Literal snapshot testing


Snapshot testing is a type of so-called "golden master" testing, where an assertion is made that a value matches some previously captured output. Insta is a library providing snapshot test tooling in the Rust ecosystem, and their description of snapshot testing is a useful introduction.

Snapshot testing is most often done on text

Even when used for testing UI components, as commonly done in the React ecosystem using Jest, snapshot testing is most often done on text. In React, the snapshots are made up of the component as rendered into HTML, rather than a visual representation. Presumably this is because browsers may not visually render the same HTML/CSS with pixel perfect consistency, so it is more stable to test the HTML output directly.

Snapshot testing an embedded systems user interface.. with images

I've been working on a firmware for the PineTime smartwatch, and wanted a way to develop automated tests of the user interface. To scratch this itch I developed some barebones test infrastructure supporting snapshot testing, using PNGs captured by running the user interface code inside a simulator.

The test code first uses a simulator to render the user interface into a PNG. It then checks for an existing snapshot. If there is one, it asserts that the current PNG matches the snapshot. If the developer is purposefully making a UI change, they can compare the new and old snapshots to ensure the change matches their expectations. If a snapshot doesn't exist yet, the current PNG is saved as the golden record. If the developer is adding a new test, they should manually validate that this snapshot matches the intended UI.

Snapshot diffs in pull requests

Snapshots are saved in the git repository. There can be downsides to including large files in git, but these PNG files are actually smaller than most text files in the repo. And although git itself doesn't natively know how to nicely diff images, both github and gitlab do provide nice tooling for diff'ing changes to an image. You can see an example in this pull request modifying the battery state UI.

Paving the road ahead

While this snapshot tooling is useful in its current state, there is a lot of missing polish:

There are probably lots more things missing here that I haven't run into yet. That said, even in its current (very simplistic) state, I find these tests improve my confidence when making changes to UI code.