Sauce: Browser Testing Magic

If you test anything on the internet, and you have to do it in multiple browsers, you know what a pain that can be. You have to have a couple of computers on hand or be running Windows on your Mac. There are tools that make it all a bit easier, but nothing makes it entirely painless.

Sauce is trying to take the edge off a bit by adding support for nearly 100 browsers right on your Mac. How can this be? Devilry? Magick with a K? Maybe. We’ll find out and see if it weighs the same as a duck.

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Internet Explorer on My Mac?

It’s important to understand first that Sauce is a service that provides you with a set of tools for testing on the web. Sauce for Mac is the Sauce client for Mac. There are some resources provided to free users, but power users are going to need a paid subscription. If you want access to more than just a few browsers, you’ll need a free account, at least.

Boom! IE10 on a Mac!

Boom! IE10 on a Mac!

You can do some pretty fancy things with Sauce, and test all sorts of stuff. I used to work in quality assurance for a web developer. I had to make sure everything looked good and worked correctly for the user, and I had to do it in just about every browser. I really could have used something like this back then.

When you open up Sauce, you’re going to need to start a new session. Input your URL and choose your OS and browser. There really is a lot on offer, and you’ll probably want to narrow it down a bit unless you have a specific reason for testing every version of Firefox ever released ever.

Input your URL and choose your browser.

Input your URL and choose your browser.

Browsers Having Browsers

Once you’ve told Sauce what to do, it’ll spin up your own virtual machine, which may take a minute. You’ll get something like a browser window inside a window. You can scroll, click, and perform whatever function you need to. When you’re done, you can close the window, and the session will be logged in the Previous Sessions tab.

If you run into any problems, click the bug button up top. That will save a video of the active session, with all associated information, like what time you were working and what browser and OS you were using. All that will go up in your account on the Sauce website, and you can share it with your fellows for future debugging.

Sauce will take a video of your session if you run into any trouble.

Sauce will take a video of your session if you run into any trouble.

If you’re looking for Firebug, Chrome Dev tools, or the IE Developer Toolbar, all that’s in your Sauce browsers, too. Right-click inside the browser window to bring up the menu and select the tools you need. There doesn’t seem to be a way to install Firebug for Chrome or add any extensions, which is unfortunate, but sometimes you have to give a little.

Sauce will test just about any programming language you would expect, and they have a list up at their site. They also make it easy to test local and firewalled servers without having to expose your data. To be honest, I didn’t have any firewalled data to test, so I wasn’t able to hold their feet to the flame on this one, but they’ve got a pretty thorough FAQ on how to get it done right if you’ve got any questions.

Virtues of Virtual Machines

Sauce ran pretty slow for me, but I’m betting that was more my fault than theirs. I have a three-year old MacBook Pro with upgraded RAM, certainly not a dinosaur, but not the youngest kid on the block, either. It’s something to be aware of, though. When Sauce spins up that virtual machine and gets those legacy browsers going, things may start slowing down.

Sauce will pull up a virtual machine for each session.

Sauce will pull up a virtual machine for each session.

You can only run three sessions at a time, so if you want to see what your site or web app is doing in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera all at the same time, you’re out of luck. The funny thing is, Sauce only ever let me open two browser windows at a time before I’d be chided that I can only have three. I never did get that third window.

After All, It’s a Service

There’s a tiered pricing structure that goes from, well, free for very limited access, to pretty expensive really quickly. If you just need to make sure your forms and maybe a bit of javascript are working correctly on Macs and Windows machines, you’re probably going to do okay with the free account. If you’re doing a whole lot more, though, you might want to look into a paid plan.

There are nearly a hundred browsers on every platform available, so there really is value for money here. For the lay designer/developer, there may not be enough, though, at such a hefty price tag. However, there is a special plan for open source developers that allows them some of the features of the big boy plan at no cost.

Final Thoughts

With so many browsers in one place on my main machine, it’s easy to see the appeal of Sauce. There’s no need to go looking for a Windows computer to run tests when I have it all right here. Sauce did run pretty slow, though, just opening some pretty basic websites on what is an otherwise smooth running computer. Your mileage may vary on this one, of course, and when you can try it for free, there’s not really a reason you shouldn’t take a peek.

All that being said, there are a lot of resources here. The ability to create video snapshots of what you were doing is so big; if you’ve ever had to verbally describe a bug to the people who were going to fix it, you know how much easier it would have been to just show them a video and say, “Here, look!” The customer support is on the case, even for free users, and there are lots of community forums and meetups if you have questions. Sauce was just so easy to use and filled so many holes, there’s no reason not to recommend it.


A solid browser testing tool that goes beyond what you might expect.