Maven, PhantomJS and Jasmine to write your JS Unit Testing

  • ci • phantomjs • jasmine • unit testing • maven • jsunit
  • 1229 words

In Betfair we are building all sort of new things, and one of the aspects on which we are trying to focus more is doing Automated Tests for JavaScript. Currently, all non-js code in Betfair passes through different kind of Automated (and Human) Testing (from Unit Testing, to Security, to Performance, to Human and Scripted QA), but the JavaScript language, by its very nature, makes it tricky to test in an automated fashion. It's not impossible, just a bit harder than it should.

A beautiful jasmine... A beautiful jasmine...

Lately I have been spending a big chunk of my spare time lending a hand to the PhantomJS project, as some of you that know me might recall.

Don't break the flow

That started because I saw in PhantomJS, and it's headless nature, a great opportunity to contribute to the internal effort around JS Unit Testing. And because I wanted to allow both developers and CI-Servers to run JavaScript Tests with ease.

I believe that if development experience it's easy (and, I dare to say, FUN), code just flows! And if you can do testing with just one command from your CLI, the flow becomes almost beat.

In Betfair we use Maven to drive our build system (yeah, I know, XML orgies are terrible...). So, we type a lot of:

$ mvn clean install

even in departments where we mostly do Front End code. Ideally, we wanted to add, as a step to the build, a way to hook in the JavaScript Testing, and having the test result driving the build outcome.

IF JavaScript Test fails THEN Build Fails! Dead simple.

Jasmine, but not necessarily

There are multiple libraries to write Unit Tests for JavaScript out there, and we decided to go for Jasmine, the evolution of JSUnit (now discontinued).

You can go for anything you want really, but in this post/example (and here in Betfair) we picked Jasmine. Feel free to choose your own library: as long as you are running in a browser, anything is good.


To run the show, I came up with this setup: PhantomJS runs a script that runs a "jasmine-enabled" webpage. The script is then able to extract the result out of the webpage and save it on files. That's how it looks like:

Yes, it's a long chain of delegation. But it works. And it's also "modular": in case you want to run the tests in another Browser, you can just open the ".html" runner! Or, in case you don't want to use Maven, you can just invoke phantom and pass it the "jasmine xml runner script" (plus arguments).

Jasmine reporters #forthewin

Jasmine has a very great design feature: Reporters. You can implement this kind of plugins to attach to Jasmine, separating the test execution from the test reporting. Based on the reporter you write, you can get any sort of output.

In our case, we need the tests to produce output in JUnit XML format, and so I wrote one. But, if you know your shit, you are probably thinking:

«A web browser is sandboxed: how do your write a file with XML from there?»
Well, read on.

Jasmine test_runner.html

As mentioned, Jasmine requires a webpage prepared to run the tests. In our case, something like the following is good:

  <title>Jasmine Test Runner</title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="lib/jasmine-1.0.2/jasmine.css">
  <script type="text/javascript" src="lib/jasmine-1.0.2/jasmine.js"></script>
  <script type="text/javascript" src="lib/jasmine-1.0.2/jasmine-html.js"></script>
  <script type="text/javascript" src="lib/jasmine-reporters/jasmine.phantomjs-reporter.js"></script>

  <!-- include source files here... -->
  <script type="text/javascript" src="../src/tv.js"></script>

  <!-- include spec files here... -->
  <script type="text/javascript" src="test_spec.js"></script>


<script type="text/javascript">
  jasmine.getEnv().addReporter(new jasmine.TrivialReporter());
  jasmine.getEnv().addReporter(new jasmine.PhantomJSReporter());


How PhantomJS does the trick

PhantomJS, as you might know, allows to instantiate and manipulate webpages. And webpages are "sandboxed": so, it's not possible to write files on the filesystem from there. So, what I did 2 things:

  1. Implemented a set of API for File I/O and submitted a pull request (see fs object in PhantomJS)
  2. Implemented a Jasmine Reporter that saves the output of the tests in isolated variables in the test runner page context (see test/lib/jasmine-reporters/jasmine.phantomjs-reporter.js)
  3. Wrote a PhantomJS script that is able to extract the test output from the webpage context and save it on filesystem (see test/phantomjs_jasminexml_runner.js)

In this way it's possible to preserve the sanboxing, while saving the desired XML format. And, along the way, give to PhantomJS the ability to manipulate files.

The script looks like this:

// ...
    var htmlrunner = phantom.args[0],
        resultdir = phantom.args[1],
        page = new WebPage();

// ..., function(status) {
        if (status === "success") {
            utils.core.waitfor(function() { // wait for this to be true
                return page.evaluate(function() {
                    return typeof(jasmine.phantomjsXMLReporterPassed) !== "undefined";
            }, function() { // once done...
                // Retrieve the result of the tests
                var suitesResults = page.evaluate(function(){
                    return jasmine.phantomjsXMLReporterResults;

                // Save the result of the tests in files
                var f = null;
                for ( var i = 0, len = suitesResults.length; i < len; ++i ) {
                    try {
                        f = + '/' + suitesResults[i]["xmlfilename"], "w");
                    } catch (e) {
                        console.log("phantomjs> Unable to save result of Suite '"+ suitesResults[i]["xmlfilename"] +"'");

                // Return the correct exit status. '0' only if all the tests passed
                    return jasmine.phantomjsXMLReporterPassed ? 0 : 1; //< exit(0) is success, exit(1) is failure
            }, function() { // or, once it timesout...
        } else {
            console.log("phantomjs> Could not load '" + htmlrunner + "'.");

Ah, the Filesystem API (i.e. the above) are still stabilising as we are not sure yet how much of the CommonJS/Filesystem specs we want to implement in PhantomJS. If you care about PhantomJS, contribute to the discussion here.

Oh, yes, Maven

Some of you might have reached this page for Maven. Let me say, I'm sorry you have to deal with that thing, but... let's just focus.

Maven has a plugin for running external executable: exec-maven-plugin. It allows to launch any executable and, in case this exit failing (i.e. exit(1); or exit(EXIT_FAILURE);), fail the build. Super!

So, how it looks like?

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<project xmlns=""
    <!-- ... -->
                        <id>PhantomJS Unit Testing</id>

This adds a step in the test phase of the build, running our tests.

It's on GitHub

As every piece of code that a) I think it's of any value, and b) that I can share, it's on GitHub: phantom-jasminexml-example. As the name says, this is just an example. An inspiration. Please customise it as much as you want to fit your purposes. And in case you can, contribute a patch to make it better.


This just started. My experience in JavaScript Unit Testing is not very good, and I'm learning in the process. So, chances are, this solution has a lot of problems, it's rubbish and needs rewrite.

If that's the case, please post a comment with your thoughts and, possibly, suggestions on how this can be improved. For example, it would be great if phantomjs_jasminexml_runner.js was able to generate the test_runner.html automagically, after having scanned a directory containing test specs.

PR time

By the way, if you eat code for breakfast, and you are proud of it, we are hiring: you might join us in trying to build this new piece of the puzzle for Betfair.

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