Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
12/1/2010
11:18 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
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Microsoft Doesn't Want To Spoon

Developing web applications that run on a wide variety of browsers can be quite a challenge. There's an online tool that can make that job easier, but Microsoft doesn't want you to have it.

Developing web applications that run on a wide variety of browsers can be quite a challenge. There's an online tool that can make that job easier, but Microsoft doesn't want you to have it.That online tool is spoon.net, which lets you run any browser right off their web site. Once you install the Spoon plugin, you can run any version of IE (and many other applications and games), without having that browser installed on your computer. Or you would be able to, if Microsoft let you.

Several browsers including Firefox and Opera are available at Spoon.net, but the browser that could really benefit is Internet Explorer since there are so many versions that need to be tested. IE6 and IE7 aren't dead yet, and they tend to be a thorn in the side of any design so they must be tested thoroughly. IE8 is significantly better but has its own set of quirks, and IE9 will arrive soon so it needs to be tested as well. There are some hacks to run multiple versions of IE on a single system, but they're not officially supported and don't always behave the same way as a real installation.

Microsoft's solution is to provide some free virtual machines that expire within a few months, one for each combination of browser and operating system. This isn't all that convenient. You must have Virtual PC installed on your PC; it will require a system with copious memory and disk space. To test all the versions of IE you must run every VM. If you use other VM software such as VirtualBox or VMWare, you can't have it installed on the same system where you use the Virtual PC images since the two VM hosts can't coexist.

With four active versions of IE and no simple way to run them on the same computer at the same time, it would be great to have a solution delivered from the cloud. Unfortunately, Microsoft has asked Spoon.net to remove Internet Explorer from the list of browsers that you can use there. Until Microsoft has a change of heart, expect IE testing to still be the most difficult and painful browser testing around.

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