Test Private Methods

Testing private methods with MXUnit

With MXUnit, testing private methods is easy.

Imagine a component named Something.cfc. It has a method named somePrivate:

You can't test this method directly. You can only test it indirectly through the component's public API. A lot of times, that's entirely appropriate. But sometimes, maybe that function is particularly nasty or granular and you'd just feel better if you could test it directly.

In typed languages such as Java, testing private methods is pretty difficult. In ColdFusion it's much easier because, unlike in Java, subclasses can call super.somePrivateMethod() and it'll actually work. Private in CF is not like private in Java. Thus, the preferred way to test private functions in CF has been to create a subclass of the object under test and override the private function with a public version which simply calls the parent. Robert Blackburn, maintainer of CFUnit, discusses this nicely.

As Robert discusses at the end, the primary concern here is that you create more maintenance when your private methods change. Now, you have three files to change: the component itself, the subclass containing the overridden private methods, and the test case.

If this is your cup of tea, that's cool. It's an accepted approach to this problem and it works well. You need read no further. However, if you don't particularly care for the extra maintenance, MXUnit makes it a bit easier.


Didjoo see that? Simply call makePublic(), passing in:

  • An instance of the object with the private method
  • The method name you want to test
  • Optionally, a name for the "proxy" for the private method. If you don't pass anything, it'll just be the private method name

Internally, all that's happening is a bit of method shuffling. The original private method is renamed to something else, and a new, public method is injected into the object. This injected function then calls the original private method directly. This means that when you call "myObj.somePrivate()", you're calling this new function on the object you've already created and thus all your initialization done prior to that function call is retained. This would include anything done in the setUp function as well as anything done in the test function prior to this specific function call.

To see more examples, download the MXUnit framework and look at mxunit/tests/framework/PublicProxyMakerTest.cfc

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