UNIT Testing


Unit testing is a software development process in which the smallest testable parts of an application, called units, are individually and independently scrutinized for proper operation. Unit testing can be done manually but is often automated.

What Is Unit Testing?

In unit testing, you look to cover the application’s functionality at its most basic level. Test each individual unit of code, typically a method, in isolation to see if given certain conditions it responds in the expected way. Breaking testing down to this level gives you confidence that each part of the application will behave as expected and enables you to cover edge cases where the unexpected happens and deal with them accordingly.

Furthermore, when testing in this manner it usually becomes obvious if you have broken down the code into a good-sized unit. If you have to write many different tests to cover all the different possibilities that the method can go through, your method may be too large and you should consider refactoring it into two or more methods with fine-grained responsibilities.

Conversely, there may be cases where your method is too simple and could be combined with some other functionality to create a more useful method. As a programmer with experience, you should start to get a feel for a good-sized method. Ten lines is often a good rule of thumb to follow. There are, of course, plenty of cases where you need more or less than this arbitrary number of lines, and as a programmer your common sense should guide you to provide the most readable code. The tests that you write are a story that explains your code. What would you want to read or see when first reading through the code and trying to understand what it does? Clear, concise naming conventions of variables, class names, filenames, and tests can all help to make your code clear and easy to maintain for other people.

Testing and, in particular, test driven development , can really help to achieve these goals. TDD forces you to think about your code, and in this moment of careful consideration you can take into account the needs of the application, the design of the code, and how other programmers will interpret your intentions.

What Should You Test?

A question that many developers ask especially when first starting out is, what should I test? This is an interesting question and also a fair one, as the applications that are being built now are often vast with many complexities. However, unit testing makes the task easier as the whole idea is to focus on the smallest units of code rather than thinking about how to test the large application you are putting together as a whole. Before you write any code you give thought to the kind of tests you will be writing to check the methods will work as expected.

As you write more and more unit tests you will gain experience in what works well and what perhaps causes you issues later down the line. For example, a frequent mistake of inexperienced developers is writing very brittle test suites. This means that as code evolves the tests break for reasons other than the functionality changing. The tests are often checking elements of the code or data to too fine a granularity, meaning that as data changes (and not your functionality, which is what you are really testing), the tests fail and you need to go and fix it. Making your tests as flexible as possible while still testing your functionality is the best way to defend against this brittleness.

Another reason to test comes from the process of finding bugs whether in a production environment, the test environment, or while testing your application locally. Whenever you find a bug that affects your application that requires a code change to fix, you should write a test to cover that scenario. By doing this, you ensure that you have covered the defect that caused the problem and with test in place the bug should not reoccur in the future. By adding this layer of defense every time you find a bug (hopefully, not very often) you ensure that your code is more robust in the future as more functionality is added.

Writing Your First Unit Test

By now, you are probably eager to start writing your first unit test. Perhaps you have written tests before but are looking for a refresher in how to write good, concise unit tests. Whatever your testing background, let’s start at the beginning with some simple tests for a straightforward application. The examples first show you how to structure your test into a class with the correct naming conventions. Further on in the chapter, you are simply shown snippets of test methods, which you are expected to use with a proper test class.

One of the classic examples for demonstrating unit testing is a small calculator program. Python actually includes a lot of basic math functionality in the standard library. But what if you wrapped that into a simple-to-use command line application that could perform some simple calculations? This first scenario demonstrates how to implement the calculate class of the application

example from earlier. Start with the add method, which looks something like this.

class Calculate(object):

def add(self, x, y):

return x + y

if __name__ == ‘__main__’:

calc = Calculate()

result = calc.add(2, 2)

print result

Clearly, this is a very simple class that is just making use of Python’s built-in math function for adding and making it into a method you can call in your code. Save this code to a file named calculate.py, then execute this and see the result, like so.

$ python calculate.py



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