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SpecFlow Alternative

SpecFlow Alternative

Testing is an integral part of the software development process, conducted at various levels. From unit testing, which checks every unit of code, to component-level testing, and finally, end-to-end testing from the end user’s perspective. Automation testing tools cater to these different testing levels. Tools like SpecFlow and testRigor allow you to verify entire functionalities through end-to-end flows. In this article, we’ll take a look at what these two tools offer for automation testing.

What is SpecFlow?

SpecFlow is an open-source framework for behavior-driven development (BDD), which allows for defining, executing, and automating end-to-end tests in .NET. It bridges the gap between business stakeholders, developers, and testers by providing a common language and format for describing the expected behavior of a software system. SpecFlow's core advantage is its BDD-centric approach, which fosters collaboration among team members.

Designed specifically for .NET applications, SpecFlow integrates seamlessly with popular development tools such as Visual Studio. It also generates detailed test execution reports to help track your tests' status and progress. These reports can be formatted in HTML and XML. With robust integration capabilities with CI tools like Jenkins and Azure DevOps, you can incorporate SpecFlow tests into your CI/CD pipelines, allowing them to run automatically as part of your build process. SpecFlow also offers built-in support for data-driven testing, enabling the testing of various input combinations.

Built on the BDD Paradigm, behavior-driven development (BDD) is an approach where testing is conducted from the end user's perspective. It highlights the application's expected behavior, instead of the underlying code's operation. By focusing on application behavior over implementation details, BDD allows stakeholders to understand how the system should function.

How does SpecFlow incorporate BDD?

SpecFlow leverages Gherkin syntax to implement BDD. According to this style, specific keywords dictate the formulation of a test case. Common Gherkin keywords include Feature, Given, When, Then, And, But, Scenario, Examples, and Background. SpecFlow's use of the official Gherkin parser supports over 70 languages. Once tests are written using Gherkin, they're linked to the .NET codebase using bindings. These tests can then be executed using a testing framework of your choice, like Playwright, or through SpecFlow's own test runner.

Writing tests using SpecFlow

Before diving into test writing, you need to install the SpecFlow extension into your IDE. For this illustration, we will consider the Visual Studio editor. After this setup, create a feature file. This file will contain test cases in Gherkin syntax, which is easily understandable to non-technical team members such as business stakeholders, and it can also be automated. Let's examine the example of a simple calculator application. Its feature file would look something like this:

Feature: Calculator

Scenario: Add two numbers
  • Given the first number is 50
  • And the second number is 70
  • When the two numbers are added
  • Then the result should be 120
Scenario: Subtract two numbers
  • Given the first number is 50
  • And the second number is 70
  • When the two numbers are subtracted
  • Then the result should be -20
Scenario: Multiply two numbers
  • Given the first number is 2
  • And the second number is 70
  • When the two numbers are multiplied
  • Then the result should be 140
Scenario: Divide two numbers
  • Given the first number is 50
  • And the second number is 2
  • When the two numbers are divided
  • Then the result should be 25
Scenario: Divide by 0
  • Given the first number is 0
  • And the second number is 2
  • When the two numbers are divided
  • Then the result should be 0
Each statement in the above feature file needs to be defined — in other words, coded — to instruct the system what should happen when the test runner encounters that statement. Below is an example of the step definition for the above feature file:
using FluentAssertions;
using SpecFlowCalculator.Specs.PageObjects;
using TechTalk.SpecFlow;

namespace SpecFlowCalculator.Specs.Steps

  public sealed class CalculatorStepDefinitions
    private readonly CalculatorPage _calculatorPage;  
    public CalculatorStepDefinitions(CalculatorPage calculatorPage)
      _calculatorPage = calculatorPage;
    [Given("the first number is (.*)")]
    public void GivenTheFirstNumberIs(string number)
    // ... more methods
A key point in the above example is that for the test case to interact with web elements, SpecFlow supports the use of Selenium with a page object model pattern. This abstraction aids in keeping your test code centralized.

Challenges with using SpecFlow for end-to-end testing

Some of SpecFlow's selling features can also contribute to difficulties in using it for end-to-end testing. Here's why:

BDD with Gherkin is a double-edged sword

Using Gherkin to implement BDD works well up to a certain extent. Before even starting with coding, you must create the feature file. While Gherkin serves well for relatively simple scenarios, using the given-when-then syntax to capture a complex test case can challenge even experienced testers. Furthermore, each statement must be coded, implying that collaboration isn't as seamless as it appears. Manual testers and product owners may not follow the step definition file and hence would have to rely on someone proficient in .NET. The whole idea behind BDD is to foster collaboration and simplify the testing process. However, this may not be the case in most scenarios. In fact, the process of defining a feature file first and then a step definition file could make the process more time-consuming.

Data-driven testing can be challenging with large data sets

SpecFlow can accommodate data-driven testing with modifications to the step definition file and the feature file; the process becomes complicated when dealing with large data sets. Listing all values in the feature file isn't easy, requiring a more robust and user-friendly approach.

Setup and installation overhead

To use SpecFlow, you must ensure that you've installed all the necessary dependencies and properly configured all the plugins. Unlike with cloud-based tools, you don't have the luxury of simply logging into the system and immediately starting testing.

Test maintenance can be problematic

Like many automation tools that employ XPaths and CSS as locators for web elements, SpecFlow also grapples with test maintenance issues due to changes in the implementation details of these UI elements. This can lead to unreliable and unstable test runs and subsequent maintenance.

Are there better options to SpecFlow?

Wouldn't it be great if there were a tool on the market allowing faster test execution, ultra-easy test case creation, and near-zero test maintenance? Thankfully, such a tool exists - testRigor. Let us explain why our customers call it a game changer.

Leveraging AI with testRigor

Recent advancements in technology have changed the landscape of the software testing industry. testRigor harnesses the power of AI to make automation testing as robust and human-like as possible. Here's how it accomplishes this:

Eliminate test maintenance

Test maintenance can blindside automation testers, especially if the test suites are extensive and poorly designed (which unfortunately happens very often). A significant cause of this maintenance overhead can be attributed to how UI web elements are referenced in automation frameworks. Even slight changes in the implementation details of web UI elements like XPaths or CSS values can cause chaos. Fortunately, testRigor addresses this issue by eliminating the need to specify such implementation details. You can refer to UI elements as they appear on the screen, and let testRigor handle the rest. The tool uses AI to understand what you've written in plain English, find elements on the screen, and classify commonly used images and icons such as shopping carts, arrows, etc., which would otherwise be difficult to identify through automation.

Author, maintain, edit faster in plain English

So, how is testRigor different from Specflow? Its AI-powered engine enables you to write, edit test cases, and add assertions in plain English. There is no coding requirement, no need for a step definition file, making it a truly no-code tool. This makes testRigor very user-friendly for people unfamiliar with coding or those seeking a more efficient way to document test cases beyond coding. Take a look at the example below, which outlines a test case for a mobile web application interacting with an app designed for activating and deactivating mobile phone SIMs.
login //pre-defined rule
compare screen to stored value "User Options" treating error as "minor"
click "Postpaid"
click by image from stored value "more menu" with less than "10" % discrepancy
click "SIMs & SIM Activation"
click "activate a sim"
check page contains "sim card"  & "esim"
check page contains "find your sim code"
check page contains "upload or type your sim information."
scroll down until page contains "sim code" using ocr
scroll down until page contains "sim name"  using ocr
enter stored value "personalDetailsFile" into input file "js-file-input"

If you examine the command statements here, you'll see how closely they mimic the way one would instruct a human to perform the test step-by-step. That's the power of this tool.

Similarly, you can effortlessly automate scenarios involving tables, file uploads, phone call validations, SMS validations, audio playback and recording, handling multiple browsers and tabs, and 2FA login.

Use generative AI to create test cases

We are all familiar with generative AI — an amazing technology capable of creating high-quality content swiftly. In recent updates, testRigor has introduced the ability to utilize generative AI for creating test cases. You can provide a title or description for the test case you want to create, and then let generative AI do its magic. If you want to add more steps such as actions or assertions, or need to parametrize the test case, you can do that too.

Other neat features

testRigor is agnostic to implementation details, such as the programming language used or the development framework utilized to build the application. This versatility makes it an excellent choice for testing almost any kind of application. Besides the features previously mentioned, testRigor offers a range of other notable capabilities.

  • Cross-platform testing: With testRigor, you can automate test cases for web, mobile, and desktop applications, including actions unique to these platforms.
  • Built-in support for data-driven testing: testRigor simplifies data-driven testing by providing straightforward ways to manage data, regardless of its volume. You can create a dataset via the testRigor UI or upload data via CSV files.
  • Parallel test execution: You can scale horizontally as much as needed with testRigor, allowing for receiving test results in minutes.
  • Integration with other frameworks: If you need to scale your test project, you can seamlessly integrate testRigor with other tools and frameworks that offer infrastructure, test case management, ticket management, and CI platforms.
  • Cloud-based testing: Being a cloud-based platform, testRigor ensures scalability won't be an issue for your testing. All you need to do is create an account on their website to access these benefits.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can explore the tool's capabilities in greater detail here or simply create a free account on their website to experience it firsthand.

In a nutshell

End-to-end testing often involves a significant amount of testing. Creating a strategy to decide which test cases should be tested and employing a powerful tool can greatly enhance the possibility of a flawless release. While SpecFlow's capabilities are noteworthy, testRigor brings every main aspect of test automation to the next level.

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