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Validate WCAG, Section 508, HTML, CSS, Links, and Spelling


Common issues encountered whilst using Total Validator are described in this FAQ document.

Most error messages are self-explanatory and should help you to correct the problem yourself. But if you have a message that is not covered below, or doesn't make sense, then make a note of it and complete the feedback form on the main website to report your problem. Don't forget to leave a valid email address where you can be contacted.


Total Validator doesn't start or displays an error message

Please ensure that you have the latest version of Total Validator installed.

If you are using macOS, read the macOS installation notes below.

If you have a start-up issue then make a note of any error messages that may appear and use the feedback form to report your problem. Don't forget to leave a valid email address where you can be contacted.


A firewall message appears

When starting the application, you may see a message from your local firewall asking you to allow incoming connections to either Total Validator or Java.

This is because Total Validator listens for incoming connections from our browser extensions for validations, and from the results pages to allow you to add new words to the spell check dictionaries, so neither feature will work unless you allow these incoming connections. In both cases the application only listens on the Listen Port, and only accepts connections from the local computer, thus minimising any risk.


macOS installation notes

When you try to run Total Validator for the first time, a message may appear saying that it has been downloaded from the Internet. This is perfectly normal, just click the "Open" button to continue. After Total Validator has run once, the warning should no longer appear, although it may reappear again if you download an update.

Alternatively, it may be that you have configured macOS to only run apps downloaded from the App Store. In this case you will have to temporarily allow apps downloaded from the Internet:

  1. In System Preferences: Select Security & Privacy
  2. If required, click the lock icon that reads "Click the lock to make changes."
  3. On the "General" tab, change "Allow apps downloaded from:" to "App Store and identified developers'"
  4. Start Total Validator from the Applications folder as described above using Control-click (or right-click)
  5. You may then reset your security settings back to "App Store"

Total Validator stores its validation results in your "Documents" folder. So when running a validation for the first time a message may appear asking for permission to write there. If you do not allow this then the validation will not be completed and an error may appear. With the Pro version, you can specify a different folder for the results.


Symantec/Norton AV quarantines Total Validator

Note: If you obtained Total Validator from anywhere other than our website, you should check that the MD5 checksum of the file matches that provided on our download pages before using it. Or if your anti-virus program highlights a different issue than "WS.Reputation.1" or "Reputation" let us know before using it.

When certain Symantec/Norton AV products detect a program they have never seen, this is automatically marked as WS.Reputation.1 and placed into quarantine, even though it is completely safe to use. The first thing to note is that you already have a copy of Total Validator, and you do not need to download it again. Please consult your Symantec/Norton documentation to restore this file from quarantine and exclude it from further scans. In some cases, this may mean installing a tool from their installation media or website.

We believe that each time a user takes the program out of quarantine and excludes it from further scans, the reputation of the program increases until WS.Reputation.1 is finally removed. However, Symantec's system resets with each new version, so this issue will reoccur with each new release of Total Validator. Because only a few of our users use these Symantec products, this issue may not be resolved before our next release.

We could try to pre-empt this issue by sending Symantec a free copy of each new version of every product we have for them to test. But they cannot provide any timescales for this testing, nor can they guarantee that our software will be safeguarded. If Symantec were a non-profit making organisation, and there was some real evidence that this whole thing was a good idea, we would still seriously consider this. But they are not, and there is no real evidence, and so we will not be pursuing that path. Instead we suggest that you carry out one of more of the following:

  • Restore the downloaded file from quarantine and exclude it from further scans (see above)
  • If possible, configure the Symantec product to avoid this issue in future
  • Replace the Symantec product with an alternative


My browser doesn't show the results

When the validation is finished your browser should start up and display the results. If this doesn't happen, first check that 'Hide results' in the Options menu has not been accidentally selected.

Otherwise try using the 'Last Results' button. If this doesn't work then (Pro version only) check the browser you have selected on the Results tab; a blank entry implies using your default browser. If nothing else is obviously wrong then it could be that you have a browser installed that is not set as the 'default'. You can correct this for popular browsers as follows:

Windows/Mac: For Firefox open the tools menu, select 'Preferences' and 'General' and then the 'Make Default' button. For Chrome open the tools menu, select 'Settings', then in the 'Default browser' section click 'Make Google Chrome the default browser'. For IE open the tools menu, select 'Internet options' then 'Programs' and click 'Make IE the default browser'. In all cases restart your browser and if necessary confirm it as your default then try running Total Validator again.

Linux: Edit the script TotalValidatorPro/app/ or TotalValidatorBasic/app/ as appropriate and check that it points to your preferred browser. As an additional check if you simply run this script without any parameters then your browser should just start up normally.

If you are still having problems then it may be that the results are stored somewhere inaccessible. Some organisations mount the Windows Documents folder (the default place for the results) on a network drive, which can cause problems with browsers. With the Pro version you can enter a different results folder on the Results tab. Otherwise you may have to open the folder where the results are stored and double-click the TotalValidator.html file to see the results.


A "Could not connect ..." message appears

This message appears when Total Validator cannot connect to the starting web page, so ensure that you can connect using the exact same URL in your browser first.

If you can see the page with your browser, it may be that there are one or more proxy servers between you and the page, or the page requires authentication to view it. Unfortunately, if you are using the Basic version there are no options available to allow you to authenticate yourself or to specify a proxy server, although you could use one of our browser extensions to validate the source code of the page. Total Validator Pro users should look to the options on the Network and Authentication tabs for further information. Test users can specify proxy settings using the Options menu.

If you are using the Test or Pro versions and you still can't authenticate yourself or drill through a proxy server, then complete the feedback form on the main website to report your issue.


Fewer pages than expected are being validated (Pro version only)

By default, Total Validator will only follow links on the same site as the starting page, so if you start from, then pages on will not be validated because technically-speaking and could host completely different websites.

Any links embedded within javascript will be ignored, which may reduce the pages that will be checked. Note that using links within javascript is an accessibility failure and will also exclude those people who choose to disable javascript for security reasons.

Many options on the include tab can be used to restrict which pages are validated, so if you've set any options on this tab ensure you've read the documentation and understood how they work.

If you believe that the reason why so few pages are being validated is because Total Validator is not logging into a form correctly, then see the section on Login forms. The next section may be of use as well.


How do I validate multiple sites or areas (Pro version only)?

Because Total Validator follows links, different parts of the same website that are not connected will not be validated. Also by default it will only validate pages on the same website as the starting page.

To get around this, create a simple web page consisting of absolute links to the various parts of your site, or listing different sites. This page may be saved to the local filesystem (i.e. no need to deploy it to a website). Then use this page as the starting page together with the Follow remote option.

The Follow remote option tells Total Validator to follow all links on the starting page only even those on different websites. Total Validator will then treat each link (on this first page only) as if was the starting page and report on all the results together.

For finer control you can also use the Follow below, Exclude, Include and Depth options as well.


When I use AngularJS there are lots of errors

When AngularJS was first created it used attributes starting with ng-. This was a problem because they are not valid HTML and so cause validation errors. But this was fixed by the AngularJS team a long time ago and developers should now use attributes starting with data-ng- instead.

As the Wikipedia for AngularJS entry explains: "Since ng-* attributes are not valid in HTML specifications, data-ng-* can also be used as a prefix. For example, both ng-app and data-ng-app are valid in AngularJS."

If you are using AngularJS, you may wish to consider using our DOM validation option so that pages will only be validated after all the initial javascript has run.


My web pages are written using Javascript

Many modern websites are now written using a simple HTML web page and a Javascript framework or libraries to draw most of the web page. But Total Validator will normally just validate the simple HTML web page sent by your web server, because it does not execute any javascript itself.

To solve this problem, use our browser extensions. These can send the DOM (the web page after the initial javascript has run) to the Total Validator application to be validated instead, so you can validate the web pages that your users see.

You can start a DOM validation from the application or the browser, whichever you prefer. With the Pro version you can validate an entire website this way with just one click.


Can I make it run faster?

There could be several reasons why Total Validator may appear to operate slowly when checking each page. Obviously, it could be that your system has reached the limit of its own performance in terms of CPU power and/or the amount of available memory. However, there are several things you can try to improve matters as listed below:

  • The broken links option waits for a response from the web server. If you do have any broken links then this will naturally slow down the validation. With the Pro version you can reduce the timeout from the default of 20 seconds and raise the concurrency (or set it to 0 for unlimited). Alternatively turn off the broken link check altogether.
  • The spell check has a double impact on performance. It uses a lot of memory loading the dictionaries, and it can take time to spell check each word. Try turning this option off to see if this helps.
  • Try to limit the number of other applications that are running concurrently
  • When checking remote pages close any other applications that may be using the network


The HTML validation results are wrong

Before you report that another validator says that your page is okay, don't just assume the other validator is right. Note that we wrote Total Validator initially because of mistakes and limitations with other validators.

Many other validators and help sites do not use the official standards but are interpretations of them. As a result they tend to be rife with popular assumptions which are actually mistakes. One example is HTML Tidy, which as of writing says that the 'type' attribute in the <link> element is mandatory. But this is wrong and, in most cases, doesn't even make any sense.

However, if you do think you've found a genuine error, then please check the relevant standard to confirm this, and then report it using the feedback form


How do I check for Accessibility?

Remember that the accessibility standards are guidelines and not rules. They can't possibly cover every situation and are there to guide you into making good decisions.

To properly check a page for accessibility you need to understand the standard you are applying and manually look at the source and the output of the page. Validation tools such as Total Validator can only guide you and should never be regarded as a stamp of approval. Never let zero errors and warnings be your only target. Bear in mind that it is possible to write a web page that passes all the tests of all the validators and yet would still be difficult for people with disabilities to use. Equally, errors and warnings in validators are just there to alert you as to potential issues, and so may appear when there is no issue at all.

We recommend that you always design your pages with accessibility in mind, and manually check them against the guidelines to ensure they meet your accessibility requirements. Use Total Validator to guide you and to help check for anything you may have missed, especially when making minor amendments.

With Total Validator we've tried to follow the spirit and meaning of the WAI and Section 508 guidelines, rather than blindly coding rules, so you may find many 'warnings' and 'notes' reported by other validators that simply don't appear in our results. But before you berate us, check out the guidelines themselves first, as you'll generally find that this tends to be generic advice that applies to any page, or false positives. With Total Validator we try to remove most of this 'noise' to make it easier to focus on what really needs addressing.

Also note that conforming to accessibility standards also means strictly validated HTML, so that accessibility technology can properly read your site. This means that you should always validate your HTML to ensure your site is truly accessible, and very few other accessibility tools can do this to the level of Total Validator.


Using Total Validator with accessibility aids

We regularly test that Total Validator can be used entirely by keyboard, and that the web page results we generate are accessible.

To support screen readers, we make use of the Java Access Bridge for Windows, which is supported by many products. After installing Total Validator for the first time, you may have to restart your screen reader for this to work. If restarting doesn't work then try manually switching on the Java Access Bridge as follows:

  • Open the folder where Total Validator was installed. For example: C:\Program Files\TotalValidator
  • Press the key combination: Shift F10
  • Select the option Open command window here or Open PowerShell window here
  • Type the following into the command window: runtime\bin\jabswitch -enable
  • Download the 64-bit Access Bridge for Windows into the C:\Windows\System32 folder
  • Download the 32-bit Access Bridge for Windows into the C:\Windows\SysWOW64 folder

Restart both your screen reader and Total Validator, and try again.