ASP.NET 3.5: improving testability with System.Web.Abstractions

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The testability of ASP.NET code has long been a challenge; creating unit tests for your ASP.NET code has been difficult. One of the main points of the new ASP.NET MVC framework has been to make code written for it easily testable. However, not many people know that in ASP.NET 3.5, Microsoft has added a few features to make any ASP.NET applications, not only ASP.NET MVC applications, more easy to test. The System.Web.Abstractions assembly adds a few classes to the System.Web namespace that will help the situation. For instance, looking at the documentation for System.Web.HttpRequestBase, it states that

The HttpRequestBase class is an abstract class that contains the same members as the HttpRequest class. The HttpRequestBase class enables you to create derived classes that are like the HttpRequest class, but that you can customize and that work outside the ASP.NET pipeline. When you perform unit testing, you typically use a derived class to implement members that have customized behavior that fulfills the scenario that you are testing.

Very well. Looking at the documentation for HttpRequest, we see that HttpRequest is not a decendent of HttpRequestBase as one might expect from the name. The reason for this is probably that that would break backwards compatability with older versions of ASP.NET. So, how can we exploit the HttpRequestBase then? The answer is the HttpRequestWrapper class which is a decendant of HttpRequestBase and has a constructor that takes an HttpRequest object as a parameter. Then, we can take the HttpRequest object passed to our code from the framework, wrap it inside an HttpRequestWrapper object and pass it on to our code as a HttpRequestBase object. As I will show you in the examples below, this will enable us to create unit tests of our code by creating fake implementations of ASP.NET framework clases (using Rhino.Mocks).

Example #1: Testing a page codebehind file

Take, for instance, this simple page codebehind code that we would like to test:

using System;
using System.Web;

public partial class _Default : System.Web.UI.Page { protected void Page_Init(object sender, EventArgs e) { Response.Cache.SetCacheability(HttpCacheability.NoCache); } }

The first step to take here, is to extract a method which take the request object as a parameter instead of fetching it from a method in a superclass. In general, this is a variation of the dependency injection pattern which in many situations will help us make our code testable (also, see my earlier related post). Like so:
using System.Web;
using System;

public partial class _Default : System.Web.UI.Page { protected void Page_Init(object sender, EventArgs e) { SetCacheablityOfResponse(Response); }

public void SetCacheablityOfResponse(HttpResponse response)
{
    response.Cache.SetCacheability(HttpCacheability.NoCache);
}

}

So, then having extracted our code in a separate method, the next step is to change the parameter type of this method from HttpRequest to HttpRequestBase. Furthermore, when calling this method, we need to wrap the HttpRequest object by creating an instance of HttpRequestWrapper. The code, then, looks like this:
using System.Web;
using System;

public partial class _Default : System.Web.UI.Page { protected void Page_Init(object sender, EventArgs e) { SetCacheablityOfResponse(new HttpResponseWrapper(Response)); }

public void SetCacheablityOfResponse(HttpResponseBase response)
{
    response.Cache.SetCacheability(HttpCacheability.NoCache);
}

}

Having now prepared our code for testing, we can create a unit test where we test the SetCacheabilityOfResponse method:
[TestMethod]
public void ShouldSetNoCacheabilityOnDefaultPage()
{
    _Default page = new _Default();
    MockRepository mocks = new MockRepository();
    HttpResponseBase responseStub = mocks.Stub<HttpResponseBase>();
    HttpCachePolicyBase cachePolicyMock = mocks.CreateMock<HttpCachePolicyBase>();
    With.Mocks(mocks).Expecting(delegate
    {
        SetupResult.For(responseStub.Cache).Return(cachePolicyMock);
        cachePolicyMock.SetCacheability(HttpCacheability.NoCache);
        LastCall.On(cachePolicyMock).Repeat.AtLeastOnce();
    }).Verify(delegate
    {
        page.SetCacheablityOfResponse(responseStub);
    });
}
If you are not familiar with Rhino.Mocks or any other mocking framework, there appears to be a lot going on in that test. The basic idea is that we create derivatives of the -Base classes and pass these to the code that we are going to test, mimicking the behavior of the “real” objects that the framework would pass our code at runtime. Also note that in this particular test we test the side effect of our code, namely that the code should call a the SetCacheability method with a specific parameter. This is achieved using a mock object.

Example #2: Testing an HTTP Handler

Given the following HTTP handler code:

using System;
using System.Web;

public class RedirectAuthenticatedUsersHandler : IHttpHandler { public void ProcessRequest(HttpContext context) { if (context.Request.IsAuthenticated) { context.Server.TransferRequest("/farfaraway"); } } }

Again, we extract the code we want to test into a separate method, passing it a -Base object and wrap the object passed to us from the framework in a -Wrapper object:
using System;
using System.Web;

public class RedirectAuthenticatedUsersHandler : IHttpHandler { public void ProcessRequest(HttpContext context) { TransferUserIfAuthenticated(new HttpContextWrapper(context)); }

public void TransferUserIfAuthenticated(HttpContextBase context)
{
    if (context.Request.IsAuthenticated)
    {
        context.Server.TransferRequest("/farfaraway");
    }
}

}

This allows us to create unit tests for the TransferUserIfAuthenticated method, for instance:
[TestMethod]
public void ShouldRedirectAuthenticatedUser()
{
    RedirectAuthenticatedUsersHandler handler = new RedirectAuthenticatedUsersHandler();
    MockRepository mocks = new MockRepository();
    HttpContextBase httpContextStub = mocks.Stub<HttpContextBase>();
    HttpRequestBase httpRequestBaseStub = mocks.Stub<HttpRequestBase>();
    HttpServerUtilityBase httpServerUtilityMock = mocks.CreateMock<HttpServerUtilityBase>();
    With.Mocks(mocks).Expecting(delegate
    {
        SetupResult.For(httpContextStub.Request).Return(httpRequestBaseStub);
        SetupResult.For(httpContextStub.Server).Return(httpServerUtilityMock);
        SetupResult.For(httpRequestBaseStub.IsAuthenticated).Return(true);
        httpServerUtilityMock.TransferRequest("/farfaraway");
        LastCall.On(httpServerUtilityMock).Repeat.AtLeastOnce();
    }).Verify(delegate
    {
        handler.TransferUserIfAuthenticated(httpContextStub);
    });
}

Summary

I have shown two very simple examples on how some of the classes in the System.Web.Abstractions assembly can help us test our ASP.NET code. I have used HttpResponseBase, HttpServerUtilityBase, HttpContextBase, HttpRequestBase, and HttpCachePolicyBase. Note that there are a number of classes available, so if you are faced with not being able to test your ASP.NET code because of dependencies to classes in the framework, take a look in the System.Web namespace and see if there are -Base classes that can help you out.

Testability is a large topic, and there is much to be said about it. I have shown a couple of very simple examples on how to improve testability. Testability has a lot to do with code design as well; in a real world I would write the test before writing the code and I would move my code out of codebehinds. Those topics are discussed a lot elsewere, hopefully this post will bring you a small step further in writing testable code.

  • Lilou Caze

    Hi! First, thanks a lot for this post!

    I am currently writing unit tests, using NUnit, and I do not manage to mock a HttpRequest object. I hoped that HttpRequestBase would help me but NUnit does not want to mock it. Do you know how to achieve such a thing with NUnit?

  • http://www.kongsli.net vidarkongsli

    Regretably, I am not familiar with NUnit and quite frankly I was not aware that there is any mocking functionality in NUnit. I would suggest that you start using Rhino.Mocks together with NUnit in order to achieve this.