Remote Execution Guide

Desktop GUI tests usually require active desktop to move mouse cursor and type some keys into a focused window. That completely blocks local machine from normal usage.

But running tests on a remote machine is a challenge. This guide collected known issues and solutions to control a remote machine with GUI tests.

Windows Remote Desktop features

Remote Desktop (RDP) provides virtual active desktop to remote machine with Windows OS. There are 2 potential issues:

  • If RDP window is minimized, there is no active desktop on remote PC by default.
  • If RDP is disconnected, the desktop is locked out.

In both cases any GUI automation jobs will fail (if you don’t use some tricks described below). The workarounds are well described in TestComplete documetation:

VNC Server software

There is more simple way to avoid above issues: using VNC server software (for example, Tight VNC). It works as a pair of client and server. VNC server also provides active desktop on a remote machine.

  • This is a non-virtual desktop so working with native screen resolution on a remote PC may require updating video drivers.
  • Minimizing or disconnecting VNC client doesn’t destroy active desktop (by default!).
  • This is a cross-platform solution (VNC server is a native part of macOS and available on Linux).

The only problem you may face with:

  • Using Remote Desktop (RDP) may break VNC server benefits and you have to restart remote PC or apply RDP workarounds described above.

Other remote access software

If anyone tried to run GUI tests/automation remotely using Team Viewer, PowerBI desktop or any other virtual desktop software, feel free to add more details into this guide.

Tricks to run automation on a locked machine

For some applications it’s possible to run GUI automation on a locked machine, but it requires using special methods. First it’s worth listing methods that don’t work on a locked machine:

  • click_input and all other mouse click and press methods ending with _input.
  • set_focus as it uses SetCursorPos and SetForegroundWindow.
  • type_keys for native keyboard input.
  • Direct usage of modules mouse and keyboard.

Some other methods may not work also, but it depends on application. There are few methods for silent text input in backend="win32":

There is another useful method to enter string at once (available for both backends, usually for edit box only):

Start remote script using agent based CI

When your script is ready and you can run it on a remote machine manually, it’s time to automate the last step: trigger running the script from local machine or from CI server.

If you have internal hosted CI (for example, Jenkins), probably target machine is already connected to Jenkins master using an agent. There are three ways to connect agent:

  • Run agent as a service: GUI tests won’t work in this case because GUI can’t be even created when running as a service.
  • Run agent through SSH: GUI tests won’t work.
  • Run agent as a normal application. This is the only working case!

Start remote script directly

This chapter is inspired by issue #401 (special thanks to yangliang003).

First option is PsExec. Thanks to this post on StackExchange.

  1. Download PsTools.
  2. Get process ID of RDP session using tasklist command. PowerShell script:
$session = tasklist /fo CSV | findstr RDP ; $session = $session.Split(",")[3] ; $session.Split('"')[1]
  1. Start process: PsExec.exe -s -i 123 python

Ansible has PsExec plugin that simplifies it. Playbook example:

- name: test ra module
  hosts: *****
    - name: run GUI automation
        command: python
        executable: C:\Windows\PSTools\psexec.exe
        interactive: yes
        username: admin
        password: ******
        hostnames: ******

Windows Scheduler is also capable to start jobs with GUI interaction support. There is easy way to schedule the task from cmd.exe once:

Schtasks /Create /tn my_task /tr c:\temp\my_task.bat /sc ONCE /st hh:mi:ss /sd yyyy/mm/dd

How To`s