Browser Testing as a Chrome Extension

Posted on
August 28, 2012

Running Jasmine tests against a webpage? Forget headless-browser testing. Why not inject your tests right into the actual web page?

At Ecquire, we integrate with a bunch of services to move your data where it needs to be. Testing our code, to assert that we can properly identify data from different websites (Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc.), is something we'd like to do easily and frequently.

I spent a day researching (re: playing) with different JavaScript testing libraries and Headless Browsers. I ended up trying Zombie.js and Casper.js (ontop of Phantom.js). I found Zombie to be the most pleasant, mainly because of it's documentation—it's organized as a linear storyline of a zombie attack!

Sigh, but headless browsers were a dead-end, as our code needs to run on pages only accesible after logging in (I found captcha's hard to automate against) and JavaScript wasn't being executed as expected.


Ecquire is a chrome extension. Webkit based headless-browsers would render close at best. Oh, right. And we already have a Jasmine Test suite in a Chrome Extension (though, those ones didn't inject themselves into the active tab).

Cool, let's inject some tests!

The following will assume you are familiar with Jasmine and JavaScript in general. If anything is unclear, let me know, and I'll try to clarify.

The biggest barrier for this to work, was the reporting. I didn't want to spend much more time on this, so I did some DDGing and found this awesome Console Reporter.

Note: turns out Jasmine comes with its own Console Reporter inspired by Larry Myers. I prefer Larry's output style, so I stuck with it.

Great. The unfamiliar territory is taken care of. Now, to write the Chrome Extension code that actually runs the Jasmine specs inside an active tab, outputting the test results to console!

The Chrome Extension

I wrote a boilerplate Chrome Extension, for Browser Testing with Jasmine. Here's an explanation of what it does:

1. Whitelist some domains, where we want our tests to run. For Ecquire, that meant,, etc.

Google is cracking down on security when it comes the Chrome Web Store. Which means we have to whitelist everything in our manifest.json file. Since our test extension won't be public-facing, we can be overly zealous in our whitelisting:

"permissions": [

2. Declare some content scripts that will be executed within active tabs on those domains.

In manifest.json again:

"content_scripts" : [
        "matches" : [
            // Again, overly zealous in our whitelisting ;)
        "js" : [
            // The JS libraries we want available in an active tab
        "run_at" : "document_idle",
        "all_frames" : false

3. Check if we're on a good domain, to show our page action button

First up, we'll need to declare a script file to run in the background, in manifest.json:

"background": {
    "scripts": ["background.js"]

In background.js we'll listen for any changes to the URL of any tab.

chrome.tabs.onUpdated.addListener(function(tabId, changeInfo, tab) {
    if (tab.url.indexOf('google') > -1) {
        // ... show the page action.;

4. When are page action is clicked, run some Jasmine specs!

We'll also need an event listener for when the page action is clicked. Check out the full background.js file to see that (it's the same idea as jQuery click events). When clicked, we'll inject our Jasmine specs and run them via Chrome's Extension APIs:

// load our spec file
chrome.tabs.executeScript(, { file: 'my_spec_file.js' }, function() {
    // once loaded, run jasmine
    chrome.tabs.executeScript(, { file: 'path_to/JasmineSpecRunner.js' });

That's it!

With this, you can now test your JavaScript against real webpages, and actually see the output. It's not as automated as using headless browsers, but it's pretty much 1-click. And, I'm guessing the same idea can be brought to Safari and FireFox extensions.

Though the use-case for this is pretty specific to Ecquire, I thought it was pretty neat—and worth sharing. Would love to hear any reactions or thoughts on this!