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Automated Testing with a Custom Driver

To write automated tests for your Electron app, you will need a way to "drive" your application. Spectron is a commonly-used solution which lets you emulate user actions via WebDriver. However, it's also possible to write your own custom driver using node's builtin IPC-over-STDIO. The benefit of a custom driver is that it tends to require less overhead than Spectron, and lets you expose custom methods to your test suite.

To create a custom driver, we'll use Node.js' child_process API. The test suite will spawn the Electron process, then establish a simple messaging protocol:

const childProcess = require('child_process')const electronPath = require('electron')
// spawn the processconst env = { /* ... */ }const stdio = ['inherit', 'inherit', 'inherit', 'ipc']const appProcess = childProcess.spawn(electronPath, ['./app'], { stdio, env })
// listen for IPC messages from the appappProcess.on('message', (msg) => {  // ...})
// send an IPC message to the appappProcess.send({ my: 'message' })

From within the Electron app, you can listen for messages and send replies using the Node.js process API:

// listen for IPC messages from the test suiteprocess.on('message', (msg) => {  // ...})
// send an IPC message to the test suiteprocess.send({ my: 'message' })

We can now communicate from the test suite to the Electron app using the appProcess object.

For convenience, you may want to wrap appProcess in a driver object that provides more high-level functions. Here is an example of how you can do this:

class TestDriver {  constructor ({ path, args, env }) {    this.rpcCalls = []
    // start child process    env.APP_TEST_DRIVER = 1 // let the app know it should listen for messages    this.process = childProcess.spawn(path, args, { stdio: ['inherit', 'inherit', 'inherit', 'ipc'], env })
    // handle rpc responses    this.process.on('message', (message) => {      // pop the handler      const rpcCall = this.rpcCalls[message.msgId]      if (!rpcCall) return      this.rpcCalls[message.msgId] = null      // reject/resolve      if (message.reject) rpcCall.reject(message.reject)      else rpcCall.resolve(message.resolve)    })
    // wait for ready    this.isReady = this.rpc('isReady').catch((err) => {      console.error('Application failed to start', err)      this.stop()      process.exit(1)    })  }
  // simple RPC call  // to use: driver.rpc('method', 1, 2, 3).then(...)  async rpc (cmd, ...args) {    // send rpc request    const msgId = this.rpcCalls.length    this.process.send({ msgId, cmd, args })    return new Promise((resolve, reject) => this.rpcCalls.push({ resolve, reject }))  }
  stop () {    this.process.kill()  }}

In the app, you'd need to write a simple handler for the RPC calls:

if (process.env.APP_TEST_DRIVER) {  process.on('message', onMessage)}
async function onMessage ({ msgId, cmd, args }) {  let method = METHODS[cmd]  if (!method) method = () => new Error('Invalid method: ' + cmd)  try {    const resolve = await method(...args)    process.send({ msgId, resolve })  } catch (err) {    const reject = {      message: err.message,      stack: err.stack,      name:    }    process.send({ msgId, reject })  }}
const METHODS = {  isReady () {    // do any setup needed    return true  }  // define your RPC-able methods here}

Then, in your test suite, you can use your test-driver as follows:

const test = require('ava')const electronPath = require('electron')
const app = new TestDriver({  path: electronPath,  args: ['./app'],  env: {    NODE_ENV: 'test'  }})test.before(async t => {  await app.isReady})test.after.always('cleanup', async t => {  await app.stop()})