Building GWT Applications with MVP and Issues with Overlay Types
MVP has recently become a popular strategy for structuring GWT applications. This is largely due to its testability and Ray Ryan's Best Practices For Architecting Your GWT App from this year's Google I/O. GWT, by itself, is simply a widget toolkit and doesn't ship with any sort of MVC (or MVP) framework.
On my current project, we're using GXT, a GWT implementation based on ExtJS. It has its own MVC framework, but it has very little documentation and can be confusing when using it with GWT's History management. At one point, I attempted to make it more understandable by writing a blog entry on GXT's MVC Framework.
One of my initial assignments was to decide if we should use MVP or MVC. Regardless of which one was chosen, I was also tasked with deciding if we should use an existing framework or write our own. After watching Ray Ryan's session on YouTube and recalling my frustration with GXT MVC on my last project, I quickly became convinced MVP was the answer.
To test my "MVP is best for our project" theory, I did a spike to implement it. I used the GWT MVP Example tutorial as a starting point and added the following libraries to my project.
- GWT-Presenter: An implementation of the MVP pattern.
- Google Gin: Dependency Injection based on Google's Guice.
- GWT-Log: A log4j-style logger for GWT.
Implementing the MVP pattern itself was relatively straightforward, but I did encounter a few issues. I'm writing this post to see if anyone has solved these issues.
MVP Implementation Issues
The first issue I ran across was GXT's widgets don't implement standard GWT interfaces. To try and figure out a solution, I posted the following on Twitter:
"Wondering if it's possible to do MVP with GXT since it's buttons don't implement standard GWT interfaces."
The best response I received was from Simon Stewart (founder of the WebDriver project, works for Google):
"Put the GXT buttons in the View. Let that turn DOM events into semantic events."
He also pointed me to his tdd-gwt-gae project which shows many techniques for unit testing (with jMock) and integration testing (with GWTTestCase). Using Simon's examples, I was able to determine an initial strategy for implementing MVP with GXT.
My strategy is instead of getting widgets from the view and adding handlers, you add handlers to to the view and it takes care of adding them to the widgets that should listen for them. This seems to work, but my View interface has a lot of void methods, which is a bit different than standard MVP patterns I've seen.
The 2nd issue I encountered is with unit testing. Unit testing can be be performed on MVP applications by mocking out any dependencies that use JSNI. Classes that use JSNI are not testable with plain ol' JUnit and typically requires you to use GWTTestCase, which can be slow and cumbersome. This isn't to say that GWTTestCase isn't useful, just that it has its place.
When unit testing MVP applications, the recommended practice seems to be you should test presenters and not views. Services fall into a similar "don't unit test" category because they'll need to connect to the server-side, which won't be running in a unit testing environment.
This is where I ran into a major issue that I don't have a solution for.
In attempt to try different mocking techniques for callbacks, I created a test that uses two recommended EasyMock-ing strategies. The first is a "CallbackSuccessMatcher" and is described in more detail in Testing GWT without GwtTestCase. The second technique uses a "CallbackMockSupport" class to allow EasyMock expectations such as expectLastCallAsync() and expectLastCallAsyncSuccess(T). You can read more about this technique in Test driven development for GWT UI code with asynchronous RPC.
Both of these examples use RPC, which typically has callbacks that have an onSuccess(T type) method. It's easy to use these callbacks in unit tests since T is a POJO and the onSuccess() method contains no JSNI code.
Currently, I see a few possible solutions to this problem:
- Figure out a way to detect when unit tests are running and add if/else logic to callbacks.
- Modify presenters and services so a callback can be set that is unit test-friendly.
- Make JSOModel an interface that can be replaced/mocked in tests.
The last solution seems like best one, but I'm also curious to know what others are doing. My hunch is that most GWT apps use RPC and haven't run into this issue.