It’s extremely important for you to view how your website looks on multiple platforms. Web designers often fall into the trap of assuming that their development platform is a representative sample. This holds true even within browser versions. Take Firefox for example. Over the past few years, it has migrated to a rapid release schedule much like Google Chrome. As a result, websites that render in a certain manner on one version might not replicate that behavior on another. I’m talking about plain-vanilla desktop versions here – not mobile ones. So how do you go about testing your website on different versions of the same software?
A program like Firefox doesn’t easily tolerate different versions of itself running on the same machine. What we need is a quick and easy way to “sandbox” different versions of Firefox so as to run them without interfering with each other. Fortunately, Firefox also releases a version of itself known as “PortableApps”. The idea being that you should be able to carry around your entire Firefox browser with all of its configurations and settings on a flash drive so as to be able to pick up where you left off on a new computer.
Let’s take a look at how to use the PortableApps platform and test your website on an older version of Firefox – specifically, version 27 (just as an example)
Installing the PortableApps Platform
The first step is to install the PortableApps platform. You can do that by downloading it from this link here: http://portableapps.com/download . Once you’ve downloaded it and started the installation, you can choose the install location along the way as shown in the screenshot here:
In this example, for convenience’s sake I’m going to use a folder on my computer, but you can just as easily install it directly to a USB flash drive instead. In fact, that is the standard use case scenario for PortableApps. Continue with the installation and when it’s done, it’s time to download the version of Firefox that we are interested in.
Downloading Older Firefox Versions
You can get a comprehensive list of PortableApps applications by visiting the following URL: http://sourceforge.net/projects/portableapps/files/ . The advantage of going through this link rather than using the inbuilt application browser of the PortableApps program, is that you can choose the version to download.
For example in the list above, select “Mozilla Firefox, Portable Ed.”. In the new page, you see Firefox versions ranging from the very latest, right back to version 2! Find the package you are interested in, and click on the link. Once inside, find the language you’re interested in and download the corresponding “paf.exe” file.
This is a regular EXE file that will locate the PortableApps installation and install into it. The setup is just like a regular program and when you finish, run it as shown below:
To test which version we’ve actually installed, I’ve clicked the “Help -> About” menu item and we can confirm that it is indeed version 27 as intended. Keep in mind that my regular Firefox install is already working on my PC with the current and most latest release. The PortableApp version is a separate sandbox application altogether. You can see in the screenshot below that once installed, it appears in the menu as well:
Using this, you can test your websites on as many versions of the same software as you want without affecting the primary ones on your computer:
A tool like PortableApps is invaluable when it comes to having the ability to test your website on a number of versions of the same browser. For me, the best part is that they don’t clutter up your computer and they remain safely locked away from the rest of the software installed on it.