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Protractor Vs. Selenium: a Detailed Look at How They Compare

The software industry has grown a lot in the last two decades. Almost all the digital products and services that…

By Testim,

The software industry has grown a lot in the last two decades. Almost all the digital products and services that you see involve some kind of software in one way or another.

These software suites are not directly delivered to you just after development; instead, they go through thorough testing so that they don’t have any defects and can run smoothly on your products and services.

Testing is usually carried out by software testing teams in two different ways: manual testing and automated testing.

As the names suggest, manual testing is where a person checks the entire application for defects and determines whether it’s working as desired.

In automated testing, different tools are used to test the software.

This post will focus on two automated testing tools/frameworks: Protractor and Selenium. At the end of the post, you should know which is best for you.

What Is Selenium?

Selenium is an open-source collection of tools that software companies use to test their web applications across different browsers (such as Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, etc.) and platforms. This software suite includes IDE, RC, WebDriver, and Selenium Grid.

Selenium is famous for its wide variety of language selections for testing. It works with languages such as Java, Python, C#, PHP, Ruby, Perl, and .Net. It can also be integrated with popular tools and services like TestNG, JUnit, Maven, Jenkins, and Docker for managing test cases and continuous testing.

What Is Protractor?

You might already know about Selenium and its capabilities for web application testing. However, there’s one more tool that’s widely preferred for testing AngularJS-based websites, and it’s called Protractor.

Protractor comes with the combined power of NodeJS, Selenium WebDriver, Jasmine, Cucumber, and Moch, which makes it preferred for web app testing. Built on top of WebDriverJS, Protractor API functions as a wrapper around the most robust Selenium WebDriver API, which employs native events and browser-specific drivers to interact with web-based apps as a typical user would.

Initially owned by Google, Protractor was made open source.

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Protractor Vs. Selenium

Now that you’ve been introduced to both tools let’s discuss them in detail. In this section, you’ll see different features, as well as their pros and cons. Finally, you’ll see a comparison table for both tools.

Selenium Testing Tool

To begin, let’s discuss some of the best features of the Selenium tool that make it popular in the automated testing world.

  1. Open source: Selenium is listed under the MIT license, which makes it eligible for free download. Users can use it for automation testing without paying any cost, which is not the case for most testing tools.
  2. Replicate user actions: User actions such as key presses, mouse clicks, drag and drop, click and hold, selecting, etc., can be automated using Selenium, which makes the testing process more robust.
  3. Multiple language support: One of the biggest reasons for Selenium’s popularity is its compatibility with multiple languages. Languages like Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby, C#, Perl, .Net, and PHP give freedom to developers to develop web applications in their desired programming language.
  4. Reusability: Code written in Selenium in any selected language is cross-compatible with any type of OS and web browser. Testers need not create different test scenarios for different browsers and OS combinations.
  5. Community support: Selenium has been around for quite a long time now, resulting in a huge open, and active community. This makes learning and using Selenium quite easy.

Now that you know which features make Selenium popular, let’s check out its pros and cons.

Pros of Selenium

  • Selenium is language independent, i.e., developers working on a particular language need not learn a new one just to automate their test cases using Selenium. This is possible due to the wide variety of language support from Selenium.
  • It can be integrated with popular tools like SauceLabs, Selenium Grid, Extent, JUnit, etc.
  • Selenium integrates with Selenium Grid to provide concurrent test executions.
  • All of the leading web browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and others, are supported by Selenium. Additionally, it’s compatible with any operating system platform, including Windows, Mac, and Linux.
  • A vast community supports Selenium and actively contributes to the tool and documentation.

Cons of Selenium

  • Selenium can only work for web browsers and web- and mobile-based application automation but doesn’t support desktop applications, mobile hybrid, and native applications.
  • Selenium is tough to use and time-consuming to create test cases.
  • Selenium tests can be flaky—sometimes passing and sometimes failing—causing many false positives and test maintenance.
  • Setting up the test environment is also more challenging with Selenium than with other tools like UFT, RFT, etc.
  • The image testing feature is also not available in Selenium independently, but it uses Sikuli integration to perform image testing.
  • Selenium has neither any tool suite for test management support nor a built-in reporting facility.
  • Selenium testing is not full-fledged codeless testing, but it requires you to grasp any one programming language.
  • Selenium testing doesn’t provide much tech support for inconvenient problems apart from its community. In other words, only a few companies can provide you with tech support regarding Selenium testing.

Apart from its advantages and disadvantages, Selenium is still a popular choice for QA testers.

Protractor Testing Tool

The protractor tool is well-known for testing AngularJS-based applications. It’s an open-source testing tool with lots of testing automation features. Here, you’ll learn about some features that a tester uses to test Angular applications.

  1. Advanced HTML attributes to identify web elements: The advanced HTML attributes of web elements in Angular web applications are difficult to test. Protractor can be used to identify and test advanced HTML attributes like ng-repeater, ng-controller, ng-model, etc.
  2. End-to-end testing performing capability: Protractor enables users to test all application layers ensuring robust functionality and high-quality software.
  3. Cross-browser testing: Protractor helps the user interact with browsers by automating these browsers. It can simulate browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Yandex, and IE. It uses browser drivers to simulate user interactions and permits cross-browser testing with more coverage.
  4. Real devices support on the cloud: Users can test the cross-browser compatibility for various devices on a real device cloud while testing on a remote server.
  5. Supports various programming languages for API creation: Protractor provides compatibility with APIs created using languages such as Python, Java, Ruby, JavaScript, PHP, etc.
  6. Asynchronous test performance support: To increase speed and make it quicker, Protractor supports asynchronous execution via callbacks, promises, and async/await. As a result, thorough end-to-end testing can be completed quickly on Angular web projects.

Pros of Protractor

  • Protractor can identify the AngularJS elements using its built-in support.
  • Protractor can test both angular and nonangular apps with easy switching.
  • You can utilize its cross- or same-browser functionality for parallel testing.
  • Protractor can run on headless and real browsers.
  • Its NodeJS support enables the asynchronous process that helps to speed the execution.
  • It also provides continuous integration compatibility.

Cons of Protractor

  • The Protractor team has to wait to see if any WebDriverJS issue occurs since only the WebDriverJS team can resolve these issues.
  • It runs very slowly in Internet Explorer.
  • Real-user simulation is not possible in Protractor.
  • Protractor debugging is very challenging.
  • The Protractor learning curve is difficult since mastering all APIs, and technical aspects are time-consuming.
  • It doesn’t automate testing for mobile apps.
  • Returning values in Protractor is also very difficult.

Feature Comparison

Feature Selenium Protractor
Front-end technology-based web application support All front-end technology support Angular applications are compatible with design but can support other tech applications too
Language support C#, Java, Haskell, Perl. PHP, JavaScript, Objective-C, Ruby, Python, R JavaScript and TypeScript
Compatible browsers Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Opera, Safari, HtmlUnitDriver Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Safari
Waiting or synchronization No automatic synchronization support between applications and tests. Explicit synchronization is needed with different wait utilization. Automatically waits for support for Angular applications; however, needs explicit synchronization for waits for nonangular applications
Locators strategy support For common locator strategies like Id, className, name, linkText, tagName, partial link text, XPath, and CSS for all web applications Apart from common locator strategies, it also provides support for specific Angular locator strategies such as repeater, model, option, binding, etc., with the creation of customer locators.
Test frameworks support It supports various test frameworks:


JavaJUnit, TestNG

PythonPyUnit, PyTest

JavaScriptWebDriverJS, WebDriverIO according to the language binding

The protractor aids Jasmine and Mocha. Jasmine is the default framework.
BDD support Yes (Serenity, Cucumber, JBehave, etc.) Yes (Mocha, Jasmine, Cucumber, and Serenity/JS)
Cost open-source open-source
Execution nature synchronous asynchronous
Technical skills requirement High High
Test execution speed slower faster
Support for mobile application No Yes
CI/CD integration Yes Yes
Docker support Yes Yes
Debugging Easy Difficult
Test-script stability Less stable scripts More stable scripts
Parallel testing With compatible grids Built-in parallel testing support

Protractor Vs. Selenium: Which Is Best for You?

You should first be clear about your testing requirements and their priorities. Then you can better decide match the capabilities of these tools against your requirements.

For general web application testing, Selenium is a popular choice used by many QA professionals. However for AngularJS applications, we would suggest Protractor over Selenium.

Protractor Vs. Selenium Conclusion

This post discusses the features, pros, and cons of the testing tools Selenium and Protractor. Additionally, we learned why Protractor is a better testing tool than Selenium.

Now, let’s summarize what we’ve learned:

  • Selenium and Protractor are open-source testing tools to test web applications.
  • Selenium can replicate user actions and provides multiple language support, code reusability, and community support.
  • Protractor works on AngularJS web applications testing.
  • Protractor can identify advanced HTML attributes, perform cross-browser testing, and provide remote server testing on the cloud. It can also perform asynchronous test performance with NodeJS, and the automatic waiting feature speeds up the execution.
  • In the battle of Selenium and Protractor, the winner clearly depends on your requirements.

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