When I was working at CodeGear one of the tools I wrote generated models of .DFM’s (Delphi’s form file format) for use with GUI automation. A model is a class that mirrors the control hierarchy found on a form with classes that can perform automation tasks (clicking, typing, determining location etc.) against the controls. For more information on models refer to this post.
Modeling a Form, an Example
Below is an example of a simple Delphi form and it’s corresponding model class:
|Delphi Form Class||Corresponding Model|
The model is generated off of the .DFM which looks like this:
object Form1: TForm1
Left = 217
Top = 88
Width = 1082
Height = 749
Caption = 'Form1'
object MessageText: TLabel
Left = 19
Top = 13
Width = 32
Height = 13
Caption = 'Label1'
object Yes: TButton
Left = 15
Top = 43
Width = 75
Height = 25
Caption = 'Button1'
TabOrder = 0
object No: TButton
Left = 101
Top = 43
Width = 75
Height = 25
Caption = 'Button2'
TabOrder = 1
Delphi’s VCL component library supports Visual Form Inheritance and since there isn’t enough contextual information to reconstruct the form’s class hierarchy without compiling the code the model generator is provided a file that contains these details so the generated models exactly mirrors the application’s form inheritance hierarchy not just the form itself.
So Why is a Model Generator Important?
At first, you might think sure, the model generator is going to save you lots of time coding which is entirely true. But, that’s not the only nor the largest benefit of using generated models. An additional benefit is that the models are compiled using a statically typed language providing for compile time error detection. For example let’s say a developer renames the “Yes” button to “YesBtn” or deletes the MessageText label?
If the model had been hand written or statically generated, which is the situation CodeGear was in, the error would only surface once the test suite had executed. At that point, log file analysis would have to be performed to distinguish between a real bug and a automation error, not a good situation to have QA people in day after day. With generated models these kinds of errors can be detected at compile time allowing for R&D to assess the impact of the change on QA’s automation and not vise versa. Btw, this also underscores the fact that the model generator can provide alias functionality thus preventing simple name changes from impacting test automation.
The faster developers can find out they’ve broken existing test suites the more likely the problem can be corrected even in the event that not all test suites are executed every build. Yet another benefit of continuous integration.
There are several other benefits like:
- Give R&D the ability to determine the impact a given change will have on the existing test automation
- Provide insight into the depth of testing through static code analysis and evaluating which models as well as which parts of models are being exercised
- Allow R&D/QA to quickly automate new UI
Backing your GUI testing with compile time error checking allows you to leverage GUI test automation in several ways. In addition, a development team will have much more visibility into the impact a given change will have on the existing test automation as well as provide insight into areas that need additional testing.
It’s a shame the test framework developed at Borland starting back in 1994 has never made it into the hands of developers outside the company. Perhaps I should look to start an Open Source project for model driven testing using C# based on IAccessible. Btw, I just Googled on IAccessible and the post I linked to is in the top ten, meaning this advice really does work.
See also: Automation