Any experienced web developer will tell you that despite the recent advances in web browser technology and the ever-improving conformance to W3C browser standards, no website can be tested in one web browser and then call it a day. In fact, if a developer doesn't test his or her sites out on multiple versions of any given browser, they are bound to cause cries of pain and anguish from their clients whenever bugs that slipped off the radar rear their ugly heads later.
One way around this problem is to have each version of Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and other web browsers installed within countless virtual machines. However, this is an enormous task and can be a disk space hog and a time waster.
Utilu's Browser Collections for both Internet Explorer and Firefox claims to rectify this problem to a degree, at least for the Windows users, by repackaging two popular browsers with all released versions within one installer package. Basically, you can download either an IE or Firefox collection, install it, and have every version of that particular browser on tap at your disposal. Such a setup is pretty much a web developer's dream come true. With every version of IE and Firefox accessible at the same time without one browser overriding another, separate virtual-machine environments are no longer necessary.
However, caveat emptor: Aside from the Firefox browser collection, which seemed to work without a hitch on my PC, the Internet Explorer collection told a different story. Depending on the version of Windows used, sometimes browsers like IE 7 or IE 8 would refuse to load or act up and cause issues. Evidently, I'm not alone in my observations.
FileForum's website has end-user reviews on Utilu's IE kit, and the reviews are heavily mixed for the most part, with the average hovering around three out of five stars. This probably has something to do with the rather OS-dependent nature of Internet Explorer, such that it relies on various hooks within Windows to work properly, and in some versions of Windows, either these hooks are notably absent or significantly altered, preventing the browser from properly executing.
So does Utilu's solution to the web developer nightmare of testing sites in many web browsers and the versions within each really work well? The Firefox collection seems solid enough, and it lets me test sites rapidly. However, with the IE platform having clearly gotten the short end of the stick, you're probably going to need to keep your Windows XP VMs handy, at least until the classic IE 6, 7, and 8 versions are put out to pasture for good. Unfortunately, who knows how long we will have to wait for that to happen.
An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Customer Success Professional for Ultimate Software in Santa Ana, California.