Browser Automation With Fake


Fake is a new Mac (s aapl) browser automation tool. While it’s probably most useful for developers who need to run tests of websites, it’s surprisingly easy to use, which makes it suitable for anyone who’d like to automate tedious or repetitive browser tasks.

Fire up Fake and you’re presented with two windows: a browser window, which looks pretty much like a regular Safari window with the addition of a sidebar, and an “Action Library” window (on the right of the screenshot above), which contains all of the tasks you can automate using the app.

The browser window works just as you would expect — you can load web pages, click links, submit forms. The interesting bit is the automation. To automate a task, you just drag actions from the Action Library and place them sequentially in the sidebar. There’s a huge array of things that you can get it to do, from fairly basic actions like loading a particular web page, opening new tabs and taking a screenshot of the page, to more complex stuff like filling out forms and executing JavaScript.

As you drag actions to the sidebar, you’ll see that — depending on the action — you’ll need to fill out certain values. For example, when opening a web page, you’ll need to provide the URL that you’d like to load, and when filling out forms, you’ll need to tell it what field to fill out and what values you’d like to insert.

The sequence of actions can be reordered just by dragging and dropping them in the sidebar, and you can remove actions by deleting them.

Once you’re happy with your sequence, hitting the play button at the top of the sidebar sets Fake in motion.  It runs through your actions in sequence. You can watch its progress in the browser window if you like, or leave it and get on with other things — it plays a ping sound so that you know when it’s done. It allows you to save sequences of actions that you’d like to reuse.

Fake does have some pretty powerful features — you can set up loops and run AppleScript, for example — some of which are probably too complex for non-developers to figure out. But if all you need to do is automate loading up a page, filling out a form or two and perhaps taking a screenshot of the result, its drag-and-drop interface should make it easy enough to use for almost anyone. The sequence shown above took no time at all to put together, for example, and gets Fake to load up the WebWorkerDaily site and take three screenshots, each 60 seconds apart.

Here’s a short demo video showing Fake in action:

Fake 0.2’s currently free to download. However, the site does note that it is a time-limited demo that will expire on August 1. I’m presuming that when it reaches version 1.0, it will become a paid app. As Fake’s not yet finalized there may still be some gremlins to iron out, and it is missing documentation, although the interface is so well-designed you shouldn’t really need it.

What do you use for browser automation?

(via Daring Fireball)

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): What Does the Future Hold For Browsers?


Qasim Virjee

This is interesting Simon – thanks for posting about Fake; at first glance I could see it being a useful tool for somewhat automatic client meetings – turning the web itself into a presentation tool and thus eliminating the need for Keynote in many situations.

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