Develop Cypress end-to-end tests on - Virtual Desktop included

Experience it for yourself

Before we go into the details, you can experience Cypress end-to-end tests running in a virtual environment in your browser with the following link:

Click the ”Login with GitHub & Launch Workspace” button, follow the instructions and you will be up and running in a moment.

Once npm install completes automatically, a development server starts in one terminal and Cypress starts in a second terminal. Besides that, a second browser tab will open with a virtual desktop where, after a minute or so, you will see the Cypress UI.

The first browser tab shows the editor (the errors in the console can safely be ignore):

Gitpod editor

Whereas the second browser tab provides the Cypress UI (in this case, it’s a default Sapper application):

Cypress UI

What is required to make it work? (Pull Request)

The source code is available at

The first thing is to add cypress as a dev dependency with npm i -D cypress. This ensures it gets installed like any other dependency when npm install runs.

Gitpod configuration

Next, we need a .gitpod.yml configuration file to configure a custom docker image (more on that in a minute), a few tasks to run when the development environment loads and some port definitions. Let’s look at that file section by section:

  file: .gitpod.Dockerfile

This instructs Gitpod to use a custom Docker image, as defined in the specified file.

  - init: |
      touch /tmp/.npm-lock
      npm install
      rm /tmp/.npm-lock
    command: npm run dev
  - init: sleep 1 && while [ -f /tmp/.npm-lock ]; do sleep 1; done
    command: npm run cy:open

The two tasks (as seen by their -) tell Gitpod to open two terminals. In the first terminal, a temporary file is created, npm install executed and eventually, the temporary file is deleted.

In the second terminal, the init command waits until the temporary file is no longer available. When that’s the case, we can be sure npm install completed in the first terminal and all dependencies are available. We then open Cypress with the provided cy:open NPM script.

To wrap up the .gitpod.yml file, we define three ports and instruct Gitpod what to do. 5900 and 10000 are ignored, 6080 is opened in a new tab - that’s the virtual desktop.

  - port: 5900
    onOpen: ignore
  - port: 6080
    onOpen: open-browser
  - port: 10000
    onOpen: ignore

A custom Docker image

As defined in the .gitpod.yml configuration above, we define a custom Docker image in .gitpod.Dockerfile as follows:

FROM gitpod/workspace-full-vnc

# Install Cypress dependencies.
RUN sudo apt-get update 
 && sudo DEBIAN_FRONTEND=noninteractive apt-get install -y 
 && sudo rm -rf /var/lib/apt/lists/*

We use a base image provided by Gitpod. Next, we install the dependencies required by Cypress as documented.


A few lines of configuration and we’re up and running with Cypress on Make sure you have a look at the pull request where I provided a few annotations in the code.


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