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Keep Testability In Mind

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Have You Ever Wondered...?

Why did people prefer Spring over EJB 2.x? Is this just a problem of these particular technologies or is there a stronger reason beneath it applicable to any API? In Chapter 9 I'll discuss one, in my opinion very important difference that is getting more and more important in the last few years. Spring has been designed with testabililty in mind and as such it attracted all those developers who subscribed to agile development. I'll present this as almost necessary feature of every new API and outline a way to make productivity high while making testability simple.

When There is Enough of CodeCoverage?

When there is enough wikipedia:Code_coverage? That is one of the questions asked by my 2005 post about Test Patterns in Java. Here is an extracted answer.

When there is enough tests?

While writing tests, people can ask: how many of them should be written? The simple answer is to write tests while they are useful. The more precise, more complex and less clear answer is going to be covered in this chapter.

There are various tools out there that help to measure test coverage. NetBeans project selected emma for measuring the coverage of our application code by our tests. When invoked (for example from the popup menu of any project from NetBeans.org) it instruments the application code and invokes automated tests on it. While running, it collects information about all called methods, visited classes and lines and then it shows a summary in a web browser.

Counting coverage by visited methods is very rough criteria, but it can be surprisingly hard to get close to 100%. But even if you succeed, there is no guarantee that the resulting application code works correctly. Every methods has a few input parameters, and knowing that it succeeded once with one selection of them, does not say anything about the other cases.

Much better is to count the coverage by branches or lines. When there is a

if (...) { x(); } else { y(); }

statement in code of your method, you want to be sure that both methods, x and y will be called. The emma tool supports this and by helping us to be sure that every line is visited, it gives us confidence that our application code does not contain useless lines.

Still, the fact that a line is visited once, does not mean that our application code is not buggy.

private sum = 10;  
  public int add(int x) {
    sum += x;
  public int percentage(int howMuch) {
    return 100 * howMuch / sum;

It is good if both methods get executed, and fine if we test them with various parameters - still we can get an error if we call

add (-10);

because the sum will be zero and division by zero is forbidden. To be sure that our application is not vulnerable to problems like this, we would have to test each method in each possible state of memory it depends on (e.g. each value of sum variable) and that would give us the ultimate proof that our application code works correctly in a single threaded environment.

But there is another problem - Java is not single threaded. A lot of applications start new threads by themselves, and even if they do not, there is the AWT event dispatch thread, the finalizer thread, etc. So one has to count on some amount of non-determinism. Sometimes the garbage collector just kicks in and removes some "unneeded" objects from memory, which can change the behavior of the application - we used to have a never ending loop, which could be simulated only if two mozilla browsers and an evolution client was running as then the memory was small enough to invoke the garbage collector. This kind of coverage is unmeasurable.

That is why we suggest people to use code coverage tools as a way to sanity check that something is not really under tested. But it is necessary to remind ourselves that however high the coverage is, it does not prevent our application code fully from having bugs. So we, in order to help to fight the strange moves of an application amoeba shape, suggest to write a test when something gets broken - when there is a bug report, write a test to verify it and prevent regressions. That way the coverage is going to be focused on the code where it matters - the one that really was broken.

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