Most web developers will tell you that the most frustrating and time-consuming task in web development is getting your websites to render the same in all browsers. It has gotten easier in the last couple of years with the latest generation of browsers but until all browsers become standards compliant or one browser monopolizes the market web developers are going to need to continue to test in multiple browsers.

I regularly test on Firefox 2 and 3, Internet Explorer 6, 7, 8 and Safari. For client websites we generally test on both the Mac and PC versions of Safari and Firefox but things seem to render the same between them. More recently, we have added Google Chrome but so far haven’t seen any differences from Safari, Chrome’s Webkit brother.

One of the biggest hurdles when testing for cross browser compliance is Internet Explorer 6. Not only is it a terrible browser but it is difficult to run, especially if you want to have the latest and greatest browser software. Thanks to software like Multiple IE it is possible to run Internet Explorer 6 on Windows XP and now you can run Internet Explorer 6 on Windows Vista although I haven’t tried doing that myself. I don’t understand why Microsoft makes it so difficult to run multiple versions of IE. Presumably it is to ensure people update their software and replace older versions but Internet explorer 6 is older than the iPod so that strategy isn’t working.

Anyway, what I am getting at is that Adobe announced a new product at the annual MAX event that is intended to address cross browser compatibility testing. The new product called Adobe Meermeer. Adobe Meermeer is set to debut as an online service and a Dreamweaver CS4 extension on Adobe Labs sometime next year. The tool itself is a cross browser web site testing tool that will be delivered as a service. Basically, it works by taking screen shots of the sites in different browsers and then allows you to view the results. The system will also have the ability to overlay the results on one another allowing you to adjust the transparency of the various layers. This strategy is not unlike what we do using Photoshop or Fireworks now for websites that need to be pixel perfect.

I am not sure that this will make it into my daily workflow but I will probably give it a try once it is released. I would rather see Adobe find a way to incorporate the rendering engines from all major browsers into their Live View like the recently did in Dreamweaver CS4 with Webkit so that you could easily toggle between the various browsers while in development. That to me would be a powerful tool and one that may make me consider paying the license fee for Dreamweaver.