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Refactorings require new tests

Posted by wwake on May 31, 2004 at 5:19 AM PDT

Someone asked on the XP egroup about getting access to private methods for testing purposes. Others suggested a number of ways to get this effect, but it got me thinking about refactoring.

Refactoring is often thought of as a pure, safe transformation: convert a program into another program with the same semantics but a better design. From the standpoint of a refactoring tool, the "same semantics" part is crucial.

But refactoring also has a psychological side: a better design, but also a different design. A different design may induce people to act differently (indeed, that's why we do it!). In particular, a different design may give people different expectations about code.

Following are some examples. In each case, I'll assume the code was created by test-driven development, and adequately tested before the refactoring.

  • Extract Method - the code worked as part of another method (and still does). But now, the reader's going to assume they can call this method from other parts of the class. Is the extracted method tested sufficiently on its own terms?
  • Expose Method (private becomes protected) - now, subclasses expect to be able to call this method (either directly or via a call to super()). We'll need to create testing subclasses to verify that it works in that context.
  • Expose Method (to
    - Other objects are free to call it. The original object no longer has control over the order in which this method is called. (We may have had a method that was only to be called if another method was called first; when it was private, we were ok; if we expose that method, it's hard to enforce this obligation.)
  • Extract Class - The object now stands alone. Is there a test class testing this object by itself? You may need to extract a new test class, but you also may find you need new tests to cover everything.
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