Has Microsoft solved our stylesheet woes with Super Preview?
What caused a stir at launch was its ability to render a web page as if the user’s browser were IE6, IE7 and IE8, three browsers that can’t reliably co-exist on one PC.
Its other limitation is that it doesn’t render some web pages in IE6 mode exactly as IE6 would when running on a separate machine: the differences that I’ve found so far are small, but any difference means that you can’t totally rely on it for testing your stylesheets.
There’s still no substitute for using the real browsers themselves to test your pages. In the web designer’s nirvana, we’ll have a common rendering engine that all browsers use, the differences being only extra functionality added by the various developers rather than different interpretations of the W3C standards.
Some bright Spark
Super Preview is a welcome, if flawed, tool, and it seems that Microsoft is continuing with this new policy of trying to help budding web developers with the launch of its WebsiteSpark program.
The idea behind WebsiteSpark is to help independent web developers and small companies get started, with free software and support for three years. The software bundle is considerable, including three licences for Visual Studio 2008 Professional; one licence for Expression Studio; two licences for Expression Web 3; four processor licences for Windows Server 2008 R2; and four processor licences for SQL Server 2008 Web Edition. Alongside, there’s free online training and customer referrals through the Partner program.
To qualify, you or your company have to build websites for others and have no more than ten employees. This is a great kick-start for small startups, and Microsoft obviously hopes that such people will be tempted to follow its own development route by removing the large initial outlay.
So what happens after the three years? You can either keep all the software for $999 (around £598) a year, or just the server licences for $199 (around £119) a year. Microsoft previously ran the BizSpark scheme for startups and DreamSpark for students, both of which were successful.
Helping startups is a welcome move in the current economic climate. Microsoft, of course, hopes that once developers are hooked on its products they’ll stay with the company. I take off my cynic’s hat here, because this initiative could be a boon for young companies wanting to use Microsoft technologies in which they have skills.