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Insanely fast, full-stack, headless browser testing using node.js
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zombie.js(1) -- Superfast headless full stack testing framework using Node.js

The Bite

If you're going to write an insanely fast, headless test tool, how can you not call it Zombie? Zombie it is.

Zombie.js is a lightweight framefork for testing client-side JavaScript code in a simulated environment. No browser required.

Let's try to sign up to a page and see what happens:

var zombie = require("zombie");

// Load the page from localhost
zombie.visit("http://localhost:3000/", function (err, browser) {

  // Fill email, password and submit form
    fill("email", "zombie@underworld.dead").
    fill("password", "eat-the-living").
    pressButton("Sign Me Up!", function(err, browser) {

      // Form submitted, new page loaded.
      assert.equal(browser.text("title"), "Welcome To Brains Depot");



Well, that was easy.

Walking And Waiting

To start off we're going to need a browser. A browser maintains state across requests: history, cookies, HTML 5 local and session stroage. A browser has a main window, and typically a document loaded into that window.

You can create a new zombie.Browser and point it at a document, either by setting the location property or calling its visit method. As a shortcut, you can just call the zombie.visit method with a URL and callback.

The browser will load the document and if the document includes any scripts, also load and execute these scripts. It will then process some events, for example, anything your scripts do on page load. All of that, just like a real browser, happens asynchronously.

To wait for the page to fully load and all events to fire, you pass visit a callback function. This function takes two arguments. If everything is successful (page loaded, events run), the callback is called with null and a reference to the browser. If anything went wrong (page not loaded, event errors), the callback is called with an error.

If you worked with Node.js before you're familiar with this callback pattern. Every time you see a callback in the Zombie.js API, it works that way: the first argument is an error, or null if there is no error, with interesting value in the second argument.

Typically the second argument would be a reference to the browser or window object you called. This may seem redudant, but works suprisingly well when composing with other asynchronous APIs, for example, when using Zombie.js with Vows.

Whenever you want to wait for all events to be processed, just call browser.wait with a callback.

Browser API

Browser.visit(url, callback)

Shortcut for creating new browser and calling browser.visit on it.

browser.body => Element

Returns the body Element of the current document.

browser.check(field) => this

Checks a checkbox.

browser.choose(field) => this

Selects a radio box option.

browser.clickLink(selector, callback)

Clicks on a link. Clicking on a link can trigger other events, load new page, etc: use a callback to be notified of completion. Finds link by text content or selector.


The current system clock according to the browser (see also

browser.cookies(domain, path?) => Cookies

Returns all the cookies for this domain/path. Path defaults to "/".

browser.document => Document

Returns the main window's document. Only valid after opening a document (see

browser.fill(field, value) => this

Fill in a field: input field or text area., target, calback?)

Fire a DOM event. You can use this to simulate a DOM event, e.g. clicking a link. These events will bubble up and can be cancelled. With a callback, this function will call wait.

browser.html(selector?, context?) => String

Returns the HTML contents of the selected elements.

browser.last_error => Object

Returns the last error received by this browser in lieu of response.

browser.last_request => Object

Returns the last request sent by this browser.

browser.last_response => Object

Returns the last response received by this browser.

brower.localStorage(host) => Storage

Returns local Storage based on the document origin (hostname/port).

browser.location => Location

Return the location of the current document (same as window.location.href).

browser.location = url

Changes document location, loads new document if necessary (same as setting window.location). => Date

The current system time according to the browser (see also browser.clock). => Window

Open new browser window.

browser.pressButton(name, callback)

Press a button (button element or input of type submit). Typically this will submit the form. Use the callback to wait for the from submission, page to load and all events run their course.

browser.querySelector(selector) => Element

Select a single element (first match) and return it.

browser.querySelectorAll(selector) => NodeList

Select multiple elements and return a static node list., value) => this

Selects an option.

brower.sessionStorage(host) => Storage

Returns session Storage based on the document origin (hostname/port).

browser.text(selector, context?) => String

Returns the text contents of the selected elements.

browser.uncheck(field) => this

Unchecks a checkbox.

browser.visit(url, callback)

Loads document from the specified URL, processes events and calls the callback.

browser.wait(terminator, callback)

Process all events from the queue. This includes resource loading, XHR requests, timeout and interval timers. Calls the callback when done.

The terminator is optional and can be one of:

  • null, missing -- process all events
  • Number -- process that number of events
  • Function -- called after each event, returns false to stop processing

browser.window => Window

Returns the main window.

Event: "drain"

Emitted whenever the event queue goes back to empty.

Event: "loaded"

Emitted whenever new page loaded. This event is emitted before DOMContentLoaded.

Event: "error"

Emitted if an error occurred loading a page or submitting a form.


Zombie.js is written in CoffeeScript, a language that mixes the best parts of Python and Ruby and compiles one-to-one into JavaScript.

To get started hacking on Zombie.js you'll need Node.js, NPM and CoffeeScript:

$ brew install node npm
$ npm install coffee-script

Next, install all other development and runtime dependencies:

$ cake setup

The DOM implementation is JSDOM, which provides pretty decent emulation of DOM Level 3. There are some issues and some features Zombie.js needs but JSDOM doesn't care for (e.g default event handlers). Those are patched onto JSDOM in lib/zombie/ and lib/zombie/

DOM selectors are provided by Sizzle.js, and vendored in the vendor directory.

Zombie.js is tested using Vows. Since we're testing a Web browser, we also need a Web server, so it spins up an instance of Express. Spinning up Express and making sure it doesn't power down before all tests are done (Vows is asynchronous, like everything in Node) is the responsibility of spec/

To run the test suite:

$ vows

To stress Zombie.js, we have test cases that use Sammy.js and jQuery. The scripts themselves are contained in the spec/.scripts directory. The dot is necessary to hide these JS files from Vows.

Zombie.js documentation is written in Markdown.

Everything you need to know to get started is covered by, so it shows up when you visit the Github page.

Additional documentation lives in the doc directory. Annotated source code generated using Docco.

To generate the documentation

$ cake doc
$ open html/index.html


Check out the outstanding to-dos.


Zombie.js is copyright of Assaf Arkin, released under the MIT License.

Zombie.js is written in CoffeeScript for Node.js.

Sizzle.js is copyright of John Resig, released under the MIT, BSD and GPL.

See Also

Annotated Source Code for Zombie.js.


Sizzle.js documentation.

Vows You don't have to, but I really recommend running Zombie.js with Vows, an outstanding BDD test framework for Node.js.

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