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Testing PHP Code with Atoum – an Alternative to PHPUnit

If you’ve been around PHP for more than a little while, you’ve no doubt started to test your code. And if you ask anyone in the PHP space what to use for writing unit tests, likely the first answer that they’ll give you is PHPUnit.

It’s the de facto standard in the PHP community, and with good reason. But it’s not the only choice. Whilst it does command the lion’s share, other choices abound, one of which I’m going to take you through in this tutorial; it’s called atoum.

If this is your first time hearing about it, it is self-described as:

A simple, modern, and intuitive unit testing framework for PHP!

Atoum logo

I can’t necessarily vouch for it being all that intuitive, but it definitely is reasonably simple to use. And whilst its composer.json currently specifies a minimum version of PHP 5.3.3, one of the core developers told me that from version 3.0 support for PHP 5.3 will be officially dropped in favor of PHP 5.6. So don’t be fooled, it is a modern take on testing in PHP.

Recently, I decided to give it a test run on an existing codebase of mine, a health monitoring application which I’ve been writing to help me deal with some health problems I’ve had over the last 12 – 24 months. I found it to be an interesting take on software testing, combining several different styles into the one package.

Installing Atoum

Like all modern PHP software, we install it with Composer.

composer require atoum/atoum

For the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll assume that you’re following along using PhpStorm. No offense meant to Vim, Emacs, and other editors.

Given that, and given how atoum’s source code is structured, we should also install a supplementary library called atoum/stubs.

Without it, attempting to perform any kind of code completion in your IDE with atoum is less than straight-forward. Stubs make working with atoum much more user-friendly, as the graphic below will attest.

Using atoum stubs with PhpStorm for code completion

composer require atoum/stubs

Configuring atoum

Now that it’s installed, let’s perform some preliminary configuration. Specifically, what we’re going to do is to configure how code coverage will reported, as well as what the test reporting will look like when run from the terminal.

This isn’t strictly necessary, but as we may be looking at the test output in the terminal a lot, it helps to give a bit of life to it. Second, whilst the built-in code coverage is pretty good, sometimes viewing it through a browser is just easier to do, as we’ll see in a little while.

If this is your first time hearing about code coverage, code coverage reports the percentage of the codebase which is covered by tests. Code coverage reports help us know how complete our tests are, and how confident we can feel when making changes to the code. So, while there is some work involved in getting code coverage set up, it’s worth having in place.

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