Ways to test websites in IE

Many webmasters are familiar with the problem: your computer probably has at most one version of Internet Explorer installed, but you want to test your website in every version that still sees significant usage. Recently I've discovered a number of solutions for this.

First, some time ago, some people figured out how to (ab)use the local-DLL workaround to keep installations of different versions of IE on a single Windows PC. MultiIE improved on that a bit, but now these folks have packaged up all the major versions you'd want (except 7.0, which presumably you're meant to just install in the normal way) in a simple and convenient installer. Very nice.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has come out with a solution based on their virtualization software. It doesn't include as many versions, but because it uses virtualization it is cleaner in some ways, running the browser in a VirtualPC where it has no access to your main system, and (more or less) vice versa. They've chosen to make this available free of charge, even though it technically includes a complete WinXP environment in the VPC box. It's time-bombed for April, but they say they intend to continue releasing these as time passes.

As if that weren't good enough, today I discovered IEs4Linux, which installed quickly and easily on my Ubuntu workstation at work, and runs with no problems. It uses wine, but it sets everything up nice and automatic (and runs IE in a regular window, like any other application), avoiding the usual hassles of dealing with wine. This is absolutely fantastic: I've now got IE5, IE5.5, and IE6 available. They take about 20 seconds to start up, but once they're running their resource consumption and performance are within my definition of reasonable. (Now to go home and see if it's as easy to install on FreeBSD as it is on Ubuntu...)

Finally, I discovered the browsershots service a few weeks ago, and it's really cool too.

Testing websites in different browsers just gets easier all the time.