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The fun stuff Chapter

You’re now a Behat and Mink pro! In this last chapter, I want to mention a few tricks about debugging, and a number of other important tips and features.

Debugging Failures

So what happens when a test fails and you don’t know why? Let’s make our product list page throw a big error and re-run the test:

throw new \Exception('Ah, ah, ah, you didn\'t say the magic word!');

It fails of course, but it’s not really obvious why.

Whenever you have a failure that you need to debug, use a special built-in step called “print last response”. If you forget the wording for this step, just re-run bin/behat -dl - you’ll find it near the bottom. Place this step just above the one that fails and re-run your test:

Scenario: Seeing a list of existing products
  Given I am logged in as an admin
  And there are 5 products
  And I am on "/admin"
  When I follow "Products"
  And print last response
  # the "Then" below is failing right now
  Then I should see 5 rows in the table

It may be a bit long, but you’ll now see the HTML response from the last page, just before the error. A lot of times, you’ll see an error. You may even realize that you’re not on the right page - the URL at the top of the output helps you figure that out. You can also copy the URL and put it in your browser, which may help you see the error yourself.

Subcontexts

To run this test in Selenium, just add the @javascript tag above the scenario. In Selenium we can still use print last response to debug, but there’s a much better way.

First, let’s talk about an idea called Subcontexts. Normally, Behat reads the annotations from our FeatureContext and any classes we extend, like MinkContext. But what if we found a really cool open source context that we wanted to use? We can only extend one other class, so how could we get the definitions from this new one?

The answer is via a subcontext. We won’t show it here, but you can actually separate your definitions into as many context classes as you want. By calling useContext in the constructor of your main FeatureContext, Behat will use all the definitions and hooks from that class as well:

public function __construct()
{
    $this->useContext('other_context', new OtherContext());
}

And in fact, there are some open source context classes out there that you can use. One really interesting one is in the Behatch Contexts library. We’re not going to install this extension, but let’s browse its source code to see a few interesting context classes it has. One is the BrowserContext, which has some extra browser-related steps. Another is the TableContext, which has nice steps for dealing with tables. My only word of warning is that many of these steps require you to put CSS in your scenario. Remember, this is a bad practice. I really like this extension, but because of these CSS definitions, I usually use it as a reference, rather than actually installing it.

Debugging in Selenium

The most interesting one is the DebugContext, which contains a very cool step called I put a breakpoint. Copy this into our FeatureContext file and change the text to simply read break. Update your scenario to use this new step instead of the print last response:

Scenario: Seeing a list of existing products
  Given I am logged in as an admin
  And there are 5 products
  And I am on "/admin"
  When I follow "Products"
  And break
  # the "Then" below is failing right now
  Then I should see 5 rows in the table

When we run the test, it opens up Selenium as expected. But when it hits the new step, it pauses. At the command line, you can see that it’s actually waiting for us to hit “enter” before it continues. This is the best way to see what is in your actual browser and even play around with things to figure out why something is failing. When you’re ready to keep going, just hit enter and the test will finish. I love this debugging technique.

Waiting for AJAX

When you’re testing in JavaScript, Selenium2 is pretty good about waiting for your page to load before trying to continue and click on any elements. But when you start to load things with AJAX, you might start having problems.

We talked about this earlier when testing on Wikipedia, but let’s see it again. On our test app, if you press “New Product”, an AJAX call is made in the background, which causes a slight delay before the window opens. To see how this is a problem, let’s write a scenario that clicks this link and creates a new product:

@javascript
Scenario: Add a new product via the dialog
  Given I am logged in as an admin
  And I am on "/products"
  When I follow "New Product"
  And I fill in "Name" with "New Article"
  And I fill in "Price" with "5.99"
  And I press "Save"
  Then I should see "Product created"

The scenario is simple, but when we run it, it fails! The “New Product” link is clicked, but since Selenium doesn’t see the “Title” field immediately, it fails.

When you have these types of issues, you’ll need to add a wait step. In this case, we need to wait for the dialog box to appear, so let’s just say that in our scenario:

@javascript
Scenario: Add a new product via the dialog
  # ...
  When I follow "Create Product"
  And I wait for the dialog to appear
  And I fill in "Title" with "New Product"
  And I fill in "Body" with "Lorem Ipsum"
  # ...

Execute Behat so that it prints out the new definition code. Remember that waiting is done with the wait function, but that we only want to wait until the needed action happens. In our case we can find the Twitter Dialog element and test to see if it is visible:

/**
 * Wait for the twitter bootstrap dialog to appear
 *
 * @Given /^I wait for the dialog to appear$/
 */
public function iWaitForTheDialogToAppear()
{
    $this->getSession()->wait(
        5000,
        "$('.modal').is(':visible');"
    );
}

This will wait for 5 seconds or until the modal becomes visible. Try the test again. Egads It works! Using waits is critical to testing with JavaScript, but it’s also really important that you wait for specific things to happen, not static lengths of time. If you’re using consistent loading screens and dialogs, then you should be able to write and re-use just a few wait steps.

The TableNode syntax: inserting a bunch of things at once

Let’s change our first scenario to be just a little more interesting. Right now, we’re inserting 5 products and checking for 5 products. That’s a great scenario, but we might also choose to insert some specific products, and then check for them directly. I’m also going to change the behavior of the application to only show published products on the list page:

Scenario: Seeing a list of existing products
  Given I am logged in as an admin
  And there are the following products:
    | title                          | is published |
    | The T-Rex has escaped          | yes          |
    | They can open doors...         | yes          |
    | When Dinosaurs ruled the Earth | no           |
  And I am on "/admin"
  When I follow "Products"
  Then I should see 2 rows in the table
  And I should see "The T-Rex has escaped"
  And I should not see "When Dinosaurs ruled the Earth"

You can already see how this scenario is now much more useful: we’re not only testing that the list page works, we’re testing that it shows the products it should and that it doesn’t show un-published products.

The table syntax is the key here, any time you end a step with a colon, you’ll create a table of data that you want to pass into your function. When we execute Behat, we’ll see that the function it generates is passed a special TableNode object, which has all the data from that table.

With this object, we’re dangerous! Using the getHash function, we can iterate over each row to create the products we need. One important thing to notice is that we try to keep the language in the table as natural as possible, using “is published” and “yes” or “no” instead of “true” or “false”:

/**
 * @Given /^there are the following products:$/
 */
public function thereAreTheFollowingProducts(TableNode $table)
{
    foreach ($table->getHash() as $productData) {
        $product = self::$app['product_repository']->createProduct(
            $productData['title'],
            15.99
        );

        if ($productData['is published']) {
            $product->isPublished = true;
        }

        self::$app['product_repository']->update($product);
    }
}

Run the test. It still works! We’re really getting good at this!

You’ll also see this table syntax in one important built-in definition: I fill in the following. This can be used when you need to fill in a lot of fields at once, and we can use it in our product creation scenario:

@javascript
Scenario: Add a new product via the dialog
  # ...
  When I follow "Create Product"
  And I wait for the dialog to appear
  And I fill in the following:
    | Title | New Product |
    | Body  | Lorem Ipsum |
  # ...

This is a great way to fill in big forms, while keeping our scenario clean. There’s also a similar syntax whenever you need to reference multi-line text. We won’t talk about it here, but it’s pretty easy to use.

Command-line Options: Running just one Scenario

The last thing I want to talk about is the many options you have when executing behat. For example, what if we only want to execute one scenario? Executing a single feature can be done easily by referencing only the filename that you want to run:

./bin/behat features/product.feature

Tip

If you’re using Symfony2 and the Symfony2Extension, use the syntax ./bin/behat @SomeBundle/product.feature.

To execute only a single scenario, just find the line number where the scenario starts, and add that to the end of the command:

./bin/behat features/product.feature:6

This is really awesome when debugging a failing scenario.

The behat executable has a lot of other useful options as well, which you can see by adding --help after the command. If you’re using behat on a continuous integration server, you may pass a --format=junit option so that it outputs the JUnit XML format:

./bin/behat --format=junit --out=build/

Another useful option is --tags. We’ve seen how you can tag a scenario with @javascript to execute that test with Selenium. You can also invent whatever tags you want, as a way to organize your tests. Once you’ve done this, you can execute all the scenarios for a specific tag, all the scenarios except those with a tag, or any other logical combination you can think of:

./bin/behat --tags=list

Leave a comment!

  • 2015-08-18 weaverryan

    Hey Matheus!

    Are you using any JavaScript or AJAX in this scenario? The most likely cause of "phantom failures" is that Mink isn't waiting. For example, if "Given I am deleting any maintenance" opens a modal, then *sometimes* it might open fast enough for the Delete button to be visible, but sometimes it might open too slowly. Is this possibly the cause? If so, check out https://knpuniversity.com/scre.... I'd try adding a big timeout (like 5 or 10 seconds) and see if the odd behavior stops. If it does, you'll know this is the cause.

    Cheers!

  • 2015-08-13 Matheus Baldasso

    Hi there,

    I'm using Behat with Symfony. Sometimes after metastep "When i follow..." or "When i press button..." the test fails try to get status message. For instance:

    Scenario: Delete any maintenance
    Given I am deleting any maintenance
    When I press "Delete"
    Then I should see "Maintenance deleted."

    When i'm running this sometimes works sometimes fails and the return is: Button with id|name|title|alt|value "Delete" not found.

    Can you guys help me out? It's appear to be a session issue.

    Tks.

  • 2015-06-15 weaverryan

    Thanks for the head's up Michael! I've just updated them at https://github.com/knpuniversi...

    Cheers!

  • 2015-06-13 Michael Sypes

    http://extensions.behat.org/be... href for Behatch Contexts is dead