Minitest vs rSpec

Brush your teeth, eat your greens, test your code. We all know that testing is important. We are all good little vegemites and drink the TDD/BDD/RDD koolaid. But what testing framework should the discerning Rubyist use?

While two most popular testing frameworks by a long way are rSpec and Minitest, it’s fair to say that which is better is a source of friction in the ruby community. Note DHH’s in no way ironic complaint about bleeding eyes.

Or on rSpecs phallus shaped friend…

Don’t use Cucumber unless you live in the magic kingdom of non-programmers-writing-tests (and send me a bottle of fairy dust if you’re there!)


My personally? I’ve never used rSpec. As a late comer to the Ruby world (ie Ruby 1.9 & Rails 3), Minitest with it’s lovely spec syntax has been all I have ever needed. So why would you use Minitest over rSpec?


Minitest is part of the ruby standard library which means you don’t need to install any gems and setup is as easy as a single require line.

# /spec/logic_spec.rb
require 'minitest/autorun'

describe "bivalent logic" do
  it "rejects contradiction" do
    true.wont_equal false

$ ruby logic_spec.rb

The codebase itself is also relatively tiny. The core module is just a pip over 700 LOC making it easy to get your head around. Of course, this also means minitest doesn’t have the same feature set as rSpec. But it does give you 90% of the functionality with only 10% of the magic.

RSpec on the other had is not so simple

Choice of Style

Minitest gives you a great deal of stylistic choice. You can use the traditional assert style of testing or the spec style DSL. This is because Minitest::Spec is just a collection of aliases for Minitest::Assertions with a little sprinkling of syntactic sugar include it, let, ‘subject`, and specify’.

You can mix and match these as you like but why would you. Hey, we’re Rubyists. Looks matter.

require 'minitest/autorun'

describe "bivalent logic" do
  let(:the_truth) { true }
  subject { true }

  specify { true.wont_equal false }

  it "is either true or false" do
    the_truth.must_equal false || true

  def test_non_contradiction
    subject.wont_equal true && false


Minitest is also incredibly simple to extend. The base methods include (with corresponding wont, assert, and refute methods):


The standard library also includes Mocks, Stubs, Expectations, and Parallelisation. Beyond the standard library however, exists a rich ecosystem of extensions - Rails, Capybara, Chef, metadata, spec-context, Growl etc, or my personal favourite - minitest/emoji - which poops failures to your terminal.


So what then are the negatives? For me, the only negatives are the lack of hooks compared to rSpec. Minitest offers the before and after hooks but these act the same as rSpec’s before :all. Neither does Minitest offer an around hook.

Of course, these typically only affect performance during complex tests which can be mitigated somewhat by the lazy loading offered by let.


An apropos post by Aaron Paterson this week