Month: February 2017

Calling a SOAP API

While REST (and not so RESTful) APIs have come to dominate there is still the occasionally find an API based on SOAP (especially if it uses a Microsoft back-end). For those interest in the different merits of the two technologies, there is an interesting infographic here.

While REST APIs can be handled with just the standard library, SOAP really needs a module to hide a lot of the complexities and boilerplate. The original SOAP modules (like SOAPy) no longer appear to be maintained (and hence do not work on later versions of Python). However if you just need the client (rather than a server), a new module called Zeep has appeared which is being actively maintained and has recently reached v1 level maturity. Zeep can be installed with with pip in the usual way.

An alternative to Zeep is the Suds-Jurko fork of Suds which may be a better choice if you need more options or find something Zeep does not support.

SOAP is XML based and uses a schema called Web Services Description Language (WSDL) to completely describe the operations, methods in Python, and how they are called (no dynamic bindings here). Zeep creates a client by from the WSDL passed as the first parameter in the constructor (the only required parameter). All of the operations are then exposed through the clients service class.

An example will hopefully make this clear. I am going to use one of the web services list at WebServiceX.NET, the one for distance type converting. This has an ChangeLengthUnit operation which takes 3 parameters; the length, the unit the length is in and the unit to convert to. Putting this together gives us the following code.

import zeep
soap = zeep.Client('')

A few of points (apart from the coders must be American due to the way they spell metres). All Microsoft active server methods (.asmx) should expose the WSDL if you append ?wsdl to the URI.

It doesn’t have to be a URI passed into the Client constructor. If the string begins with http (or https obviously) it will be treated as a URI. Otherwise it will assume it has been given a filepath to the WSDL file and try to open that. This is useful if you have to edit the WSDL file, say to fix a binding issue.

Once you have the client, you can get a sanitized version of the WSDL with the method soap.wsdl.dump() which should help you establish which operations are available and how you call them. The WSDL link above should help explain the terms but as you can see, even this simple example with just one operation has a lengthy WSDL.

Because SOAP uses standard types, zeep can convert the input and output correctly. If you look at the WSDL dump from above you will see the prefix xsd: listed – this schema defines all the standard data types and structures. If you check the return type of ChangeLengthUnit() you will notice it is a float.

Testing with alternative OS and browsers

Having covered Selenium testing in the previous post, the next step would be to test in multiple OSes. This is where having a WebDriver API really comes into its own; as long as there is a suitable WebDriver on the OS for the browser you want to test on then your tests should execute without change (or with minimal change to the initialization of the tests).

Instead the problem is moved to maintaining all the infrastructure. If setting up and maintaining multiple browsers and different OSes (including mobiles) seems like a lot of work there are several companies that offer this as a service. I am going to going to show the changes needed to get the previous test working on BrowserStack. Once you have signed up go to the Account > Settings page and make note of the username and access key.

You access a WebDriver running on another server with the remote method. This method requires an endpoint to connect to (which contains the username and access key from above) and a dictionary with the OS and browser you want to do the testing on as shown below. The line commented out is the one that needs to be replaced. Once connection is established, the rest of the test remains the same.

# driver = webdriver.Firefox()
desired = {'os': 'Windows', 'os_version': 'xp',
           'browser': 'IE', 'browser_version': '7.0'}
driver = webdriver.Remote(

The BrowserStack documentation has Python examples which explain the above commands and more. Now if you go to (login if necessary) you should now be able to see a log of the test just ran and even watch a video of it just to be sure the test is running in your specified environment.

There are alternatives to BrowserStack: Sauce Labs, Cross Browser Testing and TestingBot all offer similar functionality. TestingBot offers by far the cheapest entry into automated testing option as their personal plan includes 400 minutes of automated testing whereas all the others require you to purchase a more expensive plan before you get any automated testing minutes.

In addition to automated testing, all the above offer manual testing of the different browsers / OSes so you can troubleshoot problems that occur on other platforms.

Testing websites

Testing a static website was fairly simple. At the most basic you could just curl the pages to make sure you was getting the page expected. A more comprehensive test could be written in Python without any additional modules; although requests and a testing framework makes life easier.

Dynamic websites, where a large part of the page is generated by JavaScript, opens up lots more possibilities for problems. Subtle differences between browsers DOM, JavaScript methods and supported features mean you really have to test the website in a browser. Manual testing soon before laborious and time expensive. It is also completely unsuitable for continuous deployment (CD).

This is where Selenium comes in. This allows you to control a browser programatically, recreating the steps a tester would do manually. The python language bindings can be installed with pip as usual. To control a browser it uses an API known as WebDriver. To actually support the different browsers you need the appropriate WebDriver application for that browser, which can be downloaded from the following locations

Where you have 32- and 64-bit versions, you need the same one as the browser you wish to control, not your OS. So the 32-bit Internet Explorer WebDriver will control the 32-bit version of Internet Explorer. These need to be placed in a folder that is included in your path environment variable so that Python can find and run them; alternatively you can add the folder to sys.path before use. Each WebDriver has a different name so they can all go in the same folder. Although the Microsoft Edge WebDriver is an msi (the others are zip files) it does not add the installation folder to your path. I’ve also found the WebDriver for the last two, Internet Explorer and Opera, to be buggy but your mileage may vary.

Now for a quick test. To demonstrate a few features I’ve uploaded a script to BitBucket that simply checks if this blog is on the first page returned when searched for. This should always be the case but it does demonstrate starting the driver, opening a page, finding an element and inputting to it, then checking the result contains an element you was expecting.

Hopefully this should give you some idea of how to make a start. The official documentation has examples in Python of each call.