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XPath in Selenium – The Most Complete Guide [2021 Update]

XPath in Selenium – The Most Complete Guide [2021 Update]

Last Updated on May 13, 2021 by Onur Baskirt

XPath in Selenium tactics will help you how to write dynamic XPath in Selenium Webdriver projects. Generally, test automation engineers struggle to write dynamic XPath at the beginning of their test automation journeys. To address this pain, I prepared this tutorial for writing effective XPath in Selenium. Let’s start to learn all tricks in this XPath tutorial. 

I shared all my tactics such as XPath contains text, sibling, ancestor, childpreceding, descendant, parent, and so on. I hope this article will help you to write smart and non-brittle selenium find by statements in your projects. Let’s start!

How to Write Dynamic XPath in Selenium Projects for Web Elements

In our test automation codes, we generally prefer to use id, name, class, etc. these kinds of locators. However, sometimes we could not find any of them in the DOM, and also sometimes locators of some elements change dynamically in the DOM. In these kinds of situations, we need to use dynamic XPath locators. These locators must be capable to locate complex and dynamically changing web elements. In the below sections, I will share with you 15 Tactics to Write Effective XPath Locators.

XPath in Selenium Locators

We can find the location of any element on a web page using XML path expressions. The basic syntax for XPath is shown below:

Syntax = //tagname[@attribute=’Value‘]

Example = //input[@id=’user-message‘]

XPath in Selenium – The Most Complete Guide [2021 Update]

You can also use class, name, link text, and the other attributes to locate an element with XPath as shown above.

Absolute and Relative XPath

Generally, in some test automation engineer interviews, I asked the difference between absolute and relative XPath. Actually, it is the answer is very easy.

Absolute XPath

  • It is a direct way to locate an element.
  • It is very brittle.
  • Starts with single slash “/” that means starting to search from the root.

Example: /html/body/div[2]/div/div[2]/div[1]/div[2]/form/div/input

xpath in selenium

Relative XPath

  • Starts from the middle of the HTML DOM.
  • Starts with a double slash “//” that means it can start to search anywhere in the DOM structure.
  • Shorter than Absolute XPath.
  • Less fragile.

Example: //div[@class=’form-group’]//input[@id=’user-message’]

dynamic xpath

Example: //*[@class=’panel-body’]//li[contains(text(),’entered in input field’)]

xpath contains

Writing Smart XPaths for Complex and Dynamic Elements

Tag – Attribute – Value Trio

Syntax: //tag[@attribute=’value‘]

Example: //input[@id, ‘user-message’]

dynamic xpath in selenium


//input[@type='send text']



--> "*" means, search "swtestacademy" class for all tags.




It is a very handy XPath Selenium locator and sometimes it saves the life of a test automation engineer. When an attribute of an element is dynamic, then you can use contains() for the constant part of the web element but also you can use contains() in any condition when you need.

Syntax: //tag[contains(@attribute, ‘value‘)]

Example: //input[contains(@id, ‘er-messa’)]

text contains


--> It searches "btnClk" for all name attributes in the DOM.

--> It searches the text "here" in the DOM.

--> It searches "swtestacademy.com" link in the DOM.


This method checks the starting text of an attribute. It is very handy to use when the attribute value changes dynamically but also you can use this method for non-changing attribute values.

Syntax: //tag[starts-with(@attribute, ‘value‘)]

Example: //input[starts-with(@id, ‘user’)]

selenium java effective locators

Chained Declarations

We can chain multiple relative XPath declarations with “//” double slash to find an element location as shown below.

Example: //div[@class=’form-group’]//input[@id=’user-message’]

dynamic selectors in selenium webdriver

Operator “or”

In this method, we use two interrogation conditions such as A and B and return a result-set as shown below:

A B Result
False False No Element
True False Returns A
False True Returns B
True True Returns Both

“or” is case-sensitive, you should not use a capital “OR”.

Syntax: //tag[XPath Statement-1 or XPath Statement-2]

Example: //*[@id=’user-message’ or @class=’form-control’]

selenium find element by

Operator “and” 

In this method, we use two interrogation conditions such as A and B and return a result-set as shown below:

A B Result
False False No Element
True False No Element
False True No Element
True True Returns Both

“and” is case-sensitive, you should not use capital “AND”.

Syntax: //tag[XPath Statement-1 and XPath Statement-2]

Example: //*[@id=’user-message’ and @class=’form-control’]

how to write xpath in selenium


We can find an element with its exact text.

Syntax: //tag[text()=’text value‘]

Example: .//label[text()=’Enter message’]

how to use locators


It finds the element before the ancestor statement and sets it as a top node and then starts to find the elements in that node. In the below example,

1- First, it finds the class whose id is “container-fluid”

2- Then, starts to find div elements in that node.

Example: //*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div

test automation locators

You can select specific div groups by changing div depths as shown below.

.//*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div[1] – Returns 13 nodes
.//*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div[2] – Returns 7 nodes
.//*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div[3] – Returns 5 nodes
.//*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div[4] – Returns 3 nodes
.//*[@class=’container-fluid’]//ancestor::div[5] – Returns 1 node


Starts to locate elements after the given parent node. It finds the element before the following statement and set it as the top node and then starts to find all elements after that node. In the below example,

1- First, it finds the form which id is “gettotal”

2- Then, starts to find all input elements after that node.


how to write effective xpath locators


Selects all children elements of the current node.

Example: //nav[@class=’fusion-main-menu’]//ul[@id=’menu-main’]/child::li


You can also select the required “li” element by using li[1], li[2], li[3], etc. syntax as shown below.

xpath examples


Select all nodes that come before the current node. I give an example on swtestacademy. We will find all “li” elements in the homepage. First, we will locate the bottom element, then use preceding with “li” to find all “li” elements as shown below.


Also, you can use [1], [2], etc. to select a specific element in the preceding element list.


Select the following siblings of the context node.

Example: //*[@class=’col-md-6 text-left’]/child::div[2]//*[@class=’panel-body’]//following-sibling::li

xpath syntax selenium


Identifies and returns all the element descendants to the current element which means traverse down under the current element’s node. Below, the XPath returns all “li” elements under the “menu-main”.




Returns the parent of the current node as shown in the below example.

Example: .//*[@id=’get-input’]/button//parent::form


Locate an Element inside Array of Elements

On the Trivago website, let’s search the “Antalya” keyword. Then, find the first Odamax hotel with XPath.

First, we can find all Odamax hotels by using its text with below XPath:


contains text

Above XPath returns many Odamax hotel’s, we can select the first one with below XPath expression:


contains text in selenium

You can also continue to search and find the related hotel’s price element with below XPath:


element find by

Also, you can learn how to write effective Selenium CSS locators in the below article.

Selenium CSS Selector Complete Reference – All Tactics Explained!

I also suggest saving and always use the below reference.


See you!

The post XPath in Selenium – The Most Complete Guide [2021 Update] appeared first on Software Test Academy.

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