5 Best Ways to Navigate Back in Browser with Python Selenium

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When automating web browsers using Selenium with Python, there might be scenarios where you need to navigate back to the previous page. The common use case is when you click a link on a page, inspect some data, and then want to return to the original page to continue a process. This article will show you five effective methods to navigate back in the browser using Python Selenium.

Method 1: The back() Method

The most straightforward method for navigating back in the browser with Selenium WebDriver is by using the back() method. This function is specifically intended to mimic the back button in a web browser, taking the user to the previous URL in the browsing history. It’s simple, efficient, and perfect for linear test scripts that require a basic back navigation.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://example.com")
# Interactions here
driver.back()

Output:

The browser navigates back to the previous page in its history.

The code snippet sets up the WebDriver, opens a website, and after performing certain interactions, it uses driver.back() to navigate back to the previous page. It is succinct and mirrors user interaction closely.

Method 2: Using JavaScript Executor

For a more dynamic approach, executing JavaScript within the browser to navigate back can be effective. Selenium WebDriver allows you to perform any JavaScript operations with the execute_script() method, including the standard browser back action through window.history.go(-1), giving you additional scripting power within your tests.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://example.com")
# Interactions here
driver.execute_script("window.history.go(-1)")

Output:

The browser navigates back to the previous page in its history.

This method executes the JavaScript directly in the browser context. While it gives you more flexibility and control, it also requires a bit more understanding of JavaScript and browser operations.

Method 3: Keyboard Shortcuts

Simulating keyboard shortcuts with Selenium WebDriver is another way to navigate back. You can use the Keys class from the Selenium WebDriver’s Common module to send keys like the backspace (Keys.BACK_SPACE) or Alt+Left Arrow (Keys.ALT + Keys.LEFT), which are common browser back shortcuts, depending on the context and focused element.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.keys import Keys

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://example.com")
# Interactions here
driver.find_element_by_tag_name('body').send_keys(Keys.ALT + Keys.LEFT)

Output:

The browser navigates back to the previous page in its history.

The snippet locates the body of the document and then sends the keyboard shortcut for navigating back. This method can be more error-prone, as it relies on the focus being in the right place and the browser interpreting the keyboard shortcuts correctly.

Method 4: Browser History Index

Another sophisticated method involves using the browser’s history list. By retrieving the history index and then browsing to the entry that denotes the previous page, you can navigate back. This method is less common and requires a deeper integration and understanding of browser internals.

This method is technically more complex and not generally recommended for typical use cases of Selenium WebDriver.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: ActionChains

The ActionChains class in Selenium allows for queueing up a series of actions to automate complex sequences. It includes methods for keyboard and mouse events, including a way to navigate back with keyboard shortcuts.

Here’s an example:

from selenium import webdriver
from selenium.webdriver.common.action_chains import ActionChains

driver = webdriver.Chrome()
driver.get("https://example.com")
# Interactions here
ActionChains(driver).send_keys(Keys.ALT + Keys.LEFT).perform()

Output:

The browser navigates back to the previous page in its history.

This code snippet is similar to Method 3 but uses the ActionChains object to manage and execute the keyboard shortcut. It might be preferable when dealing with a sequence of actions, though it has the same limitations regarding focus and browser shortcut interpretation.

Summary/Discussion

  • Method 1: The back() Method. Direct and straightforward. Strong in simplicity, may not handle complex scenarios.
  • Method 2: Using JavaScript Executor. Flexible and powerful. Requires knowledge of JavaScript. Not as straightforward as Method 1.
  • Method 3: Keyboard Shortcuts. Simulates real user behavior. Relies on correct element focus; potentially flaky.
  • Method 4: Browser History Index. Requires in-depth knowledge of browser histories. Overkill for simple back navigation.
  • Bonus Method 5: ActionChains. Good for complex action sequences. Shares the same limitations as other keyboard-involved methods.