Spring Framework 3.2 RC1: New Testing Features

As Juergen Hoeller mentioned in his post announcing the release of Spring Framework 3.2 RC1, the Spring Team has introduced some exciting new features in terms of testing support. Most importantly, we've added first-class support for testing web applications. [1]

      Please note: this is a cross post from my Swiftmind company blog.

In this post we'll first take a look at some of the general new testing features in the Spring Framework, and then we'll go into detail regarding support for testing with a WebApplicationContext as well as request and session scoped beans. We'll close with a look at support for ApplicationContextInitializers and a brief discussion of the road map for testing with application context hierarchies.

Rossen Stoyanchev will later follow up with a detailed post on the new Spring MVC Test framework that provides first-class support for testing Spring MVC applications. So be sure to stay tuned for that as well, since it builds on the basic web testing support discussed later in this post.

General New Features and Updates

Build and Dependencies

The spring-test module now builds against and supports JUnit 4.10 and TestNG 6.5.2, and spring-test now depends on the junit:junit-dep Maven artifact instead of junit:junit which means that you have full control over your dependencies on Hamcrest libraries (e.g., hamcrest-core, hamcrest-all, etc.).

Generic Factory Methods

Generic factory methods are methods that implement the Factory Method Design Pattern using Java Generics. Here are some example signatures of generic factory methods:

public static <T> T mock(Class<T> clazz) { ... } public static <T> T proxy(T obj) { ... }

The use of generic factory methods in Spring configuration is by no means specific to testing, but generic factory methods such as EasyMock.createMock(MyService.class) or Mockito.mock(MyService.class) are often used to create dynamic mocks for Spring beans in a test application context. For example, prior to Spring Framework 3.2 the following configuration could fail to autowire the OrderRepository into the OrderService. The reason is that, depending on the order in which beans are initialized in the application context, Spring would potentially infer the type of the orderRepository bean to be java.lang.Object instead of com.example.repository.OrderRepository.

<beans> <!-- OrderService is autowired with OrderRepository --> <context:component-scan base-package="com.example.service"/> <bean id="orderRepository" class="org.easymock.EasyMock" factory-method="createMock" c:_="com.example.repository.OrderRepository" /> </beans>

In Spring 3.2, generic return types for factory methods are now properly inferred, and autowiring by type for mocks should work as expected. As a result, custom work-arounds such as a MockitoFactoryBean, EasyMockFactoryBean, or Springockito are likely no longer necessary.

Mock Objects

We've introduced MockEnvironment which complements the existing MockPropertySource to complete support for mocking out the environment and property source abstractions introduced in Spring 3.1.

Regarding unit testing support for web components, we've added new features to existing Servlet API mocks such as MockServletContext, MockHttpSession, MockFilterChain, and MockRequestDispatcher, and we've introduced new mocks related to REST Web Services: MockClientHttpRequest and MockClientHttpResponse for the client side as well as MockHttpInputMessage and MockHttpOutputMessage for the server side.

JDBC Testing Support

In Spring 3.2 we’ve deprecated SimpleJdbcTestUtils in favor of the improved JdbcTestUtils class which offers new countRowsInTableWhere() and dropTables() utility methods in addition to everything that SimpleJdbcTestUtils previously offered. These changes help to avoid the compiler warnings associated with the use of the deprecated SimpleJdbcTemplate and provide a convenient means for counting the number of rows in a table using a WHERE clause and for dropping a list of tables. On a similar note, AbstractTransactionalJUnit4SpringContextTests and AbstractTransactionalTestNGSpringContextTests have been retrofitted with a jdbcTemplate instance variable as well as countRowsInTableWhere() and dropTables() methods which delegate to their counterparts in JdbcTestUtils.

Transaction Manager Configuration

If you're familiar with the support for transactional integration tests in the Spring TestContext Framework, then you're probably aware that the transaction manager used for tests must be called "transactionManager" by convention. Since Spring 2.5, this has been overridable via the @TransactionConfiguration annotation (e.g., @TransactionConfiguration(transactionManager="txMgr")); however, the use of this annotation is no longer necessary if there is a single PlatformTransactionManger present in the application context. In other words, as long as there is only one transaction manager defined in the context, there's no longer a need to qualify what the name of that transaction manager is: if there's only one, the TestContext framework will simply use it.

Spring 3.1 introduced the TransactionManagementConfigurer interface for programmatically specifying the transaction manager to use with @Transactional methods when using @Configuration classes in conjunction with @EnableTransactionManagement (i.e., as opposed to using XML configuration with <tx:annotation-driven />). So as of Spring 3.2, if one of your components (i.e., typically an @Configuration class) implements TransactionManagementConfigurer, the TestContext framework will use the transaction manager specified by that component.

The Spring TestContext Framework

The rest of this post deals explicitly with new features in the Spring TestContext Framework. If you're already familiar with the TestContext framework, feel free to skip to the next section. Otherwise, you might want to first familiarize yourself with the information provided via the links in the following paragraphs.

In Spring 2.5 we introduced the Spring TestContext Framework which provides annotation-driven integration testing support that can be used with JUnit or TestNG. The examples in this post will focus on JUnit-based tests, but all features used here apply to TestNG as well.

In Spring 3.1 we revised the Spring TestContext Framework with added support for testing with @Configuration classes and environment profiles.

Loading a WebApplicationContext

  • Question: How do you tell the TestContext framework to load a WebApplicationContext?
  • Answer: Just annotate your test class with @WebAppConfiguration.

That's really all there is to it. The presence of @WebAppConfiguration on your test class instructs the TestContext framework (TCF) that a WebApplicationContext (WAC) should be loaded for your integration tests. In the background the TCF makes sure that a MockServletContext is created and supplied to your test's WAC. By default the base resource path for your MockServletContext will be set to "src/main/webapp". This is interpreted as a path relative to the root of your JVM (i.e., normally the path to your project). If you're familiar with the directory structure of a web application in a Maven project, you'll know that "src/main/webapp" is the default location for the root of your WAR. If you need to override this default, simply provide an alternate path to the @WebAppConfiguration annotation (e.g., @WebAppConfiguration("src/test/webapp")). If you wish to reference a base resource path from the classpath instead of the file system, just use Spring's classpath: prefix.

Please note that Spring's testing support for WebApplicationContexts is on par with its support for standard ApplicationContexts. When testing with a WebApplicationContext you are free to declare either XML configuration files or @Configuration classes via @ContextConfiguration. You are of course also free to use any other test annotations such as @TestExecutionListeners, @TransactionConfiguration, @ActiveProfiles, etc.

Let's take a look at some examples...


@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) // defaults to "file:src/main/webapp" @WebAppConfiguration // detects "WacTests-context.xml" in same package // or static nested @Configuration class @ContextConfiguration public class WacTests { //... }

The above example demonstrates the TestContext framework's support for convention over configuration. If you annotate a test class with @WebAppConfiguration without specifying a resource base path, the resource path will effectively default to "file:src/main/webapp". Similarly, if you declare @ContextConfiguration without specifying resource locations, annotated classes, or context initializers, Spring will attempt to detect the presence of your configuration using conventions (i.e., "WacTests-context.xml" in the same package as the WacTests class or static nested @Configuration classes).

Default Resource Semantics

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) // file system resource @WebAppConfiguration("webapp") // classpath resource @ContextConfiguration("/spring/test-servlet-config.xml") public class WacTests { //... }

This example demonstrates how to explicitly declare a resource base path with @WebAppConfiguration and an XML resource location with @ContextConfiguration. The important thing to note here is the different semantics for paths with these two annotations. By default, @WebAppConfiguration resource paths are file system based; whereas, @ContextConfiguration resource locations are classpath based.

Explicit Resource Semantics

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) // classpath resource @WebAppConfiguration("classpath:test-web-resources") // file system resource @ContextConfiguration( "file:src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/servlet-config.xml") public class WacTests { //... }

In this third example, we see that we can override the default resource semantics for both annotations by specifying a Spring resource prefix. Contrast the comments in this example with the previous example.

Working with Web Mocks

To provide comprehensive web testing support, Spring 3.2 introduces a new ServletTestExecutionListener that is enabled by default. When testing against a WebApplicationContext this TestExecutionListener sets up default thread-local state via Spring Web's RequestContextHolder before each test method and creates a MockHttpServletRequest, MockHttpServletResponse, and ServletWebRequest based on the base resource path configured via @WebAppConfiguration. ServletTestExecutionListener also ensures that the MockHttpServletResponse and ServletWebRequest can be injected into the test instance, and once the test is complete it cleans up thread-local state.

Once you have a WebApplicationContext loaded for your test you might find that you need to interact with the web mocks — for example, to set up your test fixture or to perform assertions after invoking your web component. The following example demonstrates which mocks can be autowired into your test instance. Note that the WebApplicationContext and MockServletContext are both cached across the test suite; whereas, the other mocks are managed per test method by the ServletTestExecutionListener.

Injecting Mocks

@WebAppConfiguration @ContextConfiguration public class WacTests { @Autowired WebApplicationContext wac; // cached @Autowired MockServletContext servletContext; // cached @Autowired MockHttpSession session; @Autowired MockHttpServletRequest request; @Autowired MockHttpServletResponse response; @Autowired ServletWebRequest webRequest; //... }

Request and Session Scoped Beans

Request and session scoped beans have been supported by Spring for several years now, but it's always been a bit non-trivial to test them. As of Spring 3.2 it's now a breeze to test your request-scoped and session-scoped beans by following these steps:

  1. Ensure that a WebApplicationContext is loaded for your test by annotating your test class with @WebAppConfiguration.
  2. Inject the mock request or session into your test instance and prepare your test fixture as appropriate.
  3. Invoke your web component that you retrieved from the configured WebApplicationContext (i.e., via dependency injection).
  4. Perform assertions against the mocks.

The following code snippet displays the XML configuration for a login use case. Note that the userService bean has a dependency on a request-scoped loginAction bean. Also, the LoginAction is instantiated using SpEL expressions that retrieve the username and password from the current HTTP request. In our test, we will want to configure these request parameters via the mock managed by the TestContext framework.

Request-scoped Bean Config

<beans> <bean id="userService" class="com.example.SimpleUserService" c:loginAction-ref="loginAction" /> <bean id="loginAction" class="com.example.LoginAction" c:username="#{request.getParameter('user')}" c:password="#{request.getParameter('pswd')}" scope="request"> <aop:scoped-proxy /> </bean> </beans>

In RequestScopedBeanTests we inject both the UserService (i.e., the subject under test) and the MockHttpServletRequest into our test instance. Within our requestScope() test method we set up our test fixture by setting request parameters in the provided MockHttpServletRequest. When the loginUser() method is invoked on our userService we are assured that the user service has access to the request-scoped loginAction for the current MockHttpServletRequest (i.e., the one we just set parameters in). We can then perform assertions against the results based on the known inputs for the username and password.

Request-scoped Bean Test

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration @WebAppConfiguration public class RequestScopedBeanTests { @Autowired UserService userService; @Autowired MockHttpServletRequest request; @Test public void requestScope() { request.setParameter("user", "enigma"); request.setParameter("pswd", "$pr!ng"); LoginResults results = userService.loginUser(); // assert results } }

The following code snippet is similar to the one we saw above for a request-scoped bean; however, this time the userService bean has a dependency on a session-scoped userPreferences bean. Note that the UserPreferences bean is instantiated using a SpEL expression that retrieves the theme from the current HTTP session. In our test, we will need to configure a theme in the mock session managed by the TestContext framework.

Session-scoped Bean Config

<beans> <bean id="userService" class="com.example.SimpleUserService" c:userPreferences-ref="userPreferences" /> <bean id="userPreferences" class="com.example.UserPreferences" c:theme="#{session.getAttribute('theme')}" scope="session"> <aop:scoped-proxy /> </bean> </beans>

In SessionScopedBeanTests we inject the UserService and the MockHttpSession into our test instance. Within our sessionScope() test method we set up our test fixture by setting the expected "theme" attribute in the provided MockHttpSession. When the processUserPreferences() method is invoked on our userService we are assured that the user service has access to the session-scoped userPreferences for the current MockHttpSession, and we can perform assertions against the results based on the configured theme.

Session-scoped Bean Test

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration @WebAppConfiguration public class SessionScopedBeanTests { @Autowired UserService userService; @Autowired MockHttpSession session; @Test public void sessionScope() throws Exception { session.setAttribute("theme", "blue"); Results results = userService.processUserPreferences(); // assert results } }

Application Context Initializers

Spring 3.1 introduced the ApplicationContextInitializer interface that allows for programmatic initialization of a ConfigurableApplicationContext — for example, to register property sources or activate bean definition profiles against the Spring Environment abstraction. Initializers can be configured in web.xml by specifying contextInitializerClasses via a context-param for the ContextLoaderListener and via an init-param for the DispatcherServlet.

To use context initializers in integration tests, simply declare the initializer classes in @ContextConfiguration via the new initializers attribute introduced in Spring 3.2. Inheritance of initializers across a test class hierarchy can be controlled via the inheritInitializers attribute which is true by default. Since an ApplicationContextInitializer provides a fully programmatic approach to initializing an application context, an initializer may optionally configure the entire context. In other words, XML resource locations or annotated classes are no longer absolutely required in integration tests that are configured via @ContextConfiguration if initializers have been declared. Last but not least, context initializers are ordered based on Spring's Ordered interface or the @Order annotation.

The following code examples demonstrate the various ways that context initializers can be used in integration tests. The first shows how to configure a single initializer in conjunction with XML resource locations. The next example declares multiple context initializers. The third listing demonstrates the use of initializers in a class hierarchy where the list of context initializers declared in the ExtendedTest will be merged with those declared in the BaseTest. Recall that invocation order of initializers is influenced based on the implementation of Spring's Ordered interface or the presence of the @Order annotation. The fourth example is identical to the third example except that the inheritInitializers attribute in @ContextConfiguration has been set to false. The result is that any context initializers declared in parent classes will be ignored (i.e., overridden). The final listing demonstrates that an ApplicationContext can be loaded solely from context initializers without the need to declare XML resource locations or annotated classes.

Single Initializer

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration( locations = "/app-config.xml", initializers = CustomInitializer.class) public class ApplicationContextInitializerTests {}

Multiple Initializers

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration( locations = "/app-config.xml", initializers = { PropertySourceInitializer.class, ProfileInitializer.class }) public class ApplicationContextInitializerTests {}

Merged Initializers

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration( classes = BaseConfig.class, initializers = BaseInitializer.class) public class BaseTest {} @ContextConfiguration( classes = ExtendedConfig.class, initializers = ExtendedInitializer.class) public class ExtendedTest extends BaseTest {}

Overridden Initializers

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextConfiguration( classes = BaseConfig.class, initializers = BaseInitializer.class) public class BaseTest {} @ContextConfiguration( classes = ExtendedConfig.class, initializers = ExtendedInitializer.class, inheritInitializers = false) public class ExtendedTest extends BaseTest {}

Initializer without Resources

// does not declare 'locations' or 'classes' @ContextConfiguration( initializers = EntireAppInitializer.class) public class InitializerWithoutConfigFilesOrClassesTest {}

Context Caching

Once the TestContext framework loads an ApplicationContext for a test, that context will be cached and reused for all subsequent tests that declare the same unique context configuration within the same test suite. The important thing to keep in mind here is that an ApplicationContext is uniquely identified by its context cache key (i.e., the combination of configuration parameters that are used to load it).

As of Spring 3.2 ApplicationContextInitializer classes are also included the context cache key. Furthermore, if the context is a WebApplicationContext its base resource path (defined via @WebAppConfiguration) will also be included in the context cache key. For further details on caching, consult the Context caching section of the reference manual.

Application Context Hierarchies

NOTE: As of Spring Framework 3.2 RC1, support for context hierarchies has not yet been implemented.

In integration tests managed by the Spring TestContext Framework, currently only flat, non-hierarchical contexts are supported. In other words, there is no easy way to create contexts with parent-child relationships for tests. But context hierarchies are supported in production deployments. So it would be nice to be able to test them.

With that in mind, the Spring Team would like to introduce integration testing support for loading a test application context with a parent context, and ideally the following common hierarchies would be supported.

  • Root WebApplicationContext ← Dispatcher WebApplicationContext
  • EAR ← Root WebApplicationContext ← Dispatcher WebApplicationContext

The current proposal includes the introduction of a new @ContextHierarchy annotation that would contain nested @ContextConfiguration declarations plus a new name attribute in @ContextConfiguration that could be used for merging or overriding named configuration in the context hierarchy.

To shed some light on the proposal, let's take a look at a few examples...

AppCtxHierarchyTests demonstrates a parent-child context hierarchy declared within a single test class, where the contexts are standard contexts (i.e., non-web).

Single Test with Context Hierarchy

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @ContextHierarchy({ @ContextConfiguration("parent.xml"), @ContextConfiguration("child.xml") }) public class AppCtxHierarchyTests {}

ControllerIntegrationTests demonstrates a parent-child context hierarchy declared within a single test class, where the contexts are WebApplicationContexts and model a typical Spring MVC deployment.

Root WAC & Dispatcher WAC

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @WebAppConfiguration @ContextHierarchy({ @ContextConfiguration( name = "root", classes = WebAppConfig.class), @ContextConfiguration( name = "dispatcher", locations = "/spring/dispatcher-config.xml") }) public class ControllerIntegrationTests {}

The following code listing demonstrates how a context hierarchy could be built up across a test class hierarchy, where each level in the test class hierarchy is responsible for configuring its own level in the context hierarchy. Executing tests in both of these subclasses would result in three application contexts being loaded (and cached) and two distinct context hierarchies.

Class & Context Hierarchies

@RunWith(SpringJUnit4ClassRunner.class) @WebAppConfiguration @ContextConfiguration( "file:src/main/webapp/WEB-INF/applicationContext.xml") public abstract class AbstractWebTests{} @ContextHierarchy(@ContextConfiguration("/spring/soap-ws-config.xml")) public class SoapWebServiceTests extends AbstractWebTests{} @ContextHierarchy(@ContextConfiguration("/spring/rest-ws-config.xml")) public class RestWebServiceTests extends AbstractWebTests{}

Feedback is Welcome

If you are interested in further information on the proposal for context hierarchies or want to take part in the discussion, please feel free to watch the following JIRA issues and provide us your feedback.


Spring Framework 3.2 introduces several new testing features with a strong focus on first-class support for testing web applications. We encourage you to try out these features as soon as you can and give us feedback. Also, stay tuned for Rossen Stoyanchev's follow-up post on the new Spring MVC Test framework. And if you find any bugs or have any suggestions for improvements, now is the time to take action!

[1] The reference manual has not yet been updated to reflect testing support for web applications, but these features will certainly be well documented by Spring 3.2 GA.

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