UiPath vs Power Automate Desktop - Part Two: Web Browser Automation

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Since the inception of the internet, most organizations have developed browser-based applications to facilitate an online presence and digitally connect clients to their services.

As the number of web-based applications increased, companies and individuals started to fill out forms and the organizations would subsequently extract data from websites. This activity required the use of various tools to extract information in a more structured approach.

Information Technology leaders are constantly looking for new opportunities and technologies to help individuals automate their processes. As a result, they have introduced Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the use of automated software robots that mimic and integrate human actions within digital systems empowered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. While there are many RPA tools available in the market, The Forrester 2021 Report state that, "UiPath and Microsoft are two leaders in RPA industry and continuously introducing new features in their product to win the race."

The Canton Group has started a series of blogs evaluating and comparing features of UiPath and Microsoft Power Automate Desktop (PAD). This blog is the 2nd in the series and discusses Web Browser Automation.


Web Browser Automation

Web Browser Automation is an automation technique where a piece of code or software identifies web elements by using their attributes and manipulates them while keeping pace with website changes.

There are two methods of web automation;

  • Using a Browser Extension or
  • Via the WebDriver Protocol

Browser Extension

A browser extension is a small software module for customizing a web browser. An extension interacts with the browser to modify the user interface, to add or scrape data from the browser. Below is a list of extensions provided by UiPath and Microsoft for browser automation.

Microsoft Edge

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Google Chrome

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Mozilla Firefox

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Supported Browsers UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Microsoft Edge Yes Yes
Google Chrome Yes Yes
Mozilla Firefox Yes Yes

Headless Automation via WebDriver Protocol

WebDriver is a popular protocol used to automate browsers. It exposes a Rest API in a separate executable from the browser itself. An advantage of using the WebDriver protocol is that browser automation does not necessarily have to rely on visual elements on the screen, such as window frames. Automations are executed in the background.

Microsoft Edge

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: -

Google Chrome

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: -

Mozilla Firefox

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: -

Supported Browsers UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Microsoft Edge Yes -
Google Chrome Yes -
Mozilla Firefox Yes -

Automation via the WebDriver protocol does not require you to install the corresponding browser extension, but it does require the corresponding WebDriver executable.

There are some limitations while working with WebDriver protocol using UiPath. For more details see: Known Issues and Limitations.

Activities to Automate Web Browsers

Both Microsoft PAD and UiPath provide activities or actions to manage the browser's window such as; open a new browser, move backward to the previously accessed page or forward, etc. The table below shows how the two platforms help developers handle the browser.

Launch URL in new browser

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Attach to running browser

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Navigate to URL

UiPath: Yes - The Navigate To activity loads the page in attached browser.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes - The URL property of Go to Web Page action loads the page in attached browser.

Reload page

UiPath: Yes – "Refresh Browser" activity refreshes attached browser.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes – The Navigate property of Go to Web page action reloads attached browser.

Inject JS script

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Inject .Net code

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Features UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Launch URL in new browser Yes Yes
Attach to running browser Yes Yes
Navigate to URL Yes - The Navigate To activity loads the page in attached browser. Yes - The URL property of Go to Web Page action loads the page in attached browser.
Reload page Yes – "Refresh Browser" activity refreshes attached browser. Yes – The Navigate property of Go to Web page action reloads attached browser.
Inject JS script Yes Yes
Inject .Net code Yes No

UI Element Selectors

To automate specific actions in the user interface, Selectors are required to interact with various windows, Popups, buttons, drop-down lists, and other elements of the user interface. The table below compares How UiPath and Power Automate Desktop empowers developers to find specific UI elements for automation.

Selectors with Wildcards

Wildcards are symbols that enable to replace zero or multiple characters in a string Like “*” replace zero or more character and “?” replace single character.

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Full vs. Partial Selectors

Full Selectors Contain all the elements needed to identify a UI element, including the top-level window. Partial Selectors Do not contain information about the top-level window.

UiPath: Yes – Supports full and Partial selectors both.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes – Supports full and partial selectors both. The Partial selectors are not working, if iFrame is being used on page.

Dynamic Selectors

A dynamic selector uses a variable or an argument as a property for the attribute of your target tag.

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Fuzzy Search

Fuzzy search capabilities enable you locate strings based on a pattern, rather than on an exact match to your input.

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

RegEx Search

A regular expression, or RegEx, is a special text string for describing a search pattern. This makes them ideally suited for searching, text processing, and data validation.

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Non-Greedy Search

The Non-Greedy search makes it possible to identify the target element from a pool of similar applications, matching the attributes you specify. It needs to be included in the top-level tag of a selector.

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Case-Sensitive Selectors

When a selector is built, the Case-Sensitive property makes it possible to identify elements by also taking into consideration the casing of an attribute's value.

UiPath: Yes – Case-Sensitive option can be enable/disable, it is disabled by default.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes – Case-Sensitive is set by default and there is no option to enable or disable.

Features UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Selectors with Wildcards
Wildcards are symbols that enable to replace zero or multiple characters in a string Like “*” replace zero or more character and “?” replace single character.
Yes No
Full vs. Partial Selectors
Full Selectors Contain all the elements needed to identify a UI element, including the top-level window. Partial Selectors Do not contain information about the top-level window.
Yes – Supports full and Partial selectors both. Yes – Supports full and partial selectors both. The Partial selectors are not working, if iFrame is being used on page.
Dynamic Selectors
A dynamic selector uses a variable or an argument as a property for the attribute of your target tag.
Yes Yes
Fuzzy Search
Fuzzy search capabilities enable you locate strings based on a pattern, rather than on an exact match to your input.
Yes No
RegEx Search
A regular expression, or RegEx, is a special text string for describing a search pattern. This makes them ideally suited for searching, text processing, and data validation.
Yes Yes
Non-Greedy Search
The Non-Greedy search makes it possible to identify the target element from a pool of similar applications, matching the attributes you specify. It needs to be included in the top-level tag of a selector.
Yes No
Case-Sensitive Selectors
When a selector is built, the Case-Sensitive property makes it possible to identify elements by also taking into consideration the casing of an attribute's value.
Yes – Case-Sensitive option can be enable/disable, it is disabled by default. Yes – Case-Sensitive is set by default and there is no option to enable or disable.

UI Element/Object Repository

The UI Element or Object Repository is a central location in which the Application’s UI Elements are stored and managed. The Repository ensures the management and, reusability of UI Elements.

UI Element / Object Repository

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Accessible within the scope of project

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Accessible in multiple projects

UiPath: Yes - UiPath Object Repository empowers developers to build an UI API or Library for applications that can be utilize in same automation project or share it with the team to use in multiple projects.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Features UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
UI Element / Object Repository Yes Yes
Accessible within the scope of project Yes Yes
Accessible in multiple projects Yes - UiPath Object Repository empowers developers to build an UI API or Library for applications that can be utilize in same automation project or share it with the team to use in multiple projects. No

Web Recorder

Web Recorder is the functionality within the RPA framework that helps save time when automating tasks. The web recorder captures actions as we perform them on the screen and generates automation activities during the web recording. Power Automate Desktop and UiPath both provide tools for web recording.

Record actions performed within iFrames

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No

Support Click Event

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Support to extract elements value

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Support to add text

UiPath: Yes

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes

Features UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Record actions performed within iFrames Yes No
Support Click Event Yes Yes
Support to extract elements value Yes Yes
Support to add text Yes Yes

Scrape Structured Data from a Table

Structured data is a specific kind of information that is organized and presented in a predicted format.

Extracting Structured Data

UiPath: Yes - UiPath allows extracting structured data from a webpage with few clicks using a wizard.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: Yes – "Extract Data from Webpage" action extracts data into a data table.

Extract Data from Table

UiPath: Yes - The "Table Extraction" functionality helps developers to define a series of similar elements and extracted as a column.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: No – Power Automate Desktop does not have such functionality, but this can be achieved using Selenium IDE in Power Automate UI Flows.

Extract Table data span on multiple pages

UiPath: Yes - UiPath allows to configure next button and scrapes data spans on multiple pages.

Microsoft Power Automate Desktop: -

Features UiPath Microsoft Power Automate Desktop
Extracting Structured Data Yes - UiPath allows extracting structured data from a webpage with few clicks using a wizard. Yes – "Extract Data from Webpage" action extracts data into a data table.
Extract Data from Table Yes - The "Table Extraction" functionality helps developers to define a series of similar elements and extracted as a column. No – Power Automate Desktop does not have such functionality, but this can be achieved using Selenium IDE in Power Automate UI Flows.
Extract Table data span on multiple pages Yes - UiPath allows to configure next button and scrapes data spans on multiple pages. -

Picture in Picture (PiP)

UiPath supports, "Picture in Picture" mode, which means a process runs in an isolated windows session allowing the feature to use the machine while the process is running.

Power Automate Desktop does not have the ability to execute flow in isolated mode, which means Power Automate Desktop will be controlling the mouse and keyboard and it is not possible to use the machine while the process is running.

Summary

According to the Forrester Wave Q1 2021 report, "UiPath and Microsoft are two leaders in RPA technology, both Microsoft and UiPath are capable of web automation with basic and advance features."

The Power Automate Desktop (PAD) is a competitive RPA tool for web automation, although the tool does have some deficiencies like automation within iFrames on a webpage and extracting structured data. Microsoft has a plan to add some of the features in upcoming releases. Selenium IDE can be used with UI Flow to automate a complex process or to extract structured table data.

UiPath provides more control when automating browser-based applications. The background automation using the browser extension, Headless browser automation, and Picture in Picture makes UiPath unique and allows the application window to be hidden or minimized during the process.

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