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Test Or Die: Validates Uniqueness Of, Shoulda and Factory Girl Edition

John Nunemaker recently posted about testing validates_uniqueness_of using test/unit and fixtures. I’m going to take his lead, but use shoulda and factory_girl instead. I’m going to assume you’ve read his article.

If you look at the code for testing validates_uniqueness_of of your model, and think about how often you might use it in your projects, it starts to be repetitive very quickly. John has this to say about this style of testing in his comments:

“The thing that I have noticed when teaching people testing though is they have to learn this first. If they start with the macros, mocking and stubbing, they never quite understand the underpinnings. Also, when they start new project, I often watch them stumble, trying to do things with all the macros, but not having their test environment setup. I think it is good for people to see that they are repeating themselves and think, well, how can I fix this? I kind of think it is good to feel the repetition pain as it helps people understand why we switch to macros and start to stub and mock things so that you don’t require hitting the database or using fixtures.”

Now, I’m assuming you’ve learned these valuable lessons, and want to more succinctly test your code.

Before starting, you’ll need to install should and factory_girl. I also created shoulda_generator for shouldaified and factory_girlied generators.

You can either install shoulda and factory_girl as plugins by running:

script/plugin install git:// 
script/plugin install git://

… or as gems by adding this to config/environment.rb (although some might argue it belongs in config/environments/test.rb):

config.gem 'thoughtbot-shoulda', 
  :lib    => 'shoulda',
  :source => ''
config.gem 'thoughtbot-factory_girl', 
  :lib    => 'factory_girl', 
  :source => ''

shoulda_generator can be installed as a gem:

# run this if you haven't before:
gem sources -a
# install it:
sudo gem install technicalpickles-shoulda_generator

We can now proceed:

script/generate shoulda_model Category name:string
rake db:migrate db:test:prepare

Shoulda provides the should_require_unique_attributes macro for testing uniqueness. It requires an existing record though, so we need to use factory_girl to create one in a context. Together, this would look like:

require File.dirname(__FILE__) + '/../test_helper'

class CategoryTest < ActiveSupport::TestCase
  context "an existing category" do
    setup do
      @category = Factory(:category)

    should_require_unique_attributes :name

If we run rake test, we’ll see it fails because we haven’t declared name to be unique:

Finished in 0.096949 seconds.

  1) Failure:
test: an existing category should require unique value for name. (CategoryTest)
    [/opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/thoughtbot-shoulda-2.0.6/lib/shoulda/active_record/assertions.rb:63:in `assert_bad_value'
     /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/thoughtbot-shoulda-2.0.6/lib/shoulda/active_record/macros.rb:109:in `__bind_1231428798_266017'
     /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/thoughtbot-shoulda-2.0.6/lib/shoulda/context.rb:254:in `call'
     /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/thoughtbot-shoulda-2.0.6/lib/shoulda/context.rb:254:in `test: an existing category should require unique value for name. '
     /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/activesupport-2.2.2/lib/active_support/testing/setup_and_teardown.rb:94:in `__send__'
     /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/activesupport-2.2.2/lib/active_support/testing/setup_and_teardown.rb:94:in `run']:
Category allowed "MyString" as a value for name.
<false> is not true.

1 tests, 2 assertions, 1 failures, 0 errors

Now add the validates_uniqueness_of:

class Category < ActiveRecord::Base
  validates_uniqueness_of :name

And running rake test now yields much success:

Finished in 0.132653 seconds.

1 tests, 4 assertions, 0 failures, 0 errors

I’d continue on to test validates_uniqueness_of :name, :scoped_to => :site_id, but I haven’t actually used it before, and I wasn’t able to get the macro working quite right.

The thing to notice about shoulda is that many times, if there’s a one-liner for you model, there’s a one-liner for testing that behavior. Consider John’s original code using test/unit. That’s quite a few lines for testing one line. Shoulda tries to adopt “best practices” for testing things this kind of thing, and expose it as a one line method call. If you took the more verbose test/unit version, refactored and generalized it over time, I don’t doubt it would be very similar to should_require_unique_attributes implementation wise.

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