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Modifying Element's Find Expression

In certain scenarios the automatically generated find expression may be ineffective, because locates multiple elements on the active window, or may use dynamically generated attributes, which are unreliable by the next test execution. In such cases you may require adjusting the find expression manually, so that it reflects the specifics of the application under test.

Version 2019 R1 and Later (Standalone Application Only)

Edit the Find Expression of an Element

To verify what find expression for an element was automatically generated and edit it, if necessary, use the Element's Explorer context menu or double click on the same element.

Edit Element Edit Element Double Click

Edit Element Pane

Each element selected for edit will be opened as a separate tab in the test pane. That way you can open multiple elements to edit and compare their attributes and find expressions.

Element's Pane

To open another element to edit, select any other element from the Element's Explorer.

Options in Element Pane without Active Recording Session

When there is no active recording session, the Edit Element pane displays the currently used find expression for the element and allows you to modify it. However, there are no available suggestions based on the DOM tree and the modified expression cannot be validated.

Save and Reset buttons get enabled once there is any change in the find expression. Once the changes in the element are saved, these cannot be reverted and Reset button gets automatically disabled.


If the modified element is being used from multiple steps, pressing the Save button triggers a dialog to select the tests or steps for which the find expression needs to be changed.

Select steps

Using the plus sign and recycle bin icons in the find expression field, you can add/delete filters to target different element's properties.

Add/Delete Filter

From the Edit Element pane you can start a recording session choosing between:

Start recording session

  • Launch Recorder button - this will navigate to the URL set in the test (using the set preferred browser or will prompt you to choose a browser) or will launch a new instance of the WPF application under test.

  • Run to Test Step button - this will execute the test to the step in which the element is being used. If there are multiple steps using the same element, a dialog appears to select the desired step to execute to.

Select step to execute to

  • Choose Active Recorder dropdown - this dropdown will list any browser with active recording session. If this is empty, there is no application started in record mode.

Choose Active Recorder

Options in Element Pane with Active Recording Session

If the test was executed to a step, where the element exists on the page, it will be highlighted once the recorder is attached to the browser (the recorder is automatically paused to avoid recording any unnecessary steps).

In the Edit Element pane are displayed the suggested properties of the element and the DOM tree of the current page.

Edit in Live

The DOM explorer in the Edit Element pane provides its standard options from the context menu.

DOM explorer

If the elements find expression is not correct, but the element can be found by its backup search, an informational message appears to allow you to update the filters to use that backup search criteria to locate the element and list the recommended filters to use.

Update Filter

Hover over the info icon next to the button to see what is the backup search for that element.

Backup Search

If the element cannot be found in the current page with attached recorder, there will be an informational message stating the same.

Element Not found

Use the Validate Expression button to validate the changed find expression filters.

Validate Expression

Elements Image Settings

The Image Settings button switches the view in the Elements pane and provides details for the currently recorded image corresponding to that element. Read further details for the Elements Image Settings.

Switch to Elements Image Settings

Advanced Mode

Advanced Mode button displays the current find expression in text format and allows you to type in a custom one.

Advanced Mode

Below is a list of the optional supported operators, when building custom find expressions. Keep in mind that, when used, the operator is always the first character after the equal sign (=). The operator special character can be escaped with preceding apostrophe ('), if it is meant to be interpreted as a literal character.

Leading character Example Description
~ foo=~bar Find the element where attribute foo 'contains' bar
! foo=!bar Find the element where attribute foo 'does not contain' bar
^ foo=^bar Find the element where attribute foo 'starts with' bar
? foo=?bar Find the element where attribute foo 'ends with' bar
# foo=#ba* Find the element where attribute foo 'matches the regular expression' ba* - See this link for a description of regular expressions.
| 'id=CenterDiv', '|', 'tagIndex=a:2' Chains two expressions together. Chained expressions work by finding the element that matches the first expression, then underneath that find the element that matches the next expression. There is no technical limit to how many expressions can be chained together. The example tells Test Studio to find the first element whose ID = CenterDiv and then under that element find the third anchor element (tagIndex is 0 based).
' textContent=''City Escape special characters. Find the element whose text = 'City', including the ' characters.
+ foo=+ Find the element that has the specified attribute. Find the element that has the attribute 'foo'.
- foo=- Find the element that does not have the specified attribute. Find the element that does not have the attribute 'foo'.

Data Driven Find Expression

The find expression of the elements can be data driven to extend the execution and reuse of tests and elements. To be able to data drive an element, you need to add a data source and bind it to the test, which uses the element.

The find expression builder will display the columns of the attached data source in a dropdown of the selected filters for the element. Once a column is selected, click the Set button to set this to be used in the filter.

Select column to attach to filter

A warning message appears that the find by image operation will not be performed and the element cannot be validated or troubleshoot unless the data binding is removed. To remove the data binding you can delete the data driven filter or re-record the element.

Warning message

There are few specific scenarios when the names of variables will not be displayed in that view and their names need to be entered manually. These are

To filter an element's find expression using the column name from parent data source or the value of an extracted variable, enter its name in the Add coded data variable field (without the $ notation), click on the brackets and then the Set button.

Bind Coded variable

Version 2018 R3 and Earlier (Both Standalone Application and Visual Studio Plugin)

When a web page element has an action recorded against it, or you explicitly add an element to the Elements pane, a Find Expression is generated that Test Studio uses to find that specific element on the web page.

To change how an element is found, right click on the element in the Explorer and select Edit Element.

Edit Element

In the VS plugin, click the Show Element Explorer icon in the toolbar and locate the Explorer at the bottom of the screen.

Edit Element VS

Select Edit in Live to directly open the Find element dialog for the page open in the current recorder.

Edit in live

The Find Element splash screen appears. You have three options for how to locate the element:

Find Element

Find in the Live Version - find the element using the latest version of a new browser window, an existing test step, or an application that you currently have open.

  • New Browser - this will launch a new instance of your application. You may need to manually navigate to the element. Click Browse & Navigate to proceed.
  • Existing Test Step - use an existing step from a test to get to the element. Click Choose Test Step to proceed.
  • Current Page - select where the element is available from a list of currently running browser instances or WPF applications. Click Go to proceed.

Find Element

Find in the Cached Version - if your test failed, you can find the element using the cached version of the application at the time of failure. Accessible only through the Resolve Failure tab in the Step Failure Details.

Find Without Connection - choose this option to find the element without connecting to the application.

To skip this splash screen the next time you load the Find Element dialog, check the box at the bottom and click Close.

The Find Element dialog appears. The Element Name, Element Type, and Connection Status are at the top.

Find Element

The Change Element link opens the Select New Element dialog.

Change Element

In the Select Html Element dialog, you can open the Find Element dialog for a different element in the Elements Repository.

Select HTML Element

The Connection Options button takes you back to the Find Element splash screen.

Connection Options

The Suggestions and DOM views are on the left side.

  • Suggestions - these are the suggested items to help you find the element in the application. Click an item to add it to your Find Settings.


  • DOM - use the DOM as a reference when creating your Find Settings. This view is helpful in determining where your element is located relative to the DOM tree.


The Find Settings view is on the right side. You can edit these settings by typing in new properties, selecting a new modifier in the drop-down menu, or changing the values. Click Validate to confirm whether the element can be found using the current Find Settings.

Element Found Element Not Found

Data-driven find logic

Here, you can also data drive the element find expression. If your test has an attached data source, the value fields of the find expressions for your elements will include a drop-down list displaying columns from your data source.

Data drive find exp

Selecting a column data binds the column to the value of the find expression rule.

Data drive find exp

If the element was not found, click the Troubleshoot button. Choose a suggested fix from the Troubleshoot screen.


There are three additional buttons in the upper right of the Find Element dialog:

Additional Buttons

  • Select New Element - choose this option if the incorrect element was selected for this step. This will clear your current settings and Test Studio provides new filters for the new element.

Select New Element

  • Advanced - edit the Find Settings using a string-based expression builder.


  • Reset - restores fields to their original settings.


Once you've confirmed you are targeting the correct element and it is correctly found, click Save and Close. If the modified element is used by multiple automation steps, you are prompted to select the steps you want to persist changes to.

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