Yesterday, I wrote a ‘how to’ on installing and running multiple versions and concurrent instances of Firefox on Windows XP.
But what about the other browser choices? After all, my original intention was a to develope a versatile testing environment, specifically for cross-browser, cross-platform intended web sites.
Surprisingly, running multiple versions of the other major browsers isn’t as complicated as the Firefox process.
Opera, for example, gives you the option whether to install the set-up as an upgrade or separately, straight out of the box. They offer alternate releases of the current version on their site (9.62 at the time of writing) and have a publicly available archive that goes back to version 3.21 for any old release candidates you need to test.
If you want to run multiple versions of Internet Explorer, you can alter various system and user profile settings in a similar way to my method with Firefox, but it’s far easier to take advantage of the many ‘standalone’ versions you can find online. These are generally third-party, non-Microsoft developments.
It’s brilliant to see IE3, I decided I’d use it as my default browser for a day – loved seeing the frantic alerts about some alien idea called a ‘cookie’ and whether I wanted to risk accepting it onto my computer.
NB: If you’re concerned about what’s being installed when you use Multiple IE, you can do it all yourself with the instructions on Manfred Staudinger’s Multiple IE page.
There’s standalone applications for other browsers too. I only use Windows nowadays, but I’ve recently found Michel Fortin’s standalone versions of Safari – he’s even numbered the icons for your dock (via). That page also links to instructions on running multiple versions of Firefox for Mac.
As for testing Linux system – and this goes beyond HTML and CSS debugging, I use VMware Player from VMware. Not only because when I’ve been developing server-side applications, I’ve not wanted to bother installing those on my home computer base – because it can be tricky, time-consuming, potentially damaging if things go wrong, etc etc and I tend to use Linux-based system for deployment anyway – but because appliances are so damn handy.
Virtual appliances run within a virtual machine like VMware Player as self-contained, packaged software. They can be created and restored as system images, so if something goes wrong – it’s so easy to turn back, with no risk to whatever personal data you might have on your computer as you would installing software as services on the base.
More than that, they’re readily available. VMware has an Appliance Marketplace, with over 900 ready-to-go appliances and a simple, central repository to develop or distribute your own.
I particularly like the Web Developer appliance, specifically designed to safely test and fine tune web apps. Based on Ubuntu, the creator has consciously included some trendy applications that are gathering more attention, like Ruby on Rails. On top of the expected with Apache, PHP and MySQL, you get a a handful of browsers, various database and debugging tools, code and graphics editors, all as standard, all configured and running – great way to get started.