I’ve always been a firm believer in creating websites that are standards complaint (as much as possible) so that they look and function the same way across various operating systems and browsers. I came from a Windows environment and have never owned a Mac. I’ve used them at work for testing and troubleshooting, but I personally have never had the extra funds to splurge and buy one for myself. So as a developer/designer, I’ve been faced with the dilemma of finding a way to test designs and code on a Mac without having full-time access to one.
Historically my need to test on a Mac has been fulfilled by either a) using the Mac at work for my own (evil) purposes or b) using an online service like browserlab.adobe.com, browsrcamp.com, browsercam.com, or browsershots.org which take a URL, feeds it to a real live Mac, and return a screen shot of the page. These services are great in a pinch but they can be time consuming, and by having to feed them one URL at a time, limit the quantity of pages you can easily check. Not to mention the fact that the last time I checked, browsershots didn’t have any Mac browsers available to pick from. There are also some free apps like SuperPreview that do the same thing, as well as come commercials apps.
The Current State of Mac Browsers
From the data I could scrounge up, it looks like Mac users are currently using one of two web browsers more than any other; Safari and Firefox. That’s good news since Safari is using the WebKit rendering engine and Firefox uses Gecko. The core of both of these engines is the same across operating systems, so the current version of Safari on a Mac should render the same as it does on Windows (with the form controls being unique to each OS). Provided this holds true, a site viewed in Safari or Firefox on Windows should render the same as it does on a Mac. This begs the question, since the leading web browsers on a Mac use the same code rendering engines as they do on a PC, is there a reason to use a Mac for testing?
So What Do You Think?
Does the need to test web development on a Mac justify buying one, or is using the equivalent browser on a PC sufficient? Are the online screenshot services enough? I’m having a hard time justifying laying out a minimum of $600 (a new Mac mini) just for testing. What do you do when it comes to testing on a Mac when you don’t have one?