Headless browers

In order to install Phantom.js download it from their website here.

On Windows the download page says that phantomjs.exe should be ready use once you’ve run the installer.

On Mac OSX and Linux you’ll need to download and extract the zip file, move the contents to a proper place, and make the binary (executable, command line app) available in your PATH (that’s a variable that tells the system where to look for binaries (command line apps).

Here’s one way to do that:

Download and the zip file for your operating system. On Mac OSX it would end up in a the ~/Downloads directory, so you can go there and expand the zip file by double clicking it.

At the time of this writing the current version is 2.1.1, and it is included in the directory name. So we’re going to use ~/Downloads/phantomjs-2.1.1-macosx in this example. You’ll need to use the version number and operating system name that you have.

Now in your terminal copy it to a proper place. One good location is /usr/local:

$ sudo cp ~/Downloads/phantomjs-2.1.1-macosx/bin/phantomjs /usr/local/bin

sudo might not be necessary, e.g. if you’re using Homebrew. But on many systems it will be. sudo will ask you for your computer’s password, enter it, and hit return.

Once you’ve successfully installed phantomjs your system should find it when you run:

$ which phantomjs

If that outputs phantomjs not found you’ve made a mistake.

Trying out Phantom.js

Now let’s try to do something with it.

Phantom.js wants us to use Javascript. So let’s create a file monstas.js and add the following code:

console.log('Hello Ruby Monstas!');

Save that file and run it with phantom.js in the terminal like so:

$ phantomjs monstas.js
Hello Ruby Monstas!

On my computer that hangs for a brief moment, but then executes the Javascript code and prints out the message.

That’s kinda cool, isn’t it? We’ve just uses a browser to run some Javascript and print something to the Javascript console (which gets printed to our terminal because there’s no browser window).

Let’s try browsing to an actual website.

Change the code in the file monstas.js like so:

 var page = require('webpage').create();'', function(status) {

When you run this it will output the plain text from our website, with all HTML tags removed:

$ phantomjs monstas.js
Ruby Monstas

Ruby Monstas stands for (Berlin) Ruby Monday Study Group’stas, and this is our homepage.

We are one of many project groups in the Berlin Rails Girls community, some of which can be found here.

We meet every Monday at 7pm at the Ganz oben office (the office on the very top floor).

Hah! How cool is that. We can write some Javascript code that, when run on the terminal will actually browse to a website, fetch the response, and display the text.

Let’s try outputting the actual HTML:

 var page = require('webpage').create();'', function(status) {

And run it:

$ phantomjs monstas.js
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
    <title>Ruby Monstas</title>
    <link href="/styles.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">

  <body id="index" class="">
    <article class="paper">
      <h1 id="ruby-monstas">Ruby Monstas</h1>
        <p>Ruby Monstas stands for <em>(Berlin) Ruby Monday Study Group’stas</em>, and this is
        our homepage.</p>

Wohoo! Very cool.

We can see the full HTML just like we saw it in our Rack::Test based tests. So we could now run some assertions against it, and test the website.

This is roughly how testing a web application using a headless browser works.

Does that make sense?