End to End testing your Vanilla JS App with Protractor

Posted by Andy Armstrong on 9/6/2016
ProtactorJS is an end to end test framework from Google used to test AngularJS Apps. While similar to existing tools like CasperJS, ProtractorJS is specifically designed for use with AngularJS.
With minimal effort you can use Protractor with your Vanilla JS web app as well. Why would you do this?
For one, using the same test framework for all you apps provides some sanity to writing tests for all of your projects. And you can’t honestly tell me you have all your apps converted to AngularJS already.
Second, it’s gaining popularity and for good reason. It’s a solid testing framework and is relatively easy to set up. Also, it has the backing of a very well known company (cough cough, Google) so it will be around for a long time.
Finally, it’s use of Jasmine and suite structures allow you to write some flexible tests. Encapsulate your logic, group stuff in ways that make sense. No more fragile tests!
Enough stumping, let’s get to the parts you actually care about.

Installation and Set Up

While I’ll point you at the official docs for installation instructions, I’ll provide the basic elements required to installing and running your Protractor tests:
  1. Protractor, Karma & Jasmine
    • Clearly, you need to install Protractor
    • Protractor uses Karma to connect to Selenium
    • Jasmine is used as the testing syntax.
      • You can use other frameworks, but my preference is Jasmine.
  2. Selenium Server & Webdriver
    • Protractor interacts with your tests using Seleniums Server and Webdriver. You can run Selenium locally or use a hosted service like Sauce Labs.
    • Local installation and setup is turn key simple using NPM.
  3. A Web server
    • Since your tests use a real browser to execute, you need a host of some kind.
    • It’s entirely possible to run your tests against an external server (like your staging server), but in practice I like to serve locally. In our example I used the local-web-server NPM package.

Protractor Test Concepts

Again, I’ll point you to the main documentation for longer descriptions of the concepts, I wanted to point out some that need to be discussed when prepping your protractor tests for execution on your VanillaJS app.

Config File

A config file sets up some required variables and tells Protractor how to run its tests. This includes a directory where your tests are held, the testing framework you use to write your tests and the address to the selenium server instance you use to run Karma.

Spec File (Test Suite) – “Describe”

Test suites are groups of testing conditions that focus on a particular section or part of your application. Using Jasmine, these are structure with the “describe” function and a brief string indicating the portion of the application under test.

Test Hooks

Hooks are small functions that are called during test executions. An example is the beforeEach hook we use to set up our tests for use with non-angular code. See the note below on exactly what goes in this hook.

Test Blocks – “It”

Test blocks are identified by an “it” phrase that describes in simple terms what you expect to happen. This is useful for turning user stories into tests like “User Registration Form should validate user input”.
These test blocks do have some minimal setup but are mostly for performing actions and asserting values. Check out our example code to see some of this in action.

Page Objects

Page Objects are similar to test fixtures in other testing frameworks, but thats underselling the usefulness of this concept. Page Objects are small JS objects where you can encapsulate and abstract out common page elements and share between your tests.
Use these to abstract out some commonly tested things, like getting the text or value from a page element. If you use your page object in all your tests, you only have one place to update when a change is made (instead of having to update ALL your test suites).

Running Protractor on your Vanilla JS App

Like we noted above, Protractor was designed for testing AngularJS apps by default. A large difficulty in e2e web app testing is knowing when something has rendered on the page and is ready to have some interaction. AngularJS abstracts how you work with the DOM in JS as well as having some control over how something is determined to be “ready” using Zones.js.
Three major things need to be done to make sure your Protractor test will actually work with out Angular:
  • Expose the web driver in a way you can access the DOM for interaction.
    • Due to the nature of how Angular abstracts the DOM and how it takes over all the app’s event cycles. We need to expose the Selenium Web Driver in a way you won’t hate.
    • Add this line to your onPrepare hook in the config file to assign the web driver to an global variable called “dv”
      • global.dv = browser.driver;
  • Tell the test not to wait for Angular to give the “go ahead, I’m ready” signal.
    • Protractor uses Angular to tell it when the page under test is ready to be tested. We need to skip this in order to test our non-angular app.
    • Add this to each test suite’s beforeEach hook to make sure the test knows to run as we expect
      • dv.ignoreSynchronization = true;
  • Start thinking about your tests with Promises
    • While I’m sure most of us at this point have seen and used Promise style functions. When testing an Angular app, using the default locators is easy. Since we are testing our app using the native web driver, we need to use a promise to allow Selenium to return the DOM element itself. Really though, it’s not that tough.
    • Here is an example where we want to assert the value of an element with the css ID of “foo” using a series of chained promises.
expect(dv.findElement(by.id('foo')).getText()).toEqual(“Bar”);

Plugin – Protractor Utils

Protractor does indeed have a very basic plugin system that gives end users some ways to extend base functionality. I’m still trying to understand this system myself (I haven’t figured out how to use a plugin that isn’t globally installed) I have found one that is very useful called jasmine2-protractor-utils.
I’ll leave some of the longer explanation of this plugin to the author, but my favorite feature is the ability to take a screenshot of the browser in the test on suite or block failure. Once you get things up and running so your tests are running automatically, having some visual artifacts of a failed test will help you replicate and diagnose what and how things went wrong.

Example – Movie Vote

Here is an example (very small) Web App demonstrating a very basic suite of Protractor tests. You can simply clone this repo, install the required packages using the package.json file and run these tests. Simply follow the instructions in the README.md file.
https://github.com/arroyolabs-blog/movie-vote-protractor
For an example of an intentionally failing test, check out the `mv-home-fail.spec.js` test in the tests directory.