[Contest] BrowseEmAll Pro [Forum Exclusive]

| September 5, 2012

In the beginning, web design was simple. There were just a few HTML tags you needed to know. The only programs you needed were a text editor—I used Notepad to craft my first website—a simple graphics editor and a FTP program to upload the files. And there were only two web browsers of consequence: Internet Explorer and Netscape. Things have radically changed since the Stone Age of the Internet.

Let’s imagine that one day you decided that you want to make a fantastic website. So, you learned the basics of HTML 5 and CSS 3. You invested in a WYSIWYG web design program and worked your way through its steep learning curve. And then, you sweated over your website, tweaked it just so, and uploaded it. Finally, you load it in your web browser… and you feel very, very good about what you’re seeing.

BUT… will it look right and work correctly for someone using a different browser? What about people using mobile devices? It can get both complicated and expensive to create and setup enough virtual machines for thorough testing as well as to buy or borrow a variety of mobile devices.

This is precisely the desperate need that BrowseEmAll promises to fulfill both easily and inexpensively. Let’s take a hands-on look at what this program can do.

I downloaded the trial version: all features are fully functional for 30 days. Installation was straight forward with the only options being the installation location and whether or not you wanted a Start Menu folder and/or Desktop and Quick Launch shortcuts created. It requires .NET Framework 4 as well as the Visual C++ 2005, 2008 and 2010 redistributables, but it automatically installs them for you.

A welcome dialog offers the choices of “Continue”, “Buy” or “Enter license.” I continued and was greeted by the main screen which showed their trial test page in Internet Explorer 8. As you can see below, I entered the address of one of your favorite websites and chose a display resolution of 1024×768.

There’s an URL address bar and drop down menus for Resolution and Simulator. The five buttons are for “Open a local html file”, “Send bug report or feature request”, “Create cross-browser compatibility report”, “Settings” (see screenshot below) and “Inspect and compare.”

The next thing I did was check out the Tipradar homepage via the large number of included simulators: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera as well as the ones for iOS and Android devices. In all the simulators, the page looked good to me, but then I didn’t design it.

I crossed my fingers and checked out the website I designed last year for a small non-profit organization. I was aware of the cross-browser problem, but the testing budget was the same as my fee: $0. So, I skipped all the fancy bells and whistles, and made the site simple, but professional looking. And I simply hoped it would work and look OK on mobile devices. Turns out it was a fortunate decision: the site looked and functioned perfectly in all the simulators. Whew!

Then it was time to run the cross-browser compatibility report. As you can see in the screenshot below there are a LOT of simulators. You’ll note that IE 9 and IE 10 are grayed out since I installed BrowseEmAll on an XP machine. You might also notice that the Opera 10, Opera 11 and Opera 12 simulators are not listed as options in the report even though you can run them via the main screen.

I clicked “Start” and waited about 10 minutes or so as BrowseEmAll took screenshots and checked the HTML and CSS code for problems and errors. Just as it finished, I got a very well-mannered error dialog that said the program needed to close itself. It asked me if I wanted to send an error report and even provided a comment box and an option to include my email address. Also, it offered to show me the error report.

I’m not a programmer, so I didn’t understand the significance of the report other than that part of the problem involved “The specified path is invalid.” Bummer! I really wasn’t too surprised since my XP Pro SP3 build is over a year old and a bit shaky.

Also, I’m running the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit from Microsoft which I’ve set to make everything run under DEP supervision. I’ve had to exclude some apps so they will run. Also, I’ve noticed many others don’t like it and don’t perform as well. However, it does add another line of defense against malware.

So, I looked around and found that a log file was created in the “…\Local Settings\Application Data\BrowseEmAll” folder. Turns out the problem occurred during the “CleanUp” phase when it tried to delete the last screenshot it took which was still in use by another process. I was relieved since that meant the report should be somewhere on my machine. And sure enough, I looked in the “My Documents\BrowseEmAll” folder and found the completed report.

I was certain that my flaky and over-worked XP machine was the problem. So I installed it on the Windows 7 machine I’m building—actually, it’s the first program installed on it. I invoked the cross-brower report process, and voilà! It completed and opened the report in my default browser. As you’ll see below, the Tipradar webmaster did a very good job.

The only problems found were minor CSS property tags that are not supported in the tested versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox. Everything else looked great. Below is a screenshot of a snippet of the report’s Firefox 14 subsection.

BrowseEmAll has an additional feature that would be quite useful in the design process. Check out the last screenshot on their Tour page which shows that you can “inspect the HTML/CSS and compare across different browsers.” If you look back at my first screenshot, you’ll see the button on the bottom right corner that invokes this feature.

On the BrowseEmAll Blog, you’ll find a number of informative articles such as Get your website Internet Explorer 10 ready and 4 Steps to cross-browser test an existing website. Their Support page has links to a FAQ, well-done documentation with very clear instructions as well as a user forum. I checked it out and found that very few people had any need for forum-based assistance. Nonetheless, it’s a huge plus in my book that they maintain one anyway.

Personally, I find BrowseEmAll to be a wonderful, must-have program for anyone who designs or maintains websites. It comes in three editions: Standard ($49), Professional ($89)—includes the iPhone, iPad and Andriod simulators—and a three license Team edition ($259). All come with one year of product updates. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone would do web design without BrowseEmAll.

Reviewed by Jelson


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