Working with Robolectric and Robotium in Android Studio and Gradle

I develop the TripComputer App for Android but I find testing apps using the standard Android Instrumentation framework is really slow and painful. Slow testing cycles can kill productivity and are a well documented disincentive to TDD. Therefore, most Android tutorials that talk about testing bestow the virtues of switching to something like the Robolectric framework when unit testing Android apps.

Robolectric is great because it allows you to test your App against a ‘simulated’ set of Android SDK API’s using your desktop’s java virtual machine (jvm) as opposed to either ’emulating’ these API’s in a pretend device or accessing them on a physical device which is what the standard Android Instrumentation Testing framework does.

Robolectric also allows the use of JUnit v4 style testing annotations rather than the older JUnit v3 style required by the built in Android Instrumentation testing framework.

However, there’s a problem: getting Robolectric to work in Android Studio is difficult.

I’ve been an Android Studio user ever since it first went public nearly 2 years ago. It’s an awesome IDE but one consequence of it’s use is that it promotes the Gradle build system to be the default choice for Android projects. This is good news for Android developers but unfortunately, getting Android Studio, Gradle, Robolectric, Robotium, AppCompat and JUnit to all work happily side by side is a real pain in the rear.

Over the past year or so it’s been a slowly improving picture, but now Android Studio has gone to a 1.0 release, I (and many others) have figured the time was right to try and bring these tools together.

The android-alltest-gradle-sample project on GitHub is my attempt to create a template project that can be used as a starting point for anyone who wishes to use these best of breed Android Testing tools together with Gradle and Android Studio in one project.

The tools integrated and supported by the sample project so far are:-

  1. AssertJ for Android. Makes the testing of android components simpler by introducing an android specific DSL for unit testing.
  2. Robolectric. Allows the the simulated testing of Android apps (i.e. device API’s are simulated, so there is no need for an emulator or physical device).
  3. JUnit. Used to simplify testing of core Java and simulated Android tests.
  4. Android AppCompat v7. Popular support library developed by Google to improve support for backwards compatibility in Android.
  5. Robotium. Used to augment normal Instrumentation Tests and provide black box integration testing from Android.

There are lots of blogs out there talking about doing a similar thing, but as far as I know, this sample project is the first to demonstrate the combined use of these tools without the need for any special Gradle or Android Studio plugins to be applied.

Instrumentation Tests do still have an important role to play. They are great when used to test how well ‘integrated’ the individual units of code are when combined together to form an App. I find that thinking of instrumentation testing as ‘Integration Testing’ allows me to appreciate it’s true benefit more. As a bonus, the sample project also includes Robotium, to make integration testing simpler and more productive.

To use the sample project & code, simply clone the repository (or download a ZIP). Import the project (as a Gradle project) into Android Studio, test it and then start running code. Check out the Acknowledgements section in the readme for further help, tips and advice (including how to execute your Robolectric tests from within Android Studio in addition to the cmdline).

For more information, check out the project on GitHub.

About the Author

Ben Wilcock is the developer of Trip Computer, the only distance tracking app for Android with a battery-saving LOW POWER mode. It’s perfect for cyclists, runners, walkers, hand-gliders, pilots and drivers. It’s free! Download it from the Google Play Store now:-

Get Trip Computer on Google Play

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