Last week, Rob announced Micronaut, our new BDD framework written by Chad Humphries. I’ve been itching to write about Micronaut as well, and my take on it is similar to Rob’s, although I start with a very different perspective.
It’s a little surprising that I’m excited about Micronaut. I’m sort of a Ruby old-timer, and I’ve never been that excited about RSpec or any of the other Ruby test frameworks that have appeared over the last few years. Yes, they offer some advantages in some cases, but I’ve always seen the improvements as incremental rather than revolutionary. I like RSpec’s facilities for structuring tests, but
should never struck me as a radical improvement in expressiveness. In fact, I frequently run into situations where I think a well-crafted assertion is much clearer than a
I just never got the BDD religion, in other words.
What I like about Micronaut is that its innovation is mostly under the hood, rather than on the surface. Rather than designing some new variation on how we express our tests, Chad opted for RSpec compatibility and built a really nice engine for loading and running RSpec-style tests. Architecture matters, and Micronaut’s architecture is a joy.
First of all, as Rob noted, Micronaut is small, easy to understand, and fast. That makes it fun to hack on, and great to use on projects. It also gives me confidence; simple tools tend to be more robust, and I want that in my testing tool.
Second, Micronaut’s architecture provides a lot of flexibility. To illustrate that, while attending talks at QCon a couple weeks ago, I added test/unit compatibility to Micronaut. Here’s a short example that mirrors Rob’s example from last week, but in a test/unit style:
I don’t know how interesting test/unit compatibility is in its own right. I certainly wouldn’t claim that the example above is superior to the RSpec equivalent. But it was a fun exercise to really prove Micronaut’s design. It only took a few hours (of partial attention) and it clocks in at under 200 lines of code (plus `assertions.rb` from the test/unit codebase). I love the idea of the testing API and the test execution engine not being so tightly coupled. And it might be very useful if you have existing tests written with test/unit and you’d like to gain the benefit of Micronaut’s metadata support.
Which brings me to Micronaut’s best feature. Almost all unit-testing frameworks incorporate some support for test suites, but suites have never lived up to their promise. It would be nice to have tests organized in suites for distinct purposes, but the setup and maintenance costs associated with suites have meant that very few teams make good use of them. Micronaut’s metadata is a different—and much better—solution to the same problem. As some have noted, the idea is similar to Cucumber’s support for tags. Just attach metadata of your choice to Micronaut tests or examples, and then you can use that metadata to select what tests are run in different situations.
At the moment, test/unit compatibility is only available in my fork of Micronaut. It allows using RSpec-style
it blocks alongside test/unit-style test methods, and supports
test blocks à la Context and ActiveSupport. I don’t think we’ll pull this completely into Micronaut; I think it would work better as a separate gem. But I’d love to get your feedback about the whole idea.