Appium is an open-source tool for automating native, mobile web, and hybrid applications on iOS mobile, Android mobile, and Windows desktop platforms. This guide primarily focuses on runing Nightwatch tests on mobile devices.

Theory of Operation

Appium is a Node JS based server that exposes REST APIs compliant with Web driver protocol that wraps automation libraries from vendors (UIAutomator2/Espresso, Apple XCUITest/UIAutomation).

In an end-end scenario Nightwatch makes request to Appium server, server talks to native framework using different platform drivers for executing commands and finally returns HTTP response back to Nightwatch.


Install Appium

First step is to download and setup Appium.


We can add configuration in Nightwatch to run our tests on mobile devices running locally against the Appium server:

appium_ios: {
  selenium: {
    host: 'localhost',
    port: 4723
  disable_error_log: true,
  webdriver: {
    timeout_options: {
      timeout: 150000,
      retry_attempts: 3
    keep_alive: false,
    start_process: false
  desiredCapabilities: {
    browserName: 'Safari', //not required incase using app
    javascriptEnabled: true,
    platformName: 'iOS', //android or iOS
    platformVersion: '15.0',
    deviceName: 'iPhone 13'
    // "app": APP_PATH + "ios/PieDrive.app", // path for the ios app you want to test

You can find more details regarding capabilities and on Appium docs

Write a basic test

Here is a demo test that searches for the term "Night Watch" on the Rijks Museum website.

describe('Nightwatch Website tests', function() {

  it('Searching the Rijksmuseum ', async function(){
    const cookieDialogVisible = await browser.isVisible({
      selector: '.cookie-consent-bar-wrap',
      suppressNotFoundErrors: true

    if (cookieDialogVisible) {
      browser.click('.cookie-consent-bar-wrap button.link');

    return browser.setValue('input.search-bar-input[type=text]', ['night watch'])
      .assert.containsText('.search-results', 'The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642');

To execute the test, run Appium server locally using command appium and run your test against the appium_ios environment.

Using Gestures

Gestures are widely used while interacting with mobile devices. There are two ways to generate gestures on mobile devices.

1) Using non-standard APIs from Appium

These APIs are platform specific. You can refer more on this on Appium docs. To generate a swipe gesture on an iOS device the command would look like:

browser.execute('mobile: swipe', args);
2) Using the Actions API

The Actions API is very general and platform independent. It relies on the concept of input sources (key, pointer, wheel). Following code generates a swipe and a pinch zoom gesture using Actions API:

describe('W3C Actions API', function() {
  it('swipe down and zoom in the page - w3c actions api ', async function(){
    //Scroll down the page
    await  browser.perform(function(){
      const actions = this.actions();

      return actions.move({x: 100, y: 100}).press().move({origin: 'pointer', y: -300, duration: 50}).release();

    await browser.pause(2000);

    //Pinch zoom
    await browser.perform(function(){
      const actions= this.actions();
      const pointer1 = new Device('finger-1', 'touch');
      const pointer2 = new Device('finger-2', 'touch');
      actions.insert(pointer1, pointer1.move({duration: 0, x: 100, y: 70}), pointer1.press(), {type: 'pause', duration: 500}, pointer1.move({duration: 1000, origin: 'pointer', x: 0, y: -20}), pointer1.release());
      actions.insert(pointer2, pointer2.move({duration: 0, x: 100, y: 100}), pointer2.press(), {type: 'pause', duration: 500}, pointer2.move({duration: 1000, origin: 'pointer', x: 0, y: 20}), pointer2.release());

      return actions;
}); }); });
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