Integration testing Spring command line applications

Fri, Dec 11, 2015

In the last blog post, I wrote about the challenges of writing an integration test for a Spring command line application. One of the solutions for this issue discussed in the blog post was to use the @IntegrationTest annotations to inject Java system properties and use that to run the application instead of the normal command line arguments. This blog post describes how to perform this.

The first step is to rewrite our test to use the @IntegrationTest annotations. This will result in a test that looks as follows:

@SpringApplicationConfiguration(classes = {Application.class})
@IntegrationTest(value = "input:expectedOutput")
public class ApplicationIntegrationTest {
    private Application application;

    public OutputCapture outputCapture = new OutputCapture();

    public void shouldGenerateResultFiles() throws Exception {;

At this point, it is worth taking a look at what the @IntegrationTest annotation causes Spring to do. This is a meta-annotation 1 that specifies a number of test listeners including IntegrationTestPropertiesListener.

@TestExecutionListeners(listeners = { IntegrationTestPropertiesListener.class,
        TransactionalTestExecutionListener.class, SqlScriptsTestExecutionListener.class })
public @interface IntegrationTest {
    String[] value() default {};

IntegrationTestPropertiesListener is an implementation of TestExecutionListener which is a mechanism used by Spring to react to test execution events like beforeTestClass, prepareTestInstance, beforeTestMethod, beforeTestMethod and afterTestClass.

For the purposes of what we are trying to achieve, the listener we are really interested in is the beforeTestClass of IntegrationTestPropertiesListener.

    public void prepareTestInstance(TestContext testContext) throws Exception {
        Class<?> testClass = testContext.getTestClass();
        AnnotationAttributes annotationAttributes = AnnotatedElementUtils
        if (annotationAttributes != null) {

As we can see, the value of the value element 2 of our @IntegrationTest gets injected to the configuration of the test context.

Now that we have understood and used the @IntegrationTest annotation to push in configuration, it is time to make our application consume this configuration.

public class Application implements CommandLineRunner {
    DataService dataService;

    String input;

    public static void main(String[] args) {, args);

    public void run(String... args) {

An added benefit of this approach is that this forces us to use named parameter arguments when running the application as opposed to the position based command line arguments. This of course does not solve the problem of testing if you absolutely have to use position based arguments for your application. It would be nice Spring provided a mechanism to inject the command line arguments in a test before SpringApplicationContextLoader 3 took over. But I suspect that this is not a common enough use case of Spring that users have asked the Spring team to implement it.

  1. Meta annotations are Spring annotations that can modify and act up on other annotations. For an example of customizing behavior using meta annotations, see this blog post. [return]
  2. The tendency of programmers to name the default element of an annotation value is one of my least favorite aspects of Java annotations. In most cases, there is another name that conveys the intent of the element better. I plan to write my thoughts about this in a blog post soon. [return]
  3. See the previous blog post to see how SpringApplicationContextLoader executes the application without arguments. [return]