[rspec-users] [Cucumber] Level of features / Feature dependent steps

Jonathan Linowes jonathan at parkerhill.com
Tue Feb 17 16:33:34 EST 2009

On Feb 17, 2009, at 3:27 PM, Lenny Marks wrote:

> Forgive the long post, just looking for input/advice/alternate  
> opinions..
> Like many I think that going through the exercise of framing user  
> requests in Cucumber terms(Features, Scenarios..) really helps  
> facilitate necessary conversations and avoid time wasted  
> implementing the wrong thing(e.g. as a requirement/specification  
> tool). However, I'm a bit confused when it comes to tying this in  
> with Cucumber.  I've come across many suggestions about audience  
> being king as far as language used in features, but when writing  
> features as part of a specification for a new feature, I  
> consistently find myself writing at a higher level than most any  
> examples I've come across(See example below).
> In the past we've typically relied on very informal means of  
> specifying new features(Wiki pages, paper, and verbal  
> communication). No that's not our problem..;-) TPI, Even with  
> extensive object level specs, the full details of what an  
> application does and how it is expected to behave from the outside  
> tends to get lost in the app over time. For example, we have a few  
> applications that were developed by a consulting company. Even  
> concentrating only on the UI and the flow of the application, there  
> are many features that are kind of hidden within the app(ex. assign  
> to drop down that should keep most recently used names first).  
> Without being extremely familiar with the app, all you really know 
> (as a developer or tester) is that it renders successfully, which  
> is an obvious maintenance problem. Even with newer apps, after a  
> feature is implemented it tends to get lost inside the application.
> I was thinking that Cucumber could really work here as a full life  
> cycle tool because the same artifacts that were initially used to  
> specify a feature, could be kept and re-used as documentation for  
> users and testers. Unlike alternatives such as keeping a Wiki page  
> up to date, having features linked to implemented steps serves as  
> integration tests and also ensures that the feature as written, is  
> still accurate/up to date. (Even link Cucumber output to Wiki page)
> Anyway, reading through Cucumber docs and examples, I almost always  
> see much more specific examples.
> e.g. (from RSpec book)
> Feature: Pay bill on line
> Scenario: Pay a bill
> 	Given a checking account with $50
> 	And a payee named Acme
>         And an Acme bill for $37
> 	When I pay the Acme bill
> 	Then I should have $13 remaining in my checking account
>         And the payment of $37 to Acme should be listed in Recent  
> Payments
> That makes sense to me from a testing perspective, but it just  
> doesn't seem right to me from the perspective I speak of above. If  
> I were flushing out this feature with users, I'd have probably  
> wound up with something more like:
> Scenario: Pay a bill with sufficient funds
> 	Given I have a bill to pay
>  	And I have enough money in my checking account to cover it
> 	When I pay the bill
> 	Then my checking account should be debited by the amount payed
>         And the payment  should be listed in Recent Payments
> One problem is that obviously this way involves always writing an  
> extra level of feature dependent steps. It just seems to me that  
> the specific version tends to distract from the actual story. I'm  
> sure I'm looking at this backwards, but does anyone else use  
> Cucumber similarly?

Not sure about your 'life cycle' discussion, but wrt the examples, I  
do that all the time.

You've probably seen earlier discussions about instance variables.  
Some have advised against it, but I use them. Its manageable if  
you're consistent.

eg  @account  == 'a checking account', 'my checking account', etc
        @bill == 'the bill', etc
        @bill.amount == 'the amount', 'the payment', etc

And have default setups
but also more specific ones as needed,

Given /^I have a bill to pay$/ do
	@bill = Bill.create( :company => 'Acme', :amount => 37 )

Given /^I have a bill to pay to "(.+)" for \$(\d+)$/ |who, amount|
	@bill = Bill.create( :company => who,  :amount => amount )

so you can have
	Given I have a bill to pay
	Given I have a bill to pay to "Acme" for $37

I'd probably change your 2nd step to

	And I have enough money in my checking account to cover the bill

so "my checking account" and "the bill" reference @account and @bill

If you're managing both checking and savings accounts, i might have  
@checking and @savings instead of @account, and make the account type  
another argument, and so on


> Thanks,
> -lenny
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