Behat and PHPSpec example on simple task



Several days ago I was asked to write simple file parser. I've thought that it could be great excercise to try Behat with PHPSpec BDD tandem to write this library from scratch.

You could get code used in this post from my Github page:

Lets setup some environment

This project is based on composer so you will need it. To install composer. I prefer installing composer globally:

curl -sS | php
sudo mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer

Next you should run composer install command to download and resolve all dependencies (composer will do it automatically).

composer install

Next we should define some dependencies in Our project

    "require": {
        "symfony/console": "*"

    "require-dev" : {
        "behat/behat": "~2.5.0@stable",
        "phpspec/phpspec": "2.0.*@dev"

    "minimum-stability": "stable",

    "autoload" : {
        "psr-0" : {
            "" : "src/",
            "Context" : "features/"

    "config": {
        "bin-dir": "bin/"

I want to output some messages in shell so I've included symfony console component in conposer.json.

"require": {
    "symfony/console": "*"

When composer dependencies are defined it's time to install them

composer install

Composer will install all dependencies into vendor directory

Our project is ready to go. Now its time to setup Behat

Put lines below into behat.yml file in root of your project directory.

        features: features
        class: Context\FeatureContext

Now it's time to write some features.

First We'll try to describe what Our library should do:

File: features/parser.feature

Feature: Attachments parser
    As a software developer
    In order to find duplicate attachments content
    I should see ids of duplicated attachments
        separated by "space" character

Features files are in Gherkin syntax. Their main task is to allow "Non-tech" people to cooperate with "Tech-people" (Nerds, Geeks etc.). It's basically simple text file with some syntax constrints. So you don't need fat IDE to write its content.

So in one sentence: "Feature file is business bridge to Our code". It should be written (in most cases) by people responsible for defining business part of your software - or with their close cooperation.

Every feature file should respond to three basic questions

  • Who need this feature
As a ....................
  • Why He'll be need it
In order to  ....................
  • What benefits will it bring to Us
I need to .........................

If we are able to answer this questions we should start wiritng scenarios (If no - probably your feature request is incomplete and need more discussion with your team).

Scenarios are first Behat elements which will be mapped to real PHP code.

Write some scenarios

Now it's time to describe what our software should do:

Scenario: Displaying duplicates from file when duplicates are present
    Given There is file with lines:
     | line                |
     | Attachment id: 1    |
     | fsjdhf483493h934hfs |
     | sfwqus483493u934usf |
     | Attachment id: 2    |
     | fsjdhf483493h934hfs |
     | sfwqus483493u934usf |
     | Attachment id: 3    |
     | aasksdshfksjdhfkhds |
     | Attachment id: 4    |
     | sfwqus483493u934usf |
    When I run console sctipt
    Then I should see following output
     | output |
     | 1 2    |
     | 3      |
     | 4      |

You can write as many scenarios as you need - they should cover all possible variants.

Each scenario line is called "Step". Steps are mapped to PHP Context class methods (in FeatureContext.php file).

Steps are divided to following types:

Given steps

Our Given steps should always setup Our environment. If you have system with database, often your Given step inserts some data into it

When steps

When steps are responsible for doing actions on your system. In these steps you should run, load, click and do everything what real user do with your application.

Then steps

Then steps are responsible for checking system result, in these steps you should chceck if system output (HTML, JSON, shell results) are meeting your expectations.

Next we can run Behat


It gives us output about unimplemented methods. It's because we don't have any methods yet mapped to our steps in feature file.

Steps mapping

Steps are mapped by from feature file into PHP methods. It's done thanks to annotation mechanism. Text after @Given, @When, @Then, @And is regular expression, you can use groups which will be mapped to method variables.

 * @When /^I run console sctipt$/
public function iRunConsoleSctipt()

When we complete all needed scenarios we can run behat


Command output:

 * @Given /^There is file with lines:$/
public function thereIsFileWithLines(TableNode $table)
    throw new PendingException();

 * @When /^I run console sctipt$/
public function iRunConsoleSctipt()
    throw new PendingException();

 * @Then /^I should see following output$/
public function iShouldSeeFollowingOutput(TableNode $table)
    throw new PendingException();

Behat gives us information about missing step methods which are connected to steps in feature file.

We can automatically append this output to Our Context class

bin/behat --append-snippets

Now our Context class have included step methods. Methods will throw PendingException exception, so you'll need to implement them.

Steps implementation

Look at FeatureContext file to look at steps implementation - it's really simople

  • Given will reset your attachments.txt file in every step
  • When will run some action - in this step it will be simple simple backtick PHP's exec.
  • Then - will check output from When step. and will Throw Exception if output will be different from expected one.


When Behat goes red (there are errors we'll implement our Parser library in spec and make some runner in ParserCommand.

Create specification

Specification for Parser\Attachment created
in /srv/http/tmp/php-bdd-parser-example/spec/Parser/AttachmentSpec.php.

Describe what it should do

it_is_initializable (autogenerated)


We need to detect ID in our file


When line have no ID we return false


our parseLine will function will use getId For last Attachment we will always map rest of content to last parsed ID.

Result should be array with content hash as keys and attachment ids as array elements

Implement your specification to pass

You'll need to complete all written specs to get green. When you do it your software is complete refer to Parser/AttachmentSpec specification and related Parser/Attchment class (and of course to PHPSpec documentation)

Succesfull output should look like this: phpspec-success-output.png

Shell runner

Behat will run additional file in shell, so we must create new shell command. I've used symfony command component (It's really great for this job).

bin/console parser

More details how to create symfony you couldreally early find in Using Symfony2 Console as standalone component


This example is really simple, but it gives Us control over development workflow (why, who, how). Specification is our documentation for other developers and feature files could be easily presented to non-tech team members.

Entry point and setup could be time consuming, but You will see profits really early as enhanced quality of your software.

In real world you need to unleash the Selenium and some headless browser drivers, if your system will not be recent framework based you will need to handle database reset and write steps implementation which will be adding necesarry data, you can have more than one database and probably you will need to handle with many more (sometimes crazy) things. But I think that it's worth it.

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