I tried a lot, I used much different ways, IE Tester and such Applications can't help you testing when they don't exactly act like the original Browser. Those applications display issues the original Browser doesn't, so if you fix the issues who aren't really there, you could mess up your page for IE even more!
I tested "Multiple IE" and "IE-Tester" and both show me issues who aren't really there, that's pretty Dangerous, because who tells you if this is a "real" issue or just one that IE-Tester shows you, you never sure about it? So i gave up on all those, and found my own way, how to test IE6,7, and 8 with one PC.
I know they are some bad rumors around about Spoons Browser Sandbox, but that's the only way to test properly in IE6. And i had no problems with it neither, only that somehow IE7 with spoon doesn't works my Vista Machine. Well but i have IE8 to test IE8 and IE7 if I temporary put
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=EmulateIE7" /> in the site. I know it's a workaround, but this works really very well.
IE6 from Browser Sandbox, IE8 and IE8 emulate as IE7 just show you the "real" IE problems and not some who just appear in Browser Testing Applications.
I've used IE Tester and Multiple IE. I seldom encounter differances in IE nowadays. The best method as always is to learn how IE thinks and get to know the bugs. But I agree, to do that you need to test alot. And read alot.
IE 6 isn't that much of a hassle if you KNOW if every thing in your CSS that it doesn't support or chokes on.
I haven't found an easy way to test them all with 100% precision. And I recon you never can. Because people have different updates of the browser anyway. And more often nowadays I only fix the "differences" if it makes a design non-functional or hard to use (hard to use often means less than intuitive).
There is no substitute for the real thing. You can download Virtual PC hard disk images with different operating systems and different IE version from the IE download page.
Note that you probably want to test IE7 in the real thing, not IE8 in IE7 mode. The IE7 mode is intended for showing web sites that are not compatible with IE8, it's not really intended for testing. You still don't get the same set of bugs as with the real IE7.
There's some great services out there for cross browser testing.
The grandfather of them all is browsercam, which gets you screenshots in every browser out there (or pretty close to it), remote access to computers with different OS/Browsers, and even mobile device and email testing. It is pretty pricey, but they do allow for group accounts, so if you can get a few friends together you can get access for relatively cheap.
CrossBrowserTesting is the new kid on the block. They provide most of what browsercam does (no mobile devices or email), in a much more friendly interface and much much cheaper. They are my favorite at the moment.
Litmusapp provides only screenshots, no remote access, but they do have email testing. They're priced somewhere between brosercam and crossbrowsertesting.
Browsershots is a free screenshot service. The downside is that it can be very very slow, but it has just about every browser in the planet, including some pretty obscure linux ones
Adobe browserlabs is a beta product that gives you screenshots in ie6,7,8, a few versions of firefox, safari and chrome. It's free, at least for now.
And if you want something local, try Microsoft Expression Web Super Preview (who named that thing?). Lets you test with ie6, 7 and 8 locally, with a few handy tools
I'd hasten to add, I've found the best resource recently for avoiding an awful lot of pitfalls not just with IE, but cross browser testing in general is Eric Meyer's reset.css: his site is here
it's saved me so many headaches.
I still test on IE8 locally, IE8 in IE7 mode, and run IE6 image through Virtual PC, but that one CSS file must have reduced my cross browser issues/time certainly by 50% if not more.
Hope that helps, Cheers, Terry
I have IE6, 7 and 8 in separate virtual machines using parallels on OS X. I prefer WinXP as that seems most prevalent in the 'we can't upgrade to IE6' corporate arena.
I use browsercam (as part of a group scheme) to check for fundamental flaws and then open whichever VM is needed to find, fix and test the fixes.
I have VirtualHostX on my OSX machine and that lets me share local development sites with Parallels VM's via bonjour.
I code to web standards, use conditional comments to split out any IE css requirements. Generally the way I code now (reset.css, strict doctype, avoiding certain pitfalls) there's usually not much that needs hacking for IE.
I also suggest going the virtualization route. Some of these online services don't render pages complete "right" - like say, if you're using sifr.
Virtualbox is a free virtualization app like Parallels and VMWare Fusion. All you need is a copy of XP/Vista or Win7.
Virtual PC for actual hands-on interactive testing in the following versions and platforms:
- IE 6 on Win XP Service Pack 2
- IE 6 on Win XP Service Pack 3
- IE 7 on Win XP Service Pack 3
- IE 8 on Win XP Service Pack 3
- IE 7 on Win Vista
- IE 8 on Win Vista
Quick & easy automated screen capture-based visual layout testing by litmusapp.com.
Actually I just found a program that works really well. U don't even have to buy it. There's a 14 day free trial. I just used it once and im already gonna go buy it. Go to http://www.softpedia.com/get/Internet/Other-Internet-Related/Multi-Browser-Viewer.shtml and you won't be disappointed. Just download it and try it out on a site.
IECollection is the best IE testing app available. I also tried IETester but it's demonstrably not quite right as far as CSS goes (e.g. there may be some problems in this app which are not actual problems in the real IE6, and there may be real problems in the real IE6 that are not rendered by IETester). There are some more apps for testing too (can't remember the names and they are the same as IETester).
Really the only true way of testing native IE6 (and native IE7) on the same machine as your main IE8 installation is to run a VM machine and install windows XP service pack 1 on it, then DON'T upgrade to IE7. This is the only 100% accurate way. You can also do the same on another separate VM, but install Win XP service pack 2 and upgrade to IE7. This can be very slow though...
There will always be inconsistencies with emulation apps.
Xenocode / Spoon's emulator is a good choice for IE testing. Especially useful if you managed to get the standalone versions from when they first launched.
However I'd agree with Guffa, Virtual machines with XP/IE6, XP IE7, Vista/IE7 (yes theres slight differences in Vista IE7 and XP IE7) is the best way to go.
An additional thought is the approach of not spending any effort on IE6 and justifying this to a client by saying all that time could be spent on features, designing for the better browsers etc.
Andy Clarke's approach is quite liberating. Have a read: http://forabeautifulweb.com/blog/about/what_does_browser_testing_mean_today/
Basically just doing minimal styling to ensure content is readable for ie6, Andy makes a default ie stylesheet that he drops into projects, look here: http://forabeautifulweb.com/blog/about/universal_internet_explorer_6_css
That frees up valuable time and resources to spend on design, rather than on expensive hacks for a broken browser that will have diminishing returns