Posts Tagged ‘ Hamcrest ’

Creative uses of Hamcrest matchers

The matcher API of Hamcrest is typically associated with assertThat() or mocks. I always knew other people would find good uses for it, but I never really knew what.

I particularly like these:

Collection processing

Håkan Råberg blogged about how Hamcrest can be used with iterators:

List<Integer> numbers = Arrays.asList(-1, 0, 1, 2);
List<Integer> positiveNumbers = detect(numbers, greaterThan(0)));

List<String> words = Arrays.asList("cheese", "lemon", "spoon");
List<String> wordsWithoutE = reject(words, containingString("e"));

Nothing rocket-sciencey about it. But simple and useful because it reduces boilerplate code and get to use the ever growing library of Hamcrest matchers.

On top of that, combining Hamcrest with a CGLib generated proxy, he has built a staticly typed query API:

List<Person> employees = ...;
List<Integer> allAges
= collect(from(employees).getAge());
List<Person> allBosses
= collect(from(employees).getDepartment().getBoss());
List<Person> allAccountants
= select(from(employees).getDepartment().getName(),

This is nice alternative to a string based query language as you get your IDE completions, refactoring, compile time checking etc, without the noise of boilerplate code.

Web testing

Robert Chatley has taken some of the concepts of his LiFT framework and reimplemented them using Hamcrest and WebDriver for performing web testing.

public void testHasLotsOfLinks() {
assertPresenceOf(greaterThan(15), links());
assertPresenceOf(atLeast(1), link().with(text(containingString("Sign in"))));

clickOn(link().with(text(containingString("Sign in"))));
assertPresenceOf(exactly(1), title().with(text(equalTo("Sign in page"))));

Now initially this seems a bit wordy and strange. Robert has designed this as a literate API. If you adjust the syntax highlighting of your API and make the Java keywords and syntax less visible, you get this:

goTo "http://some/url"
assertPresenceOf greaterThan 15 links
assertPresenceOf atLeast 1 link with text containingString "Sign in"

clickOn link with text containingString "Sign in"
assertPresenceOf exactly 1 title with text equalTo "Sign in page"

The motivation here is that the API usage is self documenting and could be useful to non-programmers. The flip-side to this is that it’s actually quite hard to write APIs like this and the usage can take quite a bit of getting used to.

Robert also introduced a Finder interface (the link() and title() methods return Finder implementations). This allows you to factor out your own UI specific components:

assertPresenceOf(atLeast(1), signInLink());
blogLink().with(urlParameter("name", containingString("joe"))));

This is the bit I really like.

Allowing abstractions of components and matching rules to be combined in many different ways, so tests can check exactly what they need to, resulting in reduced less brittle tests that are easier to maintain.

Other uses

As I hear of other uses I’m listing them on the Hamcrest wiki.

When it goes bad

Of course, like any technology, it’s easy to get carried away.

Here’s an example of Hamcrest gone bad:

assertThat(myNumber, anyOf(equalTo(0), allOf(greaterThan(5), lessThan(10))));

I’m not a LISP programmer, so I find that really hard to understand. Just because we have an assertTHAT() method, we don’t have to use it all the time. In this case it’s much simpler to use plain old assertTRUE():

assertTrue("myNumber should be 0 or between 5 and 10",
myNumber == 0 || (myNumber > 5 && myNumber < 10));

Even though the non-Matcher version is longer (it could be shortened by leaving out the message and using a shorter variable name, but that would make it harder to understand), I find it much easier to understand.

But, what if you actually needed to use a matcher (e.g. for the web testing or collection processing examples above)?

One approach is you could use higher level matcher that are composed of other matchers:

matcher = anyOf(equalTo(0), allOf(greaterThan(5), lessThan(10)))
// simplifies to
matcher = anyOf(equalTo(0), between(5, 10))

Complete tangent: An alternative to between(5, 10) is between(5).and(10). The latter makes for more literate code, but is harder to implement – again a design tradeoff.

Another approach is to create a one-off anonymous matcher implementation:

matcher = new CustomMatcher() {
public boolean matchesSafely(Integer n) {
return n == 0 || (n > 5 && n < 10);

What are you doing with Hamcrest?


  1. JUnit 4.4 now comes with Hamcrest and assertThat().

Hamcrest 1.1 released

Flexible JUnit assertions with assertThat()

Over time I’ve found I end up with a gazillion permutation of assertion methods in JUnit: assertEquals, assertNotEquals, assertStringContains, assertArraysEqual, assertInRange, assertIn, etc.

Here’s a nicer way. jMock contains a constraint library for specifying precise expectations on mocks that can be reused in your own assertion method (and that’s the last time I’m going to mention mocks today, I promise – despite the frequent references to the jMock library).

By making a simple JUnit assertion method that takes a Constraint, it provides a replacement for all the other assert methods.

I call mine assertThat() because I think it reads well. Combined with the jMock syntactic sugar, you can use it like this:

assertThat(something, eq("Hello"));
assertThat(something, eq(true));
assertThat(something, isA(Color.class));
assertThat(something, contains("World"));
assertThat(something, same(Food.CHEESE));
assertThat(something, NULL);
assertThat(something, NOT_NULL);

Okay, that’s nice but nothing radical. A bunch of assert methods have been replaced with different methods that return constraint objects. But there’s more…

h3. Combining constraints

Constraints can be chained making it possible to combine them in different permutations. For instance, for virtually every assertion I do, I usually find that I need to test the negative equivalent at some point:

assertThat(something, not(eq("Hello")));
assertThat(something, not(contains("Cheese")));

Or maybe combinations of assertions:

assertThat(something, or(contains("color"), contains("colour")));

h3. Readable failure messages

The previous example can be written using the vanilla JUnit assert methods like this:

assertTrue(something.indexOf("color") > -1 || something.indexOf("colour") > -1);

Fine, the constraint based one is easier to read. But the real beauty is the failure message.

The vanilla JUnit assert fails with:


Useless! Means you have to put an explicit error message in the assertion:

assertTrue(something.indexOf("color") > -1 || something.indexOf("colour") > -1,
"Expected a string containing 'color' or 'colour'");

But the jMock constraint objects are self describing. So with this assertion:

assertThat(something, or(contains("color"), contains("colour")));

I get this useful failure message, for free:

Expected: (a string containing "color" or a string containing "colour")
but got : hello world

h3. Implementing it

The simplest way is to grab jMock and create your own base test class that extends MockObjectTestCase. This brings in convenience methods for free (I’m still not talking about mocks, honest). If you don’t want to extend this class, you can easily reimplement these methods yourself – it’s no biggie.

import org.jmock.MockObjectTestCase;
import org.jmock.core.Constraint;

public abstract class MyTestCase extends MockObjectTestCase {

protected void assertThat(Object something, Constraint matches) {
if (!matches.eval(something)) {
StringBuffer message = new StringBuffer("nExpected: ");
message.append("nbut got : ").append(something).append('n');


Now ensure all your test cases extend this instead of junit.framework.TestCase and you’re done.

h4. Defining custom constraints

Creating new constraints is easy. Let’s say I want something like:

assertThat(something, between(10, 20));

To do that I need to create a method that returns a Constraint object, requiring two methods; eval() for performing the actual assertion, and describeTo() for the self describing error message. This is something that can live in the base test class.

public Constraint between(final int min, final int max) {
return new Constraint() {
public boolean eval(Object object) {
if (!object instanceof Integer) {
return false;
int value = ((Integer)object).intValue();
return value > min && value < max;
public StringBuffer describeTo(StringBuffer buffer) {
return buffer.append("an int between ").append(min).append(" and ").append(max);

This can be combined with other constraints and still generate decent failure messages.

assertThat(something, or(eq(50), between(10, 20));
Expected: (50 or an int between 10 and 20)
but got : 43

In practice I find I only need to create a few of these constraints as the different combinations gives me nearly everything I need.

More about this in the jMock documentation.

h4. Summary

Since using this one assert method I’ve found my tests to be much easier to understand because of lack of noise and I’ve spent a lot less time creating ‘yet another assertion’ method for specific cases. And in most cases I never need to write a custom failure message as the failures are self describing.

h4. Updates

  1. The matchers from jMock have been pulled out into a new project, Hamcrest.
  2. A follow up to this post shows some creative uses of matchers, and talks a bit about when you shouldn’t use them.
  3. JUnit 4.4 now comes with assertThat()!