How To Test Checkboxes

The Problem

Checkboxes are an often used element in web applications. But how do you work with them in your Selenium tests? Intuitively you may reach for a method that has the word 'checked' in it -- like .checked? or .isChecked. But this doesn't exist in Selenium. So how do you do it?

A Solution

There are two ways to approach this -- by seeing if an element has a checked attribute (a.k.a. performing an attribute lookup), or by asking an element if it has been selected.

Let's step through each approach to see their pros and cons.

An Example

For reference, here is the markup from the page we will be testing against (an example from the-internet).

  <input type="checkbox"> unchecked<br>
  <input type="checkbox" checked=""> checked

We kick things off by requiring our dependent libraries (e.g., selenium-webdriver to drive the browser, and rspec/expectations & RSpec::Matchers to handle our assertions) and wire up some simple setup, teardown, and run methods to abstract our test configuration.

# filename: checkboxes.rb

require 'selenium-webdriver'
require 'rspec/expectations'
include RSpec::Matchers

def setup
  @driver = Selenium::WebDriver.for :firefox

def teardown

def run

Before we write any tests, let's walk through both checkbox approaches to see what Selenium gives us.

To do that we'll want to grab all of the checkboxes on the page, and iterate through them. Once using an attribute lookup, and again asking if the element is selected -- each time outputting the return value we get from Selenium.

run do
  @driver.get 'http://the-internet.herokuapp.com/checkboxes'
  checkboxes = @driver.find_elements(css: 'input[type="checkbox"]')

  puts "With .attribute('checked')"
  checkboxes.each { |checkbox| puts checkbox.attribute('checked').inspect }

  puts "\nWith .selected?"
  checkboxes.each { |checkbox| puts checkbox.selected?.inspect }

When we save our file and run it (e.g., ruby checkboxes.rb from the command-line), here is the output we'll see.

With .attribute('checked')

With .selected?

With the attribute lookup, depending on the state of the checkbox, we receive either a nil or a string with the value "true". Whereas with .selected? we get a boolean (true or false) response.

Let's see what these approaches look like when put to use in a test.

run do
  @driver.get 'http://the-internet.herokuapp.com/checkboxes'
  checkboxes = @driver.find_elements(css: 'input[type="checkbox"]')
  expect(checkboxes.last.attribute('checked')).not_to be_nil
  # alternatively
  expect(checkboxes.last.attribute('checked')).to eql("true")

With an attribute lookup, the simplest thing to do is to assert that the return value is not nil. Alternatively we could have checked for the value "true". Let's see what the other approach looks like.

run do
  @driver.get 'http://the-internet.herokuapp.com/checkboxes'
  checkboxes = @driver.find_elements(css: 'input[type="checkbox"]')
  expect(checkboxes.last.selected?).to eql true

When checking to see if a checkbox has been selected, it's a simple matter of checking for a boolean value.

Expected Behavior

When you save and run the file (e.g., ruby checkboxes.rb from the command-line) here is what will happen:

  • Open the browser
  • Visit the page
  • Find all of the checkboxes on the page
  • Assert that the last checkbox (the one that is supposed to be checked on initial page load) is checked
  • Close the browser


Attribute lookups are meant for pulling information out of the page for review. While they work in this circumstance you are better off using a selected lookup. But the approach you choose will depend on how the checkbox you're testing is constructed.

Happy Testing!

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