Interacting with Elements

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What You’ll Learn

  • How Cypress calculates visibility
  • How Cypress ensures elements are actionable
  • How Cypress deals with animating elements
  • How you can bypass these checks and force events

Actionability

Some commands in Cypress are for interacting with the DOM such as:

These commands simulate a user interacting with your application. Under the hood, Cypress fires the events a browser would fire thus causing your application’s event bindings to fire.

Prior to issuing any of the commands, we check the current state of the DOM and take some actions to ensure the DOM element is “ready” to receive the action.

Cypress will wait for the element to pass all of these checks for the duration of the defaultCommandTimeout (described in depth in the Default Assertions core concept guide).

Checks and Actions Performed

Whenever Cypress cannot interact with an element, it could fail at any of the above steps. You will usually get an error explaining why the element was not found to be actionable.

Visibility

Cypress checks a lot of things to determine an element’s visibility.

The following calculations factor in CSS translations and transforms.

An element is considered hidden if:

  • Its width or height is 0.
  • Its CSS property (or ancestors) is visibility: hidden.
  • Its CSS property (or ancestors) is display: none.
  • Its CSS property is position: fixed and it’s offscreen or covered up.

Additionally an element is considered hidden if:

  • Any of its ancestors hides overflow*
    • AND that ancestor has width or height of 0
    • AND an element between that ancestor and the element is position: absolute
  • Any of its ancestors hides overflow*
    • AND that ancestor or an ancestor between it and that ancestor is its offset parent
    • AND it is positioned outside that ancestor’s bounds
  • Any of its ancestors hides overflow*
    • AND the element is position: relative
    • AND it is positioned outside that ancestor’s bounds

*hides overflow means it has overflow: hidden, overflow-x: hidden, overflow-y : hidden, overflow: scroll, or overflow: auto

Disability

Cypress checks whether an element’s disabled property is true.

We don’t look at whether an element has property readonly (but we probably should). Open an issue if you’d like us to add this.

Animations

Cypress will automatically determine if an element is animating and wait until it stops.

To calculate whether an element is animating we take a sample of the last positions it was at and calculate the element’s slope. You might remember this from 8th grade algebra. 😉

If the element’s slope (the distance between its previous position and its current position) exceeds the animationDistanceThreshold then we consider the element to be animating.

When coming up with this value, we did a few experiments to find a speed that “feels” too fast for a user to interact with. You can always increase or decrease this threshold.

You can also turn off our checks for animations with the configuration option waitForAnimations.

Covering

We also ensure that the element we’re attempting to interact with isn’t covered by a parent element.

For instance, an element could pass all of the previous checks, but a giant dialog could be covering the entire screen making interacting with the element impossible for any real user.

When checking to see if the element is covered we always check its center coordinates.

If a child of the element is covering it - that’s okay. In fact we’ll automatically issue the events we fire to that child.

Imagine you have a button:

<button>
  <i class="fa fa-check">
  <span>Submit</span>
</button>

Oftentimes either the <i> or <span> element is covering the exact coordinate we’re attempting to interact with. In those cases, the event fires on the child. We even note this for you in the Command Log.

Scrolling

Before interacting with an element, we will always scroll it into view (including any of its parent containers). Even if the element was visible without scrolling, we perform the scrolling algorithm in order to reproduce the same behavior every time the command is run.

This scrolling logic only applies to commands that are actionable above. We do not scroll elements into view when using DOM commands such as cy.get() or .find().

The scrolling algorithm works by scrolling the top, leftmost point of the element we issued the command on to the top, leftmost scrollable point of its scrollable container.

After scrolling the element, if we determine that it is still being covered up, we will continue to scroll and “nudge” the page until it becomes visible. This most frequently happens when you have position: fixed or position: sticky navigation elements which are fixed to the top of the page.

Our algorithm should always be able to scroll until the element is not covered.

Coordinates

After we verify the element is actionable, Cypress will then fire all of the appropriate events and corresponding default actions. Usually these events’ coordinates are fired at the center of the element, but most commands enable you to change the position it’s fired to.

cy.get('button').click({ position: 'topLeft' })

The coordinates we fired the event at will generally be available when clicking the command in the Command Log.

event coordinates

Additionally we’ll display a red “hitbox” - which is a dot indicating the coordinates of the event.

hitbox

Debugging

It can be difficult to debug problems when elements are not considered actionable by Cypress.

Although you should see a nice error message, nothing beats visually inspecting and poking at the DOM yourself to understand the reason why.

When you use the Command Log to hover over a command, you’ll notice that we will always scroll the element the command was applied to into view. Please note that this is NOT using the same algorithms that we described above.

In fact we only ever scroll elements into view when actionable commands are running using the above algorithms. We do not scroll elements into view on regular DOM commands like cy.get() or .find().

The reason we scroll an element into view when hovering over a snapshot is just to help you to see which element(s) were found by that corresponding command. It’s a purely visual feature and does not necessarily reflect what your page looked like when the command ran.

In other words, you cannot get a correct visual representation of what Cypress “saw” when looking at a previous snapshot.

The only way for you to easily “see” and debug why Cypress thought an element was not visible is to use a debugger statement.

We recommend placing debugger or using the .debug() command directly BEFORE the action.

Make sure your Developer Tools are open and you can get pretty close to “seeing” the calculations Cypress is performing.

As of 0.20.0, you can also bind to Events that Cypress fires as it’s working with your element. Using a debugger with these events will give you a much lower level view into how Cypress works.

// break on a debugger before the action command
cy.get('button').debug().click()

Forcing

While the above checks are super helpful at finding situations that would prevent your users from interacting with elements - sometimes they can get in the way!

Sometimes it’s not worth trying to “act like a user” to get a robot to do the exact steps a user would to interact with an element.

Imagine you have a nested navigation structure where the user must hover over and move the mouse in a very specific pattern to reach the desired link.

Is this worth trying to replicate when you’re testing?

Maybe not! For these scenarios we give you a simple escape hatch to bypass all of the checks above and just force events to happen!

You can simply pass { force: true } to most action commands.

// force the click and all subsequent events
// to fire even if this element isn't considered 'actionable'
cy.get('button').click({ force: true })
What's the difference?

When you force an event to happen we will:

  • Continue to perform all default actions
  • Forcibly fire the event at the element

We will NOT perform these:

  • Scroll the element into view
  • Ensure it is visible
  • Ensure it is not readonly
  • Ensure it is not disabled
  • Ensure it is not animating
  • Ensure it is not covered
  • Fire the event at a descendent

In summary, { force: true } skips the checks, and it will always fire the event at the desired element.