Make Capybara Raise, Not Warn, When It Detects Unused Parameters

April 04, 2017 by George Millo

I love Capybara but it has one little snag that keeps tripping me up. Have a look at the following RSpec code and see if you can spot the problem:

example 'show user page' do
  user = FactoryGirl.create(:user)

  visit user_path(user)

  expect(page).to have_content
  expect(page).to have_content user.email_address
  expect(page).to have_link 'Edit', edit_user_path(user)

Did you see it? I’m using the have_link matcher incorrectly. The second argument is supposed to be a Hash, meaning the correct line looks like this:

expect(page).to have_link 'Edit', href: edit_user_path(user)

(Note that extra href:.)

It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you consider the similarity with Rails’s link_to helper, which does take a String (not a Hash) as its second argument. I still occasionally mess up have_link in this way, and I’ve been working with Capybara and RSpec for four years.

The sneaky thing here is that if you forget the href:, the matcher won’t fail. It’ll just ignore whatever URL you passed in, and only test that the link has the correct text, not that it has the correct href attribute. Meaning that if you got the href attribute wrong, you now have a false positive.

Capybara does print a warning when you make this mistake, but it’s easily missed, especially when the dodgy test is running alongside 1500 other tests in your suite. But since Capybara realises that something’s amiss, why can’t it just make the test fail? If I’ve passed a String as the second argument to have_link, that’s a mistake and I want to know about it immediately, so I can fix it immediately.

To that end, here’s a tiny little monkey-patch that will make the problem harder to miss (tested on Capybara 2.7.1). Stick this in spec/support/raise_on_capybara_unused_parameters.rb, and make sure the file is required somewhere in your rails_helper or spec_helper:

module Capybara
  module Queries
    class SelectorQuery
      def warn(*messages)
        if messages.first.start_with?('Unused parameters')
          raise messages.first

Now, the next time you mess up have_link, you’ll realise straight away, because Capybara will raise an error and the test will fail. Fixing it is as easy as adding an href:, and now false positive test results are less likely to sneak through the net.

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