It was not long ago that I got all excited when I came across the XenoCode virtualized browsers. This seemed a neat idea. At the time one could download an executable (they seem to only be available in-browser now) and run one of the major browsers without interfering with the operating system or confguration you had.
I was all for throwing away my virtual machines there and then. However, I soon realised that they were as lacking as all the other cross browser testing systems out there. The most recent of which is a product from Microsoft themselves. Called SuperPreview, it is actually closely linked with the Expression product and it allows you to display the same page in different version of Internet Explorer. This is a similar approach to IETester, which allows you to open tabs containing the different rendering engines. This is fine if you just want to see that IE6 renders things in a completely different manner to everything else out there but it does not help you one bit if you are actually trying to solve those rendering problems.
Why do none of the IE cross browser rendering tools contain the Developers Toolbar? I mean, it is not a fraction as useful as the wonderful Firebug but it is the nearest we have to an IE tool that actually assists the developer in ironing out those css problems. I have even resorted to the IECollection which claims to contain all the versions of Internet Explorer that have ever existed and to contain the developers toolbar but only manages to throw up error messages and still no sign of a working developer’s toolbar.
So here it is, a request to the producers of the current cross-browser products or to anyone who fancies the challenge. Create a tool that is actually useful. Make it contain all current browsers and some developers tools that allow real-time changing of CSS and whilst your there, make it highlight the padding and margins in that oh-so useful way that Firebug does. That way we can actually see what is causing the problem and try a few fixes without having to change the css file and refresh the page every time. Also, do a favour for the Mac users out there and make it cross-platform.
If it really was a useful tool, developers would buy it and most be willing to pay a substantial license fee. I spend an awful lot of the time waiting for virtual machines to boot and suffering the performance consequences of running them whilst developing, so I would be happy to fork out some cash to solve this problem.