Daniel - May 18, 2021

What Are The Best Headless Browsers?

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In this post, I will show you the best headless browsers.

As a developer, a headless browser will help you check if the website you’re building will work as it should. Such browsers don’t feature the GUI you find on normal browsers. You simply use them via a command-line interface.

With a headless browser, you can test websites and web applications, test JavaScript libraries, run multiple automated UI tests, and perform JavaScript interactions and simulations amongst others.

Choosing a headless browser to use can get complex considering the options available. Nevertheless, if you want to know what are the best headless browsers, I’ve listed some reliable options below.

What Are The Best Headless Browsers?

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1. Puppeteer

Puppeteer is one of the most popular headless browsers. It’s chromium-based and can also be configured to run in a non-headless mode.

Some of the things you can do with Puppeteer include generating page screenshots and PDFs, automate keyboard input, form submission, and UI testing, capture a timeline trace, and more.

As a chromium-based headless browser, you can use Puppeteer to test several chrome extensions. The tool also works for generating SSR (Single-Page Application) and crawling SPAs (Single-Page Applications).

2. PhantomJS

PhantomJS is a JavaScript-enabled headless browser. It’s a very fast one and it uses QtWebKit at the backend. With PhantomJS, you can work with different web standards including DOM handling, CSS selector, JSON, Canvas, and SVG.

The headless browser will work for tasks like network monitoring, page automation, screen capturing, and website testing. You can install PhantomJS on different operating systems including Windows, macOS, FreeBSD, and Linux. It’s an open-source browser although public development has been suspended.

3. HTMLUnit

This headless browser models HTML documents. With it, you can test websites or scrape data off them. It works with Java programs and has good support for JavaScript.

Notably, HTMLUnit will work with complex AJAX libraries and it can simulate other normal browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Chrome if well configured.

The browser is free to use and open source. It’s a part of several other open-source tools including WebDriver, Spring Testing, JWebUnit, and Celerity.

4. Splash

Splash was developed by Zyte. It’s a headless browser that helps you source data from JavaScript websites. The browser was specifically designed for web scraping and it is very lightweight.

With Splash, you can easily render any JavaScript webpage. It features a dedicated node for rendering and a different one for crawling. This makes the browser very efficient.

Furthermore, Splash works fast as you can process multiple web pages at the same time. It easily integrates with other web scraping tools.

5. Zombie.JS

This headless browser is described as insanely fast and full-stack. It works for testing node.js and is free and open source. Notably, the Zombie.JS headless browser is very lightweight.

It works with different testing frameworks like Mocha. The software is fast because it runs on Google’s V8 JavaScript engine. Zombie.JS also features a third-party module known as JSDOM.

As mentioned earlier, the Zombie.JS headless browser is free. You only need to have node.JS installed to use it.

6. NW.JS

Here we have a chromium-based headless browser for calling node.JS modules. It’s a relatively advanced headless browser as it supports multiple programming languages including HTML5, CSS3, and WebGL.

Notably, NW.JS comes with all the basic features a normal browser would carry. It supports node.JS APIs and other 3rd party modules. Furthermore, the headless browser provides JavaScript source protection.

You can install NW.JS on a Windows, Linux, or Mac OS X computer.

7. Katalon Studio

Katalon Studio is an all-in-one test automation software. It’s one of the best headless browsers for enterprises and it allows you to test not just websites but also software programs.

This headless browser is great for people without coding skills as it features testing extensions that have already been programmed. You can easily integrate the Katalon Studio software into your company systems.

As an advanced web-testing tool for companies, Katalon Studio is premium.

8. Selenium

Selenium is a web driver that allows you to automate browsers in headless mode amongst other functions. Notably, it works for automating web-based administration tasks.

For use as a headless browser, Selenium is very effective. It features an object-oriented API for connecting with other systems which makes it relatively easy. Furthermore, its interface is simple and concise.

Selenium features a host of components and features exclusive web drivers for different browser types – mainly Chrome and Mozilla-based browsers.

9. Jsdom

Jsdom is an open-source headless browsing project on GitHub. It has been developed with all the necessary features for automated testing of websites and software programs.

Additionally, Jsdom parses and interacts with HTML. It’s more of a library than a browser and it’s very easy to use. You just have to feed the instructor with HTML codes for it to parse and then you inspect.

This headless browser runs with NodeJS and also, it comes with a node package manager.

10. SlimerJS

Last here is SlimerJS. With this headless browser, you can interact with web pages using external JavaScript codes. It is a very similar tool to PhantomJS but it runs on Gecko.

SlimmerJS allows you to automate pages, scrape data off websites, take screenshots, monitor networks, and perform various page automation. You can also run SlimerJS in non-headless mode.

Bottom Line

With the many complex user cases, websites have to feature recently, site-building can get complex too. Every developer wants to build a website that offers the best experience, so headless browsers are invaluable. Any of the options discussed in this article can go if you need a headless browser.

Conversely, if you need proxies for your headless browser usage, you should consider getting them from ProxyRack.

Find the perfect Proxy Product.

Proxyrack offers a multiple options to suit most use cases, if you are unsure our 3 Day Trial allows you to test them all.
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