Testing on multiple IE versions

As a web developer, you will want to be able to test your pages on different versions of the major browsers, especially the troublesome IE. The problem of course is the fact that ever helpful Microsoft have made it almost impossible to install multiple versions of their browser on a single machine. I said “almost” because of course, where there’s a will there’s usually a clever way. Which is this: the Maddalone/Staudinger workaround, which basically works by removing certain DLL files and making some changes to the registry.

Fortunately for the less technically minded (and I can say in all honesty, that includes me), Yousif Al Saif has created a handy installer which does all the work for you: it makes the necessary registry changes and installs IE versions 3.0 to 6.0.

Now, I should point out that testing your pages in IE 3.0 and 4.01 is more of a curiosity than a really useful exercise. Anyone who is still using these browsers is probably locked inside some bizarre space-timer anomaly, so frankly their only chance of rescue comes from the crew of the Starship Enterprise. If you were really serious about making your website work in these browsers, you would have to renounce every design concept you hold dear, so do yourself a favour and don’t even try.

Versions 5.01 and 5.5 are probably worth looking at, though I personally wouldn’t worry too much about trying to get them to recognise all your CSS elements properly, just as long as all your content is clearly visible. W3schools helpfully informs us that, as of July 2008, they have stopped including IE versions previous to 6.0 in their statistics. In June 2008, only 0.5% of IE users were still running version 5, so it’s logical to assume that the number is now pretty close to absolute zero, and with good reason, because browsing the web with one of those lame dinosaurs would be a fairly grim and somewhat confusing experience.

So we only really need to concern ourselves with IE 6 and 7, which can be run simultaneously on an XP machine using the above installer (assuming you already have version 7 installed).

I should mention that the multiple IE application only runs on XP systems. If, like me, you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of owning a Vista PC, the best thing to do is to get hold of a (legal) version of XP and install it on your machine using the wonderful VirtualBox program. You can then test versions 6 and 7 on XP (maybe at lower screen resolutions while you’re at it) and do your IE8 testing in Vista.

That’s what I’ve been doing and I’m a very happy man. Apart from every time I scream at Bill Gates and his latest aberration of a browser – why couldn’t he just make it work a bit more like Firefox? In fact, why can’t everyone just use Firefox, so Microsoft can concentrate on what they do best: operating systems? No, wait – they are full of bugs too. Oh well…