10 Free Test Automation Tools: What You Need to Know

If you’re getting into software testing for the first time, or you’re looking to switch from manual to automated testing, a free tool can help you get started without any risk.

Free test automation tools usually fall under three categories:

  • Free tiers of all-in-one solutions.
  • Open-source coding frameworks for automating browsers.
  • Free trials of paid products.

Since free trials typically only last for a couple of weeks and often require a credit card to sign-up, we’ll be covering the other two categories so you can get started without budget approval.

Before you can decide which test automation tool is right for you, you need to assess the immediate and future needs of your team. Otherwise, you’ll end up investing time into adopting a solution that isn’t practical long-term. 

Two main factors to consider are: 

  • The growth trajectory of your team. Are you a one-person team or are you part of a fast-growing startup whose needs might change rapidly? You’ll want to consider how easy and expensive it is to scale your testing up and down with each tool.

  • The skill level of your team. Some tools require programming skills to use, others allow non-technical team members to write, run, and maintain tests. Pay attention to whether you need coding experience to write and maintain the tests in each tool.  

In this post, we’ll compare 10 of the most common free test automation tools. 

Free All-in-One Solutions

  1. Rainforest QA
  2. Katalon Studio

Open-Source Coding Frameworks

  1. Selenium IDE
  2. Appium 
  3. Cypress
  4. OpenTest
  5. Watir
  6. TestProject
  7. QA Wolf
  8. Capybara

Sign up for Rainforest QA to save time and money on test automation — you can run up to five hours of no-code automated tests for free, every month. It’s only $5/hour after that.  

Free All-in-One Solutions

An all-in-one test automation solution will typically include a testing grid (the infrastructure on which you run tests), project management tools, and team collaboration tools. However, not all products offer the same features and benefits. 

Additionally, most all-in-one test automation solutions only offer a free trial — not a completely free tier. In fact, our list only has two all-in-one testing software that offer a free tier: Katalon and our solution, Rainforest QA.

Rainforest QA

Rainforest homepage: Move fast, without breaking things.

All Rainforest QA pricing plans include a built-in “test grid” featuring a wide range of web browsers and operating systems that run on virtual machines in our cloud. Some testing software will charge extra for this feature.

With any of our plans, you’ll also have the ability to:

  • Run multiple tests simultaneously for fast results.
  • Invite as many team members as you need.
  • Write and maintain as many tests as you need. 

In addition to these benefits, our “Essentials” plan lets you run up to five hours of test automation every month — at no cost. This lets you get started without budget approval and without using your own credit card. And if you do need more testing, it’s only $5 per additional hour. 

Most test automation tools will lock you into a predetermined usage plan. This usually means you end up paying for more testing than you need or parts of your application go untested because you can’t get budget approval for an upgrade. With Rainforest QA, you can scale your automation testing up or down as needed while only paying for what you use.

Through our “Pay as You Go” plan, you can access both no-code test automation and crowdsourced manual testing. 

With the click of a button, you can choose to use our worldwide community of QA professionals available on-demand, 24x7, to run tests that can’t be automated or that need subjective feedback. 

Change Run Method: Automation Service + Tester Community, Tester Community, or On-Premise Testers

Here’s a detailed look into what else you get with Rainforest QA:

No-code Test Automation That Anyone Can Use

Most of the tools that call themselves “codeless test automation tools” are actually just an easy way to auto-generate Selenium code. Selenium is known to have many drawbacks when it comes to functional UI testing, but one of the biggest ones is the technical barrier to entry. 

Working with Selenium requires a full set of programming skills, and even the best no-code tools that generate Selenium code eventually require software engineers to step in and set up more complicated tests and troubleshoot any problems.

A QA engineer's salary is one of the most significant hidden costs of all test automation tools other than Rainforest QA. 

Rainforest QA is the only no-code automation testing tool that lets you write and maintain tests without writing a single line of Selenium code. 

Instead of generating Selenium code, Rainforest has its own proprietary automation framework that uses pixel-matching to simulate a real user interacting with the visual layer of the app. 

Users create tests using an intuitive visual editor. 

When creating a test, you choose from preset actions (like “click”, “select”, or “type”) and then capture a screenshot of the element you want to apply the action to with a click-and-drag of the mouse.

As you’re editing the test, you can preview the actions you’ve created to verify that the test will do what you intended.

Because anyone can use Rainforest, non-technical team members can write and maintain tests. This gives you the power to decide whether you want to pay developers to manage UI tests or focus more of their time on building features.

Test Automation That Doesn’t Break with Minor, Behind-the-Scenes Code Changes

Most test automation tools that use Selenium (or JavaScript) to test the application are testing behind-the-scenes code. 

This means they’re testing what the computer thinks the user should be seeing instead of what the user actually sees, and they do this by searching for locators in the underlying code to identify elements and perform actions. The downside of this approach is that the tests can break with even a slight change to the locators during an update — for example, going from “tryfreebutton" to "tryfreebtn2". 

Since Rainforest tests only interact with the visual layer of the app, they won’t break when the underlying code changes but the UI doesn’t.

As we show in the demo above, to test the functionality of our Try for Free button, we take a screenshot of the button. During the test, Rainforest’s automation looks all over the page for pixels that match the screenshot of the button. If those pixels exist anywhere on the page, the test will find them and will be able to keep going, even if the underlying code identifying the button has changed.

A Rainforest test would only fail if the visual appearance of the button changed. For example, if the button was accidentally hidden due to a bug in a recent code push, the test would fail — but in that case, we’d want the test to fail because it would indicate a problem with the UI.

Fix Broken Tests Fast with Video Playback

Rainforest automatically records a video of every test it runs (whether the test passes or fails). 

When a test fails, you can review the video to identify exactly where it failed. This can dramatically speed up the process of reviewing and classifying test failures because it makes it much easier to understand why a test failed.

Rainforest Signup Flow: Element Mismatch

Test Actions Outside of the Browser 

Because Rainforest tests run on virtual machines (including Windows, MacOS, mobile devices), you can design tests that leave the browser and go into other apps.

For example, here’s a video walkthrough of creating a test that saves a file to the desktop from one location, then uploads the file to Google Drive. If you ever need to validate downloads or test file uploads, this is a really useful feature — one that few paid testing tools even offer, let alone free tools. 

A Built-in Library of Data

Rainforest has a built-in library full of auto-generated test data, including randomly-generated emails, passwords, addresses, virtual credit cards, and more. Plus, with virtual email inboxes, you can test emails. 

Some of these features are only included in the paid plans, but they’re easy to add-on when your QA program matures.

Integrate Seamlessly into Your CI/CD Pipeline

The testing process can quickly become a bottleneck unless it’s integrated into your CI/CD pipeline. Rainforest QA offers an API, CLI, and a CircleCI Orb so developers can kick off a suite of Rainforest tests along with their unit tests and integration tests. 

By integrating with tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams, you can get instant notifications for any test failure. If you integrate with Jira, every time you need a bug to be fixed, you can automatically create a ticket for the development team that includes a video recording of the test and relevant HTTP logs. This dramatically reduces the amount of time it takes to sort through and debug failed tests.

With a fully-automated CI/CD pipeline, it’s much easier to achieve your team’s test coverage goals without slowing down development in an agile environment.

Get started with automated testing for free with Rainforest QA’s Essentials plan.

Katalon Studio

Katalon Studio homepage: An all-in-one test automation solution

Katalon Studio is Katalon’s free version of their software intended for individual use. They offer web app, desktop, mobile, and API testing. At this level, the testing capabilities are pretty basic. You can run the test and know whether it failed or not, but you won’t have access to screenshots, recordings, cross-platform support, or suggested fix features.

Built on top of the Selenium and Appium frameworks, Katalon has an easy-to-use interface that helps testers without a programming background create tests with a drag-and-drop manual editor. It also offers tools for more technical users to add custom code with Selenium or JavaScript for advanced test automation scripts. 

One of Katalon’s main selling points is that it has a wider variety of integrations than Selenium and is easier to deploy. It also has some built in tools, but it doesn’t have the fully no-code, visual editing capabilities of Rainforest that allow any non-coder to create and edit tests. 

Open-Source Coding Frameworks

Open-source coding frameworks can allow technical team members with programming skills to write and run tests. Eventually, most teams reach a point where they need to run so many tests that it’s not feasible to run them without additional tools such as a test grid or CI machine. 

Some of these tools are open-source or offer a free version of the service, but most software development teams end up paying for something — either because they outgrow the free options or because the free options won’t integrate with their current tech stack. 

Nonetheless, here are the most popular open-source coding frameworks:

Selenium IDE

Selenium IDE homepage: Open source record and playback test automation for the web

Selenium is the oldest open-source framework for automated testing. Selenium IDE is the open-source record and playback test automation framework. It supports cross-browser testing on Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

A lot of tools use Selenium to write tests or the Selenium WebDriver to connect to foreign programming language libraries (e.g. Ruby, Java, Python, PHP, etc.), so understanding the pros and cons of Selenium could inform your decision about which tool to use. 

Here’s an article that goes into more detail about the benefits and challenges of Selenium.

Appium

Appium homepage: Automation for Apps

Appium is best known for their mobile testing platform that supports iOS, Android and Windows apps, however, they also have free desktop downloads for OSX, Windows, MacOS and Linux. 

Appium supports native, web, and hybrid applications and languages such as Ruby, Java, Python, PHP, C#, and Robot Framework. Plus, it’s very customizable and can be integrated into any development tool (such as Github).

Cypress.io

Cypress.io homepage: The web has evolved. Finally, testing has too.

The Cypress.io test runner is an open-source automation framework geared toward developers using JavaScript. You can create unlimited tests and execute those tests on your own browsers. It’s a popular choice because it provides features that make writing tests in JavaScript much easier and faster. 

Like all open-source frameworks, you can write unlimited tests and run them on your own browser, a testing grid, or a continuous integration tool. However, unlike most open-source tools, Cypress does offer a testing grid that’s built into the platform. 

The free version of this testing grid only allows for 500 test results per month. As an example, let’s say you have 15 smoke tests in your suite (which is a small number for most teams, but big enough for some teams just starting out), and you want to run the full test suite 3 times a day to provide consistent feedback to developers about the quality of their builds. You would need to be able to run 45 tests per day and 900 tests per month. 

In this example, you would need to upgrade to a paid plan to keep up with testing. If you’re willing to pay, Cypress has plans that go up to 10,000 test results per month and include additional services such as flake detection, Jira integrations, email support, additional test result bundles, etc. The number of team members you can add also changes with each tier. The free tier only allows three users and the most expensive tier allows for 40 users.

OpenTest

OpenTest homepage: Spectacular test automation tool for web, mobile, and APIs

While Cypress is geared specifically toward developers, OpenTest is an open-source platform designed to make writing tests in JavaScript accessible to all levels of programmers.

You will need a basic understanding of coding languages and the Document Object Model (DOM), or XPath, to locate the elements you want to interact with, but programmers without much coding experience will be able to write basic tests. For more complex tests, you’ll need to know how to embed additional lines of JavaScript code. 

OpenTest was designed for test execution on nearly any web application, desktop application, mobile device, or API.

Watir

Watir homepage: An open source Ruby library for automating tests

Watir (Web Application Testing In Ruby) is an open-source platform built on Ruby but with a more user-friendly user interface than Selenium. 

While lines of code in Selenium have to be written very specifically for complex test cases, Watir provides more flexibility. For example, if your network is slow, you would need to write additional lines of code in Selenium to allow for load time. Watir automatically waits for the page to load. 

Watir offers integrations for BDD tools (such as Cucumber, RSpec, etc.) but only supports web testing — it doesn’t support mobile apps or API’s. 

TestProject

TestProject homepage: Free Test Automation for All

TestProject is an open-source record-replay tool that allows you to import existing tests from Selenium, but doesn’t include its own test grid. Their test management system allows you to store and edit tests in online or offline mode. 

TestProject also offers Android and iOS mobile application testing. They don’t currently offer many options for integrations or add-ons, however, these may be coming soon.

QA Wolf

QA Wolf homepage: Zero effort QA for startups

QA Wolf is an open-source, low-code tool. As you browse a website, the software records your actions and generates an automated test in Javascript based on those actions. All failed tests get logged for review. 

They offer integrations with Slack, Vercel and Netlify. QA Wolf also provides team collaboration features such as the ability to invite other users to view/edit your testing dashboard. 

Capybara

Capybara homepage: Test your app with Capybara

Capybara is an open-source tool for Selenium, WebKit, or Ruby. It offers a user-friendly DSL (Domain-Specific Language) that can be used to write test steps in plain english. These steps are then executed by the underlying web driver. Although this makes it easier to write test scripts, you still have to use locator IDs to find the element you’re testing in the DOM, and if you’re not careful with the IDs you use, you can end up with very flaky tests. 

A downside of Capybara is they don’t offer community support or tutorials like most open-source tools. Instead, you can sign up for their mailing list and they will periodically send you information about more efficient ways to use the product. 

Rainforest’s Free Test Automation: Get Started without a Credit Card or Budget Approval

Rainforest is a scalable, all-in-one quality assurance solution that’s appropriate for small teams just getting started with an automated testing strategy or QA-mature teams regularly running 500+ automated software tests.

Our free-forever Essentials plan makes software test automation accessible to anyone. This plan has everything you need to get started with automated testing without any hidden costs.

You get up to 5 hours of free testing every month and it's only $5/hr after that. Get started for free.

Related articles

From 3 Weeks to 3 Hours: How Signagelive Sped up Regression Testing by Switching to Automation

Learn how Signagelive built 500 tests in record time and dramatically sped up development cycles with automated tests.

Automated UI Testing: Stop Using Code to Test Code

Testing the visual layer of your app is more reliable than testing the underlying code, especially for automated UI testing.

A Practical Guide to Automated Testing Strategy: Benefits, Best Practices, and More

Follow these 5 steps to create an automated testing strategy that answers the who, what, when, why, and how of software test automation.

Manual vs. Automated Testing: A Practical Guide

With this practical guide, understand the difference between manual vs automated testing and when to use each method.