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Mocking with MockingKit

Jan 12, 2021 open-sourceswifttestingmocking

In this post, I’ll demonstrate how to use MockingKit to create dynamic mocks of protocols and classes, that let you record and inspect function calls in your unit tests, register conditional returns, etc.

MockingKit

Background

Mocking is a way to create interactive, fake implementations of protocols and classes. It’s a great tool when writing unit tests and to fake not yet implemented logic.

I come from a .NET background and was fortunate to be around when the community was all about unit testing and how to write testable code. As I later became an iOS and Android developer, I found that unit testing was quite uncommon, and that mocking more meant to mock HTTP requests.

The native tools, if any, were also very basic and lacked a lot of the power that I had come to expect from Visual Studio and various .NET test libraries. As Swift was later introduced, its limited introspection made mocking hard, where the few libraries I found were more about generating code than interactive mocks.

I made do with manual mocks for years, and wrote a lot of code to register function invokations, return custom function results, unit test in parameters, etc. It was however very tedious, and quite error-prone.

Let’s look at this manual mocking approach, before we move on to dynamic mocks.

Manual mocks

We’e not going to get stuck on manual mocks, but I think it’s good to take a quick look at it to be able to compare this approach to using real mocks.

Consider that we have a simple Printer protocol:

protocol Printer {

    func print(_ string: String) -> Bool
}

A manual mock of this protocol could look something like this:

class MockPrinter: Printer {

    var printInvokeCount = 0
    var printInvokeArgs = [String]()
    var printInvokeResult = false

    func print(_ string: String) -> Bool {
        printInvokeCount += 1
        printInvokeArgs.append(arg)
        return printInvokeResult
    }
}

Now, for any class that needs a Printer:

class MyClass {

    init(printer: Printer) {
        self.printer = printer
    }

    private let printer: Printer

    func doSomething() {
        let result = printer.print("I'm doing it!")
        ...
    }
}

we can inject a MockPrinter instead of a real one:

let printer = MockPrinter()
let obj = MyClass(printer: printer)

and inspect how the mock is used by the class like this:

obj.doSomething()
obj.doSomething()
printer.printInvokeCount   // 2
printer.printInvokeArgs    // ["I'm doing it!", "I'm doing it!"]

In lack of other tools, this works fairy well. However, manual mocks are tedious and time-consuming to write, and dulicates the similar code and logic over and over again.

We can do better.

MockingKit

MockingKit is a Swift-based mocking library that makes it easy to create dynamic and interactive mocks of protocols and classes. It lets you invoke and inspect function calls, register function results etc.

Terminology

Before we continue, let’s clarify what some of these terms means.

Invokation is to call a function. In a mock, this record the call and saves information about how many times a function has been called, with which arguments, the returned result etc.

Inspection is to look at recorded invokation information and use it e.g. in a unit test. For instance, we can verify that a function has been triggered only once, with a certain argument.

Registration is to pre-register a dynamic return value for a function, based on the arguments with which the function is called.

Creating a mock

To create a mock with MockingKit, you just have to create a class that inherits the Mock class and make it implement the protocol you want to mock.

If your mock must inherit another class (e.g. to mock classes like UserDefaults), it can just implement the Mockable protocol instead of inheriting Mock.

Mock is basically just a Mockable class that uses itself as mock.

In other words, you can either do this:

import MockingKit

class MockStringValidator: Mock, StringValidator {}

or this:

import MockingKit

class MockUserDefaults: UserDefaults, Mockable {

    let mock = Mock()
}

The two options are identical except from the mock property. You use them in exactly the same way.

Invoking function calls

To invoke functions, you need to create a MockReference for each function you want to mock. A mock reference is basically just a function reference that is used for invokation and inspection.

Let’s implement the Printer protocol from earlier and mock the print function:

import MockingKit

class MockPrinter: Mock, Printer {

    lazy var printRef = MockReference(print)

    func print(_ text: String) {
        invoke(printRef, args: (text))
    }
}

References must be lazy since they refer to an instance function. printRef now refers to print and is invoked whenever print is called.

Inspecting invokations

As we mentioned before, invoke records a function call so you can inspect it later. Since invokation is made by the mock as its functions are called, you can use just it as the protocol is intended to be used.

When inspecting invokations for the various functions in a mock, we have to use the function references.

Given the MockPrinter above, we could inspect it like this:

let printer = MockPrinter()
printer.invokations(of: printer.printRef)               // => 0 items
printer.print("Hello!")
let inv = printer.invokations(of: printer.printRef)     // => 1 item
inv[0].arguments                                        // => "Hello!"
printer.hasInvoked(printer.printRef)                    // => true
printer.hasInvoked(printer.printRef, numberOfTimes: 1)  // => true
printer.hasInvoked(printer.printRef, numberOfTimes: 2)  // => false

MockingKit has a bunch of handly inspection alternatives, like checking if a function has been invoked or not, how many times, with what arguments, what it returned, etc.

Registering return values

Say that we have a protocol that has a function that returns a value:

protocol StringConverter {

    func convert(_ text: String) -> String
}

A mock could then look like this:

class MockStringConverter: Mock, StringConverter {

    lazy var convertRef = MockReference(convert)

    func convert(_ text: String) -> String {
        invoke(convertRef, args: (text))
    }
}

Unlike the void function in MockPrinter, this invoke actually returns a value. Since the function body is a one-liner, you can omit return.

If the return value is optional, it’s optional to register a return value before invoking the function. Calling invoke before registering a return value will return nil.

If the return value is non-optional, you must register a return value before invoking the function. Calling invoke before registering a return value will cause a crash.

Registering a return value is easy:

let mock = MockConverter()
let result = mock.convert("banana") // => Crash!
converter.registerResult(for: mock.convertRef) { input in String(input.reversed()) }
// or shorter: 
converter.registerResult(for: mock.convertRef) { String($0.reversed()) }
let result = mock.convert("banana") // => "ananab"

Note how we can use the input argument of the function call to determine the returned result. This gives function registration a lot of power in MockingKit.

Multiple function arguments

If a mocked function has multiple arguments, inspection behaves a little differently, since arguments are handled as tuples.

Say that we have a protocol that looks like this:

protocol MyProtocol {

    func doStuff(int: Int, string: String) -> String
}

A mock could then look like this:

class MyMock: Mock, MyProtocol {

    lazy var doStuffRef = MockReference(doStuff)

    func doStuff(int: Int, string: String) -> String {
        invoke(doStuffRef, args: (int, string))
    }
}

Since function arguments are handled as tuples, you now use tuple positions to inspect arguments:

let mock = MyMock()
mock.registerResult(for: mock.doStuffRef) { args in String(args.1.reversed()) }
let result = mock.doStuff(int: 42, string: "string")    // => "gnirts"
let inv = mock.invokations(of: mock.doStuffRef)         // => 1 item
inv[0].arguments.0                                      // => 42
inv[0].arguments.1                                      // => "message"
inv[0].result                                           // => "gnirts"
mock.hasInvoked(mock.doStuffRef)                        // => true
mock.hasInvoked(mock.doStuffRef, numberOfTimes: 1)      // => true
mock.hasInvoked(mock.doStuffRef, numberOfTimes: 2)      // => false

There is no upper-limit to the number of function arguments you can use in a mocked function.

Multiple functions with the same name

If your mock has multiple methods with the same name:

protocol MyProtocol {

    func doStuff(with int: Int) -> Bool
    func doStuff(with int: Int, string: String) -> String
}

your must explicitly specify the function signature when creating references:

class MyMock: Mock, MyProtocol {

    lazy var doStuffWithIntRef = MockReference(doStuff as (Int) -> Bool)
    lazy var doStuffWithIntAndStringRef = MockReference(doStuff as (Int, String) -> String)

    func doStuff(with int: Int) -> Bool {
        invoke(doStuffWithInt, args: (int))
    }

    func doStuff(with int: Int, string: String) -> String {
        invoke(doStuffWithIntAndStringRef, args: (int, string))
    }
}

This gives you a unique references for each function, and also makes the unit test code easier to write.

Properties

In MockingKit, properties can’t be mocked with function references, since the function reference model requires a function. To fake the value of a mock property, just set the properties of the mock right away.

If you however for some reason want to inspect how a property is called, modified etc., you can invoke custom references to private functions in the getter and/or setter.

Async functions

Async functions are just void return functions and its completion blocks are just arguments like any others. You must however manually call the completions from within your mocks.

Conclusion

MockingKit is a tiny, but powerful library that simplifies working with mocks. If you are into unit testing and mocking, I’d love for you to try it out and tell me what you think.