As any web developer knows, all browsers have their quirks. Here at IDR we aim to support as many browsers as possible on as many platforms as possible. The result is that we are constantly testing files in Chrome and Firefox on PC and Mac; Safari on Mac, iPhone and iPad; Internet Explorer; and Android’s browser.
It turns out the fastest way of testing all of these is to turn your development PC into a web server. Web servers have a bit of a reputation for being complex to set up, but a number of pre-configured packages are available. One of these, XAMPP, is cross-platform and regularly updated, which suits our needs.
Once installed using the instructions provided, you can either place the files to test directly into your xampp/htdocs folder, or set up an alias for another directory using this handy guide. Assuming your firewall is properly configured (unblock port 80!) your files should now be visible over your local network, ready to test on any number of devices.
I’m sure a few people are wondering whether a web server is really necessary for this task. People might suggest using shared folders or Dropbox instead.
Personally, I’ve always found shared folders, particularly on Windows, needlessly complex and unreliable. They also don’t help on Android or iOS. You only need to set up a web server on your main development machine and that’s it – it won’t care about what operating systems you’re using elsewhere on the network.
Dropbox results in duplicate data, and although it can transfer files directly over LAN it still synchronizes to their servers, using up your space allowance. Since the results of our tests are over a gigabytes, it seems sensible to leave them in one place but allow access, which Dropbox cannot do.
Truthfully, I don’t think a web server is necessary for cross platform testing, but I do think it’s better. Packages like XAMPP and WampServer have made it quick and easy to do. It also lets you play with technologies like AJAX which won’t work without it. Perhaps a better question than whether it’s necessary is why not?
This post is part of our “Testing Articles Index” in these articles we provide a guide to Testing.
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