Testing in Internet Explorer

Unlike other web browsers where almost everyone generally updates the browser whenever a new version is released, there are still many people using really antiquated versions of Internet Explorer that are not just one but as many as two or three versions out of date. The reason for this is that Internet Explorer is embedded so tightly into the operating system that the most recent versions of IE are not supported on versions of Windows that are still in popular use. At least they are not directly supported. Also because IE is embedded into the operating system it is only possible to run one version of IE alongside as many versions as you like of each of the other browsers.

Because so many people use old versions of IE and because each version of IE prior to IE10 is very different from every other browser in what it does and doesn't support you need to test your web pages in several versions of IE (where the operating system only allows one copy) while being able to get away with testing only in the latest version of all the other browsers (where you can have as many copies installed as you like).

Fortunately there is a solution to this problem that doesn't require that you go out and buy several computers running different versions of Windows. The modern.IE web site provides a way to test as many combinations of Internet Explorer version and operating system as you like so that you can even test if your page behaves differently in the same browser version running on different versions of Windows.

The solution this site uses is to have you install a VM (virtual machine) on your computer. This allows you to run different operating systems inside the vm just as if they were running independently on a separate computer. It also allows you to test versions of IE even if you are running Linux or using a Mac. The modern.IE site provides images for various combinations of Windows and Internet Explorer already built to install directly into a range of popular VM software so that you don't even need to install the operating system - you just attach the supplied disk image to the VM. The only thing that the site doesn't provide is the VM that you are going to install the disk images into.

To set up your multiple IE testing environment the first thing that you need to do is to open up the "Download a Virtual Machine" section of the page. The "Download detailed requirements and instructions here." link provides brief instructions on how to download the images. It also contains links to the documentation page for each of the various VM that are supported. If you do not yet have VM software installed to attach these disk images into then these documentation links will take you to the sites where such software can be obtained. You will need to download and install the VM software before you will be able to use the disk images provided on the modern.IE site.

The next step is to select the image for the windows and IE version combination that you want to install. In testing this facility I downloaded both the Windows 7 / IE9 and Windows 8 / IE10 images and installed them into VirtualBox on a computer running Windows XP (where IE8 is the latest version of IE supported outside of a VM). Both installed and functioned perfectly, proving that it is possible to test the latest versions of IE even when the computer is running an older operating system. The only issue with these installs was that I had to reduce the amount of memory available to the operating system inside the VM so as to leave enough memory for the real operating system to run. As the only purpose in installing these VM is to be able to test in the various versions of IE the reduced memory should not be a problem.

With the range of operating system and Internet Explorer version combinations available from this site you can easily find out how your pages will look and function on all of the different combinations that your visitors are likely to be using and so ensure that your site is not broken for those using antiquated versions of Internet Explorer because their operating system doesn't support a more recent IE version and they have not realised that other more modern browsers exist that their operating system does support.


This article written by Stephen Chapman, Felgall Pty Ltd.

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