Using assert_select and friends in Helper Tests

July 6, 2009 Pivotal Labs

Assertions such as assert_select, assert_tag, and css_select are powerful tools in view tests. Since view helpers generate a chunk of HTML, it is sometimes practical to use these assertions to test their return value.

If you attempt to use assert_select it will fail because there has not been a call to render, as is done in a view test. To get around this you can store the result of the helper method in @response.body. Once @response.body is populated, the assertions will work like expected.

Update: For people using RSpec, Pat Maddox posted a helpful suggestion in the comments showing how to use have_tag to accomplish the same thing in RSpec style.


describe TagsHelper do
  describe "#tag_list"
    describe "when the user is not an admin"

      it "should not have links to delete the tags" do
        @response.body = helper.tag_list
        assert_select "a", 0


Reality Check

If you find yourself writing a helper method that generates a lot of HTML, or is overly complex, stop and ask yourself whether it would be more appropriate to move this code into a partial.


Credit for this tip goes to a comment by Bill Siggelkow on the Nuby on Rails blog.

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