In professional software development, the adage is “If it hasn’t been tested, it doesn’t work.” It’s easy to write some code that I believe does what I want… it might even pass a few smoke tests. But if it hasn’t been examined with some rigor, it is worthless. Time and time again test suites proved their value by exposing problems in my code. With their help I knew what I need to fix to make things better.
Yet with all this importance, testing techniques and methodologies are rarely covered – or even mentioned – in most curriculum on software development. This is why I was most surprised to find the section Testing Rails Applications on the list of RailsGuides.
I’m still too much of a Rails beginner to understand all of the information in the lesson, so I would definitely have to come back later, but it is enough for me to get a rough idea of the capabilities of the built-in testing framework.
I was most amused to see that the built-in creation scripts for Rails models and controllers would create the test scripts at the same time it created the code. A not-so-subtle reminder for the developer to go and write some tests. At this point, the source code files and the test files are both sitting empty and ready to go. We could start writing the source code – but we could have just as easily started writing the test files first.
Write the test, see it fail, write the code, see it pass.
At least that’s the theory of test-driven development. I don’t know if I’ll approach Rails development in this manner, but I do appreciate how Rails removes so much of the barriers to entry.