Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Python and unit testing

Writing unit tests in python is really easy. It's the dynamic properties of the language which makes it very simple to mock class methods, instance methods and functions. This makes the task of writing isolated unit tests easy when you practice test-driven development.

Say you have the following class:
import urllib2

class UrlDownloader(object):
    def download(self, url):
        Read the content from the url.
        The content is returned as a string object.
        return urllib2.urlopen(url).read()
You actually don't want to download something from the net when you do a unit test for this class. You would like to have a fixed string returned from the read() method. This can be hard to achieve in some languages (for example Java) but that's not true for Python. Python supports redefining class methods, functions and other things in run-time. The following snippet shows how easy it's to mock the urlopen() function in the urllib2 module to return a mocked file-like object:
import urllib2
import unittest

class MockFileObject(object):
    def read(self):
        return "DATA"

def mock_open(url):
    return MockFileObject()

class UrlDownloaderTest(unittest.TestCase):
    def testDownload(self):
        urllib2.urlopen = mock_open
        dl = UrlDownloader()
        self.assertEqual(""), "DATA")

if __name__ == '__main__':
In this unit test we redefine the urlopen-function (remember, this is not a member of an instance, it's a plain function) with our own which returns a mock file-like object. It's not that hard to imagen all the possibilities this gives when writing tests. There are of course frameworks that will help you with creating mocks etc, you could try The Python Mock Module which should cover most of the use cases.

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