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The Uses of Selenium

Published Aug 24, 2019

Selenium is a tool that helps you interact with a web browser programmatically. With Selenium, you can do things like loading a website, simulating clicks, and automating the filling of forms. The power of Selenium is often used for automation and cross-browser testing. In the words of the Selenium website:

Selenium automates browsers. … What you do with that power is entirely up to you.

Automating mundane tasks

Selenium is often used to automate tasks that are repetitive, mundane, and/or would take too long to do manually. I haven’t used Selenium in this way, but others have. A simple example is using Selenium with PowerShell to run a Google search in Google Chrome. Real Python has a tutorial on using Selenium to track songs you listen to on bandcamp, too.

Testing web front ends

One of the biggest uses of Selenium is to perform integration/system testing of website front ends. Imagine you’re developing a website. After every set of changes, you click through the site to make sure it still works. This testing tactic is fine for a simpler site, but as your website increases in complexity, two pain points will start to show:

  • Manually testing many user scenarios is time-consuming.
  • Manually testing many user scenarios is error-prone since you may forget to perform some tests.

Whenever you experience these circumstances due to a manual task, you may have found an opportunity for automation. Selenium lets you automate much of this click-and-see-what-happens testing with a programming language of your choosing.

An example

I have a project called Material Search that I’m currently adding automated tests for. If you open up the project, you see that there’s a blue app header with three tabs. (Clicking on the tabs doesn’t do anything). Before, I would test that the tabs exist and have the correct text by manually checking the page. Now, I use Selenium to perform those tests.

Learn more

Selenium is a powerful web automation framework that can make your life easier, whether you need to test your web app or quickly enter lots of data into a web form. Here’s some more information about some of Selenium’s applications: