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FlexMonkey 4 and FlexMonkium for Selenium

06.04.2010
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FlexMonkey is a free and open source Adobe AIR application used for testing Flex and AIR based applications. It can record, playback, and verify Flex UI interactions.  FlexMonkey also generates ActionScript-based testing scripts that you can easily include within a continuous integration environment.  Gorilla Logic is the company that builds FlexMonkey, and its CEO, Stuart Stern, recently spoke with DZone about their launch of FlexMonkey 4, which supports all of the new Spark components in Flex 4.  For more info on FlexMonkey, see our interview with Stuart Stern at Adobe Max 2009.


DZone: First thing's first. What's new in FlexMonkey 4?

Stuart Stern:  Before we talk about the updates to FlexMonkey, let me give you a bit of background for those who have not used any of the previous versions. We (Gorilla Logic) built and open sourced the first version of FlexMonkey in late 2008 because we needed a serious Flex testing solution for our enterprise customers. Basically, FlexMonkey allows developers and QA people to create comprehensive tests for their Flex applications by easily recording real interactions with the user interface, and by letting the test creator add verification checks on both data and visual snapshots of the UI. Once the interactions have been recorded the test can be played back through the FlexMonkey console or through generated test code in Fluint / FlexUnit. The generated code can be extended to create complex, data-driven test scenarios, and can be easily run within build and continuous integration environments.

In our software consulting engagements, we have found that FlexMonkey reduces the overall numbers of tests that developers need to create, since driving testing from the user interface can exercise the entire application stack, top-to-bottom and even front-to-back. Let’s be clear though, api-level testing and tools like FlexUnit are still an essential part of Flex development, especially in testing non ui components. Where FlexMonkey is a better fit for testing is around visual components, which are difficult, if not impossible, to test as a ‘unit.’ On our typical applications, we tend to end up with about 80% of our developer created tests constructed through FlexMonkey, with the other 20% being created as more traditional unit tests.

As far as FlexMonkey 4, the goals were pretty simple; the community has been beating down our door for Spark Component (Flex 4) support. So, we’ve added full support for the new component library recently released by Adobe. This is key for enterprise Flex development projects that have come to depend on FlexMonkey for regression and QA testing, and that are ready to move to Flex 4. We've also simplified the setup for FlexMonkey 4, so it's easier for new users to get up and running quickly.

DZone:  What were some of the difficulties in implementing support for all of Flex 4's Spark components?

Stuart:  From a FlexMonkey perspective, there is no difference between Spark and Halo components. However, one of the things that makes FlexMonkey so powerful is that it records "semantic" events such as "open combobox" rather than "click at this screen coordinate". So FlexMonkey needs to "understand" every Flex component, and we had to tell it some new things about the new Spark components and their events. .

DZone:  Are there any trends your seeing in how developers are using FlexMonkey in their UI design workflow?

Stuart:  FlexMonkey was initially envisioned as a tool for developers.  Because developers test code that is still under development, it is important for a test automation tool to be able to express tests in a largely logical fashion. Tests that are too tied to the precise look of a screen at a particular point in time are two brittle for use by developers. FlexMonkey tests are typically robust across application skinning, since tests can be written independent of the exact positions or styling of the components on the screen, and can pinpoint specific functionality. In this way developers can automate testing of portions of an application even before the UI design is fully finalized.

Although we designed it for developer testing, it's ability to record tests automatically, add verification logic by pointing and clicking, and do fuzzy bitmap comparisons on select portions of the screen, make FlexMonkey highly effective for QA testing purposes as well. Additionally, when developers and testers use the same tools, they can share some of the same tests, with QA using developer tests as a starting point, and developers incorporating some QA tests into continuous integration builds.

DZone:  Tell me about the next tool you'll be focusing on: FlexMonkium.

Stuart:  FlexMonkium is a plugin for Selenium IDE and Selenium RC. It adds FlexMonkey recording and playback capability to Selenium so you can create tests for applications that mix HTML and Flex. We recently completed development and are now doing final testing and documentation. We expect it make it publicly available any day now. FlexMonkium makes all of FlexMonkey's functionality available within the Selenium IDE, and generates JUnit-based tests that can be run with Selenium RC.

DZone:  Are there any interesting or exciting things you see down the road for the Flash platform ecosystem? How do you think the platform will fare against emerging UI design technologies like HTML5, CSS3, etc.?

Stuart:  The recent attacks on the Flash platform by Apple have certainly put the ‘HTML 5 vs. Flash’ battle on everyone’s radar. At Gorilla, we build both native browser applications (HTML 5, etc.) and Flex applications -- and even native iPhone applications -- for our customers. There are pros and cons to each and situations that definitively call for one versus another. Having said that, we are a consulting company that builds serious enterprise software. We embrace Flex because it enables us to do things we cannot do otherwise, and do them quickly. On any given project, we don't ask if we should use Flex, we ask if there is any reason why we can't.