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Injecting Mock Objects for Powerful Testing in Python

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Injecting Mock Objects for Powerful Testing in Python

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The code discussed in this post can be found in the github repository.

While writing a module to handle Google ClientLogin recently, I wanted to test error handling by simulating error responses from the server. A simple but powerful way of doing this is to use the patching ability of the mock module.

The patching ability allows you to replace objects in scope with mocks so that different side effects or return values can be defined. Note that ‘object’ is used here in the pythonic sense – referring to entities such as modules and functions as well as class instances.

This is best illustrated by a real example, so in this post we’re going to mock the requests module and generate the exceptions described in the documentation when a request is made.

Our example module sends credentials to Google’s ClientLogin service in order to receive an authentication token, required for accessing certain Google services (such as C2DM). If you are interested, you can read more about ClientLogin on the Google Code page.

So, to request an authentication token from the ClientLogin service, you POST a set of parameters including email and password to the service endpoint. Here is a cut-down version of the code that initiates the authentication request:

class Authenticator(object):

    def generate_token(email, password, source,
                       account_type='GOOGLE', service='ac2dm'):

        """Returns an auth token for the supplied service."""

        base_url = 'https://www.google.com/accounts/ClientLogin'

        headers = {
            'content-type': 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded',

        payload = {
            'Email': email,
            'Passwd': password,
            'source': source,
            'accountType': account_type,
            'service': service,

            response = requests.post(base_url, data=payload, headers=headers)

If the requests.post method throws an exception, we simply raise it to the caller rather than handling it immediately. In the requests module, RequestException is the base class from which others (like ConnectionError) inherit. We could improve our approach to exception handling but it is sufficient for this example.

These exceptions will be thrown from our mocked class, which is patched into the above code using a context manager:

import unittest2 as unittest
from requests.exceptions import RequestException, ConnectionError
from mock import patch
from clientlogin import Authenticator

class AuthenticationTests(unittest.TestCase):

    def test_connection_error(self):
        with patch.object(requests, 'post') as mock_method:
            mock_method.side_effect = ConnectionError

Here, we have patched the post method in the requests module to throw a ConnectionError. You can think of this like code injection, where with acts as the closure.

In the real test method, we assert the exception was raised with another context manager:

def test_connection_error(self):
    with patch.object(requests, 'post') as mock_method:
        with self.assertRaises(RequestException):
            mock_method.side_effect = ConnectionError

Here, we assert that the ConnectionError exception is raised to the caller, but we could easily have asserted a different condition. We could, for instance, have verified some exception handling logic.

As we’ve seen, mocking objects and methods in this manner is a simple but powerful way of running your code under different simulated conditions, allowing thorough testing of error-handling logic.

You can see the full module including tests and usage instructions at the github repository. For more information on the mock module, the full documentation is available.

Source: http://blueprintforge.com/blog/2012/01/08/python-injecting-mock-objects-for-powerful-testing/


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