Headless browser: What is it and how to use it

Milan Stanojevic
by Milan Stanojevic
Deputy Editor
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  • There are all sorts of browsers available on the market, but one unique type is the headless browsers.
  • These browsers are used by web developers, yet we’re going to show you how to use them too.
  • To learn more about programming, we suggest that you read our other App development articles.
  • For more information about web browsers, take your time and visit this Browsers Hub as well.
Headless browser

When talking about web browsers, most of us are familiar with browsers such as Google Chrome, Opera, Firefox, etc.

However, there’s a special kind of browsers called headless browsers. In case you’re not familiar with these browsers, let us help you out.

In this article, we’re going to explain to you everything you need to know about these browsers with no graphical user interface.


Quick Tip:

If you’re a regular user, you might want to try something more user-friendly, such as Opera for example.

The browser is available on all desktop and mobile platforms, and thanks to the synchronization feature, you can always have your browsing data with you.

Opera is light on resources, so it should be able to handle any website with ease. In addition, the browser has the ability to organize tabs into workflows and a built-in search feature for opening tabs.

Regarding security, Opera offers tracking protection, a built-in ad blocker, and a free VPN with unlimited bandwidth.

Social media users should know that the browser has a built-in messenger, Twitter, and Instagram integration, so you can keep up with social networks at all times.

Opera

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What is a headless browser?

1. Discover all about headless browsers

find all about headless browsers

A headless browser is a web browser without a graphical user interface. Such a web browser can perform certain commands using a command-line interface.

These types of browsers are usually used for testing web pages, or scrapping data for websites.

Developers also use them to run automated tests for JavaScript libraries or for taking screenshots.


2. How to use a headless browser?

Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox and go to about:profiles.
  2. Click on Create a New Profile.
    new profile firefox Headless browser
  3. Create a new profile and name it test.
  4. Now press Windows Key + R.
  5. Enter C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe -p test -headles
    run dialog firefox Headless browser

This is a basic way of starting Firefox in headless mode. To execute commands, you’ll need to enter them manually.


Chrome:

  1. Open the Run dialog like in the previous step:
  2. Enter C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe --headless --disable-gpu --remote-debugging-port=9222 https://www.website_name.com
    run dialog chrome Headless browser

To run commands, be sure to check online guidelines for the headless version of Chrome.

If you’re planning to actively use a headless version of Chrome or Firefox, it would be best to run commands from Command Prompt or PowerShell.


What are the best headless browsers?

There are several headless browsers that you can use, but here are the most popular ones:

  • Chrome
  • Firefox
  • PhantomJS
  • HtmlUnit
  • TrifleJS
  • Splash
  • SimpleBrowser

While headless browsers are useful for automation and web development, regular users won’t have too much use for them.

Headless browsers can be useful to web developers and advanced users, and we hope that our article was helpful to you.

As for regular users, they should stick with standard GUI browsers such as Opera. Let us know your choice in the comments area below.

FAQ: Learn more about headless browsers

  • Can we take screenshots in headless browser?

Headless browsers support screenshots, so you won’t have to use screenshot software in order to create screenshots.

  • Is headless browser faster?

Yes, a headless browser is faster because it doesn’t have a user interface, so it doesn’t have to load anything.

  • Why do we need headless browser?

Headless browsers are designed for automation and debugging, and if you’re not a developer, you might be better using Opera or any other regular browser.