What's the difference between faking, mocking, and stubbing?

I know how I use these terms, but I'm wondering if there are accepted definitions for faking, mocking, and stubbing for unit tests? How do you define these for your tests? Describe situations where you might use each.

Here is how I use them:

Fake: a class that implements an interface but contains fixed data and no logic. Simply returns "good" or "bad" data depending on the implementation.

Mock: a class that implements an interface and allows the ability to dynamically set the values to return/exceptions to throw from particular methods and provides the ability to check if particular methods have been called/not called.

Stub: Like a mock class, except that it doesn't provide the ability to verify that methods have been called/not called.

Mocks and stubs can be hand generated or generated by a mocking framework. Fake classes are generated by hand. I use mocks primarily to verify interactions between my class and dependent classes. I use stubs once I have verified the interactions and am testing alternate paths through my code. I use fake classes primarily to abstract out data dependencies or when mocks/stubs are too tedious to set up each time.

Answers


You can get some information :

From Martin Fowler about Mock and Stub

Fake objects actually have working implementations, but usually take some shortcut which makes them not suitable for production

Stubs provide canned answers to calls made during the test, usually not responding at all to anything outside what's programmed in for the test. Stubs may also record information about calls, such as an email gateway stub that remembers the messages it 'sent', or maybe only how many messages it 'sent'.

Mocks are what we are talking about here: objects pre-programmed with expectations which form a specification of the calls they are expected to receive.

From xunitpattern:

Fake: We acquire or build a very lightweight implementation of the same functionality as provided by a component that the SUT depends on and instruct the SUT to use it instead of the real.

Stub : This implementation is configured to respond to calls from the SUT with the values (or exceptions) that will exercise the Untested Code (see Production Bugs on page X) within the SUT. A key indication for using a Test Stub is having Untested Code caused by the inability to control the indirect inputs of the SUT

Mock Object that implements the same interface as an object on which the SUT (System Under Test) depends. We can use a Mock Object as an observation point when we need to do Behavior Verification to avoid having an Untested Requirement (see Production Bugs on page X) caused by an inability to observe side-effects of invoking methods on the SUT.

Personally

I try to simplify by using : Mock and Stub. I use Mock when it's an object that returns a value that is set to the tested class. I use Stub to mimic an Interface or Abstract class to be tested. In fact, it doesn't really matter what you call it, they are all classes that aren't used in production, and are used as utility classes for testing.


Stub - an object that provides predefined answers to method calls.

Mock - an object on which you set expectations.

Fake - an object with limited capabilities (for the purposes of testing), e.g. a fake web service.

Test Double is the general term for stubs, mocks and fakes. But informally, you'll often hear people simply call them mocks.


I am surprised that this question has been around for so long and nobody has as yet provided an answer based on Roy Osherove's "The Art of Unit Testing".

In "3.1 Introducing stubs" defines a stub as:

A stub is a controllable replacement for an existing dependency (or collaborator) in the system. By using a stub, you can test your code without dealing with the dependency directly.

And defines the difference between stubs and mocks as:

The main thing to remember about mocks versus stubs is that mocks are just like stubs, but you assert against the mock object, whereas you do not assert against a stub.

Fake is just the name used for both stubs and mocks. For example when you don't care about the distinction between stubs and mocks.

The way Osherove's distinguishes between stubs and mocks, means that any class used as a fake for testing can be both a stub or a mock. Which it is for a specific test depends entirely on how you write the checks in your test.

  • When your test checks values in the class under test, or actually anywhere but the fake, the fake was used as a stub. It just provided values for the class under test to use, either directly through values returned by calls on it or indirectly through causing side effects (in some state) as a result of calls on it.
  • When your test checks values of the fake, it was used as a mock.

Example of a test where class FakeX is used as a stub:

const pleaseReturn5 = 5;
var fake = new FakeX(pleaseReturn5);
var cut = new ClassUnderTest(fake);

cut.SquareIt;

Assert.AreEqual(25, cut.SomeProperty);

The fake instance is used as a stub because the Assert doesn't use fake at all.

Example of a test where test class X is used as a mock:

const pleaseReturn5 = 5;
var fake = new FakeX(pleaseReturn5);
var cut = new ClassUnderTest(fake);

cut.SquareIt;

Assert.AreEqual(25, fake.SomeProperty);

In this case the Assert checks a value on fake, making that fake a mock.

Now, of course these examples are highly contrived, but I see great merit in this distinction. It makes you aware of how you are testing your stuff and where the dependencies of your test are.

I agree with Osherove's that

from a pure maintainability perspective, in my tests using mocks creates more trouble than not using them. That has been my experience, but I’m always learning something new.

Asserting against the fake is something you really want to avoid as it makes your tests highly dependent upon the implementation of a class that isn't the one under test at all. Which means that the tests for class ActualClassUnderTest can start breaking because the implementation for ClassUsedAsMock changed. And that sends up a foul smell to me. Tests for ActualClassUnderTest should preferably only break when ActualClassUnderTest is changed.

I realize that writing asserts against the fake is a common practice, especially when you are a mockist type of TDD subscriber. I guess I am firmly with Martin Fowler in the classicist camp (See Martin Fowler's "Mocks aren't Stubs") and like Osherove avoid interaction testing (which can only be done by asserting against the fake) as much as possible.

For fun reading on why you should avoid mocks as defined here, google for "fowler mockist classicist". You'll find a plethora of opinions.


To illustrate the usage of stubs and mocks, I would like to also include an example based on Roy Osherove's "The Art of Unit Testing".

Imagine, we have a LogAnalyzer application which has the sole functionality of printing logs. It not only needs to talk to a web service, but if the web service throws an error, LogAnalyzer has to log the error to a different external dependency, sending it by email to the web service administrator.

Here’s the logic we’d like to test inside LogAnalyzer:

if(fileName.Length<8)
{
 try
  {
    service.LogError("Filename too short:" + fileName);
  }
 catch (Exception e)
  {
    email.SendEmail("a","subject",e.Message);
  }
}

How do you test that LogAnalyzer calls the email service correctly when the web service throws an exception? Here are the questions we’re faced with:

  • How can we replace the web service?

  • How can we simulate an exception from the web service so that we can test the call to the email service?

  • How will we know that the email service was called correctly or at all?

We can deal with the first two questions by using a stub for the web service. To solve the third problem, we can use a mock object for the email service.

A fake is a generic term that can be used to describe either a stub or a mock.In our test, we’ll have two fakes. One will be the email service mock, which we’ll use to verify that the correct parameters were sent to the email service. The other will be a stub that we’ll use to simulate an exception thrown from the web service. It’s a stub because we won’t be using the web service fake to verify the test result, only to make sure the test runs correctly. The email service is a mock because we’ll assert against it that it was called correctly.

[TestFixture]
public class LogAnalyzer2Tests
{
[Test]
 public void Analyze_WebServiceThrows_SendsEmail()
 {
   StubService stubService = new StubService();
   stubService.ToThrow= new Exception("fake exception");
   MockEmailService mockEmail = new MockEmailService();

   LogAnalyzer2 log = new LogAnalyzer2();
   log.Service = stubService
   log.Email=mockEmail;
   string tooShortFileName="abc.ext";
   log.Analyze(tooShortFileName);

   Assert.AreEqual("a",mockEmail.To); //MOCKING USED
   Assert.AreEqual("fake exception",mockEmail.Body); //MOCKING USED
   Assert.AreEqual("subject",mockEmail.Subject);

 }
}

It's a matter of making the tests expressive. I set expectations on a Mock if I want the test to describe a relationship between two objects. I stub return values if I'm setting up a supporting object to get me to the interesting behaviour in the test.


If you are familiar with Arrange-Act-Assert, then one way of explaining the difference between stub and mock that might be useful for you, is that stubs belong to the arrange section, as they are for arranging input state, and mocks belong to the assert section as they are for asserting results against.

Dummies don't do anything. They are just for filling up parameter lists, so that you don't get undefined or null errors. They also exist to satisfy the type checker in strictly typed languages, so that you can be allowed to compile and run.


the thing that you assert on it,is called a mock object and everything else that just helped the test run, is a stub.


As mentioned by the top-voted answer, Martin Fowler discusses these distinctions in Mocks Aren't Stubs, and in particular the subheading The Difference Between Mocks and Stubs, so make sure to read that article.

Rather than focusing on how these things are different, I think it's more enlightening to focus on why these are distinct concepts. Each exists for a different purpose.

Fakes

A fake is an implementation that behaves "naturally", but is not "real". These are fuzzy concepts and so different people have different understandings of what makes things a fake.

One example of a fake is an in-memory database (e.g. using sqlite with the :memory: store). You would never use this for production (since the data is not persisted), but it's perfectly adequate as a database to use in a testing environment. It's also much more lightweight than a "real" database.

As another example, perhaps you use some kind of object store (e.g. Amazon S3) in production, but in a test you can simply save objects to files on disk; then your "save to disk" implementation would be a fake. (Or you could even fake the "save to disk" operation by using an in-memory filesystem instead.)

As a third example, imagine an object that provides a cache API; an object that implements the correct interface but that simply performs no caching at all but always returns a cache miss would be a kind of fake.

The purpose of a fake is not to affect the behavior of the system under test, but rather to simplify the implementation of the test (by removing unnecessary or heavyweight dependencies).

Stubs

A stub is an implementation that behaves "unnaturally". It is preconfigured (usually by the test set-up) to respond to specific inputs with specific outputs.

The purpose of a stub is to get your system under test into a specific state. For example, if you are writing a test for some code that interacts with a REST API, you could stub out the REST API with an API that always returns a canned response, or that responds to an API request with a specific error. This way you could write tests that make assertions about how the system reacts to these states; for example, testing the response your users get if the API returns a 404 error.

A stub is usually implemented to only respond to the exact interactions you've told it to respond to. But the key feature that makes something a stub is its purpose: a stub is all about setting up your test case.

Mocks

A mock is similar to a stub, but with verification added in. The purpose of a mock is to make assertions about how your system under test interacted with the dependency.

For example, if you are writing a test for a system that uploads files to a website, you could build a mock that accepts a file and that you can use to assert that the uploaded file was correct. Or, on a smaller scale, it's common to use a mock of an object to verify that the system under test calls specific methods of the mocked object.

Mocks are tied to interaction testing, which is a specific testing methodology. People who prefer to test system state rather than system interactions will use mocks sparingly if at all.

Test doubles

Fakes, stubs, and mocks all belong to the category of test doubles. A test double is any object or system you use in a test instead of something else. Most automated software testing involves the use of test doubles of some kind or another. Some other kinds of test doubles include dummy values, spies, and I/O blackholes.


stub and fake are objects in that they can vary their response based on input parameters. the main difference between them is that a Fake is closer to a real-world implementation than a stub. Stubs contain basically hard-coded responses to an expected request. Let see an example:

public class MyUnitTest {

 @Test
 public void testConcatenate() {
  StubDependency stubDependency = new StubDependency();
  int result = stubDependency.toNumber("one", "two");
  assertEquals("onetwo", result);
 }
}

public class StubDependency() {
 public int toNumber(string param) {
  if (param == “one”) {
   return 1;
  }
  if (param == “two”) {
   return 2;
  }
 }
}

A mock is a step up from fakes and stubs. Mocks provide the same functionality as stubs but are more complex. They can have rules defined for them that dictate in what order methods on their API must be called. Most mocks can track how many times a method was called and can react based on that information. Mocks generally know the context of each call and can react differently in different situations. Because of this, mocks require some knowledge of the class they are mocking. a stub generally cannot track how many times a method was called or in what order a sequence of methods was called. A mock looks like:

public class MockADependency {

 private int ShouldCallTwice;
 private boolean ShouldCallAtEnd;
 private boolean ShouldCallFirst;

 public int StringToInteger(String s) {
  if (s == "abc") {
   return 1;
  }
  if (s == "xyz") {
   return 2;
  }
  return 0;
 }

 public void ShouldCallFirst() {
  if ((ShouldCallTwice > 0) || ShouldCallAtEnd)
   throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallFirst not first thod called");
  ShouldCallFirst = true;
 }

 public int ShouldCallTwice(string s) {
  if (!ShouldCallFirst)
   throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallTwice called before ShouldCallFirst");
  if (ShouldCallAtEnd)
   throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallTwice called after ShouldCallAtEnd");
  if (ShouldCallTwice >= 2)
   throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallTwice called more than twice");
  ShouldCallTwice++;
  return StringToInteger(s);
 }

 public void ShouldCallAtEnd() {
  if (!ShouldCallFirst)
   throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallAtEnd called before ShouldCallFirst");
  if (ShouldCallTwice != 2) throw new AssertionException("ShouldCallTwice not called twice");
  ShouldCallAtEnd = true;
 }

}

I learned a lot from the following resource, with an excellent explanation by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob):

The Little Mocker on The Clean Code Blog

It explains the differences between and subtleties of

  • dummies
  • test doubles
  • stubs
  • spies
  • (true) mocks
  • fakes

It also mentions Martin Fowler and it explains a bit of software testing history.

By no means I intend to answer this question with this link as being a true answer. However, it helped me understand the concepts of mocking and spying much better, so I answer this hoping that it'll help more people.


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