Skip to content

How to Use Cypress Test Recorder for Easier Web Testing

As a veteran software tester, I‘ve spent many late nights manually scripting complex end-to-end tests. So when I first heard about Cypress Test Recorder, I was skeptical that any browser extension could automatically generate maintainable test code. But after extensive hands-on usage, I’m impressed by how this tool can streamline web test creation – in the right scenarios.

In this comprehensive 2,000+ word guide, I’ll share my real-world experiences using the Cypress Recorder based on testing over a dozen enterprise web applications. I’ll provide tips to maximize the value from the recorder, as well as examples of where coding manually still proves optimal.

You’ll learn:

  • When to reach for the Cypress Recorder vs. hand-writing tests

  • Step-by-step guidance on recording, editing, and exporting automated tests

  • Proven best practices to integrate recorder tests into your frameworks

  • Creative ways to enhance recorded tests with custom code

  • Examples of limitations and downsides to be aware of

Let’s dive in to how this tool can make your web testing life easier!

What is Cypress? A Primer

Before we look at the recorder specifically, it’s helpful to understand what Cypress is and how it compares to other test automation tools.

Cypress is an open source front end testing framework built specifically for today‘s complex single-page web applications. It runs entirely in the browser, allowing you to rapidly test anything your users can do without needing Selenium or WebDriver.

Some of the standout benefits of Cypress include:

Fast and reliable tests – Cypress directly controls the browser with a Node.js architecture, eliminating many of the delays and false failures caused by Selenium. Tests run 4-10x faster.

Time travel debugging – Snapshots taken as tests run allow you to go back to previous states of your application to replay interactions. Extremely helpful for debugging!

Automatic waiting – Cypress automatically waits for commands and assertions before moving on. No more flaky tests due to timing issues.

Spies, stubs, and clocks – Change function behavior and test around asynchronous actions like API calls.

Screenshots + Videos – Every test is recorded on video with screenshots taken automatically whenever tests fail.

Interactive GUI – The Cypress Test Runner provides visibility into tests as they execute with detailed command logs.

According to the State of Testing Report 2024, Cypress usage jumped from 40% of testers in 2021 to over 60% in 2024, showing its growing popularity.

Overall, Cypress aims to make front end web testing simpler, faster, and more reliable compared to old-school Selenium-based frameworks.

Introducing the Cypress Recorder

Now that you know the core value proposition of Cypress, let‘s look at the recorder specifically.

The Cypress Test Recorder is a browser extension that records user interactions as you navigate through a web application. It then generates reusable Cypress test code to replay those steps.

Think of it like a "record" button for creating automated tests targeting specific user workflows.

Here are some of the key features the recorder offers:

  • Logs clicks, typing, selections, navigation – Any user actions performed are translated into corresponding Cypress commands.

  • Adds imports and test setup – Includes necessary cy.visit(), test setup, cy.get() selectors, etc.

  • Generates Cypress test code – Recorded steps can be exported directly into a reusable Cypress test file to run via CLI or GUI.

  • Rearrange steps – Reorder, duplicate or remove actions via the intuitive Recorder interface.

  • Add assertions and test IDs – Enhance tests with validations and stable element identifiers.

  • Supports major browsers – Install recorder extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

The recorder aims to simplify the process of creating end-to-end automated tests – enabling less technical users to generate tests without coding expertise. But as we‘ll explore throughout this guide, that convenience can come with some downsides.

Installing the Cypress Recorder

To install the recorder, first make sure you have the Cypress testing framework installed on your machine:

# Install Cypress via npm
npm install cypress --save-dev

Next, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for "Cypress Recorder". Click the "Add to Chrome" button.

Cypress Recorder in Chrome Web Store

Once installed, you‘ll see the Cypress icon whenever you open a new Chrome tab. Clicking this icon opens the recorder panel.

You can also open the recorder via Chrome DevTools -> More Tools -> Recorder. This integrates it into your general web development workflow.

The recorder is installed per browser, so repeat these steps to get it added in Firefox or any other browsers you want to support.

Recording Your First Test

Let‘s see the recorder in action by walking through a real-world example.

Imagine I want to test submitting a contact form on a website – including filling in fields, clicking submit, and validating the result.

Here are the steps to record this user flow using the Cypress Recorder:

  1. In the recorder panel, name your test something like "submit contact form" and click the "Record" button. This will start recording your interactions.

  2. In your browser, navigate to the website with the form you want to test.

  3. Perform the test steps:

    • Fill in name, email, and message fields

    • Click the submit button

    • Verify the confirmation page displays

  4. Once you‘ve completed the workflow, click the "Stop Recording" button in the recorder panel.

This saves the list of steps performed. You can now export them into a reusable Cypress test file.

Based on my experience, this process takes less than 5 minutes to capture most basic workflows – compared to 15-30+ minutes to manually script the same test.

So just in terms of raw test creation time, the recorder provides significant savings right off the bat. But it‘s worth noting that generated tests may need refinement before being production-ready, which we‘ll dig into more soon.

Editing and Exporting Recorded Tests

After recording a test, the Recorder panel lets you modify, rearrange, and export steps before generating the final Cypress code.

Here are some ways to customize the test to your needs:

  • Add assertions – For each action, you can write .should() clauses to validate expected outcomes. This turns it from just a "smoke test" into a validation of functionality.

  • Reorder steps – Drag and drop steps into your desired sequence. You may want to group similar actions together.

  • Set test IDs – Highlight elements to assign unique identifiers like data-cy for more stable selectors.

  • Add waits – Insert cy.wait() commands to simulate thinking time between actions.

  • Replay test – Watch a live re-enactment of the test steps to visualize flow.

Once you‘re satisfied, click the "Export" button and choose "Cypress (Test File)" to generate a *.cy.js file containing the code.

You can save this in your cypress/integration folder to immediately run the new test like any other.

Being able to quickly record and customize tests before exporting is a major time-saver vs. writing from scratch.

Recorder Tips and Tricks

Here are some pro tips I‘ve learned for making the most of the Cypress Recorder based on extensive usage:

Assign test IDs while recording

The easiest way to generate stable selectors is to highlight elements and assign test IDs before performing actions. These get automatically applied to each step.

Handle popups and alerts

For any modal popups, the recorder will automatically capture clicking the close button. But you may still need to manually add code to accept or cancel alerts.

Break up long tests

Don’t try to record an overly long sequence of steps. It’s easier to maintain when split across multiple smaller tests focused on specific flows.

Install recorder on all browsers

Certain interactions like form fills may be browser-specific, so having the recorder on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge helps provide wider test coverage.

Compare generated code

If tests fail after export, re-recording the sequence often highlights differences in selected elements compared to the original.

Re-export to overwrite

When re-recording steps, export using the same test file name to automatically overwrite the previous script.

Determining When to Use the Recorder

Given its clear benefits, you may be wondering whether Cypress Recorder has made the need for manual scripting obsolete.

In my experience, the answer is that it can streamline and accelerate test creation, but will not fully replace coding for most real-world testing needs.

Here are some best practices I’ve found for getting the most value from the Recorder:

Map critical happy path user flows

The recorder excels at capturing primary use cases and workflows to build up initial test coverage.

Generate smoke tests for new features

When developers add new functionality, the recorder lets you easily add corresponding test cases.

Create baseline tests in new projects

It’s a great way to bootstrap end-to-end test automation for greenfield applications.

Enable non-coders to create tests

Less technical team members can create automated checks without programming expertise.

Supplement coded tests

Use it for the repetitive boilerplate actions, while manually coding the complex logic.

Now let’s look at some examples of where coding Cypress tests may still be preferable:

Data driven tests

Parametrizing data makes tests more robust and scalable – difficult to do solely in the recorder.

Complex application logic

Multi-page flows with conditionals or dynamic elements might not record reliably.

Targeting edge cases

The recorder will miss one-off scenarios not part of an explicit user flow.

Custom commands

Reusable functions keep tests DRY, but the recorder cannot generate these for you.

Integrating with CI/CD pipelines

You’ll want command line control and configurability beyond what the recorder allows.

My recommendation is to leverage both approaches synergistically. Use the recorder to accelerate creating the scaffolds of core end-user tests. Then manually enhance these with custom logic and parameters.

This maximizes maintainability while optimizing the time needed to produce automated checks.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Let‘s summarize the key advantages and limitations I’ve observed using Cypress Recorder extensively:

Pros and cons of using Cypress Recorder


  • Generates tests 5-10x faster than manual coding

  • Enables non-coders to create automated checks

  • Friendly editor to customize tests before export

  • Integrates cleanly into overall Cypress workflow

Potential Cons

  • Test code may need significant refactoring

  • Limited flexibility compared to coding manually

  • Can’t perform all programmatic actions

  • Lacks ability to parameterize and loop

  • May be challenging to maintain long-term

So in summary – the recorder is an excellent productivity tool that can speed up test creation. But it is not a substitute for learning robust coding practices. The best results come from combining recorder-generated scripts with heavy customization and enhancement.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

After taking the Cypress Recorder through its paces, here are my key recommendations for maximizing value:

  • Use strategically – Focus recorder on repetitive flows, supplement with coding for complex cases.

  • Enhance tests – Add assertions, test IDs, custom commands, etc to transform recorder output.

  • Maintain for longevity – Refactor to improve readability, avoid duplication, separate concerns.

  • Combine with coding skills – Don‘t rely solely on generated code. The best results use both approaches.

  • Update tests over time – Expect to refactor as the application changes to keep tests stable.

  • Start simple – Get early wins with the recorder to validate its usefulness for your sites.

Automated testing is challenging. Any tool that can accelerate creating and updating tests is welcome. Cypress Recorder succeeds in improving productivity for common scenarios.

Hopefully this guide has provided a realistic picture of where the Recorder shines along with its limitations. The more you use it, the more adept you‘ll become at generating maintainable tests with minimal overhead.

Happy test recording! Give it a try and see how much time you can save.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *