I'm new to Selenium and have searched for a solution for this, but cannot find one.

I am trying to drill down into a nav containing a collapsable directory tree. The folder nodes' content starts as an empty div that is populated when their "+" icon is clicked. The problem is that I cannot find anything within the newly populated div. I am using find_element_by_link_text() and have tried find_element_by_partial_link_text() with a fragment. I've even done a find_elements_by_tag_name() and the new elements (anchors) are not listed with those that exist outside of the new div.

The entire nav is contained within an iframe - is there a switch_to method that would apply?

Here is a sanitized example of what the HTML looks like:

<iframe id="KnownID" ...>
  <html ...>
   <body ...>
    <div id="unknown_id_first_subtree"> ... </div>

    <div id="unknown_id_nth_subtree">
      <div id="unknown_a">
       <table> <tbody> <tr> <td width="however wide the indent"></td>
           <!-- Child nodes begin here -->
             <table> <tbody> <tr>
               <td class="treeCell">
                 <a id="unknown_id"> this toggles the tree node display </a>
                 <a id="unknown_id">This is the text I know</a>
               </td> </tr> </tbody>
           <div id="subtreeContainer_unknown_id">
               <!-- Empty place holder to hold expanded content -->
           <!-- Repeat above pattern for each tree entry -->
       </tr> </tbody> </table>
    </div>   ... closes out the nth_subtree

The empty place holder is populated when the node is expanded. I do not know any of the ID's when my script runs, all that I know is the text of the link ("This is the text I know").

The IDs of the elements are, of course, available at run time, and I can construct the ID of the various elements I need to use by replacing the prefix.

I was able to find_element_by_xpath the first entry:


with both FirePath and Seleninum. I can find "B" in "A/B" using FirePath with:


However, that string does not work when I issue it from Selenium using find_elements_by_xpath(). (I use the plural version because several entries match ("A", "A1", "A2") a single left fragment, just look for the one that I want in that list.)

The code that I wrote is basically:

xpath = "//"
segments = [ "A", "B", "C", ...]
for segment in segments:
  xpath += "a[contains(text(),'%s')]" % segment
  anchors = driver.find_elements_by_xpath(xpath)
  subTreeId = None
  for anchor in anchors:
    if anchor.text == segment:
      id = anchor.get_attribute("id")
      openId = "open" + id
      subTreeId = "subTreeId" + id
      WebDriverWait(driver, 60).until(EC.presence_of_element_located((By.ID, subTreeId)))
      xpath += "/../../../../../..//div[@id='%s']//" % subTreeId
  if subTreeId is None:

The first iteration works and opens the first level of sub-tree, however, the second pass fails with this string:


which is the same as the one above and I can cut-n-paste this string into FirePath and it finds the node (nodes, actually, "B", "B1", "B2", ...) - sorry to repeat myself.

My thinking is that when I "click" the "openId" element, Selenium's concept of the "current node" changes and so should the xpath, however, I was not able to get that concept to work by not carrying the prior xpath forward (I changed the "+=" to just "=" for the xpath assignment just before the "break".

Thanks (again), I appreciate the help

  • 2
    Please edit your question to include an HTML fragment to show the structure of the page you are trying to manipulate.
    – user246
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 1:48
  • Hi account4327, and welcome to sqa.stackexchange. Have you looked into the webdriver's switchTo() method? There are already plenty of answers here, and on stackoverflow, discussing it. Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 8:32

1 Answer 1


Refresh the browser AFTER clicking the '+' icon and then use find_element or find_elements functions. Something like this.

elements = driver.find_elements_by_tag_name("a")
    for element in elements:
        if "your_link" in element.get_attribute('href'):

I faced a similar problem in finding the dynamically generated/displayed menu item and the above solution worked for me. This solution may not work if the menu collapses again after refreshing.

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