The Selenium-IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is the tool you use to develop your Selenium test cases. It’s an easy-to-use Firefox plug-in and is generally the most efficient way to develop test cases. It also contains a context menu that allows you to first select a UI element from the browser’s currently displayed page and then select from a list of Selenium commands with parameters pre-defined according to the context of the selected UI element. This is not only a time-saver, but also an excellent way of learning Selenium script syntax.
This chapter is all about the Selenium IDE and how to use it effectively.
Installing the IDE
Using Firefox, first, download the IDE from the SeleniumHQ downloads page
When downloading from Firefox, you’ll be presented with the following window.
Select Install Now. The Firefox Add-ons window pops up, first showing a progress bar, and when the download is complete, displays the following.
Restart Firefox. After Firefox reboots you will find the Selnium-IDE listed under the Firefox Tools menu.
Opening the IDE
To run the Selenium-IDE, simply select it from the Firefox Tools menu. It opens as follows with an empty script-editing window and a menu for loading, or creating new test cases.
Test Case Pane
Your script is displayed in the test case pane. It has two tabs, one for displaying the command and their parameters in a readable “table” format.
The Source tab displays the test case in the native format in which the file will be stored. By default, this is HTML although it can be changed to a programming language such as Java or C#, or a scripting language like Python. See the Options menu for details. The Source view also allows one to edit the test case in its raw form, including copy, cut and paste operations.
The Command, Target, and Value entry fields display the currently selected command along with its parameters. These are entry fields where you can modify the currently selected command. The first parameter specified for a command in the Reference tab of the bottom pane always goes in the Target field. If a second parameter is specified by the Reference tab, it always goes in the Value field.
If you start typing in the Command field, a drop-down list will be populated based on the first characters you type; you can then select your desired command from the drop-down.
The bottom pane is used for four different functions–Log, Reference, UI-Element, and Rollup–depending on which tab is selected.
When you run your test case, error messages and information messages showing the progress are displayed in this pane automatically, even if you do not first select the Log tab. These messages are often useful for test case debugging. Notice the Clear button for clearing the Log. Also notice the Info button is a drop-down allowing selection of different levels of information to display.
The Reference tab is the default selection whenever you are entering or modifying Selenese commands and parameters in Table mode. In Table mode, the Reference pane will display documentation on the current command. When entering or modifying commands, whether from Table or Source mode, it is critically important to ensure that the parameters specified in the Target and Value fields match those specified in the parameter list specified in the Reference pane. The number of parameters provided must match the number specified, the order of parameters provided must match the order specified, and the type of parameters provided must match the type specified. If there is a mismatch in any of these three areas, the command will not run correctly.
While the Reference tab is invaluable as a quick reference, it is still often necessary to consult the Selenium Reference document.
UI-Element and Rollup
Detailed information on these two panes (which cover advanced features) can be found in the UI-Element Documentation on the Help menu of Selenium-IDE.
Building Test Cases
There are three primary methods for developing test cases. Frequently, a test developer will require all three techniques.
Many first-time users begin by recording a test case from their interactions with a website. When Selenium-IDE is first opened, the record button is ON by default.
This can be set to OFF as a default with an available user extension.
During recording, Selenium-IDE will automatically insert commands into your test case based on your actions. Typically, this will include:
- clicking a link – click or clickAndWait commands
- entering values – type command
- selecting options from a drop-down listbox – select command
- clicking checkboxes or radio buttons – click command
Here are some “gotchas” to be aware of:
- The type command may require clicking on some other area of the web page for it to record.
- Following a link usually records a click command. You will often need to change this to clickAndWait to ensure your test case pauses until the new page is completely loaded. Otherwise, your test case will continue running commands before the page has loaded all its UI elements. This will cause unexpected test case failures.
Select the point in your test case where you want to insert the command. Right-click and select Insert Command. Now use the command editing text fields to enter your new command and its parameters.
Select the point in your test case where you want to insert the command, and enter the HTML tags needed to create a 3-column row containing the Command, first parameter (if one is required by the Command), and second parameter (again, if one is required). Be sure to save your test before switching back to Table view.
Opening and Saving a Test Case
The File=>Open, Save and Save As menu commands behave similarly to opening and saving files in most other programs. When you open an existing test case, Selenium-IDE displays its Selenium commands in the test case pane.
Test suite files can also be opened and saved via the File menu. However, such operations have their own menu entries near the bottom; the Open, Save, and Save As items are only for files.
At the time of this writing, there’s a bug, where at times, when the IDE is first opened and then you select File=>Open, nothing happens. If you see this, close down the IDE and restart it (you don’t need to close the browser itself). This will fix the problem.
Running Test Cases
The IDE allows many options for running your test case. You can run a test case all at once, stop and start it, run it one line at a time, run a single command you are currently developing, and you can do a batch run of an entire test suite. Execution of test cases is very flexible in the IDE.
- Run a Test Case
- Click the Run button to run the currently displayed test case.
- Run a Test Suite
- Click the Run All button to run all the test cases in the currently loaded test suite.
- Stop and Start
- The Pause button can be used to stop the test case while it is running. The icon of this button then changes to indicate the Resume button. To continue click Resume.
- Stop in the Middle
- You can set a breakpoint in the test case to cause it to stop on a particular command. This is useful for debugging your test case. To set a breakpoint, select a command, right-click, and from the context menu select Toggle Breakpoint.
- Start from the Middle
- You can tell the IDE to begin running from a specific command in the middle of the test case. This also is used for debugging. To set a startpoint, select a command, right-click, and from the context menu select Set/Clear Start Point.
- Run Any Single Command
- Double-click any single command to run it by itself. This is useful when writing a single command. It lets you immediately test a command you are constructing, when you are not sure if it is correct. You can double-click it to see if it runs correctly. This is also available from the context menu.
Using Base URL to Run Test Cases in Different Domains
The Base URL field at the top of the Selenium-IDE window is very useful for allowing test cases to be run across different domains. Suppose that a site named http://news.portal.com had an in-house beta site named http://beta.news.portal.com. Any test cases for these sites that begin with an open statement should specify a relative URL as the argument to open rather than an absolute URL (one starting with a protocol such as http: or https:). Selenium-IDE will then create an absolute URL by appending the open command’s argument onto the end of the value of Base URL. For example, the test case below would be run against http://news.portal.com/about.html:
This same test case with a modified Base URL setting would be run against http://beta.news.portal.com/about.html:
Debugging means finding and fixing errors in your test case. This is a normal part of test case development.
We won’t teach debugging here as most new users to Selenium will already have some basic experience with debugging. If this is new to you, we recommend you ask one of the developers in your organization.
Breakpoints and Startpoints
The Sel-IDE supports the setting of breakpoints and the ability to start and stop the running of a test case, from any point within the test case. That is, one can run up to a specific command in the middle of the test case and inspect how the test case behaves at that point. To do this, set a breakpoint on the command just before the one to be examined.
To set a breakpoint, select a command, right-click, and from the context menu select Toggle Breakpoint. Then click the Run button to run your test case from the beginning up to the breakpoint.
It is also sometimes useful to run a test case from somewhere in the middle to the end of the test case or up to a breakpoint that follows the starting point. For example, suppose your test case first logs into the website and then performs a series of tests and you are trying to debug one of those tests. However, you only need to login once, but you need to keep rerunning your tests as you are developing them. You can login once, then run your test case from a startpoint placed after the login portion of your test case. That will prevent you from having to manually logout each time you rerun your test case.
To set a startpoint, select a command, right-click, and from the context menu select Set/Clear Start Point. Then click the Run button to execute the test case beginning at that startpoint.
Stepping Through a Testcase
To execute a test case one command at a time (“step through” it), follow these steps:
- Start the test case running with the Run button from the toolbar.
- Immediately pause the executing test case with the Pause button.
- Repeatedly select the Step button.
Page Source for Debugging
Often, when debugging a test case, you simply must look at the page source (the HTML for the webpage you’re trying to test) to determine a problem. Firefox makes this easy. Simply, right-click the webpage and select Page Source. The HTML opens in a separate window. Use its Search feature (Edit=>Find) to search for a keyword to find the HTML for the UI element you’re trying to test.
Alternatively, select just that portion of the webpage for which you want to see the source. Then right-click the webpage and select View Selection Source. In this case, the separate HTML window will contain just a small amount of source, with highlighting on the portion representing your selection.
Whenever Selenium-IDE records a locator-type argument, it stores additional information which allows the user to view other possible locator-type arguments that could be used instead. This feature can be very useful for learning more about locators, and is often needed to help one build a different type of locator than the type that was recorded.
This locator assistance is presented on the Selenium-IDE window as a drop-down list accessible at the right end of the Target field (only when the Target field contains a recorded locator-type argument). Below is a snapshot showing the contents of this drop-down for one command. Note that the first column of the drop-down provides alternative locators, whereas the second column indicates the type of each alternative.
Writing a Test Suite
A test suite is a collection of test cases which is displayed in the leftmost pane in the IDE. The test suite pane can be manually opened or closed via selecting a small dot halfway down the right edge of the pane (which is the left edge of the entire Selenium-IDE window if the pane is closed).
The test suite pane will be automatically opened when an existing test suite is opened or when the user selects the New Test Case item from the File menu. In the latter case, the new test case will appear immediately below the previous test case.
Selenium-IDE does not yet support loading pre-existing test cases into a test suite. Users who want to create or modify a test suite by adding pre-existing test cases must manually edit a test suite file.
A test suite file is an HTML file containing a one-column table. Each cell of each row in the <tbody> section contains a link to a test case. The example below is of a test suite containing four test cases:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">
<title>Sample Selenium Test Suite</title>
<table cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" border="1">
<tr><td>Test Cases for De Anza A-Z Directory Links</td></tr>
<tr><td><a href="./a.html">A Links</a></td></tr>
<tr><td><a href="./b.html">B Links</a></td></tr>
<tr><td><a href="./c.html">C Links</a></td></tr>
<tr><td><a href="./d.html">D Links</a></td></tr>
Test case files should not have to be co-located with the test suite file that invokes them. And on Mac OS and Linux systems, that is indeed the case. However, at the time of this writing, a bug prevents Windows users from being able to place the test cases elsewhere than with the test suite that invokes them.
There are a number of useful extensions created by users.
Perhaps the most popular of all Selenium-IDE extensions is one which provides flow control in the form of while loops and primitive conditionals. This extension is the goto_sel_ide.js. For an example of how to use the functionality provided by this extension, look at the page created by its author.
To install this extension, put the pathname to its location on your computer in the Selenium Core extensions field of Selenium-IDE’s Options=>Options=>General tab.
After selecting the OK button, you must close and reopen Selenium-IDE in order for the extensions file to be read. Any change you make to an extension will also require you to close and reopen Selenium-IDE.
Information on writing your own extensions can be found near the bottom of the Selenium Reference document.
Format, under the Options menu, allows you to select a language for saving and displaying the test case. The default is HTML.
If you will be using Selenium-RC to run your test cases, this feature is used to translate your test case into a programming language. Select the language, i.e. Java, PHP, you will be using with Selenium-RC for developing your test programs. Then simply save the test case using File=>Save. Your test case will be translated into a series of functions in the language you choose. Essentially, program code supporting your test is generated for you by Selenium-IDE.
Also, note that if the generated code does not suit your needs, you can alter it by editing a configuration file which defines the generation process. Each supported language has configuration settings which are editable. This is under the Options=>Options=>Format tab.
At the time of this writing, this feature is not yet supported by the Selenium developers. However the author has altered the C# format in a limited manner and it has worked well.
Executing Selenium-IDE Tests on Different Browsers
While Selenium-IDE can only run tests against Firefox, tests developed with Selenium-IDE can be run against other browsers, using a simple command-line interface that invokes the Selenium-RC server. This topic is covered in the Run Selenese tests section on Selenium-RC chapter. The -htmlSuite command-line option is the particular feature of interest.
Below is a list of image/explanation pairs which describe frequent sources of problems with Selenium-IDE:
This problem occurs occasionally when Selenium IDE is first brought up. The solution is to close and reopen Selenium IDE. The bug has been filed as SIDE-230.
You’ve used File=>Open
to try to open a test suite file. Use File=>Open Test Suite
This type of error
may indicate a timing problem, i.e., the element specified by a locator in your command wasn’t fully loaded when the command was executed. Try putting a pause 5000
before the command to determine whether the problem is indeed related to timing. If so, investigate using an appropriate waitFor*
command immediately before the failing command.
Whenever your attempt to use variable substitution fails as is the case for the open
command above, it indicates that you haven’t actually created the variable whose value you’re trying to access. This is sometimes due to putting the variable in the Value
field when it should be in the Target
field or vice versa. In the example above, the two parameters for the store
command have been erroneously placed in the reverse order of what is required. For any Selenese command, the first required parameter must go in the Target
field, and the second required parameter (if one exists) must go in the Value
One of the test cases in your test suite cannot be found. Make sure that the test case is indeed located where the test suite indicates it is located. Also, make sure that your actual test case files have the .html extension both in their filenames, and in the test suite file where they are referenced.
Selenium-IDE is very space-sensitive
! An extra space before or after a command will cause it to be unrecognizable.
Your extension file’s contents have not been read by Selenium-IDE. Be sure you have specified the proper pathname to the extensions file via Options=>Options=>General
in the Selenium Core extensions
field. Also, Selenium-IDE must be restarted after any change to either an extensions file or
to the contents of the Selenium Core extensions
This type of error message makes it appear that Selenium-IDE has generated a failure where there is none. However, Selenium-IDE is correct that the actual value does not match the value specified in such test cases. The problem is that the log file error messages collapse a series of two or more spaces into a single space, which is confusing. In the example above, note that the parameter for verifyTitle
has two spaces between the words “System” and “Division.” The page’s actual title has only one space between these words. Thus, Selenium-IDE is correct to generate an error.