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Unit testing with mock objects
By Alexander Day Chaffee & William Pietri - 2004-02-18 Page:  1 2 3 4 5 6

Improve your unit tests by replacing your collaborators with mock objects

Mock objects are a useful way to write unit tests for objects that act as mediators. Instead of calling the real domain objects, the tested object calls a mock domain object that merely asserts that the correct methods were called, with the expected parameters, in the correct order. However, when the tested object must create the domain object, we are faced with a problem. How does the tested object know to create a mock domain object instead of the true domain object? In this article, software consultants Alexander Day Chaffee and William Pietri present a refactoring technique to create mock objects based on the factory method design pattern.

Unit testing has become widely accepted as a "best practice" for software development. When you write an object, you must also provide an automated test class containing methods that put the object through its paces, calling its various public methods with various parameters and making sure that the values returned are appropriate.

When you're dealing with simple data or service objects, writing unit tests is straightforward. However, many objects rely on other objects or layers of infrastructure. When it comes to testing these objects, it is often expensive, impractical, or inefficient to instantiate these collaborators.

For example, to unit test an object that uses a database, it may be burdensome to install, configure, and seed a local copy of the database, run your tests, then tear the local database down again. Mock objects provide a way out of this dilemma. A mock object conforms to the interface of the real object, but has just enough code to fool the tested object and track its behavior. For example, a database connection for a particular unit test might record the query while always returning the same hardwired result. As long as the class being tested behaves as expected, it won't notice the difference, and the unit test can check that the proper query was emitted.

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First published by IBM developerWorks

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