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Dave Orme muses about agile and functional programming.

My current work emphasizes SOA applications using Scala, Kubernetes, and AWS with a React-based SPA front-end. I'm also interested in progressive web applications and developer tools.


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Everything I say here is my own opinion and not necessarily that of my employer.


SWT graphical unit tests are easy :-)

11 December, 2007

I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted! Wow. Guess time flies when you're having fun, which I've been having a lot of lately. My new contract is to help make RCP the de facto standard graphical interface platform worldwide at a major Fortune 500 firm…

But on to the good stuff… :-)

Yesterday, Doug Schaefer wondered aloud how to unit test GUIs without some sort of robot. Short answer: with JUnit, like you've been doing all along, and a simple coding convention.

First, the coding convention:

  • Always, always, always, create your user interface inside a Composite. Then you can instantiate your Composite inside a View, inside an Editor, or inside a Shell running inside a JUnit test.

Second, how to test it:

Create an abstract subclass of TestCase, say SWTTestCase.

public class SWTTestCase extends TestCase {
    protected Display display = Display.getDefault();
    protected Shell shell = null;
    protected void setUp() throws Exception {
        methodCalls = new HashSet();
    protected void tearDown() throws Exception {
        display.syncExec(new Runnable() {
            public void run() {
    protected void newShell() {
        shell = new Shell(display, SWT.SHELL_TRIM);
        shell.setLayout(new FillLayout());;
    private void disposeShell() {
        if (shell != null) {
            shell = null;

Make your SWT graphical unit tests extend SWTTestCase. You will now have a shiny new Shell in your unit test at the beginning of each test method courtesy of the inherited #setUp() method.

If you followed convention #1, you can now instantiate your user interface inside this shell, poke data into it, fire events at it, and run asserts against it.

Here are some notes to get you started:

  • Since you have direct access to the controls in your Composite through its API, your unit tests are fully refactorable, unlike most robot-oriented test scripts.
  • There's nothing wrong with calling #setText() directly on controls rather than simulating typing, unless the thing you're testing depends on keystrokes being received one at a time. With this approach, you get the benefit of being able to intelligently use your controls' API to set up your tests rather than having to alwys poke at them from the UI.
  • Having said that, it's nice to have #type(String), #type(char), and #type(int swtKeyCode) methods. You don't need them often, but when you need them, you need them badly.
  • Similarly, variations on #mouseClick(int button, …) are useful.

Examples of this sort of unit test can be found in the JFace Data Binding test plug-ins. We're also using this style of GUI unit testing successfully at my client.

Areas where we've had trouble is in getting the various #type() methods right. Currently, some versions of #type() work but some don't, and this is a road less traveled in the SWT API, so help on Google and in the Eclipse newsgroup archives has not been easy to find. I would love to hear from someone who has successfully implemented all three versions of #type() listed above.

Lastly, I am not sure how to make this solution scale up to the level of integration tests. This is an interesting open question I'd love to hear from people about.


blog/swt_graphical_unit_tests_are_easy.txt · Last modified: 2014/10/17 22:08 (external edit)