ies4osx, Internet Explorer, Intel Macs need only apply

  • November 22nd, 2007

Individuals operating on Apple hardware powered by the Intel chipset are undoubtedly familiar with the versatility afforded by OS X and virtualization software from Parallels and VMware Fusion. These products offer the convenience of running full operating systems like Windows XP or Vista at near native performance. The benefit of opting for software like VMware Fusion over Apple’s Boot Camp is avoiding the requirement for a full hardware reboot and access to both native OS X and Windows applications at the same time. For software / web developers and occasional Internet Explorer users (for websites that still think it’s the 1990’s), the latter is the only selling point worth noting. While virtualization software is convenient, booting a full operating system for the single purpose of [say] testing or using a website with Internet Explorer is unnecessary. Doesn’t running Internet Explorer as a standalone application outside of the Windows operating system environment sound much easier?

OS X + Wine, run Windows applications without the Windows OS

Since the wild success of Parallels and VMware Fusion, alternatives for running individual Windows applications outside of the Windows operating system were pushed towards the edges of the spotlight. Using resources originally developed for Linux users, OS X users saw the introduction of running applications using Wine

Think of Wine as a compatibility layer for running Windows programs. Wine does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100% non-Microsoft code, however Wine can optionally use native Windows DLLs if they are available. Wine provides both a development toolkit for porting Windows source code to Unix as well as a program loader, allowing many unmodified Windows programs to run on x86-based Unixes, including Linux, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, and Solaris.

One project which immediately caught my attention in early 2006 was CodeWeavers Crossover previously recommended as a valuable developer tool.

CrossOver Mac allows you to install many popular Windows applications and games on your Intel OS X Mac. CrossOver includes an easy to use, single click interface, which makes installing Windows software simple and fast. Once installed, your application integrates seamlessly in OS X. Just click and run your application directly from the OS X Finder. Clicking a Windows file or document — including email attachments — will launch the appropriate Windows program, allowing you to work on the files. Best of all, you do it all easily and affordably, without needing a Microsoft operating system license.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer 6 in Crossover does not support websites which require plug-ins like Flash or Quicktime. Additionally, not much forward movement has been made concerning support for Internet Explorer 7. With more Windows users making the transition to IE 7, developers crossing their fingers for Crossover support should look elsewhere. One project to keep an eye on is Mike’s ies4osx.

ies4osx, run Internet Explorer 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, and 7.0 beta

With ies4osx, installing Internet Explorer on OS X is a simple double-click of the installer. All of the necessary files and requirements are automatically downloaded – including default Windows IE fonts and browser plug-ins like Macromedia Flash player. All of that, and the download is completely free. Make sure to send Mike feedback or feel free to donate for his hard work.

ies4osx installer

The only hands on requirements for the installation is that users select which versions of Internet Explorer to install. Note that Darwine is a required dependancy. The process took a little longer than expected because packages were downloaded and installed individually off of the internet. However, the end result is pure web developer bliss. No longer is it necessary to boot an entire operating system to test in Internet Explorer. Your IE browsers are installed as packages into your Applications folder.

IE launch icons

Mike publishes ies4osx development updates on his blog at mikesMassiveMess. Make sure to subscribe in order to stay in the loop for release updates.

Stability, and yes, there is no place like localhost

Completely stable thus far running the IE 6 and IE 7 Beta. Keep in mind that because ies4osx does rely on X11, your browser window will look like something straight out of a monochrome version of Windows 98. No worries though, pages render as they should – complete with IE 6 / 7 quirks included CSS rendering issues and window pop-ups!

ies4osx Window Screenshot

What ies4osx users will enjoy:

  • We all know technology promotes laziness. VMware and Parallels are great, but having to wait for an entire OS to boot sucks! Thankfully Internet Explorer 6 / 7 load in mere seconds on a MacBook Pro.
  • Developing locally? Typing http://localhost or from within ies4osx Internet Explorer windows will load your local development directory. No modifications of hosts files necessary.
  • Crossover users will enjoy the eye pleasing anti-aliased font rendering offered by ies4osx installs.
  • Thanks to the automatic installation of standard plugins like Flash, web pages load in their entirety.
  • Saving web pages or files off the internet – by default – are stored in your Home directory.
  • Less memory consumption. VMware Fusion with Internet Explorer running uses 87 MB. Standalone Internet Explorer via X11 24.84 MB.

Give it a try and share your thoughts or preferences concerning virtualizing full operating systems like Windows XP or running standalone with ies4osx or Crossover. [Digg it]