Protractor end to end testing for AngularJS - dockerised and headless with real Chrome.
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Docker image of Protractor with headless Chrome

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Protractor end to end testing for AngularJS - dockerised with headless real Chrome. This image is meant as a drop-in replacement for Protractor, so you can use it virtually in the same way you would use Protractor installed directly on your machine.

Why headless Chrome?

PhantomJS is discouraged by Protractor creators and for a good reason. It's basically a bag of problems.

What is headless Chrome anyway?

To be perfectly honest - it is a real chrome running on xvfb. Therefore you have every confidence that the tests are run on the real thing.

Supported tags

  • chrome59, latest
  • chrome58
  • chrome56
  • chrome55
  • chrome54

Please note that chrome57 is not available, as it does not work reliably with Ptoractor. There were intermittent test failures, usually around selecting elements by.binding.

What is included in the latest?

The image in the latest version contains the following packages in their respective versions:

  • Chrome - 59
  • Protractor - 4.0.14
  • Node.js - 6.9.4
  • Chromedriver - 2.32

The packages are pinned to those versions so that and they should work together without issues. Pulling in the latest version of Chrome during image build proved unsuccessful at times, because Chromedriver is usually lagging behind with support.


Starting with Chrome 58 Jasmine and Mocha are no longer included, assuming the packages are installed in the project's directory. Therefore the image uses node_modules subdirectory from the /protractor directory mounted when running the image (see Usage below).


docker run -it --privileged --rm --net=host -v /dev/shm:/dev/shm -v $(pwd):/protractor webnicer/protractor-headless [protractor options]

This will run protractor in your current directory, so you should run it in your tests root directory. It is useful to create a script, for example /usr/local/bin/protractor-headless such as this:


docker run -it --privileged --rm --net=host -v /dev/shm:/dev/shm -v $(pwd):/protractor webnicer/protractor-headless $@

The script will allow you to run dockerised protractor like so:

protractor-headless [protractor options]

The image adds /protractor/node_modules directory to its NODE_PATH environmental variable, so that it can use Jasmine, Mocha or whatever else the project uses from the project's own node modules. Therefore Mocha and Jasmine are no longer included in the image.

Docker 1.10+

Starting with version 1.10, Docker supports the --shm-size flag, which renders the cumbersome mapping of /dev/shm obsolete. Therefore, in Docker 1.10+ you could run the image as follows:

docker run -it --privileged --rm --net=host --shm-size 2g -v $(pwd):/protractor webnicer/protractor-headless [protractor options]

Setting up custom screen resolution

The default screen resolution is 1280x1024 with 24-bit color. You can set a custom screen resolution and color depth via the SCREEN_RES env variable, like this:

docker run -it --privileged --rm --net=host -e SCREEN_RES=1920x1080x24 -v /dev/shm:/dev/shm -v $(pwd):/protractor webnicer/protractor-headless [protractor options]

Why mapping /dev/shm?

Docker has hardcoded value of 64MB for /dev/shm. Because of that you can encounter an error session deleted becasue of page crash on memory intensive pages.

Up until Docker 1.10 the easiest way to mitigate that problem was to share /dev/shm with the host. Starting with Docker 1.10, we can use the option --shm-size to set the size of the shared memory to any arbitrary value. I recommend 2g, however you may want to experiment with this value.

Why --privileged?

Chrome uses sandboxing, therefore if you try and run Chrome within a non-privileged container you will receive the following message:

"Failed to move to new namespace: PID namespaces supported, Network namespace supported, but failed: errno = Operation not permitted".

The --privileged flag gives the container almost the same privileges to the host machine resources as other processes running outside the container, which is required for the sandboxing to run smoothly.

Why --net=host?

This options is required only if the dockerised Protractor is run against localhost on the host. Imagine this sscenario: you run an http test server on your local machine, let's say on port 8000. You type in your browser http://localhost:8000 and everything goes smoothly. Then you want to run the dockerised Protractor against the same localhost:8000. If you don't use --net=host the container will receive the bridged interface and its own loopback and so the localhost within the container will refer to the container itself. Using --net=host you allow the container to share host's network stack and properly refer to the host when Protractor is run against localhost.


The tests are run on Travis and include the following:

  • image build
  • run of protractor-headless against angular.js v1.6.1