Challenges in Test Automation for Desktop Applications

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Oct 18, 2023 - 15:50
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Challenges in Test Automation for Desktop Applications
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Long before there were online and mobile apps, we utilized web desktop apps. Testing them has grown less common, though, and if your job entails automating tests for desktop applications, there may be some difficulties. Let's review them.

1 Choosing the appropriate instrument for the task

Most test automation projects face this difficulty, but desktop apps face it significantly more. We may have too many options for web and mobile apps, but not for desktop software.

Additionally, communities are smaller, making it more difficult to locate support for problems you run into. Depending on the requirements of the project, selecting a tool could necessitate extensive research. Considerations include:

  • The price range: Are you willing to spend money on a for-profit product or are you seeking a free alternative?

  • Support: It will be more difficult to find answers to your coding concerns on Stack Overflow or other similar websites because fewer testers work on desktop test automation. Therefore, it's important to consider good assistance.

  • Test automation proficiency of the team and learning curve: Some tools can be simple to use, while others may not be. In either case, it will take time for the team to become accustomed to a new tool. Consider a tool with a low learning curve if the majority of the team's testers are novices in writing test-related code.

  • capabilities: Naturally, you must confirm that the tool you intend to use has all the capabilities you actually require. If you aren't going to use every function that a tool offers in your project, don't get too enthused about it.

  • Reporting: When it comes to automation testing, reporting is crucial. How can you prove the benefits it brings? How do you spot trends or progress? All of these things can be helped by a strong reporting system.

  • Integration: Does the product work with the other tools that your team already has access to? Integration of the automation testing solution with other tools, such as bug trackers, project management tools, and CI/CD, can be quite helpful.

2 Developing a successful locator approach

Finding locators for desktop programs can be a little more difficult than for online test automation, where you can utilize developer tools or other browser plugins. As with any other UI testing, you can still use XPath, but you won't have access to the normal and advised attributes like CSS selector, class name, or link text.

Numerous tools include built-in UI inspectors that can provide locators; for Windows programs, you can use either the legacy application inspect or Microsoft's accessibility insights. Similar utilities are also available for Linux and Mac.

You could utilize custom attributes if the developers are on board. The testers will benefit greatly from this while creating the locators for the UI elements. After all, having a trustworthy testing procedure serves to uphold the general quality of the product, which is in everyone's best interests.

3 Complex case studies

Comparatively speaking, UI automation works with larger test scenarios than unit or integration testing. especially if end-to-end testing is being conducted as well (which is frequently the case).

Desktop programs are typically more complicated in and of themselves. Consequently, the test scenarios and instances for automation will also be more complicated. For desktop programs, this implies that putting the tests into practice may be more difficult.

Select the tests you want to automate carefully and don't be afraid to rely on unit and integration testing as well. If something can be tested through the UI but can also be automated at a lower level, don't repeat the test scenario by doing so.

4 - Setup and breakdown

The setup, also known as the test preconditions, and the teardown are two crucial components of automated testing. When it comes to automating testing for a desktop application, they can also provide a hurdle.

A Selenium test automation project's setup and takedown consist of opening and closing the browser, respectively. They can also involve other stages, but these two are a given. The browser is always in a clean condition when a new test begins; there are no cookies, no cache, no people logged in, etc.

A desktop application must be restarted in order to be in a clean state. Numerous "residual" files could be produced by a desktop application. These could be things like license and registration files or registry entries. Of course, getting rid of them isn't hard, but doing so involves a little extra effort and shouldn't be overlooked when dismantling the tests.

5 - Parallel operation

This might be a challenging element as well. Desktop apps require many instances of the app to be open at once, unlike online test automation where numerous browsers can be used. Multiple instances with distinct configurations, such as various license kinds or users, are typically not possible.

The fact that some automation tools that interface with the apps have to use the mouse or keyboard in real life rather than just simulating the motions through the browser adds another layer of complexity. As a result, you can only interact with one instance at once, which can significantly lengthen the time it takes to run the test.

The answer? Every instance of the application can be used on a different computer. This obviously entails making a significant infrastructure investment, setting up a number of machines (real or virtual), and installing the software on each one. This brings us to our final point.

6 Installation

A desktop app often has to be installed by the user. Desktop apps have an installer that must be executed on the user's computer, as opposed to web apps, which are installed on a server by the developer or DevOps team.

To ensure everything functions properly, test the installation (either from scratch or after updates). Perhaps you should think about checking the uninstall procedure as well.

Additionally, you must automate the installation procedure if you are running the tests in a CI/CD environment. This is due to the fact that the tests must run on the proper application build, which must be present on each system where the tests are being executed.


Although test automation for desktop apps can present a variety of difficulties, with the right plan in place and careful planning, we can overcome all of them. If you are beginning a desktop app testing project, this post outlined some of the most typical ones you can anticipate.

Challenges in Test Automation for Desktop Applications can be effectively addressed through Selenium online training, a comprehensive Selenium certification course, or a Selenium automation course. These programs provide beginners with a detailed Selenium tutorial, offering essential skills and knowledge for successful test automation in desktop applications. Selenium, a powerful open-source tool, is a key component in the automation testing landscape, but it comes with unique challenges such as handling different desktop environments, complex UI interactions, and ensuring test stability. Enrolling in a Selenium online training program equips individuals with the expertise needed to overcome these obstacles, making them proficient in desktop application test automation.

GroTechMinds offers a comprehensive Selenium certification course, ideal for beginners and professionals. Our Selenium course provides hands-on experience with real-time projects guided by industry experts, ensuring practical skills development in automation testing. With flexible online training, you can learn at your convenience. Kickstart your career with GroTechMinds' Selenium automation course today.

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