General

The Usage of Headless Browsers

3 Mins read

With the ever-changing technology, internet browsers are developing rapidly and have gone through revolutionary change over the past decade. Many websites have grown enormously with the advanced uses of web development that led browsers to become much more efficient.

Headless browsers have become very popular among users recently. They function without a GUI (Graphical User Interface). They’re very beneficial for use because they provide tools for better performance and offer versatility and ease of use for solving multiple tasks.

For some, the purpose of headless browsers can be confusing. You, too, may wonder how and why you should use a browser without an interface. Read on to learn the definition of headless browsers, their function, different uses, and the most popular headless browsing tools.

What are headless browsers?

As already mentioned, headless browsers don’t have a GUI. They execute commands using network communication or a command-line interface. That means they can load websites effortlessly, just like any regular browser does, but the big difference is that they’re much more flexible.

How they work

Since they don’t have a GUI, they’re not memory dependent. It means that headless browsers work a lot faster. They have optimized functions for automation tasks and various uses. Because there’s no user interface, you need to use a headless browser with a command line.

Different uses of headless web browsers

Headless web browsers are significant for several uses. Their most important features are automation testing, webpage interactions, screenshotting web pages, and web scraping. Why are these things so important? Let’s further examine them to find out.

Automation is the main headless browser feature involving testing, developing, and installation. Headless browsers perform automation tests without a GUI being present in the process. Because of that, the testing process is a lot faster and smoother.

Headless browsers can run automated testing on different websites and applications. They served most commonly for JavaScript library testing, simulations, and interfaces. They’re efficient for testing website activity flow, as well as for solving UI and UX problems.

Headless browsing tools can perform end-to-end automation tests without needing a GUI. That way, the tests bypass interacting with a particular web page to prevent any failures due to UI interactions. This automation testing is a necessary step in creating high-end applications.

Headless web browsers can work efficiently as web scrapers. They can collect various data without having to render a full browser. You can use them to compare prices, collect competitor data, or gather specific information from multiple websites. 

Most popular headless browsing tools

Do you want to try headless browsing tools but don’t know which one to use? Here are the most popular among software test engineers. 

Puppeteer

Puppeteer is a Node.js library with a high-level API for controlling headless Chrome or Chromium over the DevTools Protocol. Although it’s headless, it can work with the default Chrome browser.

It can collect page PDFs and screenshots, scrap content, perform UI and automation tests, test Chrome extensions, and more. If you want to learn how to use it, look up the Puppeteer tutorial in a blog post by Oxylabs.

Selenium WebDriver

Selenium is a web browser automation tool that can work with full-on or headless web browsers. It comes in a couple of different versions, but Selenium WebDriver 3 and 4 have a wider variety of tools.

It’s beneficial for automated app testing, cross-browser testing, and web scraping and can work with different browser versions. Like Puppeteer tutorial videos, there are many Selenium tutorials, so be sure to check them out.

Playwright

Playwright is a Node.js library by Microsoft that works as a JavaScript open-source automation tool. It provides a single API to testers to help them perform automated cross-browser tests on various web applications. It works best with Firefox, Chromium, and WebKit.

HTMLUnit

HTMLUnit is an open-source browser that’s free to use. It models HTML documents and serves for web testing and scraping.

HTMLUnit is written in Java, so it works best with Java programs. It can work as an Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox simulator, thanks to its excellent JavaScript support.

Zombie.js

Zombie.js is another free headless browser that performs effectively as a simulator for client-side JavaScript code tests. It’s an open-source and full-stack browser. It works for testing Node.js, which is a necessary part of the Zombie.js installation.

Zombie.js uses Google’s V8 JavaScript engine, making it pretty fast, and it works brilliantly with many testing frameworks.

Conclusion 

The usage of headless browsers is super-effective. They can replicate the functions of regular browsers and even work more efficiently. With the absence of GUI, they don’t need to consume any memory.

That’s why headless browsers are very fast and flexible, enabling you to perform automation testing and scrap different data. If you are a software test engineer, don’t miss out on these browsers’ possibilities.

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