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Alkaline review

Verdict:

An excellent way to test web development work on Windows browsers without owning Windows.

Review Date: 21 Apr 2009

Price when reviewed: Subscriptions range from free to £135 per month

Reviewed By: Giles Turnbull

Our Rating 4 stars out of 5

Web developers who spend hours testing sites and email newsletters in Windows browsers and clients will be aware of web-based tools, such as Litmus, which automate much of the task.

Even so, developers who use Mac OS X often keep a copy of Windows around, so they can conduct tests locally.

This is where Alkaline comes in. It offers access to the Litmus farm of Windows machines from inside a native Mac OS X application. Simply tell it which URL you want testing, and it will grab the screenshots remotely and send them to your Desktop.

Alkaline is attractive and easy to use. You need an account at litmusapp.com, but signing up for one is free and only takes a few seconds. It may take a couple of minutes more for the Litmus servers to grab all the screenshots you've asked for, but they are stored inside Alkaline. There's also a link in the application's HUD display to your account page where they are archived.

Plug-ins are also available for popular Mac OS X development tools like Coda and TextMate, making it easy to start a new test in Alkaline without having to leave those apps.

The basic free service gives you access to Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2, up to 50 times per month; while a series of incremental upgrades offers more browsers. The top-level Team Subscription at $199 (about £135) allows up to 10 users to test across 23 browsers, 16 email clients and 15 spam filters, and adds 128-bit SSL security.

Almost every Windows browser is covered, but oddly only Safari and Camino are included for the Mac, so you'll still have to do some additional manual testing for Firefox and Opera on Mac OS X. This omission aside, Alkaline is a clever and useful tool for web developers. Even the free version is good and a decent time-saver for amateur designers.

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