Puppeteer vs. Selenium for automation

Theo Vasilis
Theo Vasilis
Table of Contents

We take you through the features of Puppeteer and Selenium to help you decide which is better for your automation projects.

npm install puppeteer or npm install selenium-webdriver? When it comes to choosing between a tool for web automation, many developers go for Puppeteer or Selenium, leaving others who haven’t already picked a favorite wondering which to go for. Both have powerful automation abilities, but each has unique features making them more suitable for particular tasks. We’ll go through the features, pros, and cons of each, and by the end, you should be in a better position to make a choice.

Let’s start with a simple rundown of the features of Puppeteer and Selenium in the table below.

Puppeteer Selenium
Main purpose A Node.js library and API
to control headless Chrome
over the DevTools Protocol
An open-source suite
of tools that support
browser application testing
IDE ✅  Dedicated Selenium IDE
Browser support Chrome 🎖 Chrome, Firefox, Safari
Language support JavaScript, TypeScript 🎖 Python, JavaScript,
Java, C#, Ruby
Platform testing
Web automation 🎖 Web and mobile automation
Recording Limited to browser
performance management
🎖 Records test scripts
and suites
Screenshots 🎖 Images and PDFs Images
Parallel testing ✅ Can run tests in parallel
on multiple machines
Speed 🎖 Fast Slow

Why use Puppeteer for automation?

Puppeteer is a Node library developed by Google that provides a high-level API to control headless Chrome or Chromium over the DevTools protocol. It's a popular choice for web scraping and testing as it's well suited to quickly taking screenshots, generating PDFs, and simulating user actions. Puppeteer's ability to rapidly launch headless Chrome or Chromium makes it fast at completing automation tasks. Other features of Puppeteer are its ability to interact directly with web pages, set custom HTTP headers and cookies, and access a DOM. It's relatively easy to set up and install, and it provides an extensive API with a wide range of useful methods, allowing developers to create sophisticated automated workflows.

Puppeteer is a great option if you have to perform unit-level testing for web applications and you require a fast and flexible solution.

Why use Selenium for automation?

Selenium is the go-to choice for end-to-end testing of web applications. Its cross-browser compatibility and cross-language support enable developers to test a web application in various browser versions. Selenium offers the ability to run tests in parallel and integrates seamlessly with many IDEs and CI/CD tools. Other advantages of Selenium include scalability and excellent debugging capabilities. These make it effective for both small and large-scale web applications. With its extensibility and ability to interact with a vast range of web elements, Selenium provides an efficient way to develop and maintain automated tests.

Selenium is a better choice than Puppeteer if mobile application and cross-platform support are a priority. Also, if you need to integrate a test automation framework for your applications, Selenium is a great option because it provides CI/CD support and a wide range of programming languages.

11 best automated browser testing tools for developers
Read about automated browser testing and the best tools for testing your web apps.

Syntax differences

The syntax used by Puppeteer and Selenium differs significantly. Puppeteer is written in JavaScript and uses promises, while Selenium uses the Selenese command-line syntax. Puppeteer offers a high-level API that is easy to use and understand, while Selenium offers customizable commands and options.

Here are a few syntax differences between Puppeteer and Selenium:

  1. Launching a browser: In Puppeteer, you launch a new instance of Chromium using the puppeteer.launch() method, while in Selenium, you create a new instance of a browser using a specific driver, like webdriver.Chrome().
  2. Selecting elements: In Puppeteer, you use the page.$() method to select an element using a CSS selector, while in Selenium, you use the driver.findElement() method with locators like By.id('targetId'), By.css('.cssSelector') or By.xpath('//article').
  3. Clicking elements: In Puppeteer, you use the elementHandle.click() method to click on an element, while in Selenium, you use the element.click() method to perform a click action.
  4. Typing text into an input field: In Puppeteer, you use the elementHandle.type() method to enter text into an input field, while in Selenium, you use the element.sendKeys() method to send keys to the input field.
  5. Navigating to a URL: In Puppeteer, you use the page.goto() method to navigate to a URL, while in Selenium, you use the driver.get() method to navigate to a URL.

These are just a few examples of syntax differences between Puppeteer and Selenium. While they have some similarities, their methods and usage patterns differ significantly.

What both Puppeteer and Selenium are missing

Enough about the differences between Puppeteer and Selenium. Let’s also consider their shared weaknesses. Here are some things in which both Puppeteer and Selenium fail to deliver.

  • Video recording functionality
  • Self-healing element locators
  • Integrated email testing
  • Computer vision functionalities
  • Automatic awaiting
  • Structured results

What about Playwright?

Playwright is a relatively new automation tool developed by Microsoft to help developers automate web testing. It's similar to Puppeteer, as it offers a high-level API to control headless Chromium over the DevTools protocol, but it also offers support for Microsoft Edge, WebKit, and Firefox, making it a great choice for those who need to test their applications across all major browsers. Additionally, Playwright offers cross-language support and features such as automatic awaiting, the ability to take screenshots, generate PDFs, simulate user actions, record scripts with Codegen, and excellent debugging capabilities.

In other words, Playwright offers what's best about Puppeteer and what's best about Selenium, plus a little bit more. So, if you still can’t make up your mind between Puppeteer and Selenium, it might be because you don’t know about Playwright. If you want to know how Playwright compares with Puppeteer and Selenium, you can learn more about all three tools in the links below.  If you want to switch from Puppeteer to Playwright, this cheat sheet shows you how to do it.

Further reading

What is Playwright and why use it?
Learn why Playwright is ideal for web scraping and automation.
End-to-end testing 🎭 Get it right with Playwright
How to write and run E2E tests the proper way 💡
Playwright vs. Selenium: which one to use for web scraping?
Let’s compare these two open-source libraries and their most useful web scraping features.
Playwright vs. Puppeteer: which is better?
Two powerful Node.js libraries: described and compared.
How to scale Puppeteer and Playwright
Scaling across multiple containers for optimal concurrency.
How to scrape the web with Playwright in 2023
In 2023 Playwright is an established player in the web scraping and automation world. Thought Puppeteer was powerful? Playwright will blow your mind.

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