Testing websites in IE6, IE7 and IE8 on a Mac

When designing and developing websites it’s important to test in all of the most popular browsers. Those are currently Firefox, IE6, IE7, IE8, Google Chrome and Safari. For some reason PC users don’t seem to update their version of Internet Explorer so as each new version arrives on the scene we then have to develop for those very old browsers. Anyway, here’s how to do it…

1. Firstly purchase and install Parallels Desktop which will enable you to run Windows on your Mac (you will also need to purchase a copy of Windows XP).

2. Windows XP has Internet Explorer 6 included so what you’ll now need to do is create a clone of your virtual machine so you can then run IE7 and IE8.

3. Open the new virtual machine and then upgrade IE6 to IE8. From there you’ll then be able to view sites as they appear in IE7 by clicking the little broken page icon next to the address bar.

4. On your newly cloned machine then download Firefox and Google Chrome so you can then test your sites in those browsers too.

5. Yes, you will still have to open up your old virtual machine to view websites in IE6 but this is a far better representation of your sites and more stable solution than using IE6 emulators which are a bit hit-and-miss.

Keep checking the latest browser stats to see when that dreaded IE6 will die a painful death!

  • Spencer Sundell

    It is critical to note that in reality, using IE8 in IE7 mode is *not* a 100% accurate emulation of genuine IE7. I’ve run into this problem myself on a number of occasions. While pretty close, there are differences in how some aspects of CSS rendering and JS parsing operate.

    Therefore, the best practice is to use IE8 in IE7 for rough unit testing during development, and then do a full pass using a genuine install of (real) IE7. This can be done using a virtual machine instance, as described above for IE6.

    This MSDN blog post has some further information along these lines:
    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2009/03/12/site-compatibility-and-ie8.aspx

    Hope this helps!

    Regards…