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


All the options that appear on the Main tab are described below. Note that some are only available with Total Validator Pro.

Main tab


Starting web page

Total Validator will validate the page you specify using the validation options you've chosen. The starting page can either be a URL or a reference to a local file

If you have the Pro version you can validate more than one page using the Pages option. Total Validator will begin at the starting web page and follow every link on the same website/filesystem, validating each page it finds.

If the starting page is a URL, then this must be a full URL including the http:// or https:// part. You cannot supply a relative URL such as ../forms.html.

If you are testing a local web page then you can either type in (or cut and paste) the path to the page, or use the Browse button to select the page you want to validate.

Use the Reset List menu option on the File menu to clear the drop-down list of recent entries.


Number of pages (Pro version only)

If you specify a value greater than 1, Total Validator will follow any links on the starting web page, and keep on validating until it has checked the number of pages specified. But note that we ignore any links in javascript.

If you have selected a CSS validation then external style sheets are included in the total count of pages validated.

The fewer pages you check the quicker the validation will take. You often don't need to check your entire website, especially if most of the website uses templates and is essentially the same on every page. This means that just checking a portion of it should give you everything you need to correct your site, or give you confidence that it is still okay after deploying any changes. See the FAQ entry for how to create a list of disconnected links to validate.

The value that you enter here must be an integer (whole number) greater than zero, or leave the value blank to validate all the pages linked from your starting page.

Total Validator works by checking every link in the order it finds them on each page, so it will check all the pages linked to the starting page before checking all the pages linked to the first page referenced by the starting page. Also, because it is checking links even though you may not have selected the Check for broken links option, the Timeout and Concurrency options are still valid and will influence how quickly the validation is performed


HTML validation

Select the specification you wish to test against from the drop down, or select the blank option if you do not wish to perform a HTML validation.

The Auto-detect option is often the best option to select as this uses the <!DOCTYPE> declaration on each page to determine what specification to check against. If the <!DOCTYPE> is missing or unrecognised a best-fit algorithm will calculate the option that produces the fewest errors and will test against that instead.

The Best-fit option ignores any existing <!DOCTYPE> and uses the DTD that produces the fewest errors. This is a useful way of determining the best <!DOCTYPE> to use on any page.

As HTML5 is continuously being improved, selecting HTML5 or XHTML5 will use the latest HTML5 Draft. If you required something more stable then select HTML5R or XHTML5R for the current HTML5 Recommendation


Use ARIA rules

When validating HTML5 or XHTML5, ARIA attributes are always validated. However, adding a 'role' attribute can change the content model of the element and what child elements it can accept. By default, we ignore this change as it may cause unnecessary confusion, as the specification is still rapidly changing and these rules are currently in flux.

However, if you wish to apply the new content model rules, or see their affect, then select this option.


Accessibility validation

Select this option if you wish to validate each page against the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines (v1 or v2) or US Section 508.

There are three levels to choose from for the WCAG2 guidelines: A, AA and AAA. Note that selecting AA will also perform all the A tests, and selecting AAA will perform all the AA and A tests as well. There are also three levels to choose from for WCAG1 covering the Priority 1, 2 and 3 guidelines: A, AA, and AAA. You can also choose between US Section 508 (which is the same as selecting WCAG2 AA), or US Section 508 (2001) to run the pre-2017 tests.

Note that many of the published accessibility guidelines can only properly be tested through manual checking of your pages. That is why most accessibility validators typically display lots of largely irrelevant warnings with every page that is tested. Total Validator keeps things nice and simple and just displays the errors and warnings for those tests that can be automated. But you must still manually check that your pages are accessible, as passing all automated tests may not be enough.

Further information on our recommendations regarding accessibility testing is available. Also, if you wish to perform contrast testing then please read our dedicated page on this topic.


CSS validation (Pro version only)

Select the CSS Level you wish to test against from the drop down, or select the blank option if you do not wish to validate your CSS.

This option allows you to validate the contents of <style> tags, 'style' attributes and style sheets against the selected W3C standard.

If you do not select this validation then the contents of <style> tags will not appear on the results pages, external style sheets will not be read, and any embedded links within <style> tags, 'style' attributes and style sheets will not be validated, or followed.


Ignore vendor (Pro version only)

Normally CSS vendor extensions such as -moz-box-shadow will raise a warning, but will still be validated against the chosen CSS level. But some vendor extensions do not conform to the latest specifications and may also report an error.

With the 'ignore vendor' option any vendor extension will be ignored completely so that no warnings or errors are reported.


Check for broken links

If you choose this option (selected by default) Total Validator will check each link to ensure that it isn't broken. But note that we ignore any links in javascript.

Links to all resources such as CSS files, images, and scripts are checked as well as links to other web pages. Note that checking links can often be a time consuming process, especially if there are broken links on your pages, and especially if you are checking more than one page, so please be patient. However, use of the timeout and concurrency options may help speed things up.

Links within <style> tags, 'style' attributes and style sheets are only tested if you select a CSS validation.

If you are testing a local file then you may find many broken links on the results page. This is because relative links will be followed as if they are local files on your computer, so if you don't have the file the link will appear broken. Similarly, absolute URLs will be tested, and these may appear broken if you are working off-line or the URLs are inaccessible for any reason.


Spell check

Select this option if you wish to check the content of your page for spelling mistakes. It will use the language codes on your pages to detect the languages used and can check against an English dictionary of over 150,000 words, French of over 130,000 words, Spanish of over 85,000 words, German of over 160,000 words, and Italian of over 60,000 words.

You can also include additional words that are not found in the supplied dictionaries, or use your own alternative dictionary for these or other languages using options the Spell Check tab. See the dedicated Spell checking page for details on how best to use this option.

Note that when you use the Spell check option it may take substantially longer to check each web page.


DOM validation

Normally Total Validator validates the web page before any javascript has been run. If your page uses javascript to modify the page, then use this option to validate the page after any initial javascript has run. Selecting this option also allows us to perform additional testing, such as contrast testing.

This option works in combination with our browser extensions, so you must have one installed in your default or selected browser for this option to work.

When you start a validation, it begins by opening the starting web page in your browser, waits for the javascript to run, then sends the browser DOM back to the application on the listen port to validate. The validation results will then be displayed in the same browser tab.

During the process Total Validator will automatically minimise or shrink to the System Tray to keep it out of the way.

With Total Validator Pro you can validate multiple pages, or an entire site this way. In this case your browser will automatically move between each page on your site, before finally displaying the results.

When validating DOM-generated source, you will need to slow the process down so that any initial javascript has fully run before the page is sent to the application. For this, use the Page pause option which will add a delay after loading each page, before sending the DOM to the application. If you don't set a value then a prompt will appear, which you can turn off in the Options menu.

Because what is being validated is not a 'real' web page, but is generated from your browser's DOM, you may see some issues that do not exist in the original web page, and line numbers will often differ. Also note that broken links can only be checked if you have the Pro version.


Do not report

There are four types of issue which may be reported:

  • Errors: Which are violations of one of the validations you have selected.
  • Probable Errors: These are issues which should only be ignored if an alternative solution has been actively provided.
  • Warnings: These are possible errors and issues worth addressing to improve your pages.
  • Extra Information: These are common issues we couldn't test for, and for which you should perform a manual check to be sure.

This option allows you to select which of these four types of issue will be reported. The default is to report everything, but you can choose to ignore any combination of all 'Information', 'Warning', and 'Probable' issues. ('Errors' can never be ignored).

Note that you can also exclude individual issues, including 'Errors', by listing them in the Ignore errors/warnings option or by adding special instructions instead.


Last results button

This will open a window or tab in your default browser to display the results of the last successful validation.


Reset tab button (Pro version only)

The Reset Tab button on each tab resets all the options on that specific tab to their defaults. If you wish to reset all the options on all tabs, then use the Reset All button at the bottom instead.

Note that a confirmation dialog will appear just in case you press this button by mistake


Bottom buttons

Once you have selected your web page and options, use the Validate button to start the validation process. At the end of the process your default browser should be launched displaying the results.

During the validation process you can use the Cancel button to stop the process. Note that this may take a while to respond when validating broken links.

The Reset All button resets all the options on all the tabs to their defaults. If you wish to reset just the options on an individual tab then use the Reset Tab button on that tab. Note that a confirmation dialog will appear just in case you press the Reset button by mistake

There is also a Save button to save the current workspace, and an Exit button to close Total Validator.