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Rough-work for Jasmine section of Backbone Fundamentals

##Introduction

One definition of unit testing is the process of taking the smallest piece of testable code in an application, isolating it from the remainder of your codebase and determining if it behaves exactly as expected. In this section, we'll be taking a look at how to unit test Backbone applications using a popular JavaScript testing framework called Jasmine from Pivotal Labs.

For an application to be considered 'well'-tested, distinct functionality should ideally have its own separate unit tests where it's tested against the different conditions you expect it to work under. All tests must pass before functionality is considered 'complete'. This allows developers to both modify a unit of code and it's dependencies with a level of confidence about whether these changes have caused any breakage.

As a basic example of unit testing is where a developer may wish to assert whether passing specific values through to a sum function results in the correct output being returned. For an example more relevant to this book, we may wish to assert whether a user adding a new Todo item to a list correctly adds a Model of a specific type to a Todos Collection.

When building modern web-applications, it's typically considered best-practice to include automated unit testing as a part of your development process. Whilst we'll be focusing on Jasmine as a solution for this, there are a number of other alternatives worth considering, including QUnit.

##Jasmine

Jasmine describes itself as a behaviour-driven development (BDD) framework for testing JavaScript code. Before we jump into how the framework works, it's useful to understand exactly what BDD is.

BDD is a second-generation testing approach first described by Dan North (the authority on BDD) which attempts to test the behaviour of software. It's considered second-generation as it came out of merging ideas from Domain driven design (DDD) and lean software development, helping teams to deliver high quality software by answering many of the more confusing questions early on in the agile process. Such questions commonly include those concerning documentation and testing.

If you were to read a book on BDD, it's likely to also be described as being 'outside-in and pull-based'. The reason for this is that it borrows the idea of of pulling features from Lean manufacturing which effectively ensures that the right software solutions are being written by a) focusing on expected outputs of the system and b) ensuring these outputs are achieved.

BDD recognizes that there are usually multiple stakeholders in a project and not a single amorphous user of the system. These different groups will be affected by the software being written in differing ways and will have a varying opinion of what quality in the system means to them. It's for this reason that it's important to understand who the software will be bringing value you and exactly what in it will be valuable to them.

Finally, BDD relies on automation. Once you've defined the quality expected, your team will likely want to check on the functionality of the solution being built regularly and compare it to the results they expect. In order to facilitate this efficiently, the process has to be automated. BDD relies heavily on the automation of specification-testing and Jasmine is a tool which can assist with this.

BDD helps both developers and non-technical stakeholders:

  • Better understand and represent the models of the problems being solved
  • Explain supported tests cases in a language that non-developers can read
  • Focus on minimizing translation of the technical code being written and the domain language spoken by the business

What this means is that developers should be able to show Jasmine unit tests to a project stakeholder and (at a high level, thanks to a common vocabulary being used) they'll ideally be able to understand what the code supports.

Developers often implement BDD in unison with another testing paradigm known as TDD (test-driven development). The main idea behind TDD is:

  • Write unit tests which describe the functionality you would like your code to support
  • Watch these tests fail (as the code to support them hasn't yet been written)
  • Write code to make the tests pass
  • Rinse, repeat and refactor

In this chapter we're going to use both BDD (with TDD) to write unit tests for a Backbone application.

Note: I've seen a lot of developers also opt for writing tests to validate behaviour of their code after having written it. While this is fine, note that it can come with pitfalls such as only testing for behaviour your code currently supports, rather than behaviour the problem needs to be supported.

##Suites, Specs & Spies

When using Jasmine, you'll be writing suites and specifications (specs). Suites basically describe scenarios whilst specs describe what can be done in these scenarios.

Each spec is a JavaScript function, described with a call to ```it()`` using a description string and a function. The description should describe the behaviour the particular unit of code should exhibit and keeping in mind BDD, it should ideally be meaningful. Here's an example of a basic spec:

it('should be incrementing in value', function(){
    var counter = 0;
    counter++;  
});

On it's own, a spec isn't particularly useful until expectations are set about the behaviour of the code. Expectations in specs are defined using the expect() function and an expectation matcher (e.g toEqual(), toBeTruthy(), toContain()). A revised example using an expectation matcher would look like:

it('should be incrementing in value', function(){
    var counter = 0;
    counter++;  
    expect(counter).toEqual(1);
});

The above code passes our behavioural expectation as ```counter`` equals 1. Notice how easy this was to read the expectation on the last line (you probably grokked it without any explanation).

Specs are grouped into suites which we describe using Jasmine's describe() function, again passing a string as a description and a function. The name/description for your suite is typically that of the component or module you're testing.

Jasmine will use it as the group name when it reports the results of the specs you've asked it to run. A simple suite containing our sample spec could look like:

describe('Stats', function(){
    it('can increment a number', function(){
        ...
    });
    
    it('can subtract a number', function(){
        ...
    });
});

Suites also share a functional scope and so it's possible to declare variables and functions inside a describe block which are accessible within specs:

describe('Stats', function(){
    var counter = 1;
    
    it('can increment a number', function(){
        // the counter was = 1
        counter = counter + 1;
        expect(counter).toEqual(2);
    });
    
    it('can subtract a number', function(){
        // the counter was = 2
        counter = counter + 3;
        expect(counter).toEqual(5);
    });
});

Note: Suites are executed in the order in which their are described, which can be useful to know if you would prefer to see test results for specific parts of your application reported first.

Jasmine also supports spies - a way to mock, spy and fake behaviour in our unit tests. Spies replace the function they're spying on, allowing us to simulate behaviour we would like to mock (i.e test free of the actual implementation).

In the below example, we're spying on the setComplete method of a dummy Todo function to test that arguments can be passed to it as expected.

var Todo = function(){
};

Todo.prototype.setComplete = function (arg){
    return arg;
}

describe('a simple spy', function(){
    it('should spy on an instance method of a Todo', function(){
        var myTodo = new Todo();
        spyOn(myTodo, 'setComplete');
        myTodo.setComplete('foo bar');
        
        expect(myTodo.setComplete).toHaveBeenCalledWith('foo bar');
        
        var myTodo2 = new Todo();
        spyOn(myTodo2, 'setComplete');
        
        expect(myTodo2.setComplete).not.toHaveBeenCalled();
        
    });
});

What you're more likely to use spies for is testing asynchronous behaviour in your application such as AJAX requests. Jasmine supports:

  • Writing tests which can mock AJAX requests using spies. This allows us to test code which runs before an AJAX request and right after. It's also possible to mock/fake responses the server can return and the benefit of this type of testing is that it's faster as no real calls are being made to a server
  • Asynchronous tests which don't rely on spies

For the first kind of test, it's possible to both fake an AJAX request and verify that the request was both calling the correct URL and executed a callback where one was provided.

it("the callback should be executed on success", function () {
    spyOn($, "ajax").andCallFake(function(options) {
        options.success();
    });
    
    var callback = jasmine.createSpy();
    getTodo(15, callback);
    
    expect($.ajax.mostRecentCall.args[0]["url"]).toEqual("/todos/15");
    expect(callback).toHaveBeenCalled();
});

function getTodo(id, callback) {
    $.ajax({
        type: "GET",
        url: "/todos/" + id,
        dataType: "json",
        success: callback
    });
}

If you feel lost having seen matchers like andCallFake() and toHaveBeenCalled(), don't worry. All of these are Spy-specific matchers and are documented on the Jasmine wiki.

For the second type of test (asynchronous tests), we can take the above further by taking advantage of three other methods Jasmine supports:

  • runs(function) - a block which runs as if it was directly called
  • waits(timeout) - a native timeout before the next block is run
  • waitsFor(function, optional message, optional timeout) - a way to pause specs until some other work has completed. Jasmine waits until the supplied function returns true here before it moves on to the next block.
it("should make an actual AJAX request to a server", function () {
    
    var callback = jasmine.createSpy();
    getTodo(16, callback);
    
    waitsFor(function() {
        return callback.callCount > 0;
    });
    
    runs(function() {
        expect(callback).toHaveBeenCalled();
    });
});

function getTodo(id, callback) {
    $.ajax({
        type: "GET",
        url: "todos.json",
        dataType: "json",
        success: callback
    });
}

Note: It's useful to remember that when making real requests to a web server in your unit tests, this has the potential to massively slow down the speed at which tests run (due to many factors including server latency). As this also introduces an external dependency that can (and should) be minimised in your unit testing, it is strongly recommended that you opt for spies to remove the need for a web server to be used here.

##beforeEach and afterEach()

Jasmine also supports specifying code that can be run before each (beforeEach()) and after each (afterEach) test. This is useful for enforcing consistent conditions (such as resetting variables that may be required by specs). In the following example, beforeEach() is used to create a new sample Todo model specs can use for testing attributes.

beforeEach(function(){
   this.todo = new Backbone.Model({
      text: "Buy some more groceries",
      done: false 
   });
});

it("should contain a text value if not the default value", function(){
   expect(this.todo.get('text')).toEqual("Buy some more groceries"); 
});

Each nested describe() in your tests can have their own beforeEach() and afterEach() methods which support including setup and teardown methods relevant to a particular suite. We'll be using beforeEach() in practice a little later.

##Shared scope

In the previous section you may have noticed that we initially declared a variable this.todo in our beforeEach() call and were then able to continue using this in afterEach(). This is thanks to a powerful feature of Jasmine known as shared functional scope. Shared scope allows this properties to be common to all blocks (including runs()), but not declared variables (i.e vars).

##Getting setup

Now that we've reviewed some fundamentals, let's go through downloading Jasmine and getting everything setup to write tests.

A standalone release of Jasmine can be downloaded from the official release page.

You'll need a file called SpecRunner.html in addition to the release. It can be downloaded from https://github.com/pivotal/jasmine/tree/master/lib/jasmine-core/example or as part of a download of the complete Jasmine repo.Alternatively, you can git clone the main Jasmine repository from https://github.com/pivotal/jasmine.git.

Let's review SpecRunner.html:

It first includes both Jasmine and the necessary CSS required for reporting:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="lib/jasmine-1.1.0.rc1/jasmine.css"/>
<script type="text/javascript" src="lib/jasmine-1.1.0.rc1/jasmine.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="lib/jasmine-1.1.0.rc1/jasmine-html.js"></script>

Next, some sample tests are included:

<script type="text/javascript" src="spec/SpecHelper.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="spec/PlayerSpec.js"></script>

And finally the sources being tested:

<script type="text/javascript" src="src/Player.js"></script>
<script type="text/javascript" src="src/Song.js"></script>

Note: Below this section of SpecRunner is code responsible for running the actual tests. Given that we won't be covering modifying this code, I'm going to skip reviewing it. I do however encourage you to take a look through PlayerSpec.js and SpecHelper.js. They're a useful basic example to go through how a minimal set of tests might work.

##TDD With Backbone

When developing applications with Backbone, it can be necessary to test both individual modules of code as well as modules, views, collections and routers. Taking a TDD approach to testing, let's review some specs for testing these Backbone components using the popular Backbone Todo application.

I would like to extend my thanks to Larry Myers for his Koans project which both greatly helped here and will be used in the exercise portion of this chapter.

##Models

The complexity of Backbone models can vary greatly depending on what your application is trying to achieve. In the following example, we're going to test default values, attributes, state changes and validation rules.

First, we begin our suite for model testing using describe():

describe('Tests for Todo', function() {

Models should ideally have default values for attributes. This helps ensure that when creating instances without a value set for any specific attribute, a default one (e.g "") is used instead. The idea here is to allow your application to interact with models without any unexpected behaviour.

In the following spec, we create a new Todo without any attributes passed then check to find out what the value of the text attribute is. As no value has been set, we expect a default value of ```""`` to be returned.

it('Can be created with default values for its attributes.', function() {
    var todo = new Todo();
    expect(todo.get('text')).toBe("");
});

If testing this spec before your models have been written, you'll incur a failing test, as expected. What's required for the spec to pass is a default value for the attribute text. We can implement this default value with some other useful defaults (which we'll be using shortly) in our Todo model as follows:

window.Todo = Backbone.Model.extend({

    defaults: function() {
        return {
            text: "",
            done:  false,
            order: 0
        };
    }

Next, we want to test that our model will pass attributes that are set such that retrieving the value of these attributes after initialization will be what we expect. Notice that here, in addition to testing for an expected value for text, we're also testing the other default values are what we expect them to be.

it('Will set passed attributes on the model instance when created.', function() {
    var todo = new Todo({ text: 'Get oil change for car.' });
    
    // what are the values expected here for each of the
    // attributes in our Todo?
    
    expect(todo.get('text')).toBe("Get oil change for car.");
    expect(todo.get('done')).toBe(false);
    expect(todo.get('order')).toBe(0);
});

Backbone models support a model.change() event which is triggered when the state of a model changes. In the following example, by 'state' I'm referring to the value of a Todo model's attributes. The reason changes of state are important to test are that there may be state-dependant events in your application e.g you may wish to display a confirmation view once a Todo model has been updated.

it('Fires a custom event when the state changes.', function() {

    var spy = jasmine.createSpy('-change event callback-');
    
    var todo = new Todo();
    
    // how do we monitor changes of state?
    todo.bind('change', spy);
    
    // what would you need to do to force a change of state?
    todo.set({ text: 'Get oil change for car.' });
    
    expect(spy).toHaveBeenCalled();
});

It's common to include validation logic in your models to ensure both the input passed from users (and other modules) in the application are 'valid'. A Todo app may wish to validate the text input supplied in case it contains rude words. Similarly if we're storing the done state of a Todo item using booleans, we need to validate that truthy/falsy values are passed and not just any arbitrary string.

In the following spec, we take advantage of the fact that validations which fail model.validate() trigger an "error" event. This allows us to test if validations are correctly failing when invalid input is supplied.

We create an errorCallback spy using Jasmine's built in createSpy() method which allows us to spy on the error event as follows:

it('Can contain custom validation rules, and will trigger an error event on failed validation.', function() {

    var errorCallback = jasmine.createSpy('-error event callback-');
    
    var todo = new Todo();
    
    todo.bind('error', errorCallback);
    
    // What would you need to set on the todo properties to 
    // cause validation to fail?

    todo.set({done:'a non-integer value'});
    
    var errorArgs = errorCallback.mostRecentCall.args;
    
    expect(errorArgs).toBeDefined();
    expect(errorArgs[0]).toBe(todo);
    expect(errorArgs[1]).toBe('Todo.done must be a boolean value.');
});

The code to make the above failing test support validation is relatively simple. In our model, we override the validate() method (as recommended in the Backbone docs), checking to make sure a model both has a 'done' property and is a valid boolean before allowing it to pass.

validate: function(attrs) {
    if (attrs.hasOwnProperty('done') && !_.isBoolean(attrs.done)) {
        return 'Todo.done must be a boolean value.';
    }
}

If you would like to review the final code for our Todo model, you can find it below:

var NAUGHTY_WORDS = /crap|poop|hell|frogs/gi;

function sanitize(str) {
    return str.replace(NAUGHTY_WORDS, 'rainbows');
}

window.Todo = Backbone.Model.extend({

    defaults: function() {
        return {
            text: '',
            done:  false,
            order: 0
        };
    },
    
    initialize: function() {
        this.set({text: sanitize(this.get('text'))}, {silent: true});
    },
    
    validate: function(attrs) {
        if (attrs.hasOwnProperty('done') && !_.isBoolean(attrs.done)) {
            return 'Todo.done must be a boolean value.';
        }
    },

    toggle: function() {
        this.save({done: !this.get("done")});
    }

});

##Collections

We now need to define specs to tests a Backbone collection of Todo models (a TodoList). Collections are responsible for a number of list tasks including managing order and filtering.

A few specific specs that come to mind when working with collections are:

  • Making sure we can add new Todo models as both objects and arrays
  • Attribute testing to make sure attributes such as the base URL of the collection are values we expect
  • Purposefully adding items with a status of done:true and checking against how many the collection thinks have been completed vs. those that are remaining

In this section we're going to cover the first two of these with the third left as an extended exercise I recommend trying out.

Testing Todo models can be added to a collection as objects or arrays is relatively trivial. First, we initialize a new TodoList collection and check to make sure it's length (i.e the number of Todo models it contains) is 0. Next, we add new Todos, both as objects and arrays, checking the length property of the collection at each stage to ensure the overall count is what we expect:

describe('Tests for TodoList', function() {

    it('Can add Model instances as objects and arrays.', function() {
        var todos = new TodoList();
        
        expect(todos.length).toBe(0);
        
        todos.add({ text: 'Clean the kitchen' });
        
        // how many todos have been added so far?
        expect(todos.length).toBe(1);
        
        todos.add([
            { text: 'Do the laundry', done: true }, 
            { text: 'Go to the gym'}
        ]);
        
        // how many are there in total now?
        expect(todos.length).toBe(3);
    });
...

Similar to model attributes, it's also quite straight-forward to test attributes in collections. Here we have a spec that ensures the collection.url (i.e the url reference to the collection's location on the server) is what we expect it to be:

it('Can have a url property to define the basic url structure for all contained models.', function() {
        var todos = new TodoList();
        
        // what has been specified as the url base in our model?
        expect(todos.url).toBe('/todos/');
});
    

For the third spec, it's useful to remember that the implementation for our collection will have methods for filtering how many Todo items are done and how many are remaining - we can call these done() and remaining(). Consider writing a spec which creates a new collection and adds one new model that has a preset done state of true and two others that have the default done state of false. Testing the length of what's returned using done() and remaining() should allow us to know whether the state management in our application is working or needs a little tweaking.

The final implementation for our TodoList collection can be found below:

 window.TodoList = Backbone.Collection.extend({

        model: Todo,
        
        url: '/todos/',

        done: function() {
            return this.filter(function(todo) { return todo.get('done'); });
        },

        remaining: function() {
            return this.without.apply(this, this.done());
        },
        
        nextOrder: function() {
            if (!this.length) { 
                return 1; 
            }
            
            return this.last().get('order') + 1;
        },

        comparator: function(todo) {
            return todo.get('order');
        }

    });

##Views

Before we take a look at testing Backbone views, let's briefly review a jQuery plugin that can assist with writing Jasmine specs for them.

The Jasmine jQuery Plugin

As we know our Todo application will be using jQuery for DOM manipulation, there's a useful jQuery plugin called jasmine-jquery we can use to help simplify BDD testing rendered elements that our views may produce.

The plugin provides a number of additional Jasmine matchers to help test jQuery wrapped sets such as:

  • toBe(jQuerySelector) e.g expect($('<div id="some-id"></div>')).toBe('div#some-id')
  • toBeChecked() e.g expect($('<input type="checkbox" checked="checked"/>')).toBeChecked()
  • toBeSelected() e.g expect($('<option selected="selected"></option>')).toBeSelected()

and many others. The complete list of matchers supported can be found on the project homepage. It's useful to know that similar to the standard Jasmine matchers, the custom matchers above can be inverted using the .not prefix (i.e expect(x).not.toBe(y)):

expect($('<div>I am an example</div>')).not.toHaveText(/other/)

jasmine-jquery also includes a fixtures model, allowing us to load in arbitrary HTML content we may wish to use in our tests. Fixtures can be used as follows:

Include some HTML in an external fixtures file:

some.fixture.html: <div id="sample-fixture">some HTML content</div>

Next, inside our actual test we would load it as follows:

loadFixtures('some.fixture.html')
$('some-fixture').myTestedPlugin();
expect($('#some-fixture')).to<the rest of your matcher would go here>

The jasmine-jquery plugin is by default setup to load fixtures from a specific directory: spec/javascripts/fixtures. If you wish to configure this path you can do so by initially setting jasmine.getFixtures().fixturesPath = 'your custom path'.

Finally, jasmine-jquery includes support for spying on jQuery events without the need for any extra plumbing work. This can be done using the spyOnEvent() and assert(eventName).toHaveBeenTriggered(selector) functions. An example of usage may look as follows:

spyOnEvent($('#el'), 'click');
$('#el').click();
expect('click').toHaveBeenTriggeredOn($('#el'));

View testing

In this section we will review three dimensions to writing specs for Backbone Views: initial setup, view rendering and finally templating. The latter two of these are the most commonly tested, however we'll review shortly why writing specs for the initialization of your views can also be of benefit.

##Initial setup

At their most basic, specs for Backbone views should validate that they are being correctly tied to specific DOM elements and are backed by valid data models. The reason to consider doing this is that failures to such specs can trip up more complex tests later on and they're fairly simple to write, given the overall value offered.

To help ensure a consistant testing setup for our specs, we use beforeEach() to append both an empty UL (#todoList) to the DOM and initialize a new instance of a TodoView using an empty Todo model. afterEach() is used to remove the previous #todoList UL as well as the previous instance of the view.

describe('Tests for TodoView', function() {
    
    beforeEach(function() {
        $('body').append('<ul id="todoList"></ul>');
        this.todoView = new TodoView({ model: new Todo() });
    });
    

    afterEach(function() {
        this.todoView.remove();
        $('#todoList').remove();
    });
    
...

The first spec useful to write is a check that the TodoView we've created is using the correct tagName (element or className). The purpose of this test is to make sure it's been correctly tied to a DOM element when it was created.

Backbone views typically create empty DOM elements once initialized, however these elements are not attached to the visible DOM in order to allow them to be constructed without an impact on the performance of rendering.

    it('Should be tied to a DOM element when created, based off the property provided.', function() {
        //what html element tag name represents this view?
        expect(todoView.el.tagName.toLowerCase()).toBe('li');
    });
   

Once again, if the TodoView has not already been written, we will experience failing specs. Thankfully, solving this is as simple as creating a new Backbone.View with a specific tagName.

var todoView = Backbone.View.extend({
    tagName:  "li"
});

If instead of testing against the tagName you would prefer to use a className instead, we can take advantage of jasmine-jquery's toHaveClass() matcher to cater for this.

it('Should have a class of "todos"'), function(){
   expect($(this.view.el)).toHaveClass('todos');
});

The toHaveClass() matcher operates on jQuery objects and if the plugin hadn't been used, an exception would have been incurred (it is of course also possible to test for the className by accessing el.className if not opting to use jasmine-jquery).

You may have noticed that in beforeEach(), we passed our view an initial (albeit unfilled) Todo model. Views should be backed by a model instance which provides data. As this is quite important to our view's ability to function, we can write a spec to ensure a model is both defined (using the toBeDefined() matcher) and then test attributes of the model to ensure defaults both exist and are the value we expect them to be.

    it('Is backed by a model instance, which provides the data.', function() {

        expect(todoView.model).toBeDefined();

        // what's the value for Todo.get('done') here?
        expect(todoView.model.get('done')).toBe(false); //or toBeFalsy()
    });

##View rendering

Next we're going to take a look at writing specs for view rendering. Specifically, we want to test that our TodoView elements are actually rendering as expected.

In smaller applications, those new to BDD might argue that visual confirmation of view rendering could replace unit testing of views. The reality is that when dealing with applications that might grow to multiple-views, it often makes sense to automate this process as much as possible from the get-go. There are also aspects of rendering that require verification beyond what is visually presented on-screen (which we'll see very shortly).

We're going to begin testing views by writing two specs. The first spec will check that the view's render() method is correctly returning the view instance, which is necessary for chaining. Our second spec will check that the HTML produced is exactly what we expect based on the properties of the model instance that's been associated with our TodoView.

Unlike some of the previous specs we've covered, this section will make greater use of beforeEach() to both demonstrate how to use nested suites and also ensure a consistant set of conditions for our specs. In our first view spec for TodoView, we're simply going to create a sample model (based on Todo) and instantiate a TodoView which associates it with the model.

describe("TodoView", function() {

  beforeEach(function() {
    this.model = new Backbone.Model({
      text: "My Todo",
      order: 1,
      done: false
    });
    this.view = new TodoView({model:this.model});
  });

  describe("Rendering", function() {
    
    it("returns the view object", function() {
      expect(this.view.render()).toEqual(this.view);
    });
    
    it("produces the correct HTML", function() {
      this.view.render();

      //let's use jasmine-jquery's toContain() to avoid
      //testing for the complete content of a todo's markup
      expect(this.view.el.innerHTML)
        .toContain('<label class="todo-content">My Todo</label>');
    });
    
  });
  
});

Once these specs are run, only the second one ('produces the correct HTML') fails. Our first spec ('returns the view object'), which is testing that the TodoView instance is returned from render(), only passed as this is Backbone's default behaviour. We haven't yet overwritten the render() method with our own version.

Note: For the purposes of maintaining readability, all template examples in this section will use a minimal version of the following Todo view template. As it's relatively trivial to expand this, please feel free to refer to this sample if needed:

<div class="todo <%= done ? 'done' : '' %>">
        <div class="display">
          <input class="check" type="checkbox" <%= done ? 'checked="checked"' : '' %> />
          <div class="todo-content"><%= content %></div>
          <span class="todo-destroy"></span>
        </div>
        <div class="edit">
          <input class="todo-input" type="text" value="<%= content %>" />
        </div>
      </div>

The second spec fails with the following message:

Expected '' to contain '<label class="todo-content">My Todo</label>'.

The reason for this is the default behaviour for render() doesn't create any markup. Let's write a replacement for render() which fixes this:

render: function() {
  var template = '<label class="todo-content"><%= text %></label>';
  var output = template
    .replace("<%= text %>", this.model.get('text'));
  $(this.el).html(output);
  return this;
}

The above specifies an inline string template and replaces fields found in the template within the "<% %>" blocks with their corresponding values from the associated model. As we're now also returning the TodoView instance from the method, the first spec will also pass. It's worth noting that there are serious drawbacks to using HTML strings in your specs to test against like this. Even minor changes to your template (a simple tab or whitespace) would cause your spec to fail, despite the rendered output being the same. It's also more time consuming to maintain as most templates in real-world applications are significantly more complex. A better option for testing rendered output is using jQuery to both select and inspect values.

With this in mind, let's re-write the specs, this time using some of the custom matchers offered by jasmine-jquery:

describe("Template", function() {
  
  beforeEach(function() {
    this.view.render();
  });

  it("has the correct text content", function() {
    expect($(this.view.el).find('todo-content'))
      .toHaveText('My Todo');
  });
  
});

It would be impossible to discuss unit testing without mentioning fixtures. Fixtures typically contain test data (e.g HTML) that is loaded in when needed (either locally or from an external file) for unit testing. So far we've been establishing jQuery expectations based on the view's el property. This works for a number of cases, however, there are instances where it may be necessary to render markup into the document. The most optimal way to handle this within specs is through using fixtures (another feature brought to us by the jasmine-jquery plugin).

Re-writing the last spec to use fixtures would look as follows:

describe("TodoView", function() {
  
  beforeEach(function() {
    ...
    setFixtures('<ul class="todos"></ul>');
  });
  
  ...
  
  describe("Template", function() {
      
    beforeEach(function() {
      $('.todos').append(this.view.render().el);
    });
      
    it("has the correct text content", function() {
      expect($('.todos').find('.todo-content'))
        .toHaveText('My Todo');
    });
      
  });
  
});

What we're now doing in the above spec is appending the rendered todo item into the fixture. We then set expectations against the fixture, which may be something desirable when a view is setup against an element which already exists in the DOM. It would be necessary to provide both the fixture and test the el property correctly picking up the element expected when the view is instantiated.

##Rendering with a templating system

JavaScript templating systems (such as Handlebars, Mustache and even Underscore's own Micro-templating) support conditional logic in template strings. What this effectively means is that we can add if/else/ternery expressions inline which can then be evaluated as needed, allowing us to build even more powerful templates.

In our case, when a user sets a Todo item to be complete (done), we may wish to provide them with visual feedback (such as a striked line through the text) to differenciate the item from those that are remaining. This can be done by attaching a new class to the item. Let's begin by writing a test we would ideally like to work:

describe("When a todo is done", function() {
  
  beforeEach(function() {
    this.model.set({done: true}, {silent: true});
    $('.todos').append(this.view.render().el);
  });
  
  it("has a done class", function() {
    expect($('.todos .todo-content:first-child'))
      .toHaveClass("done");
  });
  
});

This will fail with the following message:

Expected 'My Todo' to have class 'done'.

which can be fixed in the existing render() method as follows:

render: function() {
  var template = '<label class="todo-content">' +
    '<%= text %></label>';
  var output = template
    .replace("<%= text %>", this.model.get('text'));
  $(this.el).html(output);
  if (this.model.get('done')) {
    this.$(".todo-content").addClass("done");
  }
  return this;
}

This can however get unweildly fairly quickly. As the logic in our templates increases, so does the complexity involved. This is where templates libraries can help. As mentioned earlier, there are a number of popular options available, but for the purposes of this chapter we're going to stick to using Underscore's built-in Microtemplating. Whilst there are more advanced options you're free to explore, the benefit of this is that no additional files are required and we can easily change the existing Jasmine specs without too much adjustment.

The TodoView object modified to use Underscore templating would look as follows:

var TodoView = Backbone.View.extend({
  
  tagName: "li",
  
  initialize: function(options) {
    this.template = _.template(options.template || "");
  },
  
  render: function() {
    $(this.el).html(this.template(this.model.toJSON()));
    return this;
  },

  ...
  
});

Above, the initialize() method compiles a supplied Underscore template (using the _.template() function) in the instantiation. A more common way of referencing templates is placing them in a script tag using a custom script type (e.g type="text/template"). As this isn't a script type any browser understands, it's simply ignored, however referencing the script by an id attribute allows the template to be kept separate to other parts of the page which wish to use it. In real world applications, it's preferable to either do this or load in templates stored in external files for testing.

For testing purposes, we're going to continue using the string injection approach to keep things simple. There is however a useful trick that can be applied to automatically create or extend teamplates in the Jasmine scope for each test. By creating a new directory (say, 'templates') in the 'spec' folder and adding a new script file with the following contents, to jasmine.yml or SpecRunner.html, we can add a todo property which contains the Underscore template we wish to use:

beforeEach(function() {
  this.templates = _.extend(this.templates || {}, {
    todo: '<label class="todo-content">' +
            '<%= text %>' +
          '</label>'
  });
});

To finish this off, we simply update our existing spec to reference the template when instantiating the TodoView object:

describe("TodoView", function() {

  beforeEach(function() {
    ...
    this.view = new TodoView({
      model: this.model,
      template: this.templates.todo
    });
  });
  
  ...
  
});

The existing specs we've looked at would continue to pass using this approach, leaving us free to adjust the template with some additional conditional logic for Todos with a status of 'done':

beforeEach(function() {
  this.templates = _.extend(this.templates || {}, {
    todo: '<label class="todo-content <%= done ? 'done' : '' %>"' +
            '<%= text %>' +
          '</label>'
  });
});

This will now also pass without any issues. Remember that jasmine-jquery also supports loading external fixtures into your specs easily using it's build in loadFixtures() and readFixtures() methods. For more information, consider reading the official jasmine-jquery docs.

##Conclusions

We have now covered how to write Jasmine tests for models, views and collections with Backbone.js. Whilst testing routing can at times be desirable, some developers feel it can be more optimal to leave this to third-party tools such as Selenium, so do keep this in mind.

James Newbery was kind enough to help me with writing the Views section above and his articles on Testing Backbone Apps With Sinon were of great inspiration (you'll actually find some Handlebars examples of the view specs in part 3 of his article). If you would like to learn more about writing spies and mocks for Backbone using SinonJS as well as how to test Backbone routers, do consider reading his series.

##Exercise

As an exercise, I recommend now downloading Backbone Koans and trying to fix some of the purposefully failing tests it has to offer. This is an excellent way of not just learning how Jasmine specs and suites work, but working through the examples (without peaking back) will also put your Backbone skills to test too.

Note: I've linked to this book's fork of Koans in case any project-specific changes are required, however, in case you would like to check out the original project on GitHub, please feel free to.

##Further reading

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addyosmani commented Jan 3, 2012

For some strange reason I got logged out and saved the rest of my edits under Anon. Updated just now.

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eskimoblood commented Jan 3, 2012

This part in the view test is ugly, cause it could fail sometimes, without any code change.

waitsFor(function() {
    viewElt = $('#todoList li input.check').filter(':first');

    return viewElt.length > 0;
}, 1000, 'Expected DOM Elt to exist');

Wouldn't it be better to inject the element into the instances rather then let the instance query the DOM for it. Doing so you could mock the element and verify that right methodes with the right arguments was called on the mock.

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addyosmani commented Jan 3, 2012

@eskimoblood I think that's a logical change. For this first draft I was heavily basing examples on the Backbone Koans project (https://github.com/larrymyers/backbone-koans) as it contains some extra exercises people could work on, but I agree with your observation. Injecting the element into the instance makes more sense. I'll update this later today to address.

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

The BDD / TDD distinction in the Jasmine section is perhaps little off. BDD is about focussing on the behaviour of software, and techniques such as shared vocabulary help with this. BDD and TDD are not mutually exclusive - the TDD red / green / refactor cycle is very much part of BDD. If you can borrow a copy, part 2 of the RSpec Book by Dave Chelimsky et al is a great primer on BDD.

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

I like the comparison of asynchronous tests vs the use of spies to remove the dependency on a running web server in the 'Suites, Specs & Spies' section. It may be worth mentioning that making real requests to a real web server in your unit tests will hugely slow the speed at which the tests run, and introduce an external dependency that should be minimised (in unit tests at least).

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

In the beforeEach and afterEach() section, you have implicitly used the shared scope that Jasmine gives you within a suite, but I think this merits explanation, as it is enormously powerful, especially once you start using nested scopes for different starting conditions, for example.

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

Nitpick: some people like to keep one expectation per example. I tend to like this as it forces you to structure your examples and befores and afters for readability. E.g. the first collections example is really three examples. As I said, nitpicking though :-)

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

A few points in the 'Views' section. (testing views is a PITA):

  • I strongly advise using the jasmine-jquery plugin for Jasmine in these examples, which gives you nice methods for setting up DOM fixtures, and a bunch of jquery-specific expectation matchers such as toBeChecked() and toContain() which might be useful in these examples
  • instead of var todoView; and then running todoView = new TodoView({ model: new Todo() }); in the beforeEach block, you can just use Jasmine's shared scope with this.todoView = new TodoView({ model: new Todo() }); which feel neater to me.
  • I'm not sure that last view example needs to be an asynchronous spec. Nothing in there depends on timer methods or a server call, so it should be fine to test synchronously. Callbacks in themselves don't demand an asynchronous spec if they are just DOM event handlers.
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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

I'm not sure you'll need an entire section just for Events by the way (as suggested by your stubbed code block from the Backbone Koans). You'd be testing a mixin, and therefore the built-in behaviour of all Backbone objects. You've already explained how to use callback spies or asynchronous specs for testing that a particular behaviour occurs when an event is triggered.

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addyosmani commented Jan 3, 2012

@froots I really appreciate the in-depth review. I'll work on updating this piece to cover the points you've raised over the new few days. As for the section on Events, I think it would probably make sense to drop it and instead flesh out some of the areas that could use more description. Mind if I ping you once a revision to this is available? :)

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

I also think leaving out testing routes is the right thing to do. It's pretty dirty and in the last Backbone app I worked on we let the functional (Selenium) tests handle that bit.

Really good stuff, Addy. Great to see more and more TDD stuff in JS books and articles these days. Keep up the sterling work!

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froots commented Jan 3, 2012

@addyosmani Sure! Happy to help out.

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addyosmani commented Jan 5, 2012

@froots I've made a number of changes based on your suggestions and plan on revising the Views section a lot more this afternoon.

What do you think about the updates to the sections on BDD/Jasmine jQuery so far?

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addyosmani commented Jan 5, 2012

@froots I've refreshed the Views section (based quite heavily on part 3 of your excellent set of articles). Changes include: switching over to using Underscore templating rather than handlebars, sticking to the Backbone Koans implementation of models, some trimming. Would you be okay with this? Happy to add a notice mentioning the view section is based on/inspired by yours.

(edits still being made)

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addyosmani commented Jan 5, 2012

todo: expand on fixtures.

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froots commented Jan 5, 2012

@addyosmani Looking great!

Revised BDD, shared scope sections are grand.

The view section is fine, but would definitely need attribution in its current form :-). The style is a bit different from the rest as well, so may need a bit more editing to make it flow a bit better. For example, in my examples I have put a lot of setup stuff in the beforeEach methods, which is not really present in the koans. If you're happy presenting differing styles like this I guess it's not a big deal.

One last thing, in the first example in the 'Initial setup' section, your still initialising a todoView with var and then using both this.todoView and the initialised todoView in the following examples.

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addyosmani commented Jan 5, 2012

@froots Thanks for taking another look at this! Agreed regarding the style differences. I think I'll try to revise further so that it has a consistant flow to it and the examples are more consistent with the earlier parts of the chapter. Happy to add attribution either way.

Thanks as well for noticing that floating var issue! I'll get that fixed asap. Cheers!

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addyosmani commented Jan 6, 2012

Hey @froots,

I've rewritten the Views section to (hopefully) fall more in line with the rest of the chapter and added some expanded notes where needed. Thanks once again for the guidance!

I'm still using my updated versions of your code samples as I felt that they were still quite relevant and had been well written. On your note about .beforeEach(), I've also added some text after the jasmine-jquery section to explain why its useful to demonstrate their use for view setups moreso in this final part of the chapter than in previous sections. (mainly as POC/best practice)

Are you happy with the credits section? If not, let me know and I'll adjust accordingly. I'm considering expanding the View section further at some point to better demonstrate jasmine-jquery's loadFixtures integration, but I'll probably leave that for another time.

Thanks once again for everything!
Addy.

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froots commented Jan 6, 2012

@addyosmani - the Views section revisions read much better now. Great job!

One last tiny change - my surname is spelled incorrectly in the credits - it's Newbery not Newbury. I would create a fork, but at this point it seems daft. :-)

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addyosmani commented Jan 6, 2012

@froots I feel so silly for that! Please accept my apologies :) I'll update that right away!

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froots commented Jan 6, 2012

@addyosmani Ha! Don't worry. It's an uncommon spelling and almost everyone gets it wrong.

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addyosmani commented Jan 6, 2012

@froots a finally thank you for all your help. I really appreciated it :)

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