Splinter: Python tool for acceptance tests on web applications

Capybara and Webrat are great Ruby tools for acceptance tests. A few months ago, we started a great tool for acceptance tests in Python web applications, called Splinter. There are many acceptance test tools on Python world: Selenium, Alfajor, Windmill, Mechanize, zope.testbrowser, etc. Splinter was not created to be another acceptance tool, but an abstract layer over other tools, its goal is provide a unique API that make acceptance testing easier and funnier.

In this post, I will show some basic usage of Splinter for simple web application tests. Splinter is a tool useful on tests of any web application. You can even test a Java web application using Splinter. This post example is a "test" of a Facebook feature, just because I want to focus on how to use Splinter, not on how to write a web application. The feature to be tested is the creation of an event (the Splinter sprint), following all the flow: first the user will login on Facebook, then click on "Events" menu item, then click on "Create an Event" button, enter all event information and click on "Create event" button. So, let’s do it…

First step is create a Browser instance, which will provide method for interactions with browser (where the browser is: Firefox, Chrome, etc.). The code we need for it is very simple:

browser = Browser("firefox")

Browser is a class and its constructor receives the driver to be used with that instance. Nowadays, there are three drivers for Splinter: firefox, chrome and zope.testbrowser. We are using Firefox, and you can easily use Chrome by simply changing the driver from firefox to chrome. It’s also very simple to add another driver to Splinter, and I plan to cover how to do that in another blog post here.

A new browser session is started when we got the browser object, and this is the object used for Firefox interactions. Let's start a new event on Facebook, the Splinter Sprint. First of all, we need to visit the Facebook homepage. There is a visit method on Browser class, so we can use it:


visit is a blocking operation: it waits for page to load, then we can navigate, click on links, fill forms, etc. Now we have Facebook homepage opened on browser, and you probably know that we need to login on Facebook page, but what if we are already logged in? So, let's create a method that login on Facebook with provided authentication data only the user is not logged in (imagine we are on a TestCase class):

def do_login_if_need(self, username, password):
    if self.browser.is_element_present_by_css('div.menu_login_container'):
        self.browser.fill('email', username)
        self.browser.fill('pass', password)
        self.browser.find_by_css('div.menu_login_container input[type="submit"]').first.click()
        assert self.browser.is_element_present_by_css('li#navAccount')

What was made here? First of all, the method checks if there is an element present on the page, using a CSS selector. It checks for a div that contains the username and password fields. If that div is present, we tell the browser object to fill those fields, then find the submit button and click on it. The last line is an assert to guarantee that the login was successful and the current page is the Facebook homepage (by checking the presence of “Account” li).

We could also find elements by its texts, labels or whatever appears on screen, but remember: Facebook is an internationalized web application, and we can’t test it using only a specific language.

Okay, now we know how to visit a webpage, check if an element is present, fill a form and click on a button. We're also logged in on Facebook and can finally go ahead create the Splinter sprint event. So, here is the event creation flow, for a user:

  1. On Facebook homepage, click on “Events” link, of left menu
  2. The “Events” page will load, so click on “Create an Event” button
  3. The user see a page with a form to create an event
  4. Fill the date and chose the time
  5. Define what is the name of the event, where it will happen and write a short description for it
  6. Invite some guests
  7. Upload a picture for the event
  8. Click on “Create Event” button

We are going to do all these steps, except the 6th, because the Splinter Sprint will just be a public event and we don’t need to invite anybody. There are some boring AJAX requests on Facebook that we need to deal, so there is not only Splinter code for those steps above. First step is click on “Events” link. All we need to do is find the link and click on it:

browser.find_by_css('li#navItem_events a').first.click()

The find_by_css method takes a CSS selector and returns an ElementList. So, we get the first element of the list (even when the selector returns only an element, the return type is still a list) and click on it. Like visit method, click is a blocking operation: the driver will only listen for new actions when the request is finished (the page is loaded).

We’re finally on "new event" page, and there is a form on screen waiting for data of the Splinter Sprint. Let’s fill the form. Here is the code for it:

browser.fill('event_startIntlDisplay', '5/21/2011')
browser.select('start_time_min', '480')
browser.fill('name', 'Splinter sprint')
browser.fill('location', 'Rio de Janeiro, Brazil')
browser.fill('desc', 'For more info, check out the #cobratem channel on freenode!')

That is it: the event is going to happen on May 21th 2011, at 8:00 in the morning (480 minutes). As we know, the event name is Splinter sprint, and we are going to join some guys down here in Brazil. We filled out the form using fill and select methods.

The fill method is used to fill a "fillable" field (a textarea, an input, etc.). It receives two strings: the first is the name of the field to fill and the second is the value that will fill the field. select is used to select an option in a select element (a “combo box”). It also receives two string parameters: the first is the name of the select element, and the second is the value of the option being selected.

Imagine you have the following select element:

<select name="gender">
    <option value="m">Male</option>
    <option value="f">Female</option>

To select “Male”, you would call the select method this way:

browser.select("gender", "m")

The last action before click on “Create Event” button is upload a picture for the event. On new event page, Facebook loads the file field for picture uploading inside an iframe, so we need to switch to this frame and interact with the form present inside the frame. To show the frame, we need to click on “Add Event Photo” button and then switch to it, we already know how click on a link:

browser.find_by_css('div.eventEditUpload a.uiButton').first.click()

When we click this link, Facebook makes an asynchronous request, which means the driver does not stay blocked waiting the end of the request, so if we try to interact with the frame BEFORE it appears, we will get an ElementDoesNotExist exception. Splinter provides the is_element_present method that receives an argument called wait_time, which is the time Splinter will wait for the element to appear on the screen. If the element does not appear on screen, we can’t go on, so we can assume the test failed (remember we are testing a Facebook feature):

if not browser.is_element_present_by_css('iframe#upload_pic_frame', wait_time=10):
    fail("The upload pic iframe did'n't appear :(")

The is_element_present_by_css method takes a CSS selector and tries to find an element using it. It also receives a wait_time parameter that indicates a time out for the search of the element. So, if the iframe element with ID=”upload_pic_frame” is not present or doesn’t appear in the screen after 10 seconds, the method returns False, otherwise it returns True.

Important: fail is a pseudocode sample and doesn’t exist (if you’re using unittest library, you can invoke self.fail in a TestCase, exactly what I did in complete snippet for this example, available at Github).

Now we see the iframe element on screen and we can finally upload the picture. Imagine we have a variable that contains the path of the picture (and not a file object, StringIO, or something like this), and this variable name is picture_path, this is the code we need:

with browser.get_iframe('upload_pic_frame') as frame:
    frame.attach_file('pic', picture_path)

Splinter provides the get_iframe method that changes the context and returns another objet to interact with the content of the frame. So we call the attach_file method, who also receives two strings: the first is the name of the input element and the second is the absolute path to the file being sent. Facebook also uploads the picture asynchronously, but there’s no way to wait some element to appear on screen, so I just put Python to sleep 10 seconds on last line.

After finish all these steps, we can finally click on “Create Event” button and asserts that Facebook created it:

browser.find_by_css('label.uiButton input[type="submit"]').first.click()
title = browser.find_by_css('h1 span').first.text
assert title == 'Splinter sprint'

After create an event, Facebook redirects the browser to the event page, so we can check if it really happened by asserting the header of the page. That’s what the code above does: in the new event page, it click on submit button, and after the redirect, get the text of a span element and asserts that this text equals to “Splinter sprint”.

That is it! This post was an overview on Splinter API. Check out the complete snippet, written as a test case and also check out Splinter repository at Github.