In my current job we’re using robot framework as our test automation framework. My team is tasked with teaching others how to use it, and to build additional tools to make the process of test automation easier. I’m going to be writing a lot on the blog about this framework, so I thought I would give a very brief introduction and explain why robot is so compelling.

Robot framework is a generic keyword-driven testing framework specifically targeted at acceptance test driven development. Tests are plain text files using a simple tabular syntax. Because the test cases are plain text, you are free to use whatever tools you’re most comfortable with (Eclipse, Visual Studio, emacs, vim, Notepad++, etc).

Robot framework is written in python, is robust and mature, and under active development. There are several extensions you can use in your test cases (eg: selenium, database, etc), and there are robot-specific extensions for other popular tools (eg: jenkins, sublime text, brackets, etc).

What do the tests look like?

There is no canonical example of a robot framework test. It supports multiple formats, including HTML, reStructuredText, plain text, and tab-separated data. Personally I prefer the plain text, pipe-delimited format. It’s very diff-and-merge friendly, easy to write and easy to read. Unlike with tab- and space-separated plain text, the division between cells in a test case are clearly visible.

Here’s an example from the web site, reformatted to the pipe-delimited format:

*** Settings ***
| Documentation 
| ... | A test suite with a single test for valid login.
| ... |
| ... | This test has a workflow that is created using keywords in
| ... | the imported resource file.
| Resource | resource.txt

*** Test Cases ***
| Valid Login
| | Open Browser To Login Page
| | Input Username | demo
| | Input Password | mode
| | Submit Credentials
| | Welcome Page Should Be Open
| | [Teardown] | Close Browser

Under the *** Test Cases *** heading, each line that begins with a single pipe denotes the name of a test case. Lines that begin with pipe-space-pipe-space are statements. Typically the first word will be a keyword (either a built-in keyword or a custom keyword), and remainging cells are keyword arguments.

That’s about all there is to it – very straight-forward, easy to read and easy to write.

What can the framework be used for?

The robot framework isn’t just for testing python code. It can be used for a variety of testing tasks, including:

  • RESTful API testing
  • SOAP service testing
  • Website testing
  • Database testing
  • Desktop application testing
  • Mobile application testing (with selenium and 3rd party drivers)
  • Unit and integration testing (though, there are often better tools for that job)
  • Manual testing - scenarios can be written as if they were automated, they can prompt the user rather than perform a task.

As you can see, it can be useful for a wide variety of testing tasks. Now, it might not always be the best solution for any one of those areas but it’s one of the few tools that can be used for just about all testing tasks. This means you have a single test syntax to learn, a single reporting structure, a single way to tag and manage tests, and so on.

Other things I like about the framework:

  • Robot framework is written in python, and libraries can be written in python. Anything you can do with python, you can do in a test case. This makes it very easy to extend to do a variety of tasks.
  • Robot framework has a remote library interface, which means you can write keywords in any language that can open a socket (.NET, java, C, etc).
  • Robot test suites are plain utf-8 text. This means they play nicely with source control, making it easy to diff and merge
  • You have the choice of writing tests in a BDD (given/when/then) style, a procedural style, or in a data driven style. Work the way you want, rather than be forced into a particular style of test.
  • it has a powerful tagging mechanism
  • it has a powerful system for streaming test results to other tools and dashboards (called “listeners” if you want to look it up in the user guide).


Robot framework is a really good testing framework, if your goals are to use a single framework for a variety of testing and if you want to use a keyword driven approach. The fact that it’s easily extensible with python and that it plays well with tools you probably already use makes it a very pragmatic choice for a large variety of testing tasks.

The robot framework project has fairly comprehensive documentation. To get started, visit