[rspec-users] doesn't rspec check the existence of template file

David Chelimsky dchelimsky at gmail.com
Thu Aug 25 08:04:38 EDT 2011

On Aug 23, 2011, at 5:02 AM, foreverman wrote:

> Hey,
> I am using rspec (1.3.0) and rspec-rails (1.3.2) for my current rails2
> project, I found that in my controller test, rspec doesn't check the
> existence of view template. For example,
> it "should render show template" do
>  get :show
>  response.should render_template :show
> end
> The above controller test will pass even the 'show' template doesn't
> exist.
> I am curious if this is a bug or I did something wrong.

Neither. There's a bit of history here so bear with me.

The names used in Rails for the different kinds of tests it offers do not align with the names we used to use before Rails came along. Here are some older definitions (which are the ones to which I subscribe, but that doesn't mean "they are the right ones"):

Unit test: specifies behavior of an object in isolation.
Integration test: specifies behavior of two or more objects in which there are at least two bits of non-trivial behavior.
Functional test: specifies how the application behaves (from a user perspective, or close facsimile)
System test: specifies how a system of applications behave

These each cover progressively wider scope: unit, integration, functional, system.

Based on that nomenclature, what Rails calls unit, functional, and integration tests are really integration (model + db), integration (mvc + db), and functional tests (mvc + db + routing/sessions).

The rspec-rails gem aims to support the more traditional scopes by offering unit tests for controllers and views. This is what you've come up against: a controller spec is intended to be a unit test for the controller. To support this, rspec-rails (1.x) does not actually render any views at all. If the spec says the controller should render "foo/bar", and the controller renders "foo/bar", then the example passes whether or not the view exists. In a BDD process, we work from the outside-in, so before the controller spec exists, there would be a failing "integration spec" (which were called that to align with Rails' nomenclature in rspec-rails-1, but are called "request specs" in rspec-rails-2 - perhaps we should really call these "functional specs", but that might just make things more confusing). That serves two purposes: it describes the behavior from a user perspective (when I submit this form with valid data, then xyz happens), and it also provides test coverage that proves that the isolated parts specified in model, view, controller, and helper specs all play nice together.

If you prefer to treat controller specs as Rails functional tests (which are mvc + db integration specs, but not functional tests since they bypass the router (sort of) and sessions (sort of)), you can tell rspec-rails-1 to render views with the "integrate_views" declaration ("render_views" in rspec-rails-2):

# globally
Spec::Runner::configure do |c|


# for one spec
describe ThingsController do


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