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Headless HTMLUnit powered browser for Capybara
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Important notice

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Akephalos is a full-stack headless browser for integration testing with Capybara. It is built on top of HtmlUnit, a GUI-less browser for the Java platform, but can be run on both JRuby and MRI with no need for JRuby to be installed on the system.


gem install akephalos


gem 'akephalos', :git => 'git://'


Configuring akephalos is as simple as requiring it and setting Capybara's javascript driver:

require 'akephalos'
Capybara.javascript_driver = :akephalos

Basic Usage

Akephalos provides a driver for Capybara, so using Akephalos is no different than using Selenium or Rack::Test. For a full usage guide, check out Capybara's DSL documentation. It makes no assumptions about the testing framework being used, and works with RSpec, Cucumber, and Test::Unit.

Here's some sample RSpec code:

describe "Home Page" do
    before { visit "/" }
    context "searching" do
        before do
            fill_in "Search", :with => "akephalos"
            click_button "Go"
        it "returns results" { page.should have_css("#results") }
        it "includes the search term" { page.should have_content("akephalos") }


There are now a few configuration options available through Capybara's new register_driver API.

Configuring the max memory that Java Virtual Machine can use

The max memory that the JVM is going to use can be set using an environment variable in your spec_helper or .bashrc file.


The default value is 256 MB.

If you use akephalos's bin the parameter -m [memory] sets the max memory for the JVM.

$ akephalos -m 670

Using a different browser

HtmlUnit supports a few browser implementations, and you can choose which browser you would like to use through Akephalos. By default, Akephalos uses Firefox 3.6.

Capybara.register_driver :akephalos do |app|
    # available options:
    #   :ie6, :ie7, :ie8, :firefox_3, :firefox_3_6, :browser => :ie8)

Using a Proxy Server

Capybara.register_driver :akephalos do |app|, :http_proxy => '', :http_proxy_port => 8080)

Ignoring javascript errors

By default HtmlUnit (and Akephalos) will raise an exception when an error is encountered in javascript files. This is generally desirable, except that certain libraries aren't supported by HtmlUnit. If possible, it's best to keep the default behaviour, and use Filters (see below) to mock offending libraries. If needed, however, you can configure Akephalos to ignore javascript errors.

Capybara.register_driver :akephalos do |app|, :validate_scripts => false)

Setting the HtmlUnit log level

By default it uses the 'fatal' level. You can change that like this:

Capybara.register_driver :akephalos do |app|  
    # available options 
    # "trace", "debug", "info", "warn", "error", or "fatal", :htmlunit_log_level => 'fatal')

Running Akephalos with Spork

Spork.prefork do

Spork.each_run do 
    Thread.current['DRb'] = { 'server' => }

More info at : sporking-with-akephalos


Akephalos allows you to filter requests originating from the browser and return mock responses. This will let you easily filter requests for external resources when running your tests, such as Facebook's API and Google Analytics.

Configuring filters in Akephalos should be familiar to anyone who has used FakeWeb or a similar library. The simplest filter requires only an HTTP method (:get, :post, :put, :delete, :any) and a string or regex to match against.

Akephalos.filter(:get, "")
Akephalos.filter(:any, %r{^http://(api\.)?twitter\.com/.*$})

By default, all filtered requests will return an empty body with a 200 status code. You can change this by passing additional options to your filter call.

Akephalos.filter(:get, "", 
    :status => 404, :body => "... <h1>Not Found</h1> ...")

Akephalos.filter(:post, "",
    :status => 201, :headers => {
        "Content-Type" => "application/xml",
        "Location" => "" },
    :body => {:id => 100}.to_xml)   

And that's really all there is to it! It should be fairly trivial to set up filters for the external resources you need to fake. For reference, however, here's what we ended up using for our external sources.

Example: Google Maps

Google Analytics code is passively applied based on HTML comments, so simply returning an empty response body is enough to disable it without errors.

Akephalos.filter(:get, "",
    :headers => {"Content-Type" => "application/javascript"})    

Google Maps requires the most extensive amount of API definitions of the three, but these few lines cover everything we've encountered so far.

Akephalos.filter(:get, "",
    :headers => {"Content-Type" => "application/javascript"},
    :body => " = {
        maps: {
            LatLng: function(){},
            Map: function(){},
            Marker: function(){},
            MapTypeId: {ROADMAP:1}

Example: Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect

When you enable Facebook Connect on your page, the FeatureLoader is requested, and then additional resources are loaded when you call FB_RequireFeatures. We can therefore return an empty function from our filter to disable all Facebook Connect code.

    :headers => {"Content-Type" => "application/javascript"},
    :body => "window.FB_RequireFeatures = function() {};")    

Akephalos' Interactive mode


The bundled akephalos binary provides a command line interface to a few useful features.

akephalos --interactive

Running Akephalos in interactive mode gives you an IRB context for interacting with your site just as you would in your tests:

$ akephalos --interactive
    ->  Capybara.app_host # => "http://localhost:3000"
    ->  page.visit "/"
    ->  page.fill_in "Search", :with => "akephalos"
    ->  page.click_button "Go"
    ->  page.has_css?("#search_results") # => true  

akephalos --use-htmlunit-snapshot

This will instruct Akephalos to use the latest development snapshot of HtmlUnit as found on it's Cruise Control server. HtmlUnit and its dependencies will be unpacked into vendor/htmlunit in the current working directory.

This is what the output looks like:

$ akephalos --use-htmlunit-snapshot

Downloading latest snapshot... done
Extracting dependencies... done
The latest HtmlUnit snapshot has been extracted to vendor/htmlunit!
Once HtmlUnit has been extracted, Akephalos will automatically detect 
the vendored version and use it instead of the bundled version.

akephalos --server

Akephalos uses this command internally to start a JRuby DRb server using the provided socket file.


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