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Java and Mocking

· Java Zone

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I've just spent my first three days on a project in Leeds. It's a pretty common Java project, RESTful services and some MVC screens. We have been using Mockito for testing which is a first for me. My immediate impression is quite good. It's a nice tool and it allows some very clean testing of stuff that generally becomes quite messy. One of the things I like is how it uses generics and the static typing of Java to make it really easy to make mocks that are actually type checked; like this for example:

Iterator iter = mock(Iterator.class);


// Call stuff that starts interaction



These are generally the only things you need to stub stuff out and verify that it was called. The things you don't care about you don't verify. This is pretty good for being Java, but there are some problems with it too. One of the first things I noticed I don't like is that interactions that isn't verified can't be disallowed in an easy way. Optimally this would happen at the creation of the mock, instead of actually calling the verifyNoMoreInteractions() afterwards instead. It's way to easy to forget. Another problem that quite often comes up is that you want to mock out or stub some methods but retain the original behavior of others. This doesn't seem possible, and the alternative is to manually create a new subclass for this. Annoying.

Contrast this to testing the same interaction with Mocha, using JtestR, the difference isn't that much, but there is some missing cruft:

iter = mock(Iterator)
# Call stuff that starts interaction

Ruby makes the checking of interactions happen automatically afterwards, and so you don't have any types you don't need to care about most stuff the way you do in Java. This also shows a few of the inconsistencies in Mockito, that is necessary because of the type system. For example, with the verify method you send the mock as argument and the return value of the verify-method is what you call the actual method on, to verify that it's actually called. Verify is a generic method that returns the same type as the argument you give to it. But this doesn't work for the stub method. Since it needs to return a value that you can call toReturn on, that means it can't actually return the type of the mock, which in turn means that you need to call the method to stub before the actual stub call happens. This dichotomy gets me every time since it's a core inconsistency in the way the library works.

Contrast that to how a Mockito like library might look for the same interaction:

iter = mock(Iterator)
# Do stuff


The lack of typing makes it possible to create a cleaner, more readable API. Of course, these interactions are all based on how the Java code looked. You could quite easily imagine a more free form DSL for mocking that is easier to read and write.

Conclusion? Mockito is nice, but Ruby mocking is definitely nicer. I'm wondering why the current mocking approaches doesn't use the method call way of defining expectations and stubs though, since these are much easier to work with in Ruby.

Also, it was kinda annoying to upgrade from Mockito 1.3 to 1.4 and see half our tests starting to fail for unknown reasons. Upgrade cancelled. 


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