Open-source, PHP, Programming, Software Architecture

Testing Zend Framework Controllers

Post updated on: Oct 29, 2009

Testing a Web application is a complex task, because a Web application is made of several layers of logic. Unit testing a Zend Framework controller can be very difficult, specially for those who are not familiar with the Zend Framework.

You can test your action controllers using Zend_Test and/or PHPUnit. Zend_Test allows you to simulate requests, insert test data, inspect your application’s output and generally verify your code is doing what it should be doing. It’s up to you to decide which one to use. Even though this choice can be confusing, you can use both. If you’re just getting started with testing, using Zend_Test will probably get you started faster.

The PHPUnit framework will probably feel very familiar to developers coming from Java. It’s inspired by Java’s JUnit, so you’ll feel at home with this method if you’ve used JUnit or any test framework inspired by JUnit.

Of course, no one stops you from using both systems side-by-side (even in the same app). In the end, most projects will eventually end up using both. Each shines in different circumstances.

Using PHPUnit

First, you need to create the directory structure:


A test suite needs some environmental information, and this information is usually found in the bootstrap.php file. The biggest difference between this file and the one you use in you application, is that the Front Controller doesn’t dispatch the Request Object:


error_reporting( E_ALL | E_STRICT );
ini_set('display_startup_errors', 1);
ini_set('display_errors', 1);

define('APPLICATION_PATH', realpath(dirname(__FILE__) . '/../application'));
define('APPLICATION_ENV', 'loc');
define('LIBRARY_PATH', realpath(dirname(__FILE__) . '/../library'));
define('TESTS_PATH', realpath(dirname(__FILE__)));

$_SERVER['SERVER_NAME'] = 'http://localhost';

$includePaths = array(LIBRARY_PATH, get_include_path());
set_include_path(implode(PATH_SEPARATOR, $includePaths));

require_once "Zend/Loader.php";

Zend_Session::$_unitTestEnabled = true;


<phpunit bootstrap="./bootstrap.php" colors="false">
    <testsuite name="ApplicationTestSuite">
            <directory suffix=".php">../application</directory>
            <directory suffix=".php">../library/Custom</directory>
                <directory suffix=".phtml">../application/views</directory>
        <log type="coverage-html" target="./log/coverage" charset="UTF-8"
             yui="true" highlight="false" lowUpperBound="35" highLowerBound="70"/>

Note: If you are using a version of PHPUnit >= 3.4, you need to add the “testsuites” tag.


class ControllerTestCase extends Zend_Test_PHPUnit_ControllerTestCase
    public $application;

    public function setUp()
        $this->application = new Zend_Application(
            APPLICATION_PATH . '/config/settings.ini'

        $this->bootstrap = array($this, 'bootstrap');

    public function tearDown()


    public function bootstrap()

If you want the Front Controller to throw all the exceptions, you have no other choice than to overwrite the dispatch method and pass a boolean TRUE to the throwExceptions() method. For example:

class ControllerTestCase extends Zend_Test_PHPUnit_ControllerTestCase

    public function dispatch($url = null)
        // redirector should not exit
        $redirector = Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker::getStaticHelper('redirector');

        // json helper should not exit
        $json = Zend_Controller_Action_HelperBroker::getStaticHelper('json');
        $json->suppressExit = true;

        $request = $this->getRequest();
        if (null !== $url) {




Writing unit tests

Time to create our first test suite. A test suite is a class inherited from PHPUnit_Framework_TestCase containing test methods, identified by a leading “test” in the method name.


require_once TESTS_PATH . '/application/ControllerTestCase.php';
require_once APPLICATION_PATH . '/controllers/ExampleController.php';

class ExampleControllerTest extends ControllerTestCase
    public function testDefaultShouldInvokeIndexAction()

    public function testViewObjectContainsStringProperty()

        $controller = new ExampleController(


To create an instance of the Action Controller, you need to dispatch the request and pass the Request/Response objects and parameters to the Action Controller.


require_once TESTS_PATH . '/app/ControllerTestCase.php';
require_once APPLICATION_PATH . '/controllers/ErrorController.php';

class ErrorControllerTest extends ControllerTestCase
    public function testExceptionIsAnInstanceOfZendControllerException()
        $e = new stdClass();
        $e->type = Zend_Controller_Plugin_ErrorHandler::EXCEPTION_NO_CONTROLLER;
        $e->exception = new Zend_Controller_Exception('Invalid controller');
        $e->request = $this->request;

        $this->request->setParam('error_handler', $e);
        $this->request->setParam('controller', 'error');
        $this->request->setParam('action', 'error');

        $controller = new ErrorController(
        $isInstanceOf = $controller->view->exception instanceof Zend_Controller_Exception;


Running tests

$ cd /path/to/tests
$ phpunit
PHPUnit 3.3.8 by Sebastian Bergmann.
Time: 0 seconds
OK (3 tests, 4 assertions)

If there are test failures, you’ll see full details about which tests failed. Optionally, you can use Phing and Hudson to automate this task.

Related post:
Testing Zend Framework Action Controllers With Mocks
Setting up continuous integration for PHP using Hudson and Phing

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