Web Interaction Automation: The Task that Keeps on Giving

by Donna Horton, in Screen Scraping, posted 3/16/16
image for article

 Do these steps look familiar?

  1. Launch the Web Application.
  2. Enter Username in the Username Box.
  3. Enter Password in the Password Box.
  4. Click the Sign In Button.
  5. Navigate to the Reports section.
  6. Enter the current date in the Date Field.
  7. Wait for results of all reports to display.
  8. Repeat the following sub-steps for each reports:
    • Click on the link of the report.
    • Save the report to the network folder.
  9. Log off from the website.

While doing this for one report can only take about 10 minutes, what happens if you have to do this weekly, daily or even hourly?  That can take up more than an hour of your day just working with a website or web application. With the Internet being an essential part of any business, being able to automate web site interaction is vital.  Automation can handle important yet routine tasks like the above scenario, and free up your time spent on these tedious processes to concentrate on other, more important projects.  

  • Do you work for a real estate company that needs to download/update current listings? Automate it.
  • Or, do you work for a hospital that needs to generate lab results in a timely manner? Automate it.
  • Or, are you in charge of you company’s fantasy baseball league and need to keep up-to-date stats on each player’s batting average, RBIs or ERA?  Automate it.

But how exactly do we automate the clicking of a button or typing of a username on a web page?  Traditionally, it seems coding, like the example below, is the only solution:

VB.Net scriptThis is a VB.NET script to automate just signing into Gmail.  It doesn’t look too complex, but it sure is not simple, especially if it means we have to refresh our memory or completely educate ourselves on syntax and coding.  But there is a simpler way to automate web activities.  So don’t give up just yet, because AutoMate’s Web Browser action is here to help.

 AutoMate’s Web Browser Action

Before we go into the details of AutoMate’s Web Browser action, let’s look at AutoMate’s take on the automation of Gmail login:

Gmail in AutoMate

All we need are these four steps and less than five minutes to complete an AutoMate task to login to Gmail.  The steps are displayed in clear English and everything is done via drag and drop, so no programming background is needed.  For those who are concerned with password security, notice that you also have an option to either disguise the password like we have here at Step 3 or password protect your entire AutoMate task.

AutoMate’s Web Browser action is designed to support the common web browsers like Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Mozilla Firefox, as well as to handle different types of website interactions.  AutoMate offers a comprehensive suite of Web Browser actions to automate any web activities from simply clicking a button to extracting data from a table on a web page:

Web Browser Activity

Description

Click

Clicks a particular control in an established web browser session.

Close

Closes a web browser and ends a session created by the Open Web Browser activity.

Extract Source

Extracts an HTML source and places the result in a variable.

Extract Table

Extracts the contents of a given table in an established session.

Get Value

Gets the value of a given element in an established web browser session.

Open

Opens a web browser and establishes a session to associate other web browser activities.

Set Value

Sets the specified value onto an element in an established web browser session.

Navigate

Navigates to a specific page URL that's currently open.

Wait

Waits until the browser is ready for input before continuing to the next step.

Unlike the traditional method of identifying a button using the x-y coordinates, AutoMate’s Web Browser action accesses the HTML elements on a web page.  It evaluates or dissects a web page to distinguish each element by a unique identifier.  (An element can be anything on a web page: a button, a text box, a link, a table…etc.) That means, a user automating web interactions does not need to worry about the variation of window size or resolution, the AutoMate tasks will always find the specified button to click by that unique identifier.

The AutoMate Solution

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, AutoMate comes with more than 625 pre-built actions, so automation does not need to stop with our preset Web Interaction actions.  Like the scenario below, you can quickly extract data from an HTML table, populate an Excel spreadsheet and upload the information to a FTP site.  And all of this can be automated in just a few clicks. See our related blog on how to automate web data scraping.    

Web Interaction

AutoMate is an automation platform that expands automation across all areas of your business.  An IT manager might have been commissioned to make the above task just for the finance department, but with a few tweaks, the same processes can gather data for marketing, sales or even human resources.   It’s the task that keeps on giving.  As we always emphasize, “no code, no limit” automation can happen to virtually any business and IT processes with AutoMate. 

We will look at other automation ideas next time.  Until then, happy automating!