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selenium is low-level tool, so can be complex to use. This vignette gives an overview of the important functions of selenium, and how to use them.

First, let’s create a new session (assuming that you have a server running):

session <- SeleniumSession$new()

First, navigate to the website you want to automate with SeleniumSession$navigate():


Use SeleniumSession$back() and SeleniumSession$forward() to navigate back and forward in the navigation history, and SeleniumSession$refresh() to reload the current page




#> [1] ""


To interact with a webpage, you first need to find the elements you want to interact with. You can do this using SeleniumSession$find_element() and SeleniumSession$find_elements(). Both functions take two arguments: using and value. using specifies the method you want to use to find the element, while value is the string you want to search for.

By default, CSS selectors are used (value = "css selector"), as they provide a simple and concise way to find elements:

  • Use "name" to select an element with the tag name name. (e.g. div).
  • Use "#id" to select an element with the id id.
  • Use ".class" to select an element with the class class.
  • Use square brackets to select elements using other properties. For example, "input[type='text']" selects a text input element.

For more information about using CSS selectors, see:

Another notable way to select elements is using XPaths. XPaths can be slightly more verbose than CSS selectors, but are more powerful. Use using = "xpath" to use XPaths.

  • Use //tagname to select an element with the tag name tagname.
  • Use //tagname[@attribute='value'] to select an element with the tag name tagname and the attribute attribute with the value value.
  • Use //tagname/childtagname (single slash) to select an element that is a direct child of the tagname element. Similarly, /tagname can be used to select an element that is at the top level of the DOM.
  • Use //tagname//childtagname to select an element that is a child of the tagname element, but does not have to be directly below it in the DOM.

To learn more about how to use XPaths, see:

The other values that using can take are fairly self-explanatory (e.g. "tag name") will match elements with the tag name given by value.

Once you have an element, you can locate further sub-elements using WebElement$find_element() and WebElement$find_elements(), which will now select from the element’s children. This is especially useful when a website does not make much use of classes and ids to label its elements uniquely.

For example, the following code will find all the hex images on the Tidyverse home page:

hex_stickers <- session$
  find_element(using = "css selector", value = ".hexBadges")$
  find_elements(using = "css selector", value = "img")

Element properties

Once you have an element, there are many properties that you can request from it.

element <- hex_stickers[[1]]

Use WebElement$get_tag_name() to get the tag name of an element:

#> [1] "img"

Use WebElement$get_text() to get the text inside of an element:

#> [1] ""

WebElement$get_attribute() and WebElement$get_property() will return the value or property of an element (see the documentation for the difference between the two).

#> [1] "/css/images/hex/dplyr.png"

#> [1] ""

WebElement$get_css_value() will return the computed CSS property of an element:

#> [1] "rgba(0, 0, 0, 0)"

Use WebElement$get_rect() to get the coordinates and size of an element:

#> $x
#> [1] 192
#> $y
#> [1] 197.5
#> $width
#> [1] 120
#> $height
#> [1] 139

Use WebElement$is_selected(), WebElement$is_enabled() and WebElement$is_displayed() to check if an element is currently selected, enabled or visible.

#> [1] FALSE

#> [1] TRUE

#> [1] TRUE

Interacting with an element

There are many different ways to interact with an element.

Use WebElement$click() to click on an element:


Use WebElement$send_keys() to send text to an input element:

input <- session$find_element(using = "css selector", value = "input[type='search']")


You can use the keys object to send more advanced key combinations to an element.

For example, the below code selects all the text inside the element (<Ctrl-A>), and then deletes it.

input$send_keys(keys$control, "a", keys$backspace)

However, generally, if you want to clear an input element, use WebElement$clear().


Custom JavaScript

Use SeleniumSession$execute_script() to execute custom JavaScript. Any extra arguments will be passed into the script through the arguments array, and items can be returned explicitly using return. WebElements can also be passed in and returned.

session$execute_script("return arguments[0] + arguments[1];", 2, 2)
#> [1] 4
session$execute_script("return arguments[0].parentElement;", input)
#> <WebElement>
#>   Public:
#>     clear: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     click: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     clone: function (deep = FALSE) 
#>     computed_label: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     computed_role: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     find_element: function (using = c("css selector", "xpath", "tag name", "link text", 
#>     find_elements: function (using = c("css selector", "xpath", "tag name", "link text", 
#>     get_attribute: function (name, request_body = NULL, timeout = 20) 
#>     get_css_value: function (name, request_body = NULL, timeout = 20) 
#>     get_property: function (name, request_body = NULL, timeout = 20) 
#>     get_rect: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     get_tag_name: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     get_text: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     id: 35f58648-e431-496d-8280-a2155b09d793
#>     initialize: function (session_id, req, verbose, id) 
#>     is_displayed: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     is_enabled: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     is_selected: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     screenshot: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     send_keys: function (..., request_body = NULL, timeout = 20) 
#>     shadow_root: function (timeout = 20) 
#>     toJSON: function () 
#>   Private:
#>     req: httr2_request
#>     session_id: 6116f7b8-5106-45d7-b95c-8deac4e45a78
#>     verbose: FALSE

SeleniumSession$execute_async_script() is provided for when you need to interact with an asynchronous JavaScript API, but is much less commonly used.

Windows and Tabs

A SeleniumSession object is not limited to a single window/tab. Use SeleniumSession$new_window() to create a new window or tab, using the type argument to choose between the two:

tab <- session$new_window(type = "tab")

window <- session$new_window(type = "window")

#> $handle
#> [1] "75097dca-4379-4726-b44d-8ac18454f26a"
#> $type
#> [1] "tab"

#> $handle
#> [1] "43be9e6b-4db5-49da-8e40-65edb9a60192"
#> $type
#> [1] "window"

Each window/tab has its own handle: a string that uniquely identifies it. Use SeleniumSession$window_handle() to get the handle of the current window, and SeleniumSession$window_handles() to get the handle of every open window/tab.

current_handle <- session$window_handle()

#> [1] "a8e5bc96-1942-44b1-9f28-5a79ee8ca2eb"

#> [[1]]
#> [1] "a8e5bc96-1942-44b1-9f28-5a79ee8ca2eb"
#> [[2]]
#> [1] "75097dca-4379-4726-b44d-8ac18454f26a"
#> [[3]]
#> [1] "43be9e6b-4db5-49da-8e40-65edb9a60192"

When a new window/tab is created, it is not automatically switched to. Use SeleniumSession$switch_to_window() to switch to a window/tab with a specific handle:


Use SeleniumSession$close_window() to close a window/tab:

#> [[1]]
#> [1] "a8e5bc96-1942-44b1-9f28-5a79ee8ca2eb"
#> [[2]]
#> [1] "75097dca-4379-4726-b44d-8ac18454f26a"

# Switch to an open window

iframes and the Shadow DOM

There are many methods that web developers use to embed self-contained HTML documents or elements into a page.

One of these is an iframe element, allowing a nested browsing context to be embedded into a page. For example, iframes are often used to embed video players into a site. Use SeleniumSession$switch_to_frame() to switch to an frame and select elements within it. You can pass in the index of the frame, or the iframe element itself.


iframe <- session$find_element(using = "css selector", value = "iframe")


Use SeleniumSession$switch_to_parent_frame() to switch to the parent frame of the current one, or use SeleniumSession$switch_to_frame() with no arguments to switch to the top-level browsing context:


The Shadow DOM is another way for websites to embed content into a page, this time into any element. If an element is a shadow root, use WebElement$shadow_root() to get the corresponding ShadowRoot object. You can then find sub-elements within the shadow root using ShadowRoot$find_element() and ShadowRoot$find_elements().

Closing the session

Always remember to close the session after you have finished using it: