Browsers and Web Development

I'm in the middle of designing and building an Intranet site.  Being a web developer has it's pluses and minuses.  One of the minuses is the variety of web browsers available depending on your environment of choice.  You would think that once you develop a web site, it's done, and your off on to another project, but unfortunately, it's not quite that easy.  The browsers keep popping into the picture, and I ran into it again yesterday.

My current development environment is Windows XP Pro running WAMPSERVER 2.0c.  I prefer XP, at the moment, because of the rich number of tools and resources that are available to me that make my job easier, and at the same time, are rock solid and stable.  I do not want bugs and environment problems with my tools when at the same time I'm having problems with my application.  That being said, I admit to seriously flirting with Ubuntu from time to time, and know eventually I will end up there, but for now, and until I get a dedicated computer for Ubuntu, I will persist with XP.

My browser of choice to develop on is Firefox.  Firefox has the best development tools available of any of the browsers out there.  Some of the plug-ins that I use regularly is "Aardvark," to see what I'm editing in CSS on the page, "Web Development" suite of tools for the variety of information I can see about the current browser window, and "Firebug" to help debug some problems I have on a web page.  No other browser comes close to these tools.

So yesterday, I reached a "come up for air" point in this Intranet application I'm hand coding in PHP and MySQL, and decided to see what the application looked like in the other browsers.  Ugh! What a disappointment. Internet Explorer 8,  the just released new Microsoft browser, still is far behind.  It has a tendency to murder forms.  When you have a nice form in Firefox it is either ignored, or made unrecognizable, in IE8. We don't want to go to IE6 or IE7 which are worse.  Bear in mind, I develop all my applications to pass the current web standards. My XHTML, and CSS is validated with the W3C validators to conform to the latest web standards.  So we're starting from a common ground here.  Opera 9 worked pretty good.  A couple of minor renderings were a little off, but I call this trivial.  Safari was the closest, and seems to be right on, no problems.

I took this "up for air" opportunity to run the acid tests on the browsers again.  I am here to report that the ACID 2 browser test is no longer relevant. Why?  With Microsoft's new release, IE8, all the browsers now pass ACID 2 with flying colors. Yes!  My job just got a little bit easier, after all, we still have to make applications work in all browsers.  Because of this need to modify an application to run IE, I have hated the IE browser for years now.

Microsoft did an interesting thing with IE8.  They put a gear shift in the browser window, called a  🙂 compatibility button.  They could never admit they tried a "grandstand" play to take over Internet Standards with their own proprietary standards for the web, like what they pulled with the Office suites and tried with Java.  They failed with Java, and now, the browsers. Luckily for us all.   This compatibility button is on the top toolbar, just to the right of the address field, when the browser detects that you are on a page that requires it.  It is suppose to let you render your back pages properly, that may not be visible, because it was developed just for IE5, 6, or 7.  What it does is try to bring their older versions of proprietary rendering of web pages, up to current standards.  I guess that's as close as we'll get to Microsoft admitting defeat.

Since all the browsers pass ACID2, ACID3 now becomes the standard all browsers should strive to reach.   The idea is the browser runs a series of tests that gradually build to a score of 100 with smooth animation.  The higher the score the better the browser conforms to the current standards.

The Report Card Please:
Safari 4.0.530.17  Passed with flying colors  Score: 100
Opera 9.64         Came close.                Score: 85
Firefox 3.0.11       Up there                    Score: 72
Internet Explorer 8.0.6001.18702  Ugh! Still not there. Not smooth. Score: varied best 20

You can run the ACID 3 test in your current browser by simply going to the ACID 3 site and running the test.

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