Maintainable RSpec Helper

RSpec is a great testing library and there are are literally a ton of useful libraries that integrate with your RSpec test suite. Within a few minutes of bootstraping a new RSpec test suite, I typically add in a standard set of gems for enhanced productivity (ex: factory_girl, webmock, vcr, timecop, etc).

The vast majority of libraries are straightforward to integrate into your project, and only require a few steps:

  1. add the gem to your Gemfile
  2. require the library in your spec/spec_helper.rb
  3. [optional] configure the library as necessary

It doesn't take long for your nice concise spec_helper.rb file to evolve into a bloated, monolithic list of require statements and snippets of configuration code for each library. My eyes bleed everytime I run across a file like this.

How do we unwind this mess?

Rails has long used config/initializers as a simple and elegant way to extract snippits of configuration code into their own files and avoid globbing everything into one massive config/application.rb file. Can we apply a similar pattern to RSpec?

Guess what?! RSpec already has this pattern built in! The spec/support directory is automatically loaded by RSpec and is essentially equivalent to config/initializers!

Here's a simple example for how to load and configure the VCR gem into your RSpec environment without modifying your spec_helper.rb file.

# spec/support/vcr.rb
require 'vcr'

VCR.configure do |c|
  c.cassette_library_dir = 'spec/fixtures/vcr_cassettes'
  c.hook_into :webmock

Under the Covers

How does RSpec actually do it? There's no real magic to it at all. By default, every spec_helper.rb file is generated with this one hook that automatically loads all Ruby files within the spec/support directory.

# spec/spec_helper.rb

# this line loads all your ruby files from spec/support
Dir[Rails.root.join("spec/support/**/*.rb")].each { |f| require f }

So, the next time you add a new gem to your test suite, resist the temptation to modify your spec_helper.rb. Instead, create a new file in spec/support and perform your standard require statement and any relevant configuration there!

Enjoy the organizational #protip and drop me a line if you have any other tricks!

Keep Calm and Extract Code

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