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DBUnit - Dynamically Creating Data Sets Using Builders

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DBUnit is a very useful library for writing tests that use relational databases. For example, it allows to cleanly insert required data before a test.

Usually, the data set to be loaded into the database is read from an XML file, such as this dataset.xml:

  <PERSON NAME="Bob" AGE="18"/>
  <PERSON NAME="Alice" AGE="23"/>
  <PERSON NAME="Charlie" LAST_NAME="Brown"/>

DBUnit can then load this file like this:

IDataSet dataSet = new FlatXmlDataSetBuilder().build(new FileInputStream("dataset.xml"));

Next, you can use DBUnit to store the IDataSet in the database:

DatabaseTester databaseTester = new JdbcDatabaseTester(
        "org.hsqldb.jdbcDriver", "jdbc:hsqldb:sample", "sa", "");
databaseTester.setDataSet( dataSet );

The default onSetup() operation is CLEAN_INSERT will delete all data in all the tables contained in the data set and then insert the specified rows. How this is done depends on the kind of database used, of course. DBUnit will figure out how to do it on its own. You will not have to write your own SQL queries anymore.

While this is incredibly useful, understanding the resulting tests is often hard because you have to switch back and forth between multiple files, i.e. the actual test code and the XML data set. So, the idea was born: Wouldn't it be possible to leverage the power of DBUnit but create the data set right in your test code?


After researching and looking through the DBUnit code -- especially FlatXmlDataSetBuilder and the classes it uses -- for a while, I figured it possible but there was no nice, readable way to do it, yet. Therefore, I came up with a class called DataSetBuilder which is basically a wrapper around a CachedDataSet using a BufferedConsumer. Let's take a look at an example:

DataSetBuilder builder = new DataSetBuilder();

// Using strings as column names, not type-safe
builder.newRow("PERSON").with("NAME", "Bob").with("AGE", 18).add();

// Using ColumnSpecs to identify columns, type-safe!
ColumnSpec<String> name = ColumnSpec.newColumn("NAME")
ColumnSpec<Integer> age = ColumnSpec.newColumn("AGE");
builder.newRow("PERSON").with(name, "Alice").with(age, 23).add();

// New columns are added on the fly
builder.newRow("PERSON").with(name, "Charlie").with("LAST_NAME", "Brown").add();

IDataSet dataSet =;

The code listed above creates three records in the PERSON table. It showcases two different ways of specifying columns, one using plain Strings and one using ColumnSpec instances, respectively.

You might now print it out to the console or a file, i.e.

new FlatXmlWriter(new PrintWriter(System.out)).write(dataSet);

will print

  <PERSON NAME="Bob" AGE="18"/>
  <PERSON NAME="Alice" AGE="23"/>
  <PERSON NAME="Charlie" LAST_NAME="Brown"/>

I think I found a way to create a data set directly from Java code in a readable way. In addition, creating the data sets programmatically gives to tools like refactoring, search for references, and so on for free.


DataSetBuilder allows to dynamically create a DBUnit IDataSet from Java code




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