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Concordion is an open source framework for Java that lets you turn a plain English description of a requirement into an automated test.

This project is a tutorial for the Concordion Excel Extension.


This tutorial is designed to show you how to take advantage of the Concordion Excel Extension to build an automated acceptance test.

In this example, we are going to develop some Java code and an accompanying test. The purpose of the code will be to calculate a taxi fare, which is a function of the distance travelled. Yes, this is a contrived, simplified example, but this approach has been used for developing software for financial systems, so it is at least in an appropriate domain.

The Specification

The cab fare is priced as follows:

  1. £1 flat rate is applied at the start of the journey.
  2. Over the first 10 miles, the charge is £.50 per mile.
  3. Then on, the charge is £.30 per mile.

Constructing the Excel Spreadsheet

Based on the specification, we might design a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

Excel Spreadsheet 1

It contains all of the constants defined from the specification, at the top. Below that is a table for some example calculations. By selecting a range of cells and using Insert->Table, you tell Excel that this area is a table. This is important to the Concordion extension too, so that it knows to output this area as an HTML table.

Next we need to do is fill out the example table section. The flat rate is an easy function - it's always the same. Note: the cells in the spreadsheet are named, to make the formulae easier to read.

Excel Calculating Flat Rate

The first mileage is easy too. If the journey is less than 10 miles, it's the mileage multiplied by the first cost per mile. You can see the formula in the top right of the below image.

Excel Calculating First Mileage

The second mileage looks at the remainder. I've used the MAX function, and worked out how many miles over 10 were travelled.

Excel Calculating Second Mileage

The total cost is the sum of all three components in the next column.

Excel Calculating Total Cost

Turning it into a test

Concordion is designed as a JUnit runner. By annotating the class with:


we tell JUnit to use the concordion runner.

We need to extend it so that it expects to load an Excel specification, rather than HTML as is usually the case with concordion.

package spec.concordion.ext.excel;

import org.concordion.api.extension.Extensions;
import org.concordion.ext.excel.ExcelExtension;
import org.concordion.integration.junit4.ConcordionRunner;
import org.junit.runner.RunWith;

public class FirstExcelTutorial {


Running the Test

When we run this test, Concordion generates the following HTML output:

First HTML Output From Concordion

Wiring Up The Constants

This is not yet a test, though, as we haven't made any assertions of our code. So, next let's link the Excel spreadsheet to the Java implementation. To do this, let's set concordion variables from the values on the sheet.

To do this, we add excel comments containing our concordion commands. This follows the approach when we design an HTML concordion test and add attributes to our HTML elements. Here is an example:

Setting a Concordion Value

The way this works is that the Concordion Excel Extension tries to parse the contents of Excel comments it finds in your spreadsheets. When it finds one that looks like an HTML attribute (i.e. name="value") it adds this to the concordion test model, and executes the appropriate concordion command. Malformed attributes, or regular Excel comments are ignored.

Repeating the process for the other variables, we end up with our four concordion variables set:

  1. #flatRate
  2. #cpm1
  3. #cpm1Upper
  4. #cpm2

Wiring Up the Table

Let's do the same for the Excel table. Concordion is clever enough to understand that commands applied to the table header rows are applied to the cells within the table, row-by-row. So we can set distance just once like this:]

Setting the distance on the header row

Let's also add the check for the result, where we assert that the result of the calculation is the same as the value contained in the cell.

Checking the result

Finally, we must call the Java code to make the calculation. In Concordion, this is applied to the whole table, and so we need to indicate this to our Excel spreadsheet too:

Setting the fare calculation

Let's just understand what this means: we are going to call the java code calculateFare with #distance supplied as an argument, and then store the value in the #result variable. And, by adding (table) to the start of the directive, we are telling concordion that this is a command applying to the whole table, and that it should repeat this operation for each row of the table in turn.

If you understand how concordion works when processing HTML, then this might seem a bit magical. As discussed in the documentation, the way the Concordion Excel Extension works is that it converts the spreadsheet into an HTML representation. The brackets are a directive to tell the processor to not put the command on the current HTML element, but on a parent element with the matching tag (in this case: work up the HTML heirarchy until you find the table tag, and add the command there).

So now, we need some java code to make this work.

Code for calculateFare

package spec.concordion.ext.excel;

import org.concordion.api.extension.Extensions;
import org.concordion.ext.excel.ExcelExtension;
import org.concordion.integration.junit4.ConcordionRunner;
import org.junit.runner.RunWith;

public class FirstExcelTutorial {
	private FareCalculator fc;
	public String calculateFare(String distance) {
		Money result = fc.calculateFare(new BigDecimal(distance));
		return result.toString();

What's been added here is code to call a FareCalculator object, which is the class being tested. This looks something like this:

package spec.concordion.ext.excel;

public interface FareCalculator {

	 * Returns price in GBP for a given distance in miles.
	Money calculateFare(BigDecimal distance);

What's missing though is the constructor for the fc field above: we have not created a FareCalculator object yet, or an implementation of FareCalculator to call. Such an implementation could look like this:

package spec.concordion.ext.excel;

public class BasicFareCalculator implements FareCalculator {

	Money flatRate;
	Money costPerMile1;
	BigDecimal costPerMile1UpperLimit;
	Money costPerMile2;

	public BasicFareCalculator(Money flatRate,
			Money costPerMile1,
			BigDecimal costPerMile1UpperLimit, 
			Money costPerMile2) {
		this.flatRate = flatRate;
		this.costPerMile1 = costPerMile1;
		this.costPerMile1UpperLimit = costPerMile1UpperLimit;
		this.costPerMile2 = costPerMile2;

	public Money calculateFare(BigDecimal distance) {
		BigDecimal distance1 = distance.min(costPerMile1UpperLimit);
		BigDecimal distance2 = distance.subtract(costPerMile1UpperLimit).max(new BigDecimal(0));
		Money mileageCost1 = costPerMile1.multiply(distance1);
		Money mileageCost2 = costPerMile2.multiply(distance2);
		return flatRate.add(mileageCost1).add(mileageCost2);

Note the similarity between the Java code to calculate the fare, and the Excel functions to do the same.

Constructing The Basic Fare Calculator

The final piece of the puzzle is to instantiate the fc field on the test, with a BasicFareCalculator object.

To do this, I am going to add an extra line to the spreadsheet for us to instrument:

Creating the fare calculator

This is calling a java method on our test called setupFareCalculator, and it passes the 5 parameters from the sheet that we created earlier.

Here is the Java implementation to complete this:

public void setupCalculator(String flatRate, String cpm1, String cpm1Upper, String cpm2) {
	fc = new BasicFareCalculator(new Money(flatRate), 
				new Money(cpm1),
				new BigDecimal(cpm1Upper),
				new Money(cpm2));

We're Done

When the test is run, this is the HTML report:

Completed Fare Calculator Test Results


Writing a test in Excel is really no harder than writing it in HTML, as we have seen.

But, one of the huge benefits of this approach is that we can now play with the spreadsheet, changing the constants, and be certain that our test will still work. For example, if I change the cost per mile to £0.60 instead of £0.50 and rerun the test, the result looks like this:

Changing a constant

And no other changes are necessary - Excel takes care of updating the expected results of the test.


Tutorial for the Concordion Excel extension







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