It’s no secret that quality assurance automation is on the rise in the software development lifecycle. This article offers an overview of the best automated QA testing tools, explores their pros and cons, and offers a glimpse of which tool might be the one that could help you achieve better results in testing.
Automation testing is, in simple words, using software to test another software. Automation strategy, if applied right, helps to reduce costs and improve the overall engineering and testing culture.
However, when it comes to choosing the right tool to set up an automation process, it is easy to get lost in the ocean of modern QA automation software on the market. Here, we have selected some of the top automation testing tools that could help take over the time- and labor-consuming tasks, and boost the general performance and functionality of the product.
The 4 Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a QA Automation Tool
It is always a good idea to start with the four WHs (What, Who, When, Why) when it comes to selecting the proper automation tool that would best fit the needs of the project. So let’s briefly dwell on each of them:
WHAT is being tested?
The “what” question basically comes down to whether you are testing web-based or mobile-based applications,and what layer of the product you are testing: UI, service/integration, units, end-to-end, etc. It doesn’t mean that only one tool can be used to test those, but the question of “what” always comes among the first ones when choosing.
WHO is testing?
Who is going to work with the automation testing tools? Are we talking about qualified testers only? Or is it a junior who is at the early stages of their career? Are there non-technical members of the team who should be involved in the testing process and eventually have access to interpreting the results?
WHEN is testing done?
This question is about two important things: how well the tool you work with inscribes itself into the processes of continuous development and integration, and how well it functions together with programmers’ tests. Thus, for example, it is really helpful to know if the tool offers version control and data history if necessary.
WHY is the testing needed?
This is pretty simple; it refers to different types of software testing: is it functional, performance, unit, regression, end-to-end, or some other level that you need to test? This is also an important thing to think about.
Open Source vs. Commercial QA Automation Software
Another criterion to consider is the software’s value. Free automation tools like Selenium or Protractor are quite popular in the community of testers.
There are a lot of benefits to using open source software, such as reducing costs for licensing, the ability to create tailored solutions, or extended collaboration.
However, the drawbacks of using open source automation tools could be quite significant. Security is the most important one. Thus, open source QA automation tools might not be the right fit for projects that pay close attention to security parameters. Other disadvantages of using open source tools include time-consuming setup, limited features availability, and non-specific or incomprehensible reporting.
Usually, free automation testing tools can be quite beneficial for individual testers, and small or middle-sized businesses, but it’s a good idea to keep in mind that commercial software is big business-oriented, secure, and if wisely chosen, has a full stack of features necessary for the target testing in question.
Comparative Descriptions of Best QA Automation Tools
Selenium is still a number one choice among automation testing tools for web applications. It’s a powerful drive for cross-browser testing and can be used for plenty of test types, including compatibility, integration, regression, smoke, sanity, and end-to-end testing. It is compatible with all major browsers and platforms, offers advanced automation scripts, and is friendly to various programming languages. In fact, one could say that Selenium, consisting of WebDriver, IDE, and Grid is not a single tool, but rather a toolbox for web browser automation. It is license-free. However, the question of value is a bit tricky with Selenium as being initially an open source tool, it might require a workforce to set and maintain it. Here is a comparative chart representing Selenium’s pros and cons:
|-extremely easy to use and employ Selenium at the GUI level|
-multiple language support (all major programming languages)
-saving and re-running scripts
-any browser + any platform-effective integration
-can execute tests while the browser is minimized
-parallel testing (stressing different parts of the app simultaneously)
-IDE is suitable for juniors and novices in QA automation testing
|-demands a lot of technical knowledge on the part of the tester as well as knowledge about using third-party tools|
-not self-sufficient (requires the support of third party frameworks. For example, Sikuli to test images)
-no native support to generate bug reports
-requires constant updates, improvements, and maintenance of the complete ecosystem
-test-automation is always an isolated process
LambdaTest is an online cloud-based cross-browser testing platform for websites. It functions via Selenium Automation Grid. Online and cloud-based might be the keywords here, as it helps to avoid maintaining and running an in-house Selenium infrastructure. It has all the advantages of Selenium Grid, such as running parallel tests in multiple browsers and environments and features both the latest and legacy browsers as well as all operating systems. Another thing about LambdaTest is that it has improved reporting capabilities since it offers not only command screenshots (as happens to be the case with Selenium), but also a video recording of the script execution. It’s one of the best automated performance testing tools in terms of identifying speed and crashes. LambdaTest is also effective in identifying any issues in UI inconsistencies, design responsiveness, and code validation. LambdaTest plans start from $15 a month. LambdaTest Lite, which is free, comes with limitations such as 60 mins/month of real-time browser testing, or six sessions of browser testing of 10 minutes each. The free version might be a good choice for individual testers or small businesses.
|-no installations needed to use LambdaTest virtual machines|
-desktop sessions run on real browsers
-operates on Windows (through server editions)
-improved reporting features
-detailed automation logs (exception logs, command logs, network logs, raw Selenium logs, and metadata)
-2000+ browsers-24/7 tech support
-major programming languages + hybrid frameworks like Tesbo
-out-of-the-box geolocation testing in automation
-provides a free version (Lite)
|-no native app testing|
-no real devices for mobile web app testing
-reports not fully intuitive
-free version has limitations
Cucumber is an open source tool used for cross-browser user interface testing with a BDD (Behavior Driven Development) approach. In terms of BDD, the test scenarios are created before the actual code is written. Everything written in test scenarios must be presented in Given-Then-When Gherkin syntax. Here’s an example of testing an ATM cash withdrawal scenario from Gherkin Open Studio:
As Gherkin presupposes the use of “simple English sentences” for scenario creation, anyone on the team can read, understand, and contribute to the test case requirements regardless of their technical skills. Thus, the Cucumber automation tool, due to its specific readable syntax, serves as a link between business analysts, software engineers, automation and manual testers, product owners, and developers. Cucumber is relatively easy to use and might be a great tool for junior testers in UI test automation to start with.
However, one should keep in mind that the use of Cucumber creates more dependencies, and parallelization could become a problem as well.
|-fast plugins (compared to Selenium)|
-simple language (Gherkin) comprehensible to anyone
-focuses on end-user experience
-quick and easy setup
|-adding another layer of complexity (producing generic, yet specific steps)|
-low reusability of steps in scenarios
-might cause the wrong use in terms of BDD
-testers should have at least some experience in TDD
Protractor is one of the best integration testing tools for Angular and AngularJS applications. Integration testing is aimed at seeing how separate subsystems work together when integrated into a single system. The legend claims Protractor was initially developed by the Google team to test Angular apps and was later released as an open source framework.
The most powerful feature about Protractor is that it hosts a combination of quite effective tools and technologies such as NodeJS, Selenium WebDriver, Jasmine, Cucumber, and Mocha under one roof. Since Protractor was built as a wrapper around Selenium WebDriver, all the features supported in Selenium are supported along with the Angular features. Nowadays, Protractor supports non-angular as well as angular applications. Speaking of Angular-oriented features of Protractor, it can find and manage angular-specific attributes like ng-repeater, ng-controller, ng-model, and others. Another advantage of Protractor is that while testing, there is no need to add waits or sleeps to the test as it takes the pain of webpage and test synchronization off the tester’s plate. And for many years, Protractor has been an official end-to-end automation testing tool for the Angular team.
-default waits for Angular (not available in Selenium WebDriver)
-supports cloud testing platforms
-supports BDD frameworks like Jasmine or Cucumber
-cannot simulate a real user (no robot class)
-difficult for debugging
The ability to take snapshots while running the tests, easy debugging, network traffic control, automatic waiting, and its code readability, makes it extremely attractive in the arsenal of end-to-end automation testing. The real jam of Cypress web-based app testing is, of course, test execution in the real browser (unlike Selenium executions in the headless ones). This breakthrough adds up to Cypress’s competition with Selenium at the moment. Another important offer on the table from Cypress is that it “has been built so that testing and development can happen simultaneously.” This saves time and speeds up the development cycle. When time is at stake, who would argue that this is a major bonus?
Cypress could be an ideal tool for front-end cross-browser testing for an experienced JS tester willing to try something new and fast. The free version comes with limitations and could be fairly used for individual or small business purposes, while the team plan starts at $75/month.
|-runs test inside real (not headless) browsers (ergo, no network lag)|
-very intuitive (easy to read and understand code)
-easy setup and installation
-live reloads (by just keeping Cypress Test Runner open)
– waits for DOM elements to appear
-doesn’t support testing in multiple tabs or browser windows at the same time
-doesn’t allow visiting two superdomains in the same test
-doesn’t support legacy browsers and Safari
6. Apache Jmeter
Apache Jmeter is a star in the sky of automated performance testing tools and is primarily aimed at analyzing and measuring the speed, responsiveness, and stability of a computer, network, software program, or device. Moreover, testers could use Apache Jmeter to run unit and spike testing.
So what does Jmeter do? In simple terms, it simulates how a bunch of users send requests to a network or server and then returns the statistics back via visual charts.
One of the striking benefits of Jmeter is that if you use their GUI and follow their documentation, you don’t really need to know any programming language to write test scenarios. However, since Jmeter is a Java-based software, it is desirable to know at least some basics of Java to succeed with Jmeter performance testing.
|-runs on web apps and APIs|
-supports all types of performance testing
-reads test data from Excel file
-can run from console without user interface
-open source plug-ins to extend functionality
-capabilities for RESTful APIs
|-GUI approach leaves much to desire|
-no summarized HTML reports generated for the performance test results
-requires technical skills and experience to write tests
So what about mobile-based app automation testing? Appium to the rescue. As the official Appium website states, “Appium is an open source test automation framework for use with native, hybrid and mobile web apps. It drives iOS, Android, and Windows apps using the WebDriver protocol.” And the slogan says that Appium makes mobile automation testing awesome. Let’s see how awesome (or not) it can get in detail.
Some of the most attractive characteristics of Appium include the ability to deploy the same app that was tested across platforms since Appium utilizes Selenium WebDriver API, specifying a client-server protocol that uses vendor-provided frameworks under the hood. No need to involve a third-party framework! The great thing about Appium is that it also allows testing on real devices as well as emulators. This could be crucial for the testing process.
Some of the major Appium drawbacks named in the testing community are a tricky setup, labor-consuming maintenance, and a steep learning curve to master the tool. Despite Appium’s few disadvantages, it is still one of the most popular automation tools.
-can be integrated with CI tools
-supports multiple mobile platforms
-intuitive GUI with inspector
|-configurations can be complex, might be tricky for beginners|
-compatibility issues (doesn’t support testing Android Version lower than 4.2)
-steep learning curve
-requires effort for maintenance
Email Functionality Testing with Mailtrap
Mailtrap is a perfect tool for email testing. The first and biggest advantage of Mailtrap is that it helps you to never get embarrassed in front of your real customers by actually sending them your test emails. It uses its own SMTP server that “traps” all the sent emails into a virtual inbox. No more dev junk in your inbox as well as no more excessive efforts maintaining the scaffolding infrastructure for email testing.
You can easily run automated tests with Selenium, Protractor, Cucumber, and other popular automation testing tools via Mailtrap API. This allows you to test, analyze, and fix all email-related issues right on the spot.
Conclusion – Which Automation Tool Should I Finally Choose?
A straightforward answer to this question would be desirable but misleading.
First, it’s all about the specific project and environment. Which brings us back to the four WH questions. Once you know exactly what you are testing, what your testing strategy is, and how advanced your testing background is, then you can “choose your poison.”
Second, if you are new to automation testing and trying to figure out how various tools and frameworks work, it would probably be beneficial to consider the type of testing you are interested in and experiment with a few open source automation tools to see which one seems to catch your fancy in terms of usability and functionality.
The most popular testing tools are not necessarily the best testing tools for a concrete product under consideration. Automation testing is rarely about popularity. Remember, as initially stated, it’s about effectiveness and accuracy. Effectiveness and accuracy in automation testing most definitely presupposes the use of several testing tools as there would be at least functional and non-functional cycles of product testing on the horizon. In his book, Succeeding with Agile, Mike Cohn introduces the test pyramid concept. This concept roughly amounts to a general 70/20/10 split where 70% goes for unit tests, 20% – for integration tests, and only 10% – for end-to-end testing. Thus, the best automation testing tool would be the one that ideally fits each layer of testing at a time. This would be the most clear-cut answer to the question of choosing a tool.