourself aware of the bugs in the tool.
4. Webshot by Mobile Ready
Unlike most of the other services, Webshot is a tool to test mobile cross-browser compatibility only. It’s a free offering but it requires registration.
As of the time of writing this article, Webshot wasn’t working – at least not for me. I am getting an Internal Server Error when I try to register. A couple of weeks ago I sent the developer an email about the issue – no response so far. That’s obviously not promising for the future.
Nevertheless, I’ve left it this list because it offers something worthwhile IF it gets fixed.
It requires no installation. You can sign for a 30-day free trial. They also offer a very limited free account and plans from $39 to $99.
What I really like about this tool is that it uses real devices to run the browsers on. While emulators basically do a great job, nothing beats the real thing. The features list is really good and CrossBrowserTesting certainly is worth its money. I believe their list of supported browsers and operating systems is the largest in the industry – 900 browsers across more than 40 operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows, Mac and more.
Plans start from $29 a month and there is a 7-day free trial.
BrowserStack is another big name in the industry. It’s great for mobile testing (real physical devices, as you can expect) but it also supports 700+ desktop browsers.
It also offers local testing, quick screenshots, as well as resolutions from 800×600 to 2048×1536. Similarly to its CrossBrowserTesting competitor, plans start from $29 a month but they also have a cheaper limited offer of $12.50/mo for Freelancers. For eligible open source projects, they even offer free services.
There are many more paid services but I can’t list them all. I’ve included only the most popular ones because not all paid services offered good value for the money. The free services are also great, though they certainly lack many essential features. Try the services listed and see which ones you find the most useful.
I know what you’re looking for – you want to read in a nutshell who the ‘winner’ is instead of trying all the services one by one. However, this is a genuine case of apples and oranges. Quite naturally, the paid services offer more but the free ones are very good for a quick test.
Personally, I have used BrowserShots for years and, for me, it’s a preference, even though its functionality is limited. Recently I was designing a simple, templated HTML site for a friend. The template was clean and I was amazed how good the code was.
However, when my friend opened it on his computer, he told me it wasn’t looking good in IE. I had to admit, I hadn’t tested it in IE before sending it to him – after all, this was a preliminary draft and with such a simple and nicely written code, it should work in any browser.
I ran to BrowserShots right away to see the result – it was fine. Nevertheless, I suggested we change the template. Again the same problems. I began to suspect there was something wrong with my friend’s browser and suggested trying a different computer. The problem instantly evaporated.
However, if he hadn’t had access to a different PC with working IE settings, it may have been very hard to convince him the problem was his browser, not my code.
For such cases, a quick and dirty solution like BrowserShots or the IE testers are all you need. Of course, if you need more comprehensive testing guarantees, the free tools aren’t going to always cut it.
This is why it’s hard to name a single service as the best service – it’s going to depend a lot on your use case.