Tutorial: logging during tests

Logging is a popular solution to show what the software is doing while it is running.

But what happens to the logging when we are unit testing our application with jUnit/TestNG ?

During the automated tests execution, we are usually not interested to see the logging messages because our main interest is the test results.

It would be nice to be able to disable logging messages during standard automated tests.

On the contrary, there are some cases where logging messages can be useful at test time. A typical example is when we are coding missing tests for some legacy code we do not want to touch before having a good test coverage in place. In this case logging messages on the console can help us to understand the code and how it works.

So we can identify three use cases:

  1. Running mode, when the application is executed: the logging is enabled and configured as required by the application
  2. Test execution mode, when the automated tests are executed all together: the logging messages should be disabled

  3. Test creation mode, when we are creating new tests: the logging messages are useful but it would be nice to have them in the console

Let see an example based on Maven and SLF4J, the popular logging facade.

Complete project can be found here.

Typical SLF4J configuration in the project pom.xml is the following:

        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-api</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-log4j12</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
            <scope>runtime</scope>
        </dependency>

the slf4-api dependency is the main SLF4J library while the second one, slf4j-log4j12, is referencing one of the possible logging engines (LOG4J) that can work below the SLF4J.

This is the running mode configuration. In this example, the project resources will contain a LOG4J properties file which dictates what, how and where LOG4J should log.

The same situation happens when we are using a different logging engine like java.util.logging (JDK) and Logback. See Slf4J manual for more details.

In the Test execution mode we do not want logging so we can simply add the following scope test dependency

        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-nop</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
            <scope>test</scope>
        </dependency>

The NOP Logger (slf4j-nop) simply discards all logging.

Important: the dependencies order in the pom.xml is significant. Put the slf4j-nop dependency just after the slf4-apidependency so it will be used during the tests even if there is another logging engine in the dependency.

When there are multiple logging engines dependencies in the pom.xml, SLF4J will show anyway a message like the following:

    SLF4J: Class path contains multiple SLF4J bindings.
    SLF4J: Found binding in [jar:file:.m2/repository/org/slf4j/slf4j-nop/1.7.12/slf4j-nop-1.7.12.jar!/org/slf4j/impl/StaticLoggerBinder.class]
    SLF4J: Found binding in [jar:file:.m2/repository/org/slf4j/slf4j-log4j12/1.7.12/slf4j-log4j12-1.7.12.jar!/org/slf4j/impl/StaticLoggerBinder.class]
    SLF4J: See http://www.slf4j.org/codes.html#multiple_bindings for an explanation.
    SLF4J: Actual binding is of type [org.slf4j.helpers.NOPLoggerFactory]

To summarize, a complete configuration example is the following:

        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-api</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-nop</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
            <scope>test</scope>
        </dependency>
        <dependency>
            <groupId>org.slf4j</groupId>
            <artifactId>slf4j-log4j12</artifactId>
            <version>${slf4j.version}</version>
            <scope>runtime</scope>
        </dependency>

Again, the last dependency should be adjusted to match the desired logging engine.

As I mentioned before, logging can be useful when creating new tests. In this case (Test creation mode), we can temporarily replace the slf4j-nop with the slf4j-simple dependnecy which enables the SLF4J Simple logger.

The logging messages will now be shown in the console window during tests execution as System.err messages. No configuration file is needed.

By default, the Simple logger does not log DEBUG messages. Standard logging level is INFO.

You can customize the Simple logger behaviour using system variables documented here.

A smart way to define Simple logger configuration is using the [Surefire plugin configuration section] (http://maven.apache.org/surefire/maven-surefire-plugin/examples/system-properties.html):

    <build>
        <plugins>
            <plugin>
                <groupId>org.apache.maven.plugins</groupId>
                <artifactId>maven-surefire-plugin</artifactId>
                <version>2.18.1</version>
                <configuration>
                    <systemPropertyVariables>
                        <org.slf4j.simpleLogger.defaultLogLevel>DEBUG</org.slf4j.simpleLogger.defaultLogLevel>
                        <org.slf4j.simpleLogger.showDateTime>true</org.slf4j.simpleLogger.showDateTime>
                    </systemPropertyVariables>
                </configuration>
            </plugin>
        </plugins>
    </build>

In the systemPropertyVariables section we can create tags with the Simple logger variable name. In the above example, DEBUG and timestamp logging are enabled.

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One thought on “Tutorial: logging during tests

  1. Hi,

    Just would like to thank you for this blog post, I was stuck on a broken build in Maven for about a week, but I was able to fix the issue thanks to this post!

    Thanks,
    André

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