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Adobe service puts browsers side by side

The technology, previously code-named Meer Meer, allows Web developers to compare how a site looks in Firefox, IE, and Safari.

Adobe's BrowserLab is a hosted service that allows Web developers to visualize what their site looks like in different browsers. Adobe

Adobe on Tuesday said it is offering a free preview of its BrowserLab service, which allows Web developers to quickly see what their site looks like on a number of browsers.

The technology, previously code-named Meer Meer, was shown last year at the company's Max developer conference. Using virtualization, the tool can show how a site will look in Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari running on different operating systems. Running BrowserLab requires a Mac or PC with Adobe Flash 10.

"Cross-browser testing has been one of the biggest challenges for Web designers because it is such an arduous and time-intensive task," Adobe's Lea Hickman said in a statement. "Now with Adobe BrowserLab, designers have a simple solution that enables comprehensive browser compatibility testing in just a matter of minutes, leaving Web designers with more time to be creative and deliver the high-impact sites customers are demanding."

Designers can compare a site in two browsers side by side as well as use an "onion skin" mode that shows a site in multiple browsers overlaid one on top of the other.

Adobe said that the preview version would be free, though it plans to charge at some point.

BrowserLab "will move to be a paid service down the line, though we have not announced the timing," Adobe product manager Scott Fegette said in a statement. "Currently the focus is on getting the preview out to users and making sure we're providing the best possible user experience."

Microsoft showed off a similar tool, SuperPreview, at its Mix09 event in Las Vegas earlier this year. Microsoft announced that the latest version of its Expression Web software for Windows would include the feature and show multiple browsers via a cloud-based service. It also made a free standalone version of SuperPreview available to allow users to compare how Web pages render in the three latest versions of Internet Explorer--IE 6, IE 7, and IE 8.

Fegette said that Microsoft's approach requires a large PC-based application.

"All we know is what was announced about SuperPreview a couple months ago at Mix, which at its core appears to be a large, Windows-only desktop application available for download which provides previewing support for locally-installed versions of Internet Explorer 7 and 8 alongside a dedicated IE 6 emulator, with the promise of 'cloud-based access' to alternate operating systems and browsers at an undisclosed point in the future," Fegette said.

BrowserLab's "onion skin" view compares how a Web site looks in multiple browsers with different browsers' views overlaid on one another. Adobe