I came across this nifty open-source piece of web-based software last night that is really quite an interesting and useful idea.
The website is then added to the job queue and allocated to a particular factory. The factory (computer) then takes the web address and loads it up in your specified browser with your specified settings. A screenshot is taken of the browser window with your loaded website and it is then uploaded onto the central Browsershots server for you to view.
I’ve used it to test a couple of websites now in various scenario’s and it works great, it’s helped me pick up a few things I would’ve completely missed otherwise.
Of course since it is all automated, you don’t see things such as any mouse over effects, so you still need to test them manually, however for everything else, this is an excellent idea!
The factories used for it are all voluntary and anyone is able to add a factory to the ones used for work. As factories are provided voluntarily though, often there are some unavailable. Such as when I was doing some testing last night, only one of the Linux factories was online, so I was not able to test all of the different Linux browsers.
This is a bit of a downside, but I think, the more widely known it becomes the more factories people will volunteer. After all, if people want to continue using a free service like this, people have to be willing to help out.
There is a paid priority system. So if you pay 10 Euros, you will receive a month of priority processing which effectively means you don’t wait in the standard queue to have your screenshots processed, you are put at the front of the queue.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay for priority processing, if you have a factory or factories setup to help out with the load, when all your factories combined are uploading 1000 screenshots in the 24 hours before the time you are submitting a screenshot, you will get priority processing as well.
On their wiki they have all the setup instructions you need to get a factory up and running on Windows, Linux or Mac. It’s all very straight forward and easy to follow. So if you are interested in helping out with the processing load, or anything at all, it will no doubt be greatly appreciated.
Apparently the bandwidth load for uploading these shots can range up to around 20gb a month. Downloads would be much the same as browsing to all of the sites. So there is quite a lot of bandwidth involved, but if you can spare it and have a spare computer lying around, I really think this is a worthwhile idea. After all, anyone that regularly has to check browser compatibility will know how much time it can take to test websites in a wide variety of browsers and this really speeds up that time and let’s you test in even more browsers than most people would.
I don’t doubt that you will find it as useful as I am continuing to find it.