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Web Rendering Services

 

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Screenshot and Webbrowser Validation Services

Professional web designers must ensure that their pages will render correctly at least on the most popular web browsers around. Even if you follow good design rules by producing W3C validated code and then testing for deviations (instead of programming until it looks good, then tricking other browsers to look similar), you will notice that different browsers will sometimes behave radically different. Even a simple CSS positioning bug can get you into big trouble. For example, if an essential website control is not working right on Macintosh browsers, this will not only mean some 5% reduction in market share, you are effectively putting up a big sign shouting: “We don´t care for you!”. People using non-mainstream platforms tend to be very sensitive when they feel punished for not using Microsoft products. As negative experiences are memorized much more than positive ones, chances are, you may have lost these potential customers permanently.

Very few web designers can afford to set up and maintain a stack of computers or virtual machnes with different browsers and operating systems just for browser validating purposes. This is where public rendering and remote control services come into play.
 

browserama

German language screenshot service. Supports 40+ browser / OS combinations, including Linux and Macintosh. It allows several rendering options, including which exact Flash version to use. Browser support is not quite up-to date and response times of 2-5 minutes cannot be considered realtime. Prices start at € 9.95 / 24h, they also offer micropayment per screenshot capture.

browsercam tip02

As their website title says: “Screen capture and Remote Access service for cross platform compatibility testing and HTML design quality assurance”. This is probably the most feature complete service around. It is offering screenshot services with project management and image format options, as well as VNC remote control for numerous operating systems. Special platforms, such as Windows Mobile (Pocket Explorer), RIM Blackberry and up to date Beta platform (Windows Vista).are also supported. Pricing starts at US$ 19.94 for 24h hours access (one user)..

browserpool

Well designed VNC Remote access service with full access to different operating systems and browsers, including Mac OS X, Linux, Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Browserpool claims to restore each OS session after use, but there is no official privacy policy. Prices start at €29.99 / month.

browsershots

Open Source screenshot service, allowing to test your webdesign in different browsers. Access is relatively quick and it allows  to immediately view past versions of your page - not only to you, but also anybody else, since “there is no privacy”. This service is free.

browsrcamp tip02

Free Webpage Rendering Service for Safari Browser (MacOSX). For more elaborate testing there is a paid VNC access plan with 10 additional browsers.

iCapture

Free Webpage Rendering Service for Safari Browser (MacOSX) from Dan Vine. Service seems to be down at the moment, so it could not be tested.

ieCapture

Free Internet Explorer Rendering Service from Dan Vine. At a waiting time of 20 hours this service seems to be heavily overloaded. It is not clear which Internet Explorer version is used.

IE NetRenderer tip0202

This is a new, free screenshot service for Internet Explorer 8, 7, 6 and 5.5. Not meant to replace Browsercam, it is designed just for that single job, and it renders faster than any other web service. Since we are providing this service, you can safely assume us to be somewhat precudiced here, So why not simply try it out yourself? ;-)

IEs 4 Linux

Not a validation service, but a cute installation script for Linux boxes to help install multiple IE versions within Wine. It might violate Microsoft EULA and IE7 is not yet fully supported. Considering the number of clever tricks needed to get this working, there is no 100% guarantee that the emulated IE versions will behave exactly like their standalone counterparts, but for casual webdesigners this might be O.K.

IE Tester tip0202

IE Tester is a free standalone application that allows to view webpages in IE Versions 5.5, 6, 7 and 8 Beta. The application itself runs on Windows XP or Windows Vista. It is actually a browser wrapper built around different rendering engines. Installation and operation could is very easy.

Pro: free application allowing to interact with websites just like a real browser.

Con: Needs Windows and IE7 to run, some minor bugs.

Litmus tip0202

Commercial screenshot service with instant rendering of 17+ browsers in full page mode as well as many popular email clients. Snappy user interface.

lixlpixel

Free Mac G5 Safari screenshot service, it is currently down.

superscreenshot.com

Fast and free screenshot service using the Safari (Mac) rendering engine. Allows full page length rendering and a nice preview view before downloading the full size image.

Thumbalizr tip0202

Fast and easy to use screenshot service that uses the IE7 Explorer engine to deliver thumbnail images of arbitrary width.

Tredosoft Multiple IE

This is not a validation service but an installer that allows you to run multiple IE versions side by side on the same MS Windows machine. Besides the fact that you still need a  Windows box and that it might violate the Microsoft EULA, it is not really a professional grade solution. Since IE is designed to be tightly integrated into the OS, there is no guarantee that the different IE versions will behave exactly like their standalone versions. Even if the mechanism does work for you, it will ruin several other HTML rendering functions found in Outlook, HTML Help, Dot NET webbrowser controls etc. In addition, any upcoming MS patch could instantly break this multiple IE mechanism. This is not Tredosoft´s fault (they did a great job building a usable installer), the concept itself is somewhat questionable.

WebshotsPro

Rather slow service built for developers to integrate thumbnail webpage views into their apps.

 

 


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