Playwright in CI/CD pipelines

I use Playwright for testing in .NET with Azure DevOps. A CI pipeline performs builds. A CD pipeline deploys product and runs tests.

Playwright expects browser binaries %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\ms-playwright

The documentation says to run bin\Debug\netX\playwright.ps1 install to download them. In my case playwright.ps1 did not exist and test were unable to run. I solved it in my CI pipeline like this.

  - task: PowerShell@2
    displayName: Download Playwright Browsers
    continueOnError: True
      targetType: inline
      script: >-
        cd <directory with the playwright .csproj>
        dotnet build
        dotnet tool install --global Microsoft.Playwright.CLI
        playwright install
  build remaining projects, code analysis etc. etc.
  - task: CopyFiles@2
    displayName: 'Copy Files to: $(build.artifactstagingdirectory)'
      SourceFolder: $(system.defaultworkingdirectory)
      Contents: '**\bin\$(BuildConfiguration)\**'
      TargetFolder: $(build.artifactstagingdirectory)
      CleanTargetFolder: true

This creates the script, downloads the browsers and includes the script into the build artifact for other stages and pipelines.

If your CD pipeline uses different machines or users, you need to run playwright.ps1 install in the CD pipeline before starting tests.

Comparing Playwright to Selenium

Playwright is a library for controlling web browsers similar to Cypress, Nightwatch, Selenium etc etc. Its modern, advanced and fast! Especially compared to Selenium and Selenium Grid from providers such as BrowserStack and SauceLabs.

Playwright supports videos, console and network logs out of the box. Even for headless browsers.

You can work with downloads, browser’s network-stack and console.

It has convenient ways of locating elements and easily combines different locator types into 1 locator. Selenium has ByChained, but is more cumbersome.

It automatically waits for elements to be actionable, while Selenium requires the tester to use constructs like: Wait.Until(ElementIsClickable()).Click()

Playwright does way less DOM access than Selenium. Here’s an somewhat extreme example to show the difference. If you do this in Selenium, then for each row, it will query the DOM to return a WebElement for the checkbox in the row.

var rows = FindElements(By.ClassName("table-row"))
foreach(var row in rows)
   var checkbox = row.FindElement(By.ClassName("checkbox"))

Playwright won’t query the DOM for the checkbox. It returns a new locator (equivalent to Selenium’s By class) derived from the row web element to find that specific check-box.

Runs headless in CI/CD pipelines but still delivers video recordings and logfiles.

Although most tutorials use the default Playwright test runner, its works great with TypeScript and cucumber-js.

Using defineParameterType() with multiple regexes in cucumber-js

In a previous post I showed how to automatically replace parameter values before they get passed to your step definition code.

Now lets say you want that replacing/parsing/transformation for single- and double-quoted string like this in your feature file

When I print "Hello world!"
When I print 'its a beautiful day!'

Well…you’re in luck! The defineParameterType() method allows you to pass an array of regexes. We can use that to support both single- and double quoted strings with the same transformation function.

There’s a big gotcha here though. The the docs say this about the transformation function

A function or method that transforms the match from the regexp. Must have arity 1 if the regexp doesn’t have any capture groups. Otherwise the arity must match the number of capture groups in regexp.

In other words, when you use an array of regexes or if your regex has multiple capture groups, the function must have the same number of parameters as the total number of capture groups of all regexes in the array.

When cucumber calls the function, each parameter contains result from the corresponding capture group in the regex/array. If a regex does not match then cucumber passes an undefined value to the corresponding parameter number of the transform function So you’ll have to check each element if its undefined/null or not before using it.

    regexp: [/'([^']*)'/, /"([^"]*)"/],
    transformer: function (singleQ, doubleQ) {
        return singleQ ? replacePlaceholders(singleQ) : replacePlaceholders(doubleQ)
    name: "a_string_with_replaced_placeholders"

Automatic type conversion of parameters in SpecFlow

In a previous post I showed that SpecFlow can change values of parameters. This mechanism is not just limited to transforming content of string values. It can also convert the literal string in your feature file to some complex object for your step-definition code.

Let say in your feature file you want to write steps like this:

Scenario: MyScenario
    When I print this list 'A,B,C,D'

Then you might be tempted to convert the string 'A,B,C,D' to a list like this

public class MyBindings
    [StepDefinition(@"I print this list '([^']*)'") ]
    public void PrintList(string input)
        var items = input.Split(',')
        foreach(var item in items)

Don’t do this…it causes the same problems as mentioned in the previous post.

Instead SpecFlow’s Step Argument Conversion lets us simplify our step definition code to this:

public class MyBindings
    [StepDefinition(@"I print this list '([^']*)'") ]
    public void PrintList(IEnumerable<string> items) 
        foreach(var item in items)
    public IEnumerable<string> TransformStringToList(string input)
        return input.Split(',');

Automatic parsing of parameters in SpecFlow

Most implementations of cucumber can automatically replace parameter values with some run time value. Let say in your feature file you want to write steps like this:

Scenario: MyScenario
    When I print 'Hello from test case {test}' 
    When I save the value '{test}' to my database

Then you might be tempted to write these bindings (dont do this…keep reading!)

public class MyBindings
    [StepDefinition(@"I print '([^']*)'") ]
    public void PrintMessage(string Message)
        string Name = ....
        Message = Message.Replace("{test}",Name)

    [StepDefinition(@"I save '([^']*)' to my database") ]
    public void SaveToDatabase(string Message)
        string Name = ....
        Message = Message.Replace("{test}",Name)

This way of writing step definitions becomes a real problem as the size of your automation increases:

  1. we have to repeat the same logic in every step definition.
  2. Its easy to forget to repeat that code.
  3. New placeholders need you to find and update all places where this kind of parsing is done.
  4. Its code that’s needed but not relevant for the objective of the step definitions.

Luckily SpecFlow’s Step Argument Conversion helps us! We can simplify our binding code to this:

public class MyBindings
    [StepDefinition(@"I print '([^']*)'") ]
    public void PrintMessage(string Message) => Console.WriteLine(Message);

    [StepDefinition(@"I save '([^']*)' to my database") ]
    public void SaveToDatabase(string Message) => Console.WriteLine(Message);
    public string TransformParsedString(string input)
        string Name = ...
        return input.Replace("{test}",Name);

Other implementations of cucumber also implement this principle. Its frequently referred to using these buzzwords:

  1. Transforms / Transformations
  2. Parsing / Replacing
  3. StepArgumentTransformation

Automatically replacing/transforming input parameters in cucumber-js

Most implementations of cucumber provide a mechanism for changing literal text in the feature file to values or objects your step definition code can use. This is known as step definition or step argument transforms. Here’s how this works in cucumber-js.

Assume we have this scenario:

Scenario: Test
    When I print 'Welcome {myname}'
    And I print 'Today is {todays_date}'

And we have this step-definition.

defineStep("I print {mystring}", async function (this: OurWorld, x: string) {

Notice the use of {mystring} in the Cucumber expression

We can use defineParameterType() to automatically replace all placeholders.

    regexp: /'([^']*)'/,
    transformer: function (s) {
        return s
            .replace('{todays_date}', new Date().toDateString())
            .replace('{myname}', 'Gerben')
    name: "mystring",
    useForSnippets: false

You can even use this to for objects like so:

    name: 'color',
    regexp: /red|blue|yellow/,
    transformer: s => new Color(s)

defineStep("I fill the canvas with the color {color}", async function (this: OurWorld, x: Color) {
    // x is an object of type Color

When I fill the canvas with the color red

How to dump the state of all variables in JMeter

To see the state of the variables and properties at a specific point in the test, you add a Debug sampler. This sampler dumps the information as response data into whatever result listener are configured.

If need the information in your own code to make decisions then you can use the following snippet of JSR223 code in a sampler or post processing rule:

import java.util.Map;
for (Map.Entry entry : vars.entrySet().sort{ a,b ->  a.key <=> b.key }) { entry.getKey() + "  :  " + entry.getValue().toString();
for (Map.Entry entry : props.entrySet().sort{ a,b ->  a.key <=> b.key }) { entry.getKey() + "  :  " + entry.getValue().toString();

Migrating from Visual Studio load tests to JMeter

Microsoft recently announced:

Our cloud-based load testing service will continue to run through March 31st, 2020. Visual Studio 2019 will be the last version of Visual Studio with the web performance and load test capability. Visual Studio 2019 is also the last release for Test Controller and Test Agent

The time has come to find other technologies for load testing. JMeter is one of the alternatives and in this article I show how the various concepts in Visual Studio map to it.

Visual Studio concept JMeter equivalent
Web requests Samplers -> HTTP Request
Headers of web requests Config -> HTTP Header Manager
Validation rules Assertions
Extraction rules Post Processors
Conditions / Decisions / Loops Logic Controllers -> If, Loop and While controllers
Transactions Logic Controllers -> Transaction Controller
Web Test Test Fragment
Call to Web Test Logic Controllers -> Module Controller
Context parameters User Defined Variables along with the syntax ${myvariable} wherever the value of the variable is needed
Data sources Config Element -> CSV Data Set Config
Virtual users, Load patterns and duration See the settings of the Thread Groups
Credentials Config Element -> HTTP Authorization Manager
Web Test Plugins Although its possible to write JAVA plugins, its probably easiest to add a JSR223 Sampler with a snippet of Groovy code inside a Test Fragment or Thread Group
Request plugins Same here, except use a JSR223 Pre- or Post Processor

Free SSL for machines in your private network

If you are running servers in your private network that need SSL, you can use LetsEncrypt and Certbot to automatically obtain and renew certificates for free. Even if your machines are not accessible from the internet.

What you need:

  • A static IP in your internal network for the server, like
  • Own a domain like “” In this post I assume the server is accessed using
  • Certbot’s support for the nameserver of the domain. Even if you purchased your domain at some unupported provider, its usually no cost to change to a supported nameserver. In this post I am using Cloudflare

How to set it all up:

  1. Log in to your Cloudflare account and create an A record for ‘myserver’ with address
  2. Get a global API key from Cloudflare and remember it.
  3. Login to the private server.
  4. Create /root/.secrets/cloudflare.ini and put the following content into it:

    dns_cloudflare_email = "<mailadres of your cloudflare account>"
    dns_cloudflare_api_key = "<the api key you remembered earlier>"

  5. Ensure only root can read the directory and file

    sudo sudo chmod 0700 /root/.secrets/
    sudo chmod 0400 /root/.secrets/cloudflare.ini

  6. Install Certbot and the plugins it needs to talk to Cloudflare. For my environment this boiled down to:

    sudo apt-get install certbot -t stretch-backports
    sudo apt-get install python3-certbot-dns-cloudflare -t stretch-backports

  7. Tell Certbot to obtain a free certificate for

    sudo /usr/bin/certbot certonly \
        --dns-cloudflare \
        --dns-cloudflare-credentials /root/.secrets/cloudflare.ini \
        -d \
        --preferCed-challenges dns-01

  8. Voila! You now have a certificate stored in /etc/letsencrypt/live/

Dealing with renewals:

  1. Certificates from LetsEncrypt have a short expiry time, so we need to renew it before it expires. We don’t want to have to think about doing this, we want this to be automatic. A simple crontab entry solves that.

    14 5    * * *   root    /usr/bin/certbot renew --quiet > /dev/null 2>&1

Doing something with the SSL Certificate:

  1. After Certbot has obtained or renewed a certificate it executes scripts located in /etc/letsencrypt/renewal-hooks/post/
    In my case I am running Ubiquity’s Unifi controller software and use this script to deal with the renewal:

    # Backup previous keystore
    cp /var/lib/unifi/keystore /var/lib/unifi/keystore.backup.$(date +%F_%R)
    # Convert to PKCS12 format
    openssl pkcs12 -export \
        -inkey /etc/letsencrypt/live/${DOMAIN}/privkey.pem \
        -in /etc/letsencrypt/live/${DOMAIN}/fullchain.pem \
        -out /etc/letsencrypt/live/${DOMAIN}/fullchain.p12 \
        -name unifi \
        -password pass:unifi
    # Install certificate
    keytool -importkeystore \
        -deststorepass aircontrolenterprise \
        -destkeypass aircontrolenterprise \
        -destkeystore /var/lib/unifi/keystore \
        -srckeystore /etc/letsencrypt/live/${DOMAIN}/fullchain.p12 \
        -srcstoretype PKCS12 \
        -srcstorepass unifi \
        -alias unifi \
    #Restart UniFi controller
    service unifi restart