Test your JavaScript with Jasmine part 2

Following on from my earlier blog post "Test your JavaScript with Jasmine part 1", I am going to show you a few more things that will make you more efficient at using Jasmine to test your JavaScript.

Let's dive right in!

Nested describe blocks

In previous examples, I showed you a single describe block with a few it blocks with assertions - but you can also nest the describe blocks. You can have a root describe block with nested describe block. A good example is to have one for the main thing you are testing, then sub-describe blocks for the methods.

Given this object that we would test:

var myNumberHelper = { isEven: function(value) {
  // does some magic
}, isOdd: function(value){
  // also does some magic

In this example, I create a describe per method of the myNumberHelper object, giving me a nicely organized feel:

describe("myNumberHelper", function() {
  describe("isEven", function(){
    // some it blocks here to assert is Even is doing its job

  describe("isOdd", function(){
    // some it blocks here to assert isOdd is doing its job

Further organization based on context

Whilst you can have many levels of nesting, I strong suggest you try to stay within these 3 levels of nesting. The best practice levels are:

  • Level 1: The object / thing you are testing
  • Level 2: The methods of the object / thing
  • Level 3: The different contexts you need to test the method with

Jasmine doesn't have a context block like RSpec does, but I love using describe blocks as equivalents for this. With the right description, you can use them to express the current context of the nested tests in the same way.

If we build on our previous examples, here is how it should look:

describe("myNumberHelper", function() {
  describe("isEven", function(){
    describe("when the argument is even", function(){
      it("returns true", function(){

    describe("when the argument is odd", function(){
      it("returns true", function(){

  // ...

It feels like we are starting to see a pattern for easy readability and organization of tests, don't you think?

Setup and teardown

One of the things that is really useful is having a way to re-use setup steps so that you don't have to repeat yourself - keeping things DRY. Jasmine supports setup steps which are run before each test in a suite. There are also 'after steps', which you can use to clean up the state; this is especially useful when the tests share the same context.

You can define those steps into a beforeEach or afterEach:

describe("client", function(){ beforeEach(function(){ this.client = { name: "John Doe", plan: "trial" }; });

it("is on the trial plan", function(){

In this example, before each it block, a client is setup. You can also undefine it after each test.

describe("client", function(){ beforeEach(function(){
  this.client = { name: "John Doe", plan: "trial"

afterEach(function(){ this.client = null; });

it("is on the trial plan", function(){

These are just some basic examples; I am sure you are already considering a use case for your code base. If you need a hand, ping us on twitter.

Stealthy spies

Jasmine has test double functions that are called spies. A spy can replace any function and help you track its usage, plus the arguments used to call it.

Let's say you want to make sure you are tracking an action in your analytics software. You can do that easily by using a spy, which will replace your analytics call, whilst ensuring it is being called as expected. How would you do that?

For this example code:

var myNumberHelper = { isEven: function(value){
  var even = value % 2 == 0;
  analytics.track('is_even', value);
  return even;
}, isOdd: function(value){
  // ...

The test is as simple as this:

describe("myNumberHelper", function() {
  describe("isEven", function(){ // ...

  describe("when the argument is even", function(){
    it("sends a 'is_even' event", function(){
      // This is replacing the implementation of analytics.track with a spy
      spyOn(analytics, 'track');     // The action which you expect would trigger a call to this     myNumberHelper.isEven(2);     // Then add an expectation that it has been called

  });  // ...

What did we do exactly?

First, you need to create a spy. This is replacing the implementation of your code, in this case analytics.track, with code that will help Jasmine know if this specific code was called (plus with which arguments if you want).

Great, that's setup. Next step is to trigger the code you are expecting to call analtyics.track - in this case we're expecting a call to isEven.

Finally, the expectation itself, which will verify that analytics.track was actually called.

You could have made the expectation even more explicit by specifying the arguments you were expecting by changing it to: expect(analytics.track).toHaveBeenCalledWith("is_even", 2).

Spies are pretty useful, and they can be more flexible than this. For example, it can call the original function it's replacing if you want with spyOn(analytics, 'track').and.callThrough();. More on spies can be found in the official documentation.

Disable or mark as pending

Finally, if you want to disable or mark a test as pending you can:

  • prefix the it by a x, giving xit which will make it pending
  • use a pending() inside the it block, which will also make it pending
  • use xdescribre which will disable all the tests nested into it

What does this mean and what's the difference? In all cases, those tests will be skipped. The difference is that the disabled one won't be shown in the output, but the pending ones will show up in the results as pending.

What's next?

There is much, much more to Jasmine. You should look at the official documentation as it's really useful; as the project isn't too big it's easy to read it all - which I suggest if you're serious.

Note that there are different ways to integrate Jasmine to run it automatically as part of your backend test suite, or upon saving your code or your tests. Feel free to reach out to us on twitter telling us how you are using Jasmine, or if you know an amazing third-party tool that is making your life easier.

If you've read this far and are still looking for ways to test more effectively, be sure to check out our ebook on getting to continuous deployment for tips on bringing your QA strategy up to the speed of deployment.

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