System WebView Shell

WebView team maintains a “shell”--a thin interface over the WebView APIs--to exercise WebView functionality. The System WebView Shell (AKA “shell browser,” “WebView shell”) is a standalone app implemented in chromium. While often used for manual testing, we also use the shell for automated tests (see our layout and page cycler tests).

This relies on the WebView installed on the system. So if you're trying to verify local changes to WebView, or run against a specific WebView build, you must install WebView first.
Tip: the shell displays the WebView version (the corresponding chromium version number) in the title bar at the top. This can be helpful for checking which WebView version is installed & selected on the device.

Setting up the build

WebView shell only requires target_os = "android". The simplest option is to just reuse the same out/ folder and GN args you would normally use for WebView or Chrome for Android.

For the emulator: the emulator comes with WebView shell preinstalled with a different signing key, so installation will fail with INSTALL_FAILED_UPDATE_INCOMPATIBLE: Package ... signatures do not match previously installed version. You can workaround this in your GN args with system_webview_shell_package_name = "org.chromium.my_webview_shell".

Your local build will install alongside the preinstalled WebView shell. You may hide the preinstalled shell by running adb root followed by adb shell pm disable org.chromium.webview_shell in your terminal (copy-paste the command as-written, don't use the package name from the GN arg above).

Building the shell

$ autoninja -C out/Default system_webview_shell_apk

Installing the shell

# Build and install
$ out/Default/bin/system_webview_shell_apk install

Running the shell

# Launch a URL from the commandline, or open the app from the app launcher
$ out/Default/bin/system_webview_shell_apk launch ""

# For more commands:
$ out/Default/bin/system_webview_shell_apk --help
Note: system_webview_shell_apk does not support modifying CLI flags. See Instead, you should modify WebView's flags by following


INSTALL_FAILED_UPDATE_INCOMPATIBLE: Package ... signatures do not match previously installed version

The easiest way to workaround this is to change the shell's package name in a local build.

If you need to use the same package name (ex. you're installing an official build of WebView shell), then you can modify the system image.

Note: If using the emulator ensure it is being started with the -writable-system option as per the Writable system partition instructions.
# Remount the /system partition read-write
$ adb root
$ adb remount
# Get the APK path to the WebView shell
$ adb shell pm path org.chromium.webview_shell
# Use the APK path above to delete the APK
$ adb shell rm /system/app/Browser2/Browser2.apk
# Restart the Android shell to "forget" about the WebView shell
$ adb shell stop
$ adb shell start