Visual PHP Unit + WordPress Unit Tests

I saw VisualPHPUnit and was immediately interested.  This provided a very nice visual wrapper to PHPUnit without full blown continuous integration, and kept a history of your test passes / fails.


VisualPHPUnit is a wrapper for PHPUnit.  It expects that your tests are compatible with PHPUnit’s command line test runner already.

Could this work with WordPress’ Unit Tests?  After some investigation, I’m sad to report that, no, it can’t.  VisualPHPUnit makes several assumptions that are incompatible with WordPress’ test suite.  These are not bad assumptions, just incompatible ones.

  • Include the bootstrap before the PHPUnit library.  This causes problems because the bootstrap cannot reference PHPUnit (e.g. extending PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase).
  • Always include the PHPUnit library.  This causes problems because the bootstrap may have already included PHPUnit (to solve the above problem).  Code like this would solve the issue:
    if( !function_exists( 'phpunit_autoload' ) ) {
    require_once( 'PHPUnit/Autoload.php' );
  • Each test case (a class) is assumed to be in a single file, and named accordingly.  WordPress sometimes groups multiple test cases together in a single file.  A good example of this is test_includes_formatting.php.

Why don’t I submit these issues to VisualPHPUnit?  These aren’t bugs.  They are incompatibilities between how VisualPHPUnit expects things to be done, and how WordPress’ Unit Test do things.  Changing these items in VisualPHPUnit could break compatibility with other projects.

Why don’t WordPress’ unit tests conform to PHPUnit’s structure?

WordPress was also released in 2003, which was before test-driven-development really took off in the php world.  Having a testable app requires a certain design.

Also, WordPress wasn’t written from scratch.  WordPress started as a fork of B2/cafelog.  It wasn’t a greenfield design.

Why doesn’t WordPress just fix their unit tests now?

The core dev team wants a more testable app, and they are working to retrofit unit tests into WordPress, but this is a big challenge.

There are situations in WordPress which are difficult to test, but work perfectly fine.  The dev team is left with a difficult choice:  Rewrite a functioning piece of code to be more testable, but possibly introduce new bugs, or leave it alone and put off a new test framework a little longer.

You can actually see some discussion about this on ticket 17749.

3 thoughts on “Visual PHP Unit + WordPress Unit Tests

  1. Hi kurtpayne, developer of VisualPHPUnit here.

    You provide some valuable suggestions, and I encourage you to submit them on the project’s issue page ( I’m grateful for your distinction between bad/incompatible assumptions, but VPU’s assumptions are not set in stone. I’m definitely open to changing some things around to maximize compatibility between other applications, so feel free to request any features which would make your unit testing life easier.

    Thanks for your feedback – it’s posts like these which make open source development an absolute joy.

    – Nick

    • Hi Nick,

      Thanks for taking a look at VPU and WordPress unit tests with me. It’s disappointing that we didn’t come up with anything new.

      I’ll keep thinking about how the test harness can be restructured to work better with VPU.

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