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Testing Single Page Applications (SPAs) using Vue.js developer tools

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8 min read

Testing, especially for big applications, is paramount – especially when deploying your application to a development environment. Whether you choose unit testing or browser automation, there are a host of articles and books available on the subject.

In this tutorial, we have covered the usage of Vue developer tools to test Single Page Applications. We will also touch upon other alternative tools like Nightwatch.js, Selenium, and TestCafe for testing.

This article is an excerpt from a book written by Mike Street, titled Vue.js 2.x by Example. 

Using the Vue.js developer tools

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The Vue developer tools are available for Chrome and Firefox and can be downloaded from GitHub. Once installed, they become an extension of the browser developer tools. For example, in Chrome, they appear after the Audits tab.

Vue.js developer tools

The Vue developer tools will only work when you are using Vue in development mode. By default, the un-minified version of Vue has the development mode enabled. However, if you are using the production version of the code, the development tools can be enabled by setting the devtools variable to true in your code:

Vue.config.devtools = true

We’ve been using the development version of Vue, so the dev tools should work with all three of the SPAs we have developed. Open the Dropbox example and open the Vue developer tools.

Inspecting Vue components data and computed values

The Vue developer tools give a great overview of the components in use on the page. You can also drill down into the components and preview the data in use on that particular instance. This is perfect for inspecting the properties of each component on the page at any given time.

For example, if we inspect the Dropbox app and navigate to the Components tab, we can see the <Root> Vue instance and we can see the <DropboxViewer> component. Clicking this will reveal all of the data properties of the component – along with any computed properties. This lets us validate whether the structure is constructed correctly, along with the computed path property:

Dropbox viewer

Drilling down into each component, we can access individual data objects and computed properties.

Using the Vue developer tools for inspecting your application is a much more efficient way of validating data while creating your app, as it saves having to place several console.log() statements.

Viewing Vuex mutations and time-travel

Navigating to the next tab, Vuex, allows us to watch store mutations taking place in real time. Every time a mutation is fired, a new line is created in the left-hand panel. This element allows us to view what data is being sent, and what the Vuex store looked like before and after the data had been committed.

It also gives you several options to revert, commit, and time-travel to any point. Loading the Dropbox app, several structure mutations immediately populate within the left-hand panel, listing the mutation name and the time they occurred. This is the code pre-caching the folders in action. Clicking on each one will reveal the Vuex store state – along with a mutation containing the payload sent. The state display is after the payload has been sent and the mutation committed. To preview what the state looked like before that mutation, select the preceding option:

Vue app

On each entry, next to the mutation name, you will notice three symbols that allow you to carry out several actions and directly mutate the store in your browser:

  • Commit this mutation: This allows you to commit all the data up to that point. This will remove all of the mutations from the dev tools and update the Base State to this point. This is handy if there are several mutations occurring that you wish to keep track of.
  • Revert this mutation: This will undo the mutation and all mutations after this point. This allows you to carry out the same actions again and again without pressing refresh or losing your current place. For example, when adding a product to the basket in our shop app, a mutation occurs. Using this would allow you to remove the product from the basket and undo any following mutations without navigating away from the product page.
  • Time-travel to this state: This allows you to preview the app and state at that particular mutation, without reverting any mutations that occur after the selected point.

The mutations tab also allows you to commit or revert all mutations at the top of the left-hand panel. Within the right-hand panel, you can also import and export a JSON encoded version of the store’s state. This is particularly handy when you want to re-test several circumstances and instances without having to reproduce several steps.

Previewing event data

The Events tab of the Vue developer tools works in a similar way to the Vuex tab, allowing you to inspect any events emitted throughout your app.

Changing the filters in this app emits an event each time the filter type is updated, along with the filter query:

Vue app

The left-hand panel again lists the name of the event and the time it occurred. The right panel contains information about the event, including its component origin and payload. This data allows you to ensure the event data is as you expected it to be and, if not, helps you locate where the event is being triggered.

The Vue dev tools are invaluable, especially as your JavaScript application gets bigger and more complex. Open the shop SPA we developed and inspect the various components and Vuex data to get an idea of how this tool can help you create applications that only commit mutations they need to and emit the events they have to.

Testing your Single Page Application

The majority of Vue testing suites revolve around having command-line knowledge and creating a Vue application using the CLI (command-line interface). Along with creating applications in frontend-compatible JavaScript, Vue also has a CLI that allows you to create applications using component-based files. These are files with a .vue extension and contain the template HTML along with the JavaScript required for the component. They also allow you to create scoped CSS – styles that only apply to that component. If you chose to create your app using the CLI, all of the theory and a lot of the practical knowledge you have learned in this book can easily be ported across.

Command-line unit testing

Along with component files, the Vue CLI allows you to integrate with command-line unit tests easier, such as Jest, Mocha, Chai, and TestCafe (https://testcafe.devexpress.com/). For example, TestCafe allows you to specify several different tests, including checking whether content exists, to clicking buttons to test functionality. An example of a TestCafe test checking to see if our filtering component in our first app contains the work Field would be:

test('The filtering contains the word "filter"', async testController => {
  const filterSelector = await new Selector('body > #app > form > label:nth-child(1)');
await testController.expect(paragraphSelector.innerText).eql('Filter');

This test would then equate to true or false. Unit tests are generally written in conjunction with components themselves, allowing components to be reused and tested in isolation. This allows you to check that external factors have no bearing on the output of your tests.

Most command-line JavaScript testing libraries will integrate with Vue.js; there is a great list available in the awesome Vue GitHub repository (https://github.com/vuejs/awesome-vue#test).

Browser automation

The alternative to using command-line unit testing is to automate your browser with a testing suite. This kind of testing is still triggered via the command line, but rather than integrating directly with your Vue application, it opens the page in the browser and interacts with it like a user would. A popular tool for doing this is Nightwatch.js (http://nightwatchjs.org/).

You may use this suite for opening your shop and interacting with the filtering component or product list ordering and comparing the result. The tests are written in very colloquial English and are not restricted to being on the same domain name or file network as the site to be tested. The library is also language agnostic – working for any website regardless of what it is built with.

The example Nightwatch.js gives on their website is for opening Google and ensuring the first result of a Google search for rembrandt van rijn is the Wikipedia entry:

module.exports = {
  'Demo test Google' : function (client) {
      .waitForElementVisible('body', 1000)
      .setValue('input[type=text]', 'rembrandt van rijn')
      .waitForElementVisible('button[name=btnG]', 1000)
      .assert.containsText('ol#rso li:first-child',
        'Rembrandt - Wikipedia')

An alternative to Nightwatch is Selenium (http://www.seleniumhq.org/). Selenium has the advantage of having a Firefox extension that allows you to visually create tests and commands.

We covered usage of Vue.js dev tools and learned to build automated tests for your web applications. If you found this tutorial useful, do check out the book Vue.js 2.x by Example and get complete knowledge resource on the process of building single-page applications with Vue.js.

Read Next:

Building your first Vue.js 2 Web application

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Category Manager and tech enthusiast. Previously worked on global market research and lead generation assignments. Keeps a constant eye on Artificial Intelligence.



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