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Cover image for #006 | Tool Talk: Hello, Codegen
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D for Microsoft Azure

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#006 | Tool Talk: Hello, Codegen

This post was originally published on the Learn Playwright blog. Reference the original post to get the most updated version of this content.

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Playwright is an open-source framework for Web Testing and Automation. It enables reliable end-to-end testing for modern web apps across browsers and platforms, using one API! Playwright supports resilient testing (with features like auto-wait, web-first assertions and tracing) with powerful tooling for authoring, debugging and profiling your end-to-end tests!

🔖 | Today's Resources

🎯 | Today's Objectives

In our last post we continued the series of "Tool Talk" posts by looking at the Playwright Command Line tools and options.

Today we'll do a deep-dive into one key tool you can launch from CLI: codegen, the test authoring tool that allows you to generate test scripts directly from user interactions on a page!

Let's dive in!

🗺 | Article Roadmap

  • 1️⃣ | What is codegen?
  • 2️⃣ | Why is codegen useful?
  • 3️⃣ | How do I use codegen?
  • 4️⃣ | Demo: Let's Codegen!
  • 5️⃣ | Code: Let's Review
  • 6️⃣ | Test: Run the Script
  • 7️⃣ | Try It: Different languages
  • 8️⃣ | Try It: Emulate devices
  • 9️⃣ | Try It: Customize Testing
  • What's Next?

1. What is codegen?

Playwright's codegen tool helps you author tests out of the box without you having to write the script manually. Instead, Playwright generates the test script code based on user interactions with the page.

Here's a sneak peek at my first attempt to use this to generate a test script for my demo app. We'll dive into details in just a bit.

2. Why is codegen useful?

With one command, developers can launch a browser, open to a specific page, and record user actions with it in a way that automatically generates test scripts for that workflow.

This provides a number of benefits:

  • Time Efficiency. Auto-generated scripts provide a solid foundation to build upon, saving time a tester would otherwise need to hand-craft tests for each action.
  • Code Efficiency. Codegen attempts to find the most resilient text-based selectors - those that remain reliable even with changes in implementation of tested features.
  • Customizability. Once the base script is generated, it's easy to adapt it to use other Playwright features like recording sessions, capturing screenshots or emulating environments - for test debugging & coverage.

As a beginner, there's one added benefit - learning by example! Want to know how to write reliable tests or workflows for a given sequence of user interactions? Auto-generate the test scripts and then analyze the output to get a sense of how Playwright APIs and features can be put to use in practice.

3. How do I use codegen?

Let's look at the --help pages for codegen - review the last post to see what each option represents and how it can be used.

Based on the above, we know the codegen command-line tool can do the following - we'll try some of these out in practice next.

  • save generated scripts to a file.
  • record/save session traces (for post-mortem analysis).
  • pick a language for script (JS, Python, C#, Test).
  • load/store state (e.g., cookies, tokens) for reuse.
  • specify a browser (or distribution) for test.
  • emulate mobile browsers (with device descriptors).
  • emulate context (geo, timezone, lang, color-scheme).

4. Demo: Let's Codegen!

Let's set the stage for this exercise! I have a recipes app and I want to test an interaction workflow where a user:

  • visits the website
  • searches for recipe: term "appetizer" (with 0 results).
  • searches for recipe: term "drinks" (with at least 1 result).
  • clicks on first result ("view recipe")
  • scrolls through page, clicks print icon (new page)
  • closes printable page (returns to recipe page)
  • clicks home

Let's use codegen to create the test script and save to file with this command:

$ npx playwright codegen --output recipes-search.spec.js
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You can see the video walkthrough below:

Below is a screenshot from that demo that highlights three things:

  • The target website is rendered in the default chrome browser (left)
  • The actions are recorded in a Playwright Inspector window (right)
  • The last user action (click in search bar) is highlighted (left) - showing the selector used by codegen to create the corresponding test action (right)

Screenshot of Playwright  raw `codegen` endraw  demo run

Notice that you can hover over any element on the page (under codegen) to see the relevant selector that Playwright would use, for targeting actions on it.

5. Code: Let's Review!

Here's a copy of the test script generated by that walkthrough. Try running the script yourself and see if you get a different output!

Here are a few concepts shown, that are worth understanding:

  • Test Fixtures: (Line 3) {{ page }} is a test fixture that provides an isolated page context for this test run. If the test script is used with a configuration file defining multiple projects we can run them independently (in parallel) for efficiency, without needing browser restarts.
  • Auto-wait: (Line 6) navigating to a URL (with goto) will auto-wait for the page to fire the load event before proceeding (removing the need to guess-timate and set timeouts) making test workflows more reliable.
  • Locators: (Line 9)'[placeholder=.."]') illustrates locators - representing a view to selector-matching elements on the page, on which operations (like click) can be performed. Locators are strict - operations will throw an error if more than one element matches the defined selector.
  • Handling Popups: (Line 31) shows how to handle new page opens - e.g., from target="_blank" links. These return a new page reference that can be used to monitor events and handle actions related to that page.

6: Test: Run The Script

Now that we have a generated test script, how do we use it? Let's try using the generated recipes-search.spec.js file as follows:

$ npx playwright test recipes-search.spec.js --browser=chromium
Error: recipes-search.spec.js: JavaScript files must end with .mjs to use import.
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Hmm .. that gave me a file naming error - let's rename the script file to use a .mjs extension and try this again - and let's throw in the --debug flag so we can launch the Playwright Inspector and step through the script interactively.

$ npx playwright test recipes-search.spec.mjs --browser=chromium --debug     

Running 1 test using 1 worker

     [chromium]  recipes-search.spec.mjs:3:1  test
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SUCCESS!! You should notice that the script execution steps through the same sequence of user actions you had previously done, to generate that script. Now, you can automate this test with different options (e.g., browser types, device types, browser parameters etc.)

7: Demo: Different languages

Let's try adapting the codegen command to create the test script in a different language (python). Try running this command yourself - see how the output differs from the one before. Here's a peek at my generated Python test script for this demo if useful.

$ npx playwright codegen --output --target=python
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8: Demo: Emulate devices

What happens if the user is visiting my site from a mobile browser? How does this alter the test script generation?. Let's use codegen with an emulated device ("Pixel 5") targeting a mobile Chrome browser - and compare outputs. Try this command out yourself:

$npx playwright codegen --output recipes-search.spec.mjs --device "Pixel 5"
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Here's a screenshot of what that looks like - note that the user experience is already different, requiring an additional click to open the menu that displays the search bar, before it can be populated with the desired search term.

Screenshot of Playwright  raw `codegen` endraw  demo using Pixel 5 emulated device

9: Demo: Customize it!

Once you have the basic script created, you have two ways to build on that script for a richer testing experience:

  • Functionality | Edit the generated test file to add/modify tests - it helps to know the Playwright API and features.

  • Consistency | Use Configuration files to create multiple projects (diverse targets, fixtures) and test in parallel.

10: What's Next?

In the previous post, we identified these key CLI commands for deep dives - we've completed two of them so far, so let's keep going with the Tool Talk series and explore one more: Test Reporters! Until the next time! (exit, stage left)

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