Google Analytics


To search for specific articles you can use advanced Google features. Go to and enter "" before your search terms, e.g. CSS selectors

will search for "CSS selectors" but only on my site.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The difference between NotFoundException, NoSuchElementException and StateElementReferenceException

Been a while since I posted something here...

Recently, someone on the WebDriver Google Group asked what the difference between NotFoundException, NoSuchElementException and StateElementReferenceException are. Here is the answer I posted:

The NotFoundException is a super class which includes the subclass NoSuchElementException. The known direct subclasses of NotFoundException are: NoAlertPresentException, NoSuchContextException, NoSuchElementException, NoSuchFrameException and NoSuchWindowException. So if I want one catch statement to catch all five exception and they will all be handled the same way then I can just handle NotFoundException. But if I want to handle any of these five exceptions differently, I can catch the more specific subclass.

The NoSuchElementException is thrown when the element you are attempting to find is not in the DOM. This can happen for three reasons. 

The first is because the element does not exist and never will. To fix this, change your findElement to be correct.

The second is that you need to do something on the page to make the element appear. For example, the user selects Country and javascript populates a City field. If you attempt to look for a city before you select a country, the city you are looking for does not exist and you get a NoSuchElementException. To fix this you have to make sure the steps in your test are correct.

The third is that the element is generated by javascript but WebDriver attempts to find the element before the javascript has created it. The fix for this is to use WebDriverWait to wait for the element to appear (visibility and/or clickable).

StaleElementReferenceException is when you find an element, the DOM gets modified then you reference the WebElement. For example,

WebElement we = driver.findElement(By.cssSelector("#valid"));
// you do something which alters the page or a javascript event alters the page;

A classic example if this might be:

List<WebElement> listOfAnchors = driver.findElements(By.tag("a"));
for(WebElement anchor : listOfAnchors) {;

This code will get all the anchor elements into a list. Lets say there are 5 anchors on the page. The list now has 5 WebElement references. We get the first reference and click it. This take us to a new page. This is a new DOM. We print the title of the new page. Then we use back() to go back to the original page. The DOM looks just like the same DOM but it is a different DOM. So now all the references in the list a stale. On the second iteration, it gets the second reference and clicks it. This will throw a StaleElementReferenceException.

More difficult to debug is:

WebElement we = driver.findElement(...);
// javascript event gets fired by the website;

Sometimes this will throw a StaleElementReferenceException but sometimes the timing will be different and the click will work. I've seen many people have this intermittent problem. They add more code which doesn't fix the problem. The extra code just changes the timing and hides the problem. The problem comes back a few days later. So they add more random code. It looks like they fixed the problem but they just changed the timing. So if you get a StaleElementReferenceException and it is not clear why, it is probably this problem and you need to figure out how to make the findElement and click atomic.

No comments: