Testing IE on a Mac

May 6th, 2009

I love my macbook pro, as most mac owners do, but if you develop web sites you need a good way to test IE, since 2/3 of the internet uses it (browser stats).  Since IE doesn’t run on MAC, you’ll need one of the following solutions:

  • VMWare Fusion 2 vs Parallels 4
    • Pros: IE running on a real Windows OS (2000, XP, Vista), fast and easy to use IE alongside mac apps (once setup – parallel note).
    • Differences: Both are very similar, Parallels 15% faster than Fusion (src), Fusion better (src2, src3)
    • Cons: Both around $80 (30 days free), You’ll need 2GB+ disk space to install a vmware OS
  • VirtualBox 2.2
    • Pros: Free version of VMWare Fusion and Parallels, from trusty Sun.  With “Guest Additions” Installed (instructions in user manual), works almost as well as Fusion 2.
    • Cons: Longer setup, flew glitches (src).
  • Bootcamp

    • Pros: Restart computer, booting into a real Windows install
    • Cons: must restart computer to test IE
  • Xenocode
    • Pros: run different instances of a program (ie6, ie7, and ie8)
    • Cons: only runs on windows, need fusion, parallels, or virtualBox
  • ie4osx
    • Pros: free
    • Cons: only intel mac, a little buggy, requires darwine and X11,
  • Other

I ended up using VMWare Fusion 2, since I had a copy of XP and liked using vmware in the past. Man, do i love it! Fustion 2 is much better than the older version – Installation was super easy. And once installed, you can run it 2 ways – all windows apps (IE7, Firefox, etc) running in one vmware-windows-xp mac application window, or switch to unity mode which lets windows apps (IE7, firefox) run on their own mac application window. I prefer the Unity way – the first time I ran IE the logo appeared on my mac dock and I chose to “keep on dock” to quickly launch and test in IE. Awesome.

In order to test IE6, IE7, and IE8, you can either create 3 vmware virtual machines (XP only likes one version of IE), or better yet, create one XP virtual machine with one version of IE and launch the other IE versions thru xenocode spoon.net (must download/install spoon plugin, only runs on IE).  Overall IE on the mac this way is kinda slow, but so incredibly easy it makes up for it.

UPDATE: Virtualbox is working smoothly .. not as good as vmware, but good enough to not buy vmware once my free 30 days are finished.

UPDATE 2: Figured out a good way to debug javascript in IE – use Microsoft Visual Web Developer. Setup Instructions: http://axonflux.com/how-to-get-internet-explorer-j – more options: http://notetodogself.blogspot.com/2008/08/debug-javascript-in-ie.html

Happy Testing!


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  1. May 6th, 2009 at 10:38 | #1

    also, check out browsershots.org, crowd-sourced screenshots of whatever site you want!

  2. May 6th, 2009 at 10:39 | #2

    @appleuzer
    Oh, you already did. #FAIL

  3. May 7th, 2009 at 08:53 | #3

    I use Virtualbox which seems to work pretty well. Also free!

  4. May 7th, 2009 at 11:14 | #4

    John – Great suggestion! People complained about older versions, but VirtualBox 2.2 for mac works so well that i’m using it now – i updated the blog, too.

  5. May 21st, 2009 at 14:58 | #5

    You can also use browsershots.org or Litmusapp (litmusapp.com)

  6. February 28th, 2010 at 09:09 | #6

    Hi there

    Just wanted to let you know I moved my blog and the link for How to Install TinyXP on a Mac using Virtualbox got changed to http://damiensaunders.com/blog/how-to-install-virtualbox-mac-osx-host-winxp-guest-using-tinyxp-rev-09-132

  7. Hans
    January 20th, 2012 at 03:16 | #7
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