Selenium XPATH types: Absolute and Relative

xpath is xml path language, and one of the selenium locators through which we locate a web element from the DOM (document object model).

DOM is nothing but the tree structure of the html / xml document.
xpath normally provides the path to navigate to the required element from the tree structure.

Now a days there are different browser add ins available to easily identify the xpath,
Refer browser add ins to get the xpath
but there are certain situations, based on some condition we need to locate the elements, in that case the add ins may not be helpful much, and we need to write the xpath on our own…..

xpath types to locate web elements: Absolute and Relative

Difference between Absolute and Relative xpaths.

Absolute xpath: 

Need to provide complete path of the required web element, starting from the root element.
Example: gmail sign in page… find the Email field

As you can see, each tag is separated by a “/”, means they are immediate element to each other.
This is sometimes risky to use, as in real time web applications, the DOM structure changes frequently or if some elements in DOM changed on the way from root to desired element, then absolute xpath will not work.
But in case, where there is no specific attributes to locate the element such as id/name, then we can use the absolute xpath (may be the last solution to locate)…
Relative xpath:
Path can start from any element near on the DOM that are close to the desired element, good practice to chose the near by element (of desired element) which can be uniquely identify on the DOM so we can traverse from there to the desired element easily.
Now xpath will find it’s own easiest way to navigate to the near by element and follows our written path to get to the desired element.
            Example: Go to the URL: Demo
            Let’s say that the “Full Name” text box and this doesn’t have any unique identifier, it’s just a                 div element
            but we have the field placed on a “Form” (we can identify this by id),

so the xpath is:
Either .//*[@id=’form1′]/fieldset/div[1] or .//form[@id=’form1′]/fieldset/div[1]
Let’s understand this:
.// selects current node
@id=’form1′ – all element attributes are precedent by a sign @ and value in between single quote.
.//[@id=’form1′] finds the occurrence of an element with “id=form1” (* stands for any kind of element input/h1/table/form tags etc), then normal absolute path follows like fieldset and then the 1st div element where Full Name textBox resides.
//form[@id=’form1′] will only look for a tag named form with id=’form1′
To find an element based on some conditions (relative xpath), refer css/xpath patterns.

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