Testing your code

    Posted in : Uncategorized:
  • On : Dec 12, 2006

Perhaps no other coding practice is as important as testing your code. Also in the nature of Business Development, where parts of your code always change on the request of a client (including Management), or even when you want to make your code run with better performance, Automated tests are highly needed, you can’t just spread your print statements all over your code every time you need to test it.
With automated tests, you can just be sure that your interface is not broken after some change, you just run your tests, if they succeed, you know that you didn’t break your code (this means you should right good tests).
Let’s start by a simple example, Imagine that we have been asked to test PHP’s built-in Array. One bit of functionality to test is the function sizeof(). For a newly created array we expect the sizeof() function to return 0. After we add an element, sizeof() should return 1. (I know it’s not a big deal, but it’s just an example).
you can do it with simple print statements (i.e. print (1 == sizeof($myArray) ? "OK":"Failure").PHP_EOL; ), but here we are going to do it by using an assertion function.

< ?php $fixture = Array(); assertTrue(sizeof($fixture) == 0); $fixture[] = "element"; assertTrue(sizeof($fixture) == 1); function assertTrue($condition) { if (!$condition) { throw new Exception("Assertion failed."); } } ?>

Well, we could know if something went wrong if some Exception was raised, of course assertTrue is not the only thing you want to do, UnitTesting has gone far beyond that, usually UnitTesting frameworks provide a whole lot of features that you need for your testing.
Lot’s of Testing frameworks are available for PHP, I’m going to point to 2 of them, the first one is SimpleTest (http://simpletest.org/), it’s written in PHP 4 (Although they are going to migrate to PHP 5 when they reach version 2), so you can use it on both PHP 4 and 5 programs, also it includes a nice HTML reporter for some good looking html results the same test above could be written using this framework as:

< ?php require_once 'simpletest/unit_tester.php'; require_once 'simpletest/reporter.php'; class TestingFixtureArray extends UnitTestCase { function TestArray() { $this->UnitTestCase(“Testing Fixture Array”);
$fixture = Array();
$this->assertTrue(sizeof($fixture) == 0);

$fixture[] = “element”;
$this->assertTrue(sizeof($fixture) == 1);

//run the Test
$test = new TestingFixtureArray();
$test->run(new HtmlReporter());

Another Well know testing framework is known as PHPUnit2 (http://www.phpunit.de/), it’s available through the PEAR Repository, you can install it as
$ pear install PHPUnit2
It’s written in PHP 5, and is so widely used within PHP Developers, a good resource for learning how to use it is the free available online book PHPUnit Pocket Guide (http://www.phpunit.de/pocket_guide/index.en.php), the same example could be:

< ?php require_once 'PHPUnit2/Framework/TestCase.php'; class ArrayTest extends PHPUnit2_Framework_TestCase { public function testNewArrayIsEmpty() { // Create the Array fixture. $fixture = Array(); // Assert that the size of the Array fixture is 0. $this->assertEquals(0, sizeof($fixture));

public function testArrayContainsAnElement() {
// Create the Array fixture.
$fixture = Array();

// Add an element to the Array fixture.
$fixture[] = ‘Element’;

// Assert that the size of the Array fixture is 1.
$this->assertEquals(1, sizeof($fixture));

and you can run it on command line as
$ phpunit ArrayTest

Additional benefits that you can realize by thoroughly testing your code:

  • Testing forces you to write code that is easily testable. This leads to looser coupling, flexible designs, and good modularity.
  • Writing tests forces you to explicitly clarify your expectations of how your code is to behave, distilling your design into sharper focus from the beginning. Writing tests forces you to consider the universe of possible inputs and the corresponding results.
  • Tests are very explicit way of communicating the intent of your code. In other words, test cases act as example and documentation, showing exactly how a given class, method, or function should behave. A test case defines how code works in a non-ambiguous way.

Finally, if your test suite – your set of test cases – is very thorough, you can say your code is complete when all of your test pass. Interestingly, that notion is one of the hallmarks of Test Driven Development.
Test Driven Development (TDD), also referred to as Test First Coding, is a methodology that takes testing one step further: you write your tests before you ever write any code. A nice, brief summary of the tenants of TDD is available at http://xprogramming.com/xpmag/testFirstGuidelines.htm, and a good introductory book on the strategy is “Test Driven Development: By Example” by Kent Beck. (The book’s examples are in Java, but it’s a quick read and gives you a very good overview and introduction to the subject.)

Agile Development
Recently, unit testing – in particular Test Driven Development – has been associated with agile Development methodologies such as Extreme Programming (XP)g that focus on rapid iterations of releasing functional code to customers and welcoming changing customer requirements as a natural part of the development process. Some good online resources for learning about agile development include:

[tags] automated tests, sizeof, business development, array, functionality, element, nature of business, interface[/tags]

8 thoughts on - Testing your code

  • That is indeed true.
    The worset thing anyone could do about a mistake is to lie about it.

  • Nice summary – it might be noteworthy that for testing frontends instead of APIs, using Selenium will ease test creation and automation quite a bit. Selenium integration is available with the latest PHPUnit releases.

    PHPUnit, by the way, is no longer hosted in PEAR, so a simple “pear install PHPUnit2” won’t do any longer – you’ll have to register the appropriate channel server first. I’m not sure if PHPUnit even exists in the official PEAR channel anymore – if it does, it’s an old version that won’t likely receive any more updates.

  • There is also the mostly unknown function assert, which is available in standard distribution. It also has the advantage to be totally removed with the simple switch of a PHP directive.



  • I like Unittests and love PHPUnit, a tool that needs more advocacy .. its just a very productive test tool. I had great results writing some thousand tests with it 😉


  • Thanks for your replys
    Bergmann, thanks for the update, I haven’t checked the pear site for quite some time, the installation instructions now would be:
    $ pear channel-discover pear.phpunit.de
    $ pear install phpunit/PHPUnit
    Seguy, unit testing is not just about assertions, it’s a lot more.
    Rodríguez, thanks for the update, I guess I’m going to try it real soon.

  • Vaidas Žilionis,
    We use CoolCode plugin, it’s awesome, you should give it a try.