Naked Objects
By Richard Pawson and Robert Matthews

Writing tests

Acceptance tests

Whereas unit tests are principally concerned with whether a method has been written correctly, user acceptance tests are concerned with whether the functionality can be combined to deliver a result of value to a user. We adopt the approach of basing acceptance tests on a series of 'stories', which are enacted through the mock views. As well as checking that the required functionality is actually available, the acceptance test automatically generates documentation that explains how the story would play out through the real user interface. This is done through the self-commenting methods that are provided by the views. Since the acceptance tests should be based on user-specified requirements, this auto-generated documentation can serve as a significant proportion of the user training manual.

The structure of an acceptance test

Before looking at how a story is coded, we will look at how a test is set up and initiated. The following code is taken from the acceptance test code for the ECS application:

import org.nakedobjects.testing.AcceptanceTest;
import org.nakedobjects.testing.View;

public class ECSStories extends AcceptanceTest {

    public ECSStories(String name) {

    public static void main(java.lang.String[] args) {
        ECSStories st = new ECSStories("ESC User Stories");

    public void setUp() {


    public void runStories() {

Acceptance tests are written by extending the org.nakedobjects.testing.AcceptanceTest class. This class has a constructor that takes a name for the suite of tests. Your derived class therefore needs to implement a constructor that calls this particular superconstructor. To start the test, call the start method in the superclass.

The start method controls the tests and creation of the documentation. After setting up the framework it calls the setUp method where you should register the same set of classes that will be made available to the user in a live application. After this method has completed, the org.nakedobjects.testing.Documentor class is initialized with the name of the test suite that was passed to the superconstructor. This creates the HTML documentation file, which is given a file name based on the test suite name (for the above example the file will be ESC_User_Stories.html). Any code executed from this point on will automatically be documented. If there are any objects that need to be set up ready to be used during the tests, but which do not need to be described in the documentation, then this should be done as part of the setUp method after any required classes have been registered. (The call to adminCreateCities in the code above is an example.) Once the documentor is running, the runStories method is invoked and each of the test methods is called in turn, generating documentation as they execute. If any story fails at any point then the exception is passed back to the user and the test will stop, because in our approach to acceptance testing the stories are deemed to depend upon each other. This is in contrast to what happens in Junit where the tests run independently.

The structure of a story

There is a common pattern to most stories that reflects both the way the framework is used and how the documentation is generated. To help the development team to keep track of what they are testing, and to help the user break down each task, the stories can be split into logical steps, which can include a description of the subtask.

A story should start with a call to the story method, to mark this story as separate from the previous one and to give it a title. Each stage of the story is then started by a call to the step method, which can take a text string describing what is being done next. Then come the expected user actions, such as creating an instance, dragging and dropping objects, selecting menu options and editing fields. After the user actions it is common to check the state of the objects to ascertain that everything is progressing as expected - i.e. that requirements are being met. It is also possible to confirm that certain actions are not allowed at a certain point.

Both the actions and the checks are carried out by invoking specific methods on the views. When they run, these methods all add descriptions to the documentation, detailing the steps, explaing how to manipulate the objects, showing how their states change, and making notes of what can't be done. This process, therefore, not only checks the logic of the business object but also directs the user toward what can and can't be done with them. The following code shows the beginning of the second ECS story and demonstrates this common pattern:

public void story2Reuse() {
    story("A booking where the previous used locations are used");

    step("Retrieve the customer object.");
    View customer = getClassView("Customers").findInstance("Pawson");

    step("Create a booking for this customer.");
    View booking = customer.rightClick("New Booking");
    booking.checkField("Customer", customer);

    step("Retrieve the customer's home and office as the...");
    booking.drop("Pick Up", 
        customer.drag("Locations", "234 E 42nd Street, New York"));
    booking.drop("Drop Off", 
        customer.drag("Locations", "JFK Airport, BA Terminal"));
    booking.checkField("City", "New York");

    step("Use the customer's mobile phone as the contact...");


When the test is run and completes without any exceptions, then it will have also been documented in HTML. The following shows the output from this facility, using cascading style sheets with the HTML page to render it so the objects, field and menus can be distinguished:

The following methods from the AcceptanceTest class structure the documentation:

  • public void story(String title) creates a new story and adds a title for it to the document. In the current version this is added using the <H2> (heading level 2) tag.
  • public void subtitle(String subtitle) adds a subtitle to the document using the <H3> (heading level 3) tag.
  • public void step(String description) adds another step to the instructions. This is added as an <LI> (list item) tag. If the description text does not end with a full stop, then one will be added to prevent the description running into the generated text. On the first call to this method, after a call to story or subtitle, an opening <OL> (ordered list) tag is added; the closing tag is added when the next story or subtitle is invoked.
  • public void step() adds another step but without a description. This works in the same way as the previous method.
  • public void append(String text) adds any other text to the current step. This is added without any tags so the text is simply concatenated to the instructions as they stand at that point.

As the test runs the above methods provide the document with its structure, and the simulated interactions, by generating their own comments, describe the actions to be taken. For example the statement customer.rightClick("New Booking") produces the text "Right click on the Customer object 'Richard Pawson' and select the 'New Booking...' action, which returns '#2 New Booking'." (The previous screenshot shows the formatted output including the icons).

The mock object views also allow the state of an object to be checked. For example the statement booking.checkField("Customer", customer) would add "Note that the field Customer in the Booking object '#2 New Booking' contains the Customer object 'Richard Pawson'" to the document. These checking methods are provided in addition to the assert... methods that can still be used even though this is not a unit test, nor is it based on the TestCase class. If any of these checks fail, then an IllegalActionError is thrown and the test will stop. As each one passes it adds an explanation to the documentation. The purpose is to explain to the user what effect the previous step would have had on the object and therefore the state it will now be in.

Unlike these check... methods, the assert... methods do not produce any documentation.

The following check methods are to be found in the org.nakedobjects.testing.View class:

  • public void checkTitle(String expected) checks that the view's title (as generated by the object's title method) is equal to the value specified in expected, adding a note to the documentation to show what the title should now be.
  • public void checkField(String fieldName, String expectedTitle) checks that the named field within the view has a title that matches the value specified in expectedTitle. It adds a note to the documentation showing what text should be displayed in that field, either as a value or as an object's title.
  • public void checkField(String fieldName, AbstractView expected) checks that the named field, within the view, references the same object that the view specified in expected references. It adds a note to the documentation showing what text should be displayed in that field, either as a value or as an object's title.
  • public void checkCantRightClick(String option) checks that the named option cannot be selected. It adds a note to the documentation explaining that this option is not available. The append method in AcceptanceTest can be used to give a reason.
  • public void checkCantDrop(DragView dropObject) checks that the specified object (contained by the view) cannot be dropped onto the current view. It adds a note to the documentation explaining that this drop is not possible. The append method in AcceptanceTest can be used to give a reason.