What tool to use for checking browser compability?

As a webdesigner, SEO developer, UI expert you need to be aware how and whether your product gets displayed on various browsers. How do you optimize it? Well, you have to know your standards and what works and what not on different platforms and browsers, there is no avoiding that. But beyond that you need to check your product. Sometimes you don’t want to or don’t have access/time to test on all possible or even major platform. So what tools should you use for checking browser compatibility.

I will cut to the point. I recommend Adobe BrowserLab and then explain why is it better than the other options when you do a cost-benefit analysis. To use Adobe BrowserLab you need to sign up/in/for/with a (free) Adobe ID. Then you just give it a URL and it can show you how that page would look like with Chrome (13 & 14 on Windows), Firefox (5 &7 on Windows and OS X) Internet Explorer (6-9 on Windows) and Safari (5.1 on OS X).

A side note: On a local tech email list there was a slight case of panic as someone misread an email and thought it said that BrowserLab would be discontinued April 22. A quick check on the official page of Adobe CS Line online services clarified that it  “Adobe CS Review and SiteCatalyst® NetAverages™ will no longer be available after April 12, 2012.” Don”t worry then, BrowserLab lives on. (For now?)

Here is a round up of the tools you may find in your search for the best browser compatibility tool. A lot of them are great, but their free option, if they have any, are too limited. I am on a no budget, so they didn’t work for me as well:

Method Browsers Free Price Comment
Adobe BrowserLab Emulated preview Chrome 13 & 14 on Windows
Firefox 5 &7 on Windows and OS X Internet Explorer 6-9 on Windows
Safari 5.1 on OS X
yes  Free, but requires (free Adobe ID) Best feature/price ratio
BrowserShots Screenshot of page 120 for Linux, Windows, Mac OS X yes $29.95/month Processing and display is slow, may take 2-3 hours for the default set of browsers
CloudTesting Screenshots, HTML & component diagnostics via IDE ? no Contact sales for quote UK based
BrowserPhoto Shows screenshots, HTML Errors, Browser Bugs 2 screen sizes and 12 browsers no $15/one time use
NetMechanic’s product
Browsera Eutomatic layout problem and JavaScript errors detection. Multiple versions fo Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari Free for up to 25 page $39: 300 pages/14 days
$49: 500 pages/1 month
$99: 2000 pages/month
On the plus side it can test entire sites. But borwser options are not comprehensive enough and pricey.
CrossBrowserTesting live browser test and automated screenshots 100+ available, including IE6, Macs, iPhones, iPads, Android, Blackberry no $29.95: 150 minutes/month
$49.95: 600 minutes/monhth
$199.95: 3000/minutes/month
Can test local files via VNC
BrowserCam Screencapture of pages by OS/browser dozens for Mac OS X and Windows (including Camino and Netscape:-)) no no new members, but members went from one-day to annual

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Gabor Por