Why Test Automation Tool with Runtime License is Evil?

It is unwise to choose automation software that locks customers in for maximum financial gain. The best WebDriver (in every way) is 100% free.

Zhimin Zhan
5 min readFeb 3, 2022


The Runtime in the context of software execution means the software that is required to run a program (developed by you). To my knowledge, the term starts from Java Runtime Environment.

JDK (Java Development Kit) is for developing a Java program; JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is for running a Java program. The runtime software for coding is usually free.

In test automation, engineers use test automation tools to develop/refactor/run automated test scripts. The runtime usually means a sub-part of the tools that only allow users to run automated tests.

“free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. — GNU

It is perfectly fine for a software vendor to charge customers for a commercial tool license, However, in my opinion, it is not appropriate for a license for the Runtime.

Tools are for enhancing productivity, i.e., optional and customers may select alternatives.
Runtime is mandatory to run, i.e, no choice.

Sadly, this is quite common in test automation:

  • Ranorex Runtime License: €690
  • Sahi Pro Web Runner License: $245/year
  • Micro Focus UTP Runtime Engine: $2,300/year
  • SmartBear TestExecute: $629/year

Please note, the above is the price of the Runtime, the tool’s price is higher.

And it is wrong. I understand many people will say “in a marketing economy, prices are justifiable”. But this does not mean “right”.

Why Runtime Licenses are Evil?

Clearly, the purpose of Runtime licenses is to maximize financial gains for these tool vendors. Yes, this action itself does not necessarily mean evil in our time.

“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their…



Zhimin Zhan

Test automation & CT coach, author, speaker and award-winning software developer. Help teams succeed with Agile/DevOps by implementing real Continuous Testing.