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Cross-browser testing is often confused with multi-browser testing. The difference is that multi-browser testing becomes obsolete as new features are introduced in browsers.

The browser wars between Netscape and Microsoft in the 1990s had led to the emergence of new browsers that wouldn't seem compatible with the computers of that time. This led to the development of the Document Object Model (DOM), a set of standards for the web created by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for representing HTML, XHTML, and DHTML in web pages.

Since many browsers don't offer updates or only do so at the behest of upgrading your system, you may get haphazard websites with the content jumbled up. Multi-browser testing was invented to tackle this issue and had a feature called browser sniffing which detected the browser used and displayed the web page compatible with it. But it couldn't handle the rate at which browsers updated their features. Some of the code that browsers used, wasn't compatible with the others. Cross-browser testing changed all that with developers being able to preview a web page on different devices using different operating systems. Here, we have compiled a list of the best cross-browser testing tools which could aid web developers to generate error-free code with minimum effort.

Browsera

It is a cloud-based service which lets you test your website in multiple browsers at once, by taking screenshots of your web page. It flags down all the problematic areas like Javascript errors. Browsera is free if a user needs to check only 25 pages per month. It's compatible with new web technologies such as AJAX and DHTML. The service ranges with different tiered plans aimed at a single-user to a company testing its development. They are offered at USD 49 to USD 499 per month, with the price increasing according to the number of pages.

CrossBrowserTesting

You can test your website 'live' on your browser instead of referring to screenshots of errors. This means you can solve issues regarding JavaScript menus or AJAX functionality, or write scripts in Java or C# to integrate testing into your workflow. It has a basic plan of USD 29.95 per month and a business plan of USD 199.95 per month.

BrowserSeal

It's a really fast tool used for cross-browser testing and supports multiple versions of IE, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome. The standard version sells for USD 49. You can capture various screenshots of your web pages and compare it in other browsers in a tabbed view. It has a command-line interface for automation of scripts. The only negative aspect of this tool is that it runs only on Windows.

BrowserStack

It's used to test public websites and protected servers on desktop and mobile browsers. It supports many operating systems and was the first to add Apple OS X Yosemite to its list. It tests your designs in their remote server and provides screenshots of the web page immediately to reduce redundancies of the code. It has emulators to test your website on tablets and Android devices. It has a plan of USD 39 per month which can be used by two people and a business plan of USD 399 per month which can cater to 25 people.

Ghostlab

Ghostlab tests the design of a website across various browsers. It has a built-in inspector which checks for any discrepancies in the code. It is available for both Windows and Mac OS X. It lets you sync pages from the local directory and host it on any server in the world. It costs only USD 49 for one license.

IE NetRenderer

It's an online tool for checking the web page in real time. It captures the screenshots of the page and compares it in parallel views. The only disadvantage of this tool is that it supports only Internet Explorer. It offers you a validator as an add-on for Firefox. It renders through the versions of Internet Explorer 5.5 to 11. You need to type in your URL, and it displays the processing time and dimensions of your website with errors, if there are any. The good news is that it's free.

Spoon Browser Sandbox

It is a browser sandbox that lets you test different versions of browsers. All you need to do is sign up, install a plugin, select the browser, and it launches immediately. It isolates the browsers in individual sandboxes and runs them independently. The virtual browsers behave like regular ones with support for Java applets, ActiveX controls, JavaScript, and CSS. It's compatible with Windows only. Spoon browser sandbox charges USD 19 per month for automated building of the code. For personal use and for organizations, it charges USD 19 per month per user.

IETester

IETester is a free cross-browser testing tool that lets you test the rendering and JavaScript engines of IE10, IE9, IE8, IE7, IE6, and IE5.5 only on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. It resembles the interface of Windows 2007. The advantage of using this tool is that it can test your website on multiple versions of Internet Explorer simultaneously. However, the main drawback is that it only supports IE.

IE Tab

IE Tab is a browser extension for those web pages that load only on Internet Explorer. It can be used to test web pages with IE's rendering engine. You have a Windows Explorer view to browse the system with support for icons and right-click menus. It can display web pages that need ActiveX controls, and can be downloaded for free.

Browsershots

Browsershots is the most widely known free online multi-browser screenshot service that captures screenshots of web pages in many different browsers. It's really simple to use. You can type in the URL and select some presets pertaining to your website such as screen size, color depth, Java, JavaScript, and Flash. You can bookmark the page and look at the screenshots when your request is processed. The only problem is that it takes a lot of time to process your request.

Litmus

Litmus comes in a dual package of email application and cross-browser testing tool. After entering your URL, it shows you a preview of the web page in different browsers. It offers a feature called link validation which verifies if the link has been blacklisted or is active. If you're a Mac user, then you can use Alkaline, a free app that runs your email and performs browser tests from the desktop. The previews of the website can be sent to your client using this app as it is compatible with all email providers. Litmus has a 7-day trial after which you can take a pick from 3 plans, starting with Basic at USD 79 per month, Plus, starting at USD 149 per month, and finally, Premium, starting at USD 399 per month.

Microsoft Expression Web SuperPreview

This tool from Microsoft can be used as a separate application or integrated with your browser to help you debug the code. A number of layout modes are provided to preview your website simultaneously across different browsers. It is equipped with tools such as ruler and guide to help you with the alignment of the web page.

With the help of the aforementioned tools, publishing web pages would be a cinch. However, opt for the one that better suits your requirements.