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From Lars Huttar <>
Subject webapp testing
Date Fri, 26 May 2006 20:37:26 GMT

Looking for some recommendations from those with experience...

I have been trying to set up a good method of automated testing for our 
webapps. One use case is regression testing... we converted a Cocoon 
webapp to use SQLServer on the back end instead of Oracle, and we want 
to find the places where the output has changed.
What can you recommend for that purpose?

I've looked at several web testing tools, mostly open-source, such as 
Anteater, WebInject, Morebot, GetLeft, and Grab-a-Site.
OK, the last two are just site grabbers, but those can potentially make 
good automated regression test tools.

I'd settled on Anteater for a while. One of its strengths is the ability 
to fetch two URLs and compare the responses:

This compares the output of the Oracle and SQL Server versions of the 
webapp for a particular page.

Another strength of Anteater is the ability to present test results as 
nicely organized and readable html reports, with detail appropriately 
hidden until you ask for it. See

One feature Anteater doesn't seem to provide is automated discovery of 
the URLs to test, e.g. by crawling the webapp. But I've been filling 
that hole with an XML list of URLs, and a stylesheet that generates an 
Anteater project file from it, creating URL pairs from the input URLs.

The place where I'm having trouble with Anteater is in the comparison of 
non-ASCII characters. It's been telling me that the output of the two 
versions differs, even though when I look at the raw XML, they seem to 
be exactly the same. This was driving me crazy, until I discovered that 
anteater also reports (every time) that the output of the Oracle version 
differs from the output of the Oracle version. In other words, 1 is not 
equal to 1. (Yes, this is a deterministic webapp.) So much for Anteater. 
I may report this bug, but Anteater hasn't been updated for 3 years so 
who knows whether it will ever be fixed. Perhaps this is an example of 
what Joel Spolsky complains about at

On to the site grabbers. These have the advantage of automatically 
finding the URLs you want to test, starting from your index page.
After grabbing the two webapps into two folder trees, you can then, 
theoretically, run a diff (using e.g. WinMerge) between them and easily 
spot the differences.
However, our webapp is data-driven, and it has tens of thousands of 
possible URLs that a crawler would find. We don't want to test every 
one... it would take days.
So we'd like to exclude a certain set of URLs, matching a wildcard 
pattern. But the site grabbers don't seem to support that feature.
Maybe this is argument for "design the app to fit the testing tools". 
Which may be a worthwhile principle in this imperfect world. But it's a 
pain when you're trying to add testing after development is done.

So... what have you found to be successful in this area? How do you address
- coming up with a list of URLs to test (anyone tried generating a draft 
list directly from a Cocoon sitemap?)
  - without testing every possible datum in your huge database
- comparing the output of two URLs and pinpointing where they differ, 
without having to do manual search.

Thanks for your help,

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