Using Internet Explorer 9 to Test Websites with IE8 and IE7

Did you know that Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) provides the capability for viewing websites in IE8 and IE7? There's no need to install an add-on or download anything from a browser archive. The power to test websites using all three versions of Internet Explorer is built in. Of course, the feature for switching between the different options is a little buried.


Back when IE8 was released, Microsoft added the Compatibility View which emulates IE7. The option was introduced to help display websites which would normally break in the new version of the browser. This special view was enabled by clicking the Compatibility View button near the address field (see Figure 1).

Screenshot showing the Compatibility View button in Internet Explorer 8
Figure 1. Compatibility View Button

Now, with IE9, the question is what happens when Compatibility View activated? Does it still show IE7 or IE8? While digging for the answer, something better popped up—the Developer Tools panel.

Switching Browser Versions

The Developer Tools panel is what gives us the option for switching between the different versions of the browser. To access the panel,

  1. Click the Tools button (see Figure 2)
  2. Click F12 developers tools
    • As the option's name suggests, the F12 key also opens the Developer Tools panel
Screenshot showing Internet Explorer's tools button
Figure 2. Tools Button

With the panel open, we can switch browser versions by changing the Browser Mode (see Figure 3).

Screenshot showing Internet Explorer's Browser Mode Option
Figure 3. Browser Mode Option


Using a single browser, we can now see how our website(s) function in Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 and adjust our CSS and HTML code accordingly. If only Microsoft would have included IE6 into the mix. But then again, it might be better to forget that version ever existed.

Related Links


  • #3 Patrick Nichols on 11.16.12 at 4:53 pm

    Based on Forrest's feedback, a Related Links section was added to the end of this blog entry. The new section has a link describing some alternative methods for testing with older versions of Internet Explorer.

  • #2 Patrick Nichols on 11.16.12 at 5:09 am

    @Forrest – I would imagine that using the original browser is more accurate then the many alternatives out there. So I guess the question boils down to "Is it better to switch modes in Internet Explorer (IE)…or skip browser testing in old versions of IE all together?"

    However, I am glad that you mentioned the potential discrepancy. For those looking for more accurate results and have the resources available, how do you test in older versions of IE? Do you have multiple computers; use something like Virtual PC; or something else?

  • #1 Forrest on 11.15.12 at 6:42 pm

    Sorry, but this is a bad method. If you do enough testing between IE9 in those other IE modes, and the original IE versions, you'll find a lot of differences.

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