Cross-browser Web testing tools

tools At the moment, there is a great variety of competing browsers. In this situation, there are no common standards for displaying sites: each one of them may display a site in its own way, for example, by distorting the page content. Due to this fact, the “cross-browser” term emerged, that is the feature of a site to be displayed identically in all browsers.


Although the cross-browser issue emerged rather recently, there already exist a great number of tools for testing it. All cross-browser testing tools vary in the number of supported browsers, ease to use, price, and also testing speed. These factors greatly complicate the choice of the suitable tool.

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This article is devoted to the problem of choosing the right cross-browser testing tool. It lists the popular tools, their advantages and disadvantages.

Cross-browser testing

What is cross-browser testing

As we mentioned above, the content of a site may appear twisted in some browsers as the result of the differences in data interpreting. If a site is displayed incorrectly, a typical user leaves it. That is why you should perform cross-browser testing in order to ensure that the site is displayed correctly regardless of the browser, which it is opened with.

Cross-browser is a feature of a website to be displayed and work identically in all of the popular browsers. Identity means the absence of layout breakups and the same readability of represented information. The “cross-browser” term is often confused with the pixel by pixel correspondence, which is, in fact, another term.

Cases to use the cross-browser testing tools

It should be mentioned that any tools (including the cross-browser testing ones) may contain their own bugs. The ideal option is to have five most common browsers available (especially when they are installed on a clear machine). But not every tester has such possibilities. In most cases, it is easier and faster to use a cross-browser testing tool.

Despite possible bugs, the cross-browser testing tools allow you to save much time. As usually it is not possible to install different versions of the same browser on one machine, it will be necessary to reinstall a browser at least 3 times to check all versions. In most cases, it takes more time than the installation of 1 or 2 cross-browser testing tools.

I.e. the cross-browser testing tools should be used when you need to test your site on several browsers and on different versions of these browsers at the same time. But if the testing requires you only to open a site in 2 browsers of the latest versions, there is no need to use the tools, as it would take even more time.

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The right way to choose a cross-browser testing tool. Practical examples

The choice of the tool greatly depends on the site specifics. For example, if your site target audience is US citizens, you should take into account that the majority of Americans use Internet Explorer. Another example: a site is intended to be used by Mac OS users. In this case the site should be thoroughly tested in Safari browser. To determine the specifics, it is preferable to speak to the customer and specify the target audience. Depending on the statistic data on end users, you may vary the number of browser versions. Thus you can significantly reduce the time spent on testing.

If there is no possibility to determine the preferences of end users, it is recommended to perform testing in at least 3-4 versions of each of the most popular browsers, which are Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari (according to the data for the beginning of 2012).

Let’s move on to the examples of the tool choosing.

  • Internet Explorer testing

Internet Explorer has remained a popular browser for years. Despite the fact that IE has lost positions with the release of Google Chrome, it is still holds the first position in usage worldwide (according to the data from site). Due to this fact, it is very important to test a site in basic IE versions.

There are two popular tools for testing Internet Explorer: IETester and NetRenderer. There are a number of differences between these tools: firstly, IETester is a desktop application, unlike the Netrenderer internet resource; secondly, Netrenderer provides screenshots, while IETester allows you to test the performance of links, registration, system authorization. Netrenderer is better for pixel by pixel testing, that is why I would recommend IETester in this situation.

  • Quick test in basic browser versions

It would not be necessary to use the cross-browser testing tools for quick testing: it would be enough to perform tests on 5 most common browsers (if they are installed already), but it is better to target end users and select browsers for testing according to the statistics.

  • Full cross-browser testing, free tools

Browserling has the necessary qualities for full testing. Its biggest advantage is the wide selection of browser versions and interactivity that allows you to completely test the site content.

  • Full cross-browser testing, commercial tools

The most appealing by quality-price ratio is CrossBrowserTesting. It supports over hundred combinations of browsers and OS’s, allows you to choose the screen resolution on the selected OS, and to perform the testing of mobile browsers.

  • Mobile browser testing, free tools

Unfortunately, there are very few free tools for full testing on mobile browsers. The only suitable option is The Spoon.

  • Mobile browser testing,commercial tools

The best choice for testing in mobile browsers is BrowserCam. It is a little bit cheaper than CrossBrowserTesting and provides more variants of mobile browsers, including the old versions of IE, where, as a rule, the most problems are detected.

  • Rare browser testing, free tools

Only Browsershots has a wide choice of rare browsers among the free tools.

  • Rare browser testing, commercial tools

In this case, the most suitable tool is CrossBrowserTesting. It has a wider range of rare browsers.


The chapter 3 of the article describes some possible variants of the selection of the tool. While writing this article, I took into account typical problem situations, but you might not have made your choice yet. To ease the selection, I have created the following table of tools, where tools are compared according to the number of browsers and their versions, interactivity, price and testing speed.

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