The IE6 Alternative

Posted August 16th, 2006 by Mike Cherim

If you’re like me — and you’re a web developer — you’ve been testing your creations in Internet Explorer (IE) version 7 (beta 3). (You should be, anyway.) But this leaves one problem: Trillions of Internet users are still visiting your sites with IE6, thus you still need to test with it. One solution is to have two computers, one running IE6, the other IE7. But this may not be feasible for everyone. Another option is to run concurrent versions on the same (Windows XP) computer. This scares me, though. I’ve never considered myself a computer guru so anything as involved as this sounds makes me as nervous as a cat in a house full of rocking chairs. Being the Luddite I may seem to be, I have found another solution. One that’s doable for even someone like me.

The answer is to download and install AOL Explorer. Version 1.5 is free to download, and as far as I can tell, its rendering capabilities mirror IE6 exactly. I think that’s because it is IE6, but with added AOL bells and whistles. I just did this the other day and it has satisfied my needs to the letter. Now I can check my sites using IE7 (beta 3) and an IE6 clone. All without having to think. Thinking can be painful so this might be just the ticket for some.

As an aside, if you’ve been into testing with IE7 for a while, you’ll most likely have IE7 beta version 1 or 2 installed, and even though the rendering capabilities of the IE7 (beta 2) version are the same as beta 3, you’ll most likely want to upgrade. Be forewarned, this isn’t as easy as it should be. You’ll first have to completely remove the older version. You can go to “Add or Remove Programs” via your Windows Control Panel, but it will very likely not be there making removing it more challenging than it needs to be. Thus you have to edit it out of your registry. I hate editing my registry (seems scary), but there are tutorials and checklists out there for doing this so I’ll leave the how-to up to someone else.

Important Update!

32 Responses to: “The IE6 Alternative”

  1. Dave Z. responds:
    Posted: August 16th, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Hmmm…just when I was finally getting my sites to validate in FF and IE 6.0 I am left with another issue to worry about…IE 7! The system seems like it is hard to keep ahead of, doesn’t it? What with some users still using IE 5.0, and now others soon to be using 7.0, it is hard to make sites that are compatible with them all.

    Thanks for offering us another great tip on how to stay one step ahead of this wolf, Mike. Your help is always appreciated.

  2. Dan responds:
    Posted: August 16th, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Great find Mike, I’ve been using Browsercam to test with IE6 lately, but this will be so much easier. I’ll just need to overcome the (irrational?) fear of installing AOL software on my PC…

  3. Dave Zemens responds:
    Posted: August 16th, 2006 at 5:37 pm


    I am not sure your fear is “irrational”, but nonetheless this is another great tip by Mike Cherim!

  4. Joe Dolson responds:
    Posted: August 16th, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    The only thing I have found that I don’t like about AOL Explorer is on launch it opens the AOL home page as well as the home page I specify

    Well, that sounds like a standard AOL behavior. I’ve been vaguely aware for some time that AOL used the IE rendering engine, but, like Dan have been hesitant about wanting to actually install it. AOL properties just make me a little bit nervous…I don’t trust them, and I also don’t like the way they seem to treat your computer as a place for them to distribute their advertising!

    But I share your hesitations about the complexities of installing multiple versions of IE…I’ve read all the tutorials on this and just haven’t dared it yet!

  5. Peter responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 5:26 am

    Why not simply test your sites here :

  6. Matthijs responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 6:08 am

    Haha, downloading and installing an AOL product on my computer? Are you crazy? Haven’t you followed the news lately? I think I’ll wait for a simple, standalone IE6 package to be made, just as there are IE5 and IE5.5 packages. Although they are not very stable, they run fine.

  7. David Zemens responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 7:40 am

    “Haha, downloading and installing an AOL product on my computer? Are you crazy? Haven’t you followed the news lately? I think I’ll wait for a simple, standalone IE6 package to be made, just as there are IE5 and IE5.5 packages. Although they are not very stable, they run fine.” –Matthijs

    It is a tough decision to make, but it is an option available to developers that can assist them in designing their websites. Life is about choices, and Mike offered up a choice that many of us may not have been aware of.

  8. Matthijs responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Hi Mike (and others),
    sorry if my comment came across a bit rude/offensive or otherwise uncool. It was meant more tongue-in-cheek/ ironic/jokingly, but the comment failed in that, obviously. Sorry! (I need more expressive emoticons in these comment fields! Especially the ironic ones, it always goes wrong there :) )

    Of course it’s good to have choices and thanks for the write-up Mike. It’s because of people like you writing interesting stuff that I keep up with the field. Maybe I’ll even try the AOl download.

  9. Matthijs responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks Mike. Interesting story about comcast. Good you refused to give the number. Power to the people :) If we stay alert and critical we might actually convince some companies to do better…

    So, what was it that we were talking about? O yeah, IE7 :)

  10. Neal V responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    Hmm, but what is wrong with the stand-alone version of IE? I have the standalone version of IE 5, 5.5, and 6.0 and the IE 7 beta installed. Honestly, the standalone versions of IE are nothing more involved than downloading and running them. No installation, no registry hacks, notta. Download in use.

    Plus, it avoids AOL’s ickiness. *shudder*

  11. David Zemens responds:
    Posted: August 17th, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    Neal V,

    When you install a newer version of IE, doesn’t it overwrite your existing version as a matter of routine? Isn’t it much more involved than a simple install to have two versions on one machine?

  12. Zach Blume responds:
    Posted: August 18th, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Dude. Brilliant workaround. Another great post. Keep it up. I’ll be listening twice as closely after this post :)

  13. Krzychu Danek responds:
    Posted: August 21st, 2006 at 3:31 am

    I might be doing something wrong but once I’ve installed both the AOL browser and then IE7 I had the same (IE7) rendering machine in both of them. I’ve also tried to remove AOL and install it again but without any luck. It seems that this AOL browser is only an extension of the current IE version residing in the system, not a separate application. I would really like someone to prove me wrong, as it seems to be the easiest solution…

  14. Anthony Brewitt responds:
    Posted: August 21st, 2006 at 6:16 am

    Great idea; I always wondered what was sitting on the backend of AOL. For which I agree with Mike that theres no safer time to AOL - just like theres no safer time to fly a plane from the UK. I personally use standalone browsers;

    Hope that helps somebody, Anthony

  15. David Zemens responds:
    Posted: August 21st, 2006 at 9:03 am

    adj. hum·bler, hum·blest

    1. Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.


  16. Deborah responds:
    Posted: August 22nd, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    I’ve been using BrowserCam for screenshots and their remote access feature for checking sites for Mac and IE7, which I don’t have available to me at home.

    Sometimes BrowserCam remote access is slow, but for me, it beats installing more browsers at home, or going to school to test sites. Since has set up the special BrowserCam group purchase, it only cost me $25 for their annual membership.

  17. Mike Jolley responds:
    Posted: August 27th, 2006 at 7:26 am

    The standalone versions from evolt work great *exept* their support for conditional comments is sketchy, so to test them you need to use a real version of the browser.

    However, I just test by adding the css I want to put in a conditional comment in the style tag, testing in IE, then adding to the conditional comment afterwards. That way I can be pretty sure it will work as long as I dont make a mistake with the comment :)

    Other than that, the standalones seem the best way to me.

  18. David Owens responds:
    Posted: August 31st, 2006 at 6:02 am

    Hi there. I’ve had the standalone versions running for a while now. They work great and there is a fix for the conditional comments. It requires a registry edit, but it is very simple and it takes you through step by step.

    The information is here. Conditional Comments in IE standalones.

    Hopefully the automatic update to IE7 will mean we don’t have to play this game for too long. Only another 4-5 years?

  19. RMW responds:
    Posted: September 5th, 2006 at 3:30 am

    Is it possable to have a standalone version of IE6 (or 7 - i could go back to 6)? Ive been on lots of websites (opra says 5.2 meg so far) but i cant see anything anywhere.
    |°\ |\/| \/\/

  20. John Faulds responds:
    Posted: September 6th, 2006 at 12:20 am

    You can also run IE7 as a standalone and continue with as IE6 it is on your system if you like:

  21. Dominique Vial responds:
    Posted: September 8th, 2006 at 3:42 am

    Mike, I use the same config as you in way every day job ! That’s so funny ! I also use Swiftfox, Camino, iCab and Safari 1.3 and 2.

    In order to use several versions of IE, I have installed QEMU which is a processor emulator. Here is the link : QEMU

    I run QEMU on an Ubuntu machine.
    There is a also specific Mac Os X port with a nice GUI : Q
    And QEMU also work on windows.

    I think QEMU can be used by non computer specialist ! Of course, your computer must have a big processor and a lot of memory too !

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