November 15, 2017

Exploring Applitools, a visual testing tool for web, mobile and Mac / Windows desktop applications.

The life of a software tester can be difficult.

Performing browser testing, comparing and contrasting all screens you need to test on for just a single web page, the look-and-feel for all the different combinations and permutations of browsers and platforms can be even more difficult.

Performing regression testing on an entire web site, confirming that what once passed still passes, checking that each visual element, image, font size, font style, font color, copyright date in the footer, privacy policy link, and graphic, no matter how small, has the same look-and-feel across all browsers, is its own special type of hell... Especially if it the regression tests have to be rerun, say, every two weeks. This is why it is better to offload the repetitive tasks to a system which performs visual testing.

Why can regression testing the UI be difficult for a team of software testers?

Repetition Fogs the Brain:
  • It's easy to get confused, when something looks off ... did this visual element actually change? Is it a bug or a feature? What did this page look like on Safari for the Mac last week and two weeks before? 
It's Time Consuming:
  • Let's say that we want to test a five page web application in MS Edge on the PC, Chrome & Firefox on the PC and Mac, and Safari on the Mac. That's five different pages with six different browsers ( 5 * 6), which is thirty screens to review. 
  • If the entire web application is responsive, changing its look depending on the size of the screen, such as the width of a large desktop, a tablet, or a mobile phone, that becomes (5 * 6 * 3) ninety screens to review. 
  • Performing this full range of testing on four similar sites, such as Stop & Shop, Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover, and Martin's, and all (5 * 6 * 3 * 4) three hundred and sixty will drive you mad! 
Don't Test Everything? Details Will Get Missed:
  • There is no way that one person can stay coherent checking that three hundred and sixty screens each and every time regression testing is performed. 
  • Once you divide up work, or try to scale back the tests to fit the time allotted for regression testing, as hard as you try, details will get missed.

Archiving Test Results: A Bookkeeping Nightmare!
  • After executing these tests, where to put all the screenshots taken to prove that the look-and-feel of the product, the images, hasn't changed? 
Your Testers' Creativity Is Being Under-utilized:
  • Skilled software testers doesn't want to follow a pre-programmed path, running the same tests over and over again. They want to do exploratory testing: Do a deep dive of the web application, exploring it, and find how it truly operates, take notes, make assumptions on how they think the system should work, and try them out. They want to break new ground, not trod down pre-determined paths. 
By forcing a tester to perform the same test over and over again, checking if everything is still okay, after it already has been tested thoroughly, you are forcing the tester to be like a machine. Why not off-load all the repetition to some piece of software, and let the software tester focus on the fun stuff?

With this article, we are going to explore a tool that does just that, Applitools Eyes, with the help of Justin Ison, ( @isonic1 ) a Senior Success Engineer at Applitools.

What is Applitools?

"Applitools was founded by software developers on a mission to shorten the release cycles of their product. Despite having good unit test coverage and automated end-to-end functional tests, a full manual regression of the UI, covering multiple operating systems, web browsers, screen resolutions and localizations, took days to complete.

"Back at the time, there were plenty of excellent commercial and open-source tools that allowed you to test the functionality of your app through the UI, but there were no tools that allowed you to automatically test the look & feel and user experience of your app. That is, verifying that each UI element in each page appears in the right color, shape, position and size, and that it does not overlap or hide other UI elements.

"After years of hard work carried out by experts, we successfully built a vast tech-stack that solved the automated visual testing problem". - / About Applitools

Back in May 2017, Moshe Milman, the COO of Applitools gave the Ministry of Testing - Boston a tour of their product. Although a recording of the presentation we received wasn't recorded, the one given a week before in San Francisco was, thanks to Sauce Labs.

View Moshe Milman Demo Applitools at Selenium Meetup
"Advanced Test Automation Techniques for Responsive Apps and Sites"
May 16, 2017

... Building on what Moshe Milman had presented us, I contacted Applitools to see if I could schedule a further demo to see if it could help out my client, Ahold-Delhaize, test out their web sites.

Our Guide To Applitools Eyes: Justin Ison

Justin Ison
Justin Ison, a Senior Success Engineer at Applitools, has been working in the software testing field for the past seventeen years, working not just on Quality Assurance, but also Software and Automation development, and managing teams of Software Engineers in Test.

What Is a "Senior Success Engineer"?

"Essentially an automation engineer to help onboard new clients and assist you as you progress". Justin helps clients with tools, techniques, and best practices not just in Applitools Eyes. Justin also helps out in automation.

What frameworks do you use to test Applitools?

Although Justin uses Ruby, because he comes from a Ruby background, he really uses everything! "Since I joined Applitools, I have been doing a lot of Java, since it's our most popular SDK [Software Development Kit], and we tend to get a lot of questions around that." Justin pointed out that Applitools support almost every major language.

How To Get Started?

To get started with Applitools, register for a free individual trial account, which comes with an API key. That API Key is used each time the automation code you write interacts with the Applitools product.

Authentication Keys can be either for an individual or for a team. There is also a Public API key a "View Key", which you can use to download your images, such as the baseline images and changes Applitools captures, and compare them yourself.

Unsure what an API is? Feel free to review from Adventures in Automation:

If you are looking for information about Applitools and how it works, the first two ways Justin recommends exploring are:

For much more advances usage, you can view:
  • The Applitools Wiki, which contains the SDK guide, to dive right into each and every method Applitools uses. It also gives examples on how to initialize Applitools Eyes, create visual validation checkpoints, end tests, enabling logs, working & merging with branches, auto-saving on failures, forcing full page screenshots, hide scroll bars, setting scale ratios, and configuring proxy settings in the Selenium - Ruby, Appium - Java, or QTP / UFT.
You can even search for answers to questions you may have at:

  • The Applitools Support Center portal. Type in a question, and get an answer! It also has a list of more FAQs, docs, and a Live Chat feature. 

About The Applitools Resource Library 

The Applitools Resources Library is located at -> Resources. It contains:
... It even has Tutorials on how to install Applitools Eyes in four easy steps.

About The GitHub Examples

For even more detail, Applitools also has its own GitHub page at with code examples on how to integrate with languages such as Java with some Java Examples on:

  • Using Sauce Labs, and Browser Stack
  • Using Perfecto Mobile 
  • Testing in Parallel 
  • Using or a local Selenium grid.

These are the examples Justin sends to clients since, as he put it, "They are simple and straightfoward enough to get you going".

Justin pointed out that Applitools is language and toolset agnostic. Your automation project doesn't have to be in Java. It can be paired with Selenium or Appium in Java, JavaScript, C#, PHP, Python, or Ruby. It can be paired with other web automation tools such as Capybara, Protractor or UFT / QTP. And it can be paired with mobile automation tools such as XCUI (using Objective C or Swift) or Espresso. ( View More )

If you have a framework you like using, one that can take screenshots, you can integrate it with the Applitools SDK. By using their Images SDK you can upload your screenshots so Applitools can be used. They also have tools such as as CLI so you can do all of this from the command line.

"With dozens of SDKs targeting all major programming languages and test frameworks, it takes minutes to enhance your existing tests with visual assertions that validate entire application pages at a time with a single line of code. We support web, mobile and desktop apps as well as PDF files and raw screenshots". - Applitools site

It is not limited to Selenium, Appium, or Espresso.

Get Started in Four Easy Steps 

Let's say you wanted to test a site such as "Hello World":

Demo site:

  • Go to the tutorial at 
  • Just click on the link for Selenium Java
  • Install the sdk and its dependencies into your own project by adding it to your Maven project pom.xml configuration file.
<dependency> <groupId>com.applitools</groupId> <artifactId>eyes-selenium-java3</artifactId> <version>RELEASE</version> </dependency>
  • After all the dependencies are installed, you can start running tests.
After you set your API key, you can embed Applitools with your own code by:

  • Initializing the Eyes class.
  • Starting the tools with
 // Open a Chrome browser.  
     WebDriver driver = new ChromeDriver();  
     // Initialize the eyes SDK and set your private API key.  
     Eyes eyes = new Eyes();  
  • Passing in your driver objects the parameters that defines the baseline.
       // Start the test and set the browser's viewport size to 800x600., "Hello World!", "My first Selenium Java test!",  
           new RectangleSize(800, 600));  
       // Navigate the browser to the "hello world!" web-site.  
       // Visual checkpoint #1.  
       // Click the "Click me!" button.  
       // Visual checkpoint #2.  
       // End the test.  

Notice that with, we are passing in the WebDriver instance, the app we are testing, and the Viewport size, along with the browser version (Chrome or Firefox), and Operating System (OSX, Windows 7, etc).

The code above would:
  • Initialize a new Selenium WebDriver browser
  • Open a new browser window, 800 by 600 pixels
  • Go to
  • Check the window, "Hello"
  • Click on the "Click Me" button
  • Check what the results were.
... A Results Object would be returned at the end of the test.

Once this baseline has been set, it will be compared with all following instances this script is run. Screenshots will be stored in the Applitools cloud-based Applitools Eyes Test Manager. Sign into your Applitools account to access it.

Getting started with the Applitools Eyes Test Manager

Why Does a Viewport Size Matter?

Take a look at the Responsive Website,, that our Ahold - Chicago team released in May 2017. Many different breakpoints have been set:

  • Full screen, the Register and Sign In button are separate.
  • Narrow the screen a bit more, emulating the viewable screen of a tablet, and the buttons merge into a Menu button. 
  • Narrow it a bit more, such as on a Phone / Tablet ("Phablet"), the page changes a bit more. 
  • Narrow it all the way, and the entire screen adjusts to what it would look like in Mobile Chrome on an Android device, or Safari on an iPhone. 

To test a responsive site like this in Applitools, set your viewport size every time you run your test. By performing a "checkWindow" you are capturing the browser window you have defined.

You can also pass in a method to take a full screenshot, or narrow it down to a "checkRegion", such as a header or a footer:

  • Go to, making the screen wide
  • Scroll all the way down the page.
  • See if you can find the links for "Terms of Service" and "Privacy Policy"

This footer element for can easily be forgotten when checking to see if everything is okay with the page layout. Once you set up and capture the baseline, that baseline will be matched exactly in later iterations.

Other features:

  • Create multiple baselines for different viewport sizes.
  • Capture all visual image changes, such as to any paragraph image, buttons, and colors!
  • Although it is not recommended, you can also leave the algorithm that compares and contrasts screenshots to be strict. Strict means comparing each image pixel by pixel. 
  • Since you are just comparing screenshots to do visual checking, you don't have to update your page objects each time an image element changes. 

How To View More Information About Applitools Classes and Methods?

For more in-depth information regarding Applitools Classes and Methods, go to the Applitools Wiki in the SDK Guide.
  • Want to capture an entire page, you just want to capture that region such as a footer, and you are not sure about the checkRegion method, and you are using Selenium WebDriver + Java? Go to the Visual Validation section!
"Check region method works in a similar way to check window, except for the fact that it takes a screenshot of the HTML element specified as its input (by means of a WebDriver "By" selector) instead of a screenshot of the entire web page. The check region command will take a snapshot of the specific object, regardless of where it appears in the page, and will perform smart visual comparison of that region with the baseline. In case this is a new region that does not exist in the baseline, this region will be added as a new region to the baseline". - Applitools Wiki / Selenium / Java / Visual Validation
eyes.checkRegion(selector, stitchContent);
eyes.checkRegion(selector, matchTimeout, tag);
eyes.checkRegion(selector, matchTimeout, tag, stitchContent);
eyes.checkRegion(selector, tag);
eyes.checkRegion(selector, tag, stitchContent);
eyes.checkRegion(region, matchTimeout, tag);
eyes.checkRegion(element, stitchContent);
eyes.checkRegion(element, matchTimeout, tag);
eyes.checkRegion(element, matchTimeout, tag, stitchContent);
eyes.checkRegion(element, tag);
eyes.checkRegion(element, tag, stitchContent);

Pass in the footer element to a checkRegion, and you can set a baseline for just that region.

Since Appium Can Test Desktop Apps, Applitools Can Test Desktop Apps!

We've mentioned Appium, the mobile testing tool for Android and IOS mobile devices, quite frequently here on Adventures in Automation.

Back in April 2017, Dan Cuellar, the creator of Appium announced at Selenium Conf Austin 2017 that with Microsoft's and Intuit's contributions, Appium can automate both Windows and Mac Desktop applications!

Justin Ison pointed out that since Applitools is fully integrated with Appium, Applitools can perform visual checking on Mac and Windows Desktop Apps!

Applitools Does Layout Testing 

Take a look at the responsive website Stop & ShopGiant-CarlisleGiant-Landover, and Martin's, opening each site in a separate tab.

If you flip back-and-forth between the sites, you notice that the sites have basically the same functionality, except for each site's unique brand.

If you wanted to compare and contrast each site, you can set the Match Level of the comparison algorithms to "Layout".

How to Configure Match Level [Advanced Visual Test Automation Techniques]

In the same way, a tester can perform localization testing:

  • Pull up a site using English as a language
  • Pull up the same site using Spanish
  • The layout should pretty much be the same.

... But if we use German, where a word can be quite lengthy, the whole layout could potentially be thown off. If it does break, that will be caught!

These match levels can be set either in the Test Manager, or when setting up the Eyes driver instance.

Applitools Does Accessibility Testing

Want to check if your website has potential accessibility problems?

  • Go to WAVE, the Web Accessibility Evaluation tool at
  • Punch in the web address of a site you want to check out, such as 
WAVE searches to see if each element have ARIA tags. What is Aria?

"Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) defines ways to make Web content and Web applications (especially those developed with Ajax and JavaScript) more accessible to people with disabilities. For example, ARIA enables accessible navigation landmarks, JavaScript widgets, form hints and error messages, live content updates, and more.

"ARIA is a set of special accessibility attributes which can be added to any markup, but is especially suited to HTML. The roleattribute defines what the general type of object is (such as an article, alert, or slider). Additional ARIA attributes provide other useful properties, such as a description for a form or the current value of a progressbar.

"ARIA is implemented in most popular browsers and screen readers. However, implementations vary and older technologies don't support it well (if at all). Use either 'safe' ARIA that degrades gracefully, or ask users to upgrade to newer technology". - Developer.Mozilla.Org / ARIA

With Selenium WebDriver, we can follow the same exact steps we performed, checking with Applitools all the way!

For a code sample, see Applitools / java-examples /

Applitools Uses Machine Learning To Organize Errors 

The more screens you compare and contrast, the more technical debt you can accumulate. You need to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to train your system if you truly care about the diffetrence, or if it is below your threshold. They do have aq machine learning algorithm. It can sort different error images into different categories, and you can compare them all at once.

With these visual comparisons, you don't have to find the locaters for each object, compare the expected values and the actual values. Just set up that initial baseline!

As your site changes, you don't need to update page objects to check for the new design elements. You can just create a new baseline image.

Applitools Does JIRA!

Applitools integrates with JIRA, a commonly used bug reporting tool.

Applitools Eyes JIRA Integration

Let's say there was an error that was important enough to keep track of over time to see if it keeps happening? You can mark errors, create tickets, or set the checking algorithm to snooze.

All information, such as operating system, browser, and viewport is captured automatically and can be placed in the JIRA ticket.

Thank you so much, Justin, for the amazing walkthrough!

Happy Testing!

-T.J. Maher
Twitter | LinkedIn | GitHub

// Sr. QA Engineer, Software Engineer in Test, Software Tester since 1996.
// Contributing Writer for TechBeacon.
// "Looking to move away from manual QA? Follow Adventures in Automation on Facebook!"