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3.5 A Final Encouragement

 
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3.5 A Final Encouragement

In addition to the more obvious benefits, constructing tests before or contemporaneously with code development encourages good program interface design.

Take, for example, a web-based system incorporating CGI programs and an extensive back end. When writing tests for such a beast it will become rapidly apparent that testing it via the CGI interface is tedious at best. You have to wait for the whole server round trip to happen, and most of that time is occupied by the operation of software and networks you may not be responsible for and don't want to test. By cutting out the fat and calling the back end directly you'll eliminate the tedium. However, you don't want to leave out interface code that should be tested. So you make the CGI programs as small as possible: Gather user inputs, pass them on to interface-independent code, take the outputs of that code and format them for the user. That way you have so little code in the CGI programs that testing them will be a snap. A single call to a CGI program itself will accomplish that, and every other test can concentrate on going directly to the back end.

Congratulations. You've just reinvented the Model-View-Controller pattern (see [GAMMA95]), a device generally recognized to be a pretty good thing.

3.5.1 A Final Caveat

Tests can't replace using your brain. They're only as smart as their creator: If there's a bug that isn't tested for, the tests won't find it. You still have to look at what you write and think about it, or it could harbor a bug that you didn't think to test for. Testing just saves you from having to repeat the same train of thought over and over again.

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