Mink at a Glance

There’s a huge number of browser emulators out there, like Goutte, Selenium, Sahi and others. They all do the same job, but do it very differently. They behave differently and have very different API’s. But, what’s more important, there are actually 2 completely different types of browser emulators out there:

  • Headless browser emulators
  • Browser controllers

The first type of browser emulators are simple pure HTTP specification implementations, like Goutte. Those browser emulators send real HTTP requests against an application and parse the response content. They are very simple to run and configure, because this type of emulator can be written in any available programming language and can be run through the console on servers without a GUI. Headless emulators have both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages are simplicity, speed and ability to run without the need of a real browser. But this type of browser emulator has one big disadvantage, it has no JS/AJAX support. So, you can’t test your rich GUI web applications with headless browsers.

The second type of browser emulators are browser controllers. Those emulators aim to control the real browser. That’s right, a program to control another program. Browser controllers simulate user interactions on the browser and are able to retrieve actual information from the current browser page. Selenium and Sahi are the two most famous browser controllers. The main advantage of using browser controllers is the support for JS/AJAX interactions on the page. The disadvantage is that such browser emulators require an installed browser, extra configuration and are usually much slower than headless counterparts.

So, the easy answer is to choose the best emulator for your project and use its API for testing. But as we’ve already seen, both browser emulator types have advantages and disadvantages. If you choose a headless browser emulator, you will not be able to test your JS/AJAX pages. And if you choose a browser controller, your overall test suite will become very slow at some point. So, in the real world we should use both! And that’s why you need Mink.

Mink removes API differences between different browser emulators providing different drivers (read in Drivers chapter) for every browser emulator and providing you with an easy way to control the browser (Controlling the Browser), traverse pages (Traversing Pages), manipulate page elements (Manipulating Pages) or interact with them (Interacting with Pages).