Have you ever found yourself frantically clicking and scrolling through a website, trying to complete the checkout before the clock runs out? Or perhaps you've spent hours manually filling out unretractable forms, only to realize that you made a mistake in the very first field.
These types of tedious, repetitive tasks can be a major drain on your time and productivity.
That's where browser automation comes in.
With the help of browser automation tools, you can write simple scripts or build workflows to do the clicking and typing for you, freeing you up to focus on more important work. Many such tools offer low or even no-code platforms to set up your automations, making them useful to developers and non-developers alike.
In this blog, we'll explore why browser automation is a godsend for productivity and how it can help you work smarter, not harder.
What is browser automation?
In simple terms, browser automation refers to the use of a software program (or bot) to perform repetitive or complex tasks on your web browser.
This can be useful for automating tasks that are time-consuming or prone to human error, or for performing tasks that would be difficult or impossible for a person to do manually.
Which tasks can you automate on the browser?
There’s virtually (pun intended) no limit to the number or type of tasks that you can automate on the browser. From creating & scheduling social media posts to sending out emails from your mail client, browser automation apps can let you do it all.
But you can unlock the maximum efficiency by automating mundane and repetitive tasks that you perform on a daily basis, such as entering data into spreadsheets, sending templated cold emails, performing website testing etc.
Here are ten examples of the most common tasks that you can delegate to your browser automation assistant:
- Filling out forms: Intelligent browser automation tools can learn from your behavior on the browser and autocomplete online forms for you without you needing to fill them in from scratch every time.
- Clicking links: You can use browser automation to say goodbye to manually clicking on links to navigate to different pages on a website. There are dedicated tools that can generate scripts or record your screen and mimic a sequence of clicks that you perform for every day, such as logging into your Twitter account, navigating to the feed, clicking in the compose window, and hitting Tweet.
- Extracting data from websites and transferring it between apps: Want to automate the tedious process of extracting data from websites and storing it in a structured format? Or feed your product usage data into your email or chat tool? Browser automation has got you covered!
- Typing the same things repeatedly: Some browser automation tools such as OSlash let you create shortcuts for your frequently typed text and auto-type it for you on cue to save you time.
- Capturing screenshots: You can set up a browser automation sequence to take screenshots of web-pages when triggered, or at specific intervals.
- Testing web applications: Automate the process of testing web applications by simulating user actions and verifying the application's behavior.
- Web scraping: Browser automation tools can also help extract data almost instantaneously from websites by parsing HTML or XML.
- Sending emails: Even though email clients have built-in functionalities for scheduling and sending emails automatically, browser automation can simplify the process further by automating logging into your mail client, composing a new message, adding the signature etc.
- Uploading and downloading files: If you frequently need to upload or download files, browser automation can make this process faster and more efficient.
- Generating reports: Browser automation tools can mimic your actions on various applications, such as your social media platforms, website analytics tools, SEO platforms etc. to auto-fill parameters and generate reports periodically.
Recommended reading: The top 8 tasks you can automate at work to boost revenue & productivity
Of course there are dedicated tools that can help you do all this and more without breaking a sweat. We’ll give you a lowdown on the top browser automation tools as well as quick tips to select them the right way.
Features to look for while choosing a browser automation tool
There are many factors to consider when choosing a browser automation tool, and the specific features that are most important will depend on your needs and goals.
Here are some common features that you might want to consider when selecting a browser automation tool:
- Platform support: Make sure the tool is compatible with your operating system and the web browsers you want to use.
- Programming language support: Consider whether the tool supports the programming languages you are familiar with or prefer to use.
- Ease of use: Look for a tool that is easy to learn and use, especially if you are new to browser automation.
- Documentation and community support: Good documentation and a supportive community can be helpful when you are getting started with a new tool.
- Customization and flexibility: Consider whether the tool allows you to customize and configure it to suit your needs.
- Scalability: If you plan to use the tool for large-scale tasks, you may want to consider whether it is able to handle the volume of work.
- Performance: Make sure the tool is fast and efficient, especially if you are using it to automate time-sensitive tasks.
- Security: Look for a tool that has security measures in place to protect your data and prevent unauthorized access.
- Pricing: Consider the cost of the tool, as well as any licensing fees or other costs that may be involved.
Keeping this handy checklist in mind, let’s go shopping for the best browser automation tools!
10 best browser automation tools to try in 2023—Free and paid
There are many tools available for browser automation, ranging from simple libraries that can be used to write scripts in programming languages such as Python or Java, to standalone applications with graphical user interfaces or visual automation capabilities.
Here are the 10 most popular browser automation tools you can consider using in 2023.
Puppeteer is a software library developed by Google that provides a high-level API for controlling Chrome or Chromium over the DevTools Protocol.
Using Puppeteer, you can write code to automate tasks in the browser, such as clicking on buttons, filling out forms, and navigating to different pages. It can also capture a timeline trace of your site to help diagnose performance issues.
It allows you to interact with the browser in a way that is similar to how a user would, making it a useful tool for testing and debugging web applications and Chrome extensions.
- Simple and intuitive API that is easy to learn and use
- Cross-platform tool that runs on Windows, Mac, as well as Linux
- Works only on Chrome or Chromium
- Scripts can be slow to run, especially if they involve a lot of interaction with the browser
- Provides a high-level API, which can make it less flexible than some other browser automation tools that offer a lower-level API. Low-level APIs allow for a better degree of control over application function
Selenium’s tool suite provides one of the most widely known and loved open-source frameworks for automating browsers.
It consists of
- Selenium WebDriver: For automating the browser
- Selenium IDE: A record and playback tool
- Selenium Grid: A parallel testing tool
It is most often used for automating browser testing though its applications extend to almost any action that takes place in a web browser.
- Open source and freely available
- Supports a range of OS including Chrome, Firefox
- Has huge community support along with a large library and extensions
- Steep learning curve
- Selenium scripts can be brittle and prone to breaking when changes are made to the website. This can be a particular problem when testing websites that are frequently updated
- Writing and maintaining Selenium scripts can be time-consuming, especially for large and complex test suites
- Supports only web-based applications and doesn’t support any desktop or mobile based applications
- Limited support for Image testing, like QR code or any image verifications
OSlash is an auto text expander and link management tool designed to eliminate your busywork on the browser. It allows you to create fast, memorable shortcuts to invoke your most-used URLs and snippets instantly everywhere you work. You can create shortcuts that are private and ones that you can share with your entire team or company too.
There’s no need to search, request, or wait for others to send you a link or a piece of text. It automates information discovery as well as repetitive typing for you, saving you (and your team) up to 30 hours a month.
- Works across browsers including Chrome, Edge, Safari, Brave, and Firefox
- Automates repetitive typing across all web-editor-applications
- Automates repetitive typing across functions including sales, support, marketing, recruitment, and others
- Simplifies information discovery across web apps
- Helps navigate to and switch between web pages at lightning speed
- Requires a small learning curve
- Advanced features (such as unlimited snippets and insights) are available only in paid plans
Recommended reading: OSlash Text Expander: Definition, Features, Benefits & Examples
Axiom is a no-code RPA browser automation tool that gives you the freedom to build highly customized bots for performing repetitive actions automatically. You can use it to automate data entry and data scraping on any website as well as any user interface actions such as pointing, clicking, and typing.
You can build as many bots as you need and run them manually, on a schedule, or integrate with Zapier to trigger on external events.
- Two hours of free runtime
- Requires no prior coding knowledge and experience
- Multiple automation templates to help you get started
- RPA automation tools may be easier to set up and use than API tools
- Helpful academy of resources for beginners to learn task automation on a browser
- Limited single runtime limit of 30 minutes in the free plan
- RPA automation tools such as Axiom can usually be slower than API automation tools
It’s a popular tool to collect data and populate spreadsheets automatically as it lets you keep your sheets updated by scheduling flows in the cloud.
- Automate workflows locally as well as on the cloud and avoid bot detection
- Schedule workflows as you wish
- Utilize built-in proxy servers to bypass rate limits and automate at scale
- Just 30 minutes of free automation runs per month
- The paid plans start at $49/month—significantly pricier than most other browser automation software on the market. Each successive tier costs double its predecessor too
Automa lets you automate a host of browser tasks by (literally) connecting the dots (or blocks, in this case). You can build an entire workflow using such building blocks, then proceed to connect them in the sequence you want, beginning from the trigger that executes the workflow.
The website hosts many workflows shared by Automa users which a new user can add in a single click and customize according to their preferences. Some examples include downloading a series of images on Instagram, sending a WhatsApp broadcast to a list of users in a Google Sheet, scrape Twitter followers or following lists etc.
- Automatically create workflows by recording your actions on the browser
- Detailed logs to check the history of your executed workflows or export data scraped/collected
- Collections that can run multiple workflows in sequence
- Lightweight and free open-source extension
- Available only for Chrome and Firefox
- Relatively small community and limited resources around the tool
- Limited conditionals to build complex workflows
UiPath is a software company that specializes in developing tools for automating repetitive tasks, such as data entry, document processing, and web scraping. The company's flagship product is UiPath Studio, a visual drag-and-drop tool that allows users to design automation workflows using pre-built activities, without the need for programming.
The UiPath Studio consists of Studio Web (for browser automation), StudioX (for desktop automation) and Studio (for advanced RPA development)
- No IT dependencies, no installation
- No prior programming knowledge required
- Projects in Studio Web can be passed on to Studio or StudioX for advanced development
- Cross-platform support across Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome
- Automation workflows are dependent on the user interface of the applications being automated. If the interface changes, the automation workflow may need to be updated.
- Commercial product; the cost may be prohibitive for some users or organizations
What sets Bardeen apart from other browser automation tools is that it simplifies the toughest part of automations for you—deciding what to automate. Instead of you telling the tool which tasks to automate, Bardeen uses AI to suggest the perfect automation sequence to optimize your workflow.
- No-code workflow builder
- Runs completely free of cost
- Runs locally in your browser, so your data is always available with you
- Integrates with ~30 apps to make your automated workflows comprehensive and seamless
- Host of pre-built automations and contextual automation suggestions
- No plan for teams, focuses on individual use-cases
Cypress is well-suited for automating end-to-end tests, which test the entire workflow of an application from start to finish. It is often used in combination with unit tests, which test individual parts of an application in isolation, to provide comprehensive test coverage.
- Runs in the same environment as your application, which means that it can access and manipulate the application directly, rather than relying on a separate testing environment. This makes it easier to test complex interactions and find problems in your code
- Built-in debugger, which allows you to pause the test execution and inspect the application state at any point
- Powerful command log, which allows you to see every action taken during a test, which can be helpful for debugging and understanding why a test is failing
- Merges all tests during the test run such that you can’t use variables with the same names in different test files
- Tests can be slower to execute than tests written with other frameworks, because they are running in the same environment as the application and not in a separate testing environment
- Contextual test scenarios that mimic real user interactions and span multiple tabs, multiple origins and multiple users—all in one test
- New browser profiles for each test that ensures test isolation with zero additional costs
- Faster script execution than most other testing frameworks
- Uses desktop browsers instead of real devices to emulate mobile devices and may deliver inconsistent results
That’s quite a lot of tools, phew. And deciding which one is right for you will depend on the factors we’ve already discussed.
Conclusion: Using browser automation tools wisely
It’s clear that browser automation can be useful for a wide variety of purposes. Today, there are automation tools for even the simplest of tasks such as sending connection requests on LinkedIn or getting engagement on your social media posts.
But you’ve to be careful while using them. Excessive, inappropriate, and unethical use of browser automation can result in overloading web servers or violating website terms of service, and even suspension of your app accounts.
Recommended reading: The ultimate guide to everything you must know about task automation
So, no matter which browser automation tool you go for, make sure you use it wisely and cautiously. Here’s hoping they transform your busywork into productive output.