Testing PDF downloads with Sauce Labs

There are 2 main challenges to testing PDF downloads with Sauce Labs:

1. Testing PDFs in the browser are not supported by Selenium.
2. Download dialogs are native UI elements and not supported by Selenium.

A PDF file may try to open in a PDF plugin, which cannot be accessed by Selenium. But, even if you change your browser configuration to download PDF files automatically, as described here:


Sauce Labs does not provide access to the file system on our VMs. So, in order to test a PDF you would need to download it locally. The best practice is to get the URL of the link using Selenium and then to download it using wget, curl, or your favorite HTTP library.

See this blog post which goes into further detail:



Testing mobile apps in the cloud

There are several services available for testing mobile apps in the cloud on real devices:

Sauce Labs

Sauce Labs is the veteran and was co-founded by Jason Huggins, the original creator of Selenium.  Sauce Labs also works on development of Appium.


BrowserStack is an economical choice for testing in the cloud, but while the offer “Live” mobile devices (manual testing only), it does not appear that they offer devices for test automation.

Xamarin Test Cloud

Xamarin is a pretty good contender, but focuses their tooling around Microsoft .NET / Visual Studio developers.  It does not appear that Appium is supported (directly) Still, they have a big selection of devices for those willing to stick to Microsoft tooling. It is also nice that their metering is a soft limit.

Perfecto Mobile

Perfecto Mobile has been around for a while as a service for Enterprises.  It is proprietary, but also supports Appium.  It comes with an Enterprise level price though.  You have to call and talk to a salesperson for any plan beyond proof of concept.

Keynote Mobile Testing

Keynote Mobile Testing used to be called Device Anywhere and their experience dates back to the days before smart phones.  I don’t have recent experience with them, but they used to offer only pixel based automation.  It appears they support Appium now.  But automation is not supported outside their enterprise sales channel.

Amazon Device Farm

Amazon Device Farm is the most recent entry in the field.  But it is not only quite expensive, but requires a lot of do-it-yourself.  Perhaps it will be more practical once tooling for recipes becomes available.


Price Comparision of Sauce Labs, Xamarin Test Cloud, Perfecto Mobile, & Amazon Device Cloud

Service Price Device time Concurrent Devices
Sauce Labs $129/month* 1000 minutes 4
$259/month* 2000 minutes 4
399/month* 3000 minutes 6
$499/month* 4000 minutes 8
Xamarin Test Cloud $99/month** 1 hour/day 1
$379/month** 5 hours/day 3
$799/month** 10 hours/day 5
Perfecto Mobile $399/month* 20 hours 1
Amazon Device Farm $0.17/minute 1
Amazon Device Farm $250/month unlimited 1

* 25% annual discount available

** 15% annual discount available

Setting system properties with Gradle

In Java you can pass system properties from the command line like this:

java -D MyProperty=foo MyClass

And you can then get them in your code like so:

public class MyClass {
  public String getMyProperty() {
    return System.getProperty("MyProperty");

Pretty easy, no?

You can pass system arguments the same way with Gradle:

gradle -D MyProperty=foo run

But what if you want to manipulate or use those properties in Gradle first?

Instead of -D you can use -P to pass properties to the Gradle object, and then you can do whatever you want with it.

gradle -P MyProperty=foo MyClass

And then you can use your properties in Gradle and then pass them to the System properties thusly:

task setProperty << {

    if (project.hasProperty("ENV")) {
        println "project has property ENV"
        System.properties["ENV"] = "$ENV"
    } else {
        println "project does not have property ENV"
        System.properties["ENV"] = "dev"

    println "ENV: " + System.properties["ENV"]


Some references:






When should you use BDD

1. Product and dev are talking to each other
2. You want to write something down to communicate
3. You want to read something to communicate
4. You don’t use documents as a way to avoid communicating.
3. You can come up specific examples of requirements
4. You are willing to test those requirements frequently
5. You will pay attention to the results of those tests
6. You are willing to update those requirements when they change
7. You want to execute tests automatically
8. You have an environment and data that enables you to test changes immediately.
9. You have a build and deploy process that enables you to deploy when any change is made.
10. You don’t think BDD is a way to solve any of these problems.

Who wants to write unit tests?

Who wants to write unit tests?

Not me.

It’s like asking who wants to eat healthy. We all know (or suspect) that it’s good for you, but what are the real benefits?

Writing unit tests is extra work, and not very fun.  And if you start with an existing code base that doesn’t have them, it can be intimidating and frustrating to get started.  And it isn’t always easy.  You might have to spend significant time refactoring and writing mocks and other test doubles to be able to test your code.


If you’re skeptical of the value of unit tests, come share your reasons.

If you write unit tests but find they don’t have any real value (or not enough to justify the costs) then let’s talk about why you do it.

If you want to write unit tests, but can’t find the time, or feel like you need help getting started, let me know, and I’ll be your personal trainer.  Book some 1 on 1 time with me.

If you love writing unit tests and the productivity boost and code quality gains they provide, don’t bother coming, unless you want to help convince others.

There are real challenges to writing unit tests but don’t let procrastination or fear be one of them.


I’ll be hosting a webinar about unit testing today at 1pm at Hart.com and next Wednesday at 1pm Pacific for everyone online.

Here’s the hangout url https://hangouts.google.com/hangouts/_/one-shore.com/whowantstowriteunittests?hl=en&authuser=0

Ping me if you want an invite in your calendar.

Standardizing tools can lead to testing “synergies”

It’s everyone’s favorite square on buzzword bingo.

The one with the word “synergies” written on it.

But just because managers and consultants overuse a word, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have real value.

I’m talking about standardizing testing tools.

I was just talking with someone about a consulting opportunity at a large company. Their challenge is that they have a bunch of cobbled together testing systems for different teams. They need to build it all under one system. The list of skills needed is miles long:

Java, Javascript, Python, Selenium, Protractor, QUnit, JUnit, TestNG, iOS, Android, Maven, Gradle, Puppet, Chef, Docker, Vagrant, VMWare, Angular, Backbone, …

My response:

It looks like the first big challenge will be standardizing tools.

There could be a lot of easy wins by picking, for example:

* Maven or Gradle for builds
* Puppet or Chef for deployments
* JUnit or TestNG for test runner

That could be quite a challenge for teams who “like what they know” and don’t see the value of change.

But if there are projects with neglected or troublesome build/deploy/test cycles, then standardization could be the price of admission into a concierge service that builds their code, runs unit tests and static analysis, deploys it to a test environment, and runs system & integration tests. The biggest challenge I’ve seen is getting permission and resources for the test environments, and it can be like pulling teeth to find out all the dependencies & data that need to be assembled (or mocked). At the end of it, though, there’s a virtual cycle that can’t be stopped.

And when you have standard tools in place and a smooth build/deploy/test in place, then teams really can start leveraging shared tools.

Synergies achieved. Without layoffs. BTW, they’re looking for additional SDETs in Seattle. Let me know if you’re interested in tackling a big project.