Testing a custom ErrorHandler in cakePHP

I just finished writing the test case for a custom AppErrorclass. Writing the tests case was indeed much more difficult than writing the class itself.

Here are some things I've found that may interest anyone wanting to test their own ErrorHandlers. Most of the ideas are taken from the core ErrorHandlerTest.

Anatomy of an error

Every class in cakePHP extends Object. And in Objectis defined a method named cakeError. It means that anywhere in your app you can call $this->cakeError() and the whole app will stop and display the specified error.

What cakeErrordoes is instantly create an instance of either Controller or CakeErrorController, find the correct view, render it, and stop.

Because of the use of static variables, exitcalls and other happyness, testing several errors in a test case needs us to define some new classes to shortcircuit most of the logic.

Preparing the test

This step is actually pretty short. Just load the default ErrorHandlerby calling App::import('Core','Error');

Creating a dummy AppController

Then, you'll have to create a new AppControllerclass that extends Controller.

We will override the headermethod to prevent 'Headers already set' error when calling several errors in a row.

We will also override the render method to store in an inner property the name of the rendered action. It will help test that the correct error is rendered.

You may also need to define a custom list of helpers if your custom views are using any custom helpers.

Here is what it looks like on my side :

class AppController extends Controller {
  // Helpers used in the view. If not set, will generate a fatal error
  var $helpers = array('Caracole.Fastcode', 'CaracolePacker.Packer');
  // Overriding the header method. If not set, will generate 'Headers already set' errors;
  function header($header) {
    $this->header = $header;
  // Overriding render method to keep track of the rendered error
  function render($action) {
          $this->renderedAction = $action;
          return parent::render($action);

Creating a TestErrorHandler

This class will extends your AppError. It will just overwrite two methods to make it correctly work in a test case.

First, we'll need to overwrite the __construct. The default construct will set the inner $this->controller property to either a Controlleror a CakeErrorControllerinstance depending if its the first error fired or not. I must admit that I haven't really understand the difference between the two. But I know that CakeErrorControllerextends AppControllerwhile Controllerextends Object.

And as we need to overwrite methods of this property, it being a CakeErrorControlleris great, while it being a Controlleris bad. Anyway, what I did was copy/paste the parent __construct into TestErrorHandlerand just force it to always create a CakeErrorControllerinstance.

The other method we need to overwrite is the _stop. If we don't, the whole script will halt after the first error you'll test.

So, enough talk, here's the code :

class TestErrorHandler extends AppError {
  // Copy/paste of ErrorHandler construct method, but force a new instance of CakeErrorController as $this->controller each time
  // CakeErrorController extends AppController, so we can overwrite its methods
  function __construct($method, $messages) {
    App::import('Core', 'Sanitize');

    // Forcing CakeErrorController
    $this->controller =& new CakeErrorController();
    $options = array('escape' => false);
    $messages = Sanitize::clean($messages, $options);

    if (!isset($messages[0])) {
      $messages = array($messages);

    if (method_exists($this->controller, 'apperror')) {
      return $this->controller->appError($method, $messages);

    if (!in_array(strtolower($method), array_map('strtolower', get_class_methods($this)))) {
      $method = 'error';
    if ($method !== 'error') {
      if (Configure::read('debug') == 0) {
        $parentClass = get_parent_class($this);
        if (strtolower($parentClass) != 'errorhandler') {
          $method = 'error404';
        $parentMethods = array_map('strtolower', get_class_methods($parentClass));
        if (in_array(strtolower($method), $parentMethods)) {
          $method = 'error404';
        if (isset($code) && $code == 500) {
          $method = 'error500';
    $this->dispatchMethod($method, $messages);

  // Preventing the error from stopping all the request
  function _stop() {

Writing your tests

Ok, your almost done. You just have now to write your tests. They have to follow a special syntax to correctly work.

First, you'll have to wrap your ErrorHandlercreation between ob_start() and $output= ob_get_content(), otherwise you'll end up with error popping right into your test case because the ErrorHandlerforce the controller to render the view.

You'll be able to access interesting properties through $errorHandler->controller->renderedAction and $errorHandler->controller->header. You can also directly test the view output through $output.

Ok, so here's one of my tests :

// DEV : Error will use the error layout
function testCallingErrorInDevWillUseErrorLayout() {
  $errorHandler = new TestErrorHandler('missingController', $this->errorParams);
  $result = ob_get_clean();
  $this->assertEqual($errorHandler->controller->layout, 'error');


It took me some hours to glue all this pieces together, I hope it may be useful to others, too. Writing the AppErroritself was way easier, but as I'm now test infected I don't imagine writing code without the corresponding tests.

Tags : #php #unit-testing #errorhandler #tests #simpletest #apperror #cakephp

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