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Test Your Browser Power
by Fred Langa

It's a little surprising when a private project takes on a life of its own, but that's what's happened with BrowserTune. The original BrowserTune grew out of some behind-the-scenes Web pages I wrote for myself. You see, I was looking for an easy way to try out new browser features and technologies for my home page. Though it's a modest effort, the HotSpots page has gotten over 1.5 million visitors, so I wanted to make sure the pages would look good and act okay no matter what browser viewed them.

Every time a new version of a major browser came out, I'd fire up the test pages to see what worked, what was broken, and how the browsers differed from each other. As new Web technologies and functions became available, I'd create new test pages to help implement the functions in a way that would still work with older browsers.

Eventually, I polished and published the test pages so anyone could perform the same kinds of tests. The first version of BrowserTune let you test over 100 separate features and functions easily. You'd simply follow links from page to page. Each page would tell you exactly what was being tested, why (that is, what the tested function or feature was commonly used for), what the test results should be, and what you could do if your favorite browser failed a test. You could even open up two competing browsers side by side and see exactly where they were the same and where they differed. All the tests were geared to the functions and features used in real-world Web pages (not made-up technology demonstration sites) while staying as browser-neutral as possible. BrowserTune didn't play favorites with any particular brand or version of browser. Beyond testing, BrowserTune also offered specific advice wherever possible on how to overcome or work around any deficiencies you might uncover in your browser. And best of all, BrowserTune did all this in a way that was completely benign and noninvasive--it didn't change anything in your system--so it was extremely safe and nondisruptive.

I continued updating the tests until BrowserTune became what I honestly believe is the world's most complete collection of useful, practical, real-world browser tests. Hundreds of thousands of you agreed and have visited the BrowserTune site. Many of you used the feedback link at the end of the tests to offer great suggestions about how I could make the tests even better and more complete.

The Latest Model

BrowserTune 97 is the result. It incorporates as many of your suggestions as possible, and extends and clarifies many of the original BrowserTune tests. It's especially timely because of the new versions of Navigator and Internet Explorer due out this summer. There's no easier way to put a browser through all its paces than to surf through BrowserTune. New in BrowserTune 97 are timing tests for modem throughput and Internet packet turnaround; tests for streaming audio and video capabilities; security features; use of tool tips; the ability to view and edit a page's source code; and the use of Win95-specific features, such as right-click menus.

All the original parts of BrowserTune remain, of course, but they've been freshened and extended to work better than ever. These tests thoroughly examine your browser's ability to handle a wide variety of text and layout attributes; graphics formats; animations; embedded and manually invoked sound files (WAV, MIDI, AU and AIFF); mailto; and basic and advanced tables. It can also test list box handling; ActiveX, Java, JavaScript, JScript and VB Script; lists; rules; large display areas; meta tags and client pull; caching; frames; target pages; HTML forms; backgrounding and watermarking; smooth scrolling; stylesheets; borders; OLE and OLE2 integration; non-OLE integration; embedded and nonembedded MPEG, QuickTime and AVI video; and more.

Like its predecessor, BrowserTune 97 should not alter your browser or system settings in any way. You can still run the tests as a full suite, or just run the ones you want. You also can start the tests and bail out anytime with no problem. BrowserTune 97 still strives to be browser-neutral. The tests involve only "legal," standard HTML coding and focus on functions in common use today. These are functions you need to get the most use and enjoyment out of real-life pages found on today's mainstream intranets and on the Web. BrowserTune 97 doesn't stack the deck for or against anyone, so you can find out which browser offers just the features and functions that matter to you for your personal surfing, your corporate Internet and intranet use, and so on.

BrowserTune is ready for you right now. Click on over to http://www.winmag.com/flanga/browsertune and check it out.

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