Making Fun of Things with OCMock comments

published 28 June 2010
filed under: cocoa   TDD  

OK, I've done plenty of ranting about the state of TDD in Cocoa development. So instead of inflicting more whining on your ears, I've decided to figure out how to get better at this. This is the first in a series of posts I'll be doing about testing in Cocoa. We're going to look at OCMock, a framework for creating and using mock objects in your Cocoa tests.

This isn't the only tutorial out there on OCMock, but hopefully it's the clearest. I found the documentation on the site to be a bit, ahem, lacking. As a result I ended up figuring out how to use it by going through the source code1.


First, you need to download the OCMock project. Before Xcode 3.2.3, you used to be able to simply add the OCMock.framework to the "Link Binary With Libraries" build phase of your unit tests. This appears to have stopped working, so you have two options: you can include the OCMock source Xcode project and declare a build dependency on its static library target, or you can build the static library once and put the following header files somewhere accessible to your Xcode build:

  • NSNotificationCenter+OCMAdditions.h
  • OCMArg.h
  • OCMConstraint.h
  • OCMock.h
  • OCMockObject.h
  • OCMockRecorder.h

I didn't want to rebuild the library over and over so I built the static library once and put the libOCMock.a and OCMock.h files in a directory in my project and added that directory to the LIBRARY_SEARCH_PATHS in the unit-test target configuration 2.

Underlying Concepts

I'm assuming that you already know what mock objects are and how to use them. I'm not going to explain their value here, or the design changes you end up making to accommodate them. Mock objects are simply one of many tools you can employ in your testing. They have their pros and cons so let experience and intuition be your guide. Instead, I want to focus on how to use OCMock.

The general recipe for using mocks in unit-tests is:

  1. Create the mock object
  2. Specify the expected invocations and return values
  3. Associate the mock object with the code under test
  4. Execute the code under test
  5. Validate that your assertions are correct

It's worth spending some time looking at the test cases that come with the OCMock source code. The coverage is quite good so it's a great demonstration of OCMock's capabilities.

Making Mocks

To create a mock object, use one of the factory methods available on the OCMockObject class: +mockForClass:, +mockForProtocol: or +partialMockForObject:. There are also two variants of this called "nice" mocks, which you can get by calling either +niceMockForClass: or +niceMockForProtocol:. The difference between a "nice" mock and regular (mean? stand-offish?) mock, is how they behave when they receive an unexpected method invocation. A "nice" mock will simply ignore the unexpected invocation, whereas a regular mock will raise a NSException.

Factory Method Description
+mockForClass: Create a mock based on the given class
+mockForProtocol: Create a mock based on the given protocol
+niceMockForClass: Create a "nice" mock based on the given class
+niceMockForProtocol: Create a "nice" mock based on the given protocol
+partialMockForObject: Create a mock based on the given object
+observerMock: Create a notification observer (more on this later)

If you're like me and you like to keep your builds free of compiler warnings, declare the returned object to be of type id to shut the compiler up.

id myMock = [OCMockObject mockForClass:[MyClass class]];

The +partialMockForObject: method allows you to turn an existing object into a mock. This can be useful in cases where a collaborating object has several of its methods invoked, but you only want to override one or two. The obvious dangers here are that, 1) your collaborating class probably violates the Single-Responsibility Principle and 2) your tests now indirectly rely on the subtleties of which methods you mocked and which you didn't. Use at your own peril.

Setting Expectations

The object returned by any of these factory methods allows you to both setup expectations, invoke methods and verify its configuration. OCMock does a clever little trick to distinguish between invocation configuration and handling method invocations. Calling either the -expect or -stub method will return an object that you can use to setup your expectations. The cool thing about this object is that you setup your expectations by (more or less) invoking the methods on it that you want your class under test to invoke.

Let's imagine that we have a simple stock-portfolio management application. Our portfolio model is encapsulated by the AVStockPortfolio class. An instance of that class is given an object that implements the AVQuoteService protocol, which is our gateway to a real-live stock quote service. When we test the AVStockPortfolio class, we don't want to be encumbered with a "production" implementation of AVQuoteService. Instead we want to craft a stand-in object to exercise and validate the portfolio class.

Our first test is to see that the portfolio class initiates a connection with the quote service in its init method:

- (void)testInit {
  id mockService = [OCMockObject mockForProtocol:@protocol(AVQuoteService)];
  [[mockService expect] initiateConnection];
  AVStockPortfolio *portfolio = [[AVStockPortfolio alloc] initWithService:mockService];
  [mockService verify];

When the -expect method is called, it returns a "trampoline" object that captures additional method calls dynamically. Any methods invoked on the service that I haven't explicitly configured will raise an exception. I can also check that the methods I've configured were all invoked by calling the mock object's -verify method.

You can also configure your mock object to act as a more forgiving "stub" for particular methods by using -stub instead of -expect 3. Admittedly, the ability to turn a so-called "mock" object into a "stub" for particular method invocations muddies the nomenclature a bit, but it can be handy to have this ability at times.

Return Values

If methods on your mocks need to return values, you have a variety of methods to call on the object returned by -expect or -stub. Any method we call on this object that isn't one of the built-in OCMock methods, is captured dynamically as an expected method invocation.

Method Explanation
-andReturn: Return the given object
-andReturnValue: Return a non-object value (wrapped in a NSValue)
-andThrow: Throw the given exception
-andPost: Post the given notification
-andCall:onObject: Call the selector on the given object
-andDo: Invoke the given block (only on OS X 10.6 or iOS 4)

Since each of these methods returns the same expectation object, you can chain these method calls, where it makes sense. For example to post a notification and return a specified value we could do this:

NSNotification *notfication = [NSNotification notificationWithName:@"foo" object:nil];
[[[mock expect] andPost:notfication] andReturn:@"FOOBAR"] doSomethingMagical];

The -andDo: option is one of my favorites since it uses blocks and blocks are the most awesome addition to Objective-C in a long time. You can do a lot of validation locally within a block which keeps the code very succinct and clean:

- (void)testSellSharesInStock {
  id quoteService = [[OCMockObject] mockForProtocol:@protocol(AVQuoteService)];
  [[[quoteService expect] andDo:^(NSInvocation *invocation) {
    // validate arguments, set return value on the invocation object
  }] priceForStock:@"AAPL"];
  AVStockPortfolio *portfolio = [[AVStockPortfolio alloc] initWithService:quoteService];
  [portfolio sellShares:100 inStock:@"AAPL"];
  // other validations and assertions
  [quoteService verify];

Arguments & Return Values

Basic method expectations are useful, but we also want to validate the arguments given to methods. Back to our stock portfolio, imagine that when we buy a stock, we know that part of that process is to ask for the current price of a stock from a stock service, so we want to assert that when we sell a particular stock, our portfolio object queries the quote service for the latest price for the same stock symbol:

- (void)testBuyShares {
  id mockService = [OCMockObject mockForProtocol:@protocol(AVQuoteService)];
  [[mockService expect] andReturn:[NSNumber numberWithFloat:214.57]] priceQuoteForSymbol:@"AAPL"];
  AVPortfolio *portfolio = [[AVPortfolio alloc] initWithQuoteService:mockService];
  [portfolio buyShares:100 inStock:@"AAPL"];
  // other validation and assertions

  [mockService verify];

In this case, we're declaring the expected argument to be the string literal @"AAPL". We've also configured the method with a return value, in this case a NSNumber instance with the value 214.57. However, OCMock can do more. You can use any of the following OCMArg class methods in place of a real argument when setting up your method expectations:

OCMArg method Description
+any Any argument is accepted.
+anyPointer Accepts any pointer
+isNil The given argument must be nil
+isNotNil The given argument must not be nil
+isNotEqual: Given argument is not object-equivalent with expectation
+checkWithSelector:onObject: Check the argument with the given action/target pair
+checkWithBlock: Check the argument with the given block (OS X 10.6 or iOS 4)

OCMock also provides a few handy macros for argument matching:

Macro Description
OCMOCK_ANY() Equivalent to [OCMArg any]
OCMOCK_VALUE(value) A quick way to match a non-object argument
CONSTRAINT(selector) Validate with a given selector on self
CONSTRAINTV(selector,value) Validate with a given selector on self and an additional argument

But Wait…There's More!

One nice little feature of OCMock is its handy support for testing notifications. To create a mock for notifications, call the +observerMock factory method on the OCMockObject class. This will return a mock that works differently from the mocks/stubs described earlier. Instead of setting up method invocation expectations, you can set up notification expectations which are useful when you want to assert that your class under test posts notifications. Let's say that we want our aforementioned portfolio class to post notifications whenever stocks are bought or sold:

- (void)testSellSharesInStock {
  id mock = [OCMockObject observerMock];
  // OCMock adds a custom methods to NSNotificationCenter via a category
  [[NSNotificationCenter defaultCenter] addMockObserver:mock
  [[mock expect] notificationWithName:AVStockSoldNotification object:[OCMArg any]];

  AVPortfolio *portfolio = [self createPortfolio]; // made-up factory method
  [portfolio sellShares:100 inStock:@"AAPL"];

  [mock verify];

If the AVStockSoldNotification isn't posted by the time we call verify, the mock will raise an exception. Note that you need to add the mock as an observer, which you can do by the handy -addMockObserver:name:object: category method on NSNotificationCenter provided by OCMock.

Execution & Validation

Any method invoked on your mock object will be checked against the configured invocations. Any unexpected invocations will result in an exception being thrown (unless it's a stub or the mock is in "nice" mode). Also, any configured invocations that did not happen will trigger an exception when the mock's -verify method is called. As a matter of habit, you want to call this at the end of your test.


Using mocks, stubs and test-doubles in your testing is a handy way to keep your tests lean and focused on one class at a time. This is especially helpful when you have dependent classes that require a lot of setup that you would rather avoid in your test-harness (e.g. Core Data).

The downside to testing with mocks and stubs is that you lose some test coverage for the objects you're replacing with test-doubles. This approach probably works best when your code is interacting with objects from other libraries that you don't want to deal with in your tests.


  1. I know it seems like a drag, but it's hard to overestimate the value of reading the original source code for any tool that you use. You'll be amazed at how much more of an intimate understanding it gives you of the tool and the rationale behind its design.
  2. I forked the OCMock codebase and have started to make a few tweaks to it. Feel free to take a look at it on GitHub.
  3. If you aren't familiar with mocks vs. stubs, Martin Fowler has written the canonical text on the differences.
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