Akephalos is a full-stack headless browser for integration testing with Capybara
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Important Notice

This repo has rewritten its history and as such is not compatible with the main Akephalos repo.

You can get the unaltered – before history rewrite – pristine copy at: https://github.com/Nerian/akephalos

Further development will be done here: https://github.com/Nerian/akephalos2

Its history was rewritten in order to remove .jar vendor files that were making its size huge.


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.

The name Akephalos /ā-sĕf'ə-ləs/ comes from the Greek ἀκέφαλος akephalos, which literally means "headless".


gem install akephalos2


gem 'akephalos2', :require => 'akephalos'

Or (for the current master branch)

gem 'akephalos2', :git => 'git://github.com/Nerian/akephalos2.git'

Akephalos creates a .akephalos folder where it stores HTMLUnit binaries. You should set Git to ignore that folder.

git ignore .akephalos


You will need to manually download HTMLUnit, extract it and save it to .akephalos/:version.


For example:

  • Download htmlunit-2.9-bin.zip
  • Extract it
  • You will get a folder named htmlunit-2.9. Rename it to just 2.9
  • Create the folder .akephalos in your project folder
  • Move the 2.9 folder inside .akephalos

You are done, run your tests.

Questions, bugs, etc:

We use GitHub issues:



git clone https://github.com/Nerian/akephalos2

Also, we have a .rvmrc file already cooked:

cp .rvmrc.example .rvmrc


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:

# encoding: utf-8

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") }



Akephalos uses UTF-8 encoding by default. You may need to add # encoding: utf-8 at the first line of your test. This behavior is the default using JRuby in 1.9 mode, but you can use JRuby in 1.8 mode by setting the environment variable ENV['JRUBY_1_8']=true. Note that Akephalos works with MRI. I refer here to the JRuby that is used internally by Akephalos.


Capybara allows you to perform your action on a context, for example inside a div or a frame. With Akephalos you can select the frame either by id or by index.

  <p id="test">Test</p>
  <iframe id="first" src="/one_text"></iframe>
  <p id="test2">Test2</p>
  <iframe class="second" src="/two_text"></iframe>
  <p id="test3">Test3</p>
  <iframe id="third" src="/three_text"></iframe>

You can operate within the context of iframe test2 with any of these calls:

# By ID
within_frame("test2") do

# By index
within_frame(1) do


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

Configure 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 128 MB.

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

$ akephalos -m 670

Configure the version of HTMLUnit

The Htmlunit version is configured with a environmental variable named htmlunit_version. The possible versions are listed at here

ENV["htmlunit_version"] = "2.10"  # Development Snapshots
ENV["htmlunit_version"] = "2.9"
ENV["htmlunit_version"] = "2.8"
ENV["htmlunit_version"] = "2.7"

It defaults to HtmlUnit 2.9. You can manually download or copy your own version to .akephalos/:version and use it with ENV["htmlunit_version"] = "version"

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_6
  Capybara::Driver::Akephalos.new(app, :browser => :ie8)

Using a Proxy Server

Capybara.register_driver :akephalos do |app|
  Capybara::Driver::Akephalos.new(app, :http_proxy => 'myproxy.com', :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|
  Capybara::Driver::Akephalos.new(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"
  Capybara::Driver::Akephalos.new(app, :htmlunit_log_level => 'fatal')

Running Akephalos with Spork

Spork.prefork do

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

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, "http://www.google.com")
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, "http://google.com/missing",
  :status => 404, :body => "... <h1>Not Found</h1> ...")

Akephalos.filter(:post, "http://my-api.com/resource.xml",
  :status => 201, :headers => {
    "Content-Type" => "application/xml",
    "Location" => "http://my-api.com/resources/1.xml" },
    :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, "http://www.google-analytics.com/ga.js",
  :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, "http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false",
  :headers => {"Content-Type" => "application/javascript"},
  :body => "window.google = {
    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 <socket_file>

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