# Debug cy.get and cy.contains commands

📝 Read the blog post Debug Cypress Commands cy.get And cy.contains (opens new window)

If the cy.get and cy.contains command fail to find an element, and you think "it is right there, why don't you see it?!!" this recipe is for you. There could be several problems, and this recipe tries to cover the ones I see most often. First a bit of summary advice on how to debug a failing cy.get, cy.find, and cy.contains commands:

  • check if the selector has been properly escaped
  • try finding the elements by selector from the DevTools console using regular browser commands $$(..selector..)
    • ⚠ī¸ make sure to switch the context to "Your project"
    • does it find a single element or multiple elements?
  • check if you are inside cy.within (opens new window) context, which limits your queries to part of the DOM
  • check if there are unexpected elements matching the selector
  • check the HTML text on the page for multiple whitespace characters. They might cause problems for cy.contains
  • check if the HTML text is in the right case. Sometimes the text in the DOM is one case, and the displayed case is controlled by the CSS

# Special characters in the selector

# The problem

<div data-cy="info" style="display:none;">
  <span data-user-id="user#123"></span>
</div>
<div id="users">
  <div id="user#123">John Doe</div>
</div>
<div id="students">
  <div id="user#456">Mary Sue</div>
</div>
John Doe
Mary Sue

The test code fragment fails to find the element, even though it exists.

# The solution

The problem is the selector having # character. We need to scape special characters in CSS selectors like spaces, #, and :. Luckily, jQuery includes a good method for this.

// ✅ CORRECT TEST
cy.get('[data-cy=info] span')
  // grab the attribute value
  .should('have.attr', 'data-user-id')
  .then(Cypress.$.escapeSelector)
  .should('be.a', 'string')
  .then((id) => {
    cy.get('#' + id).should('have.text', 'John Doe')
  })

# Accidental cy.within context

# The problem

<div class="main">
  <div data-cy="info" style="display:none;">
    <span data-user-id="user1"></span>
  </div>
  <div id="users">
    <div id="user1">John Doe</div>
  </div>
  <div id="students">
    <div id="user2">Mary Sue</div>
  </div>
</div>
John Doe
Mary Sue

Let's fetch the user ID and then find the required element. We know get the valid escaped string id, but for some reason, the next test fails to find anything ☚ī¸

# The solution

Notice that we are using the ID we get from the data-cy=info cy.within context. The search the cy.get executes does not start at the top of the document, but instead is limited to the subject of the cy.within element. There are two main solutions for this problem.

  1. Temporarily escape the cy.within context and use cy.parent().find(selector) combination.
// ✅ CORRECT TEST (escape cy.within)
cy.get('[data-cy=info]').within(() => {
  // grab the attribute value
  cy.get('span')
    .should('have.attr', 'data-user-id')
    .then(Cypress.$.escapeSelector)
    .should('be.a', 'string')
    .then((id) => {
      cy.root()
        .parent()
        .find('#' + id)
    })
})
  1. You can refactor the code to move cy.get outside the cy.within. You have already seen an example above of using a local closure variable + .then(callback) to make the query after the cy.within command. You can also use an alias to save the extracted ID and access it later using cy.get(alias).then(value => ...) syntax.
// ✅ CORRECT TEST (save under an alias)
cy.get('[data-cy=info]').within(() => {
  // grab the attribute value
  cy.get('span')
    .should('have.attr', 'data-user-id')
    .then(Cypress.$.escapeSelector)
    .should('be.a', 'string')
    .as('id')
})
// get the saved value from the alias
cy.get('@id').then((id) => {
  cy.root()
    .parent()
    .find('#' + id)
})

# Multiple elements matching the selector

# The problem

Imagine we are trying to find the user that we see on the page and want to confirm the text we see. Somehow we don't get the item...

<div id="users">
  <div class="person" style="display:none">John Doe</div>
</div>
<div id="students">
  <div class="person">Mary Sue</div>
</div>
Mary Sue

# The solution

We want to match what we see and take a special care to avoid hidden elements on the page. Use the pseudo selector :visible to limit the query.

// ✅ CORRECT TEST
cy.get('.person:visible').should('have.text', 'Mary Sue')
// alternative solution using `cy.filter separate step
cy.get('.person')
  .filter(':visible')
  .should('have.text', 'Mary Sue')

Warning: inserting be.visible assertion into the code does NOT work, since Cypress considers the list of elements visible even if just one element is visible, see the recipe Visible elements

# HTML Whitespace

# The problem

Notice the HTML markup has 2 spaces between words "John" and "Doe". The browser renders it as a single space.

<div id="user1">John  Doe</div>
John Doe

If we use the username exactly like the HTML source (for example, we might grab the username from the network intercept spy), then we will try to find a string with 2 spaces and will fail.

# The solution

We need to replace multiple whitespace characters with a single one.

// ✅ CORRECT TEST
const username = 'John  Doe'
cy.contains('#user1', username.replace(/\s+/g, ' '))

Note: the assertion "have.text" will work with the original text, since it automatically collapses the whitespace.

# CSS text transform

# The problem

<style>
  .user {
    text-transform: capitalize;
  }
</style>
<div class="user">john doe</div>
john doe

If you inspect the HTML for the element, you will notice that the user is all lowercase <div class="user">john doe</div>, and the capital letters are rendered using CSS styles, which cy.contains does not know about.

# The solution

Use the original text to find the element.

// ✅ CORRECT TEST
cy.contains('.user', 'john doe')
  // confirm the CSS property
  .should('have.css', 'text-transform', 'capitalize')