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Data-driven tests With JUnit 4 and Excel

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One nice feature in JUnit 4 is that of Parameterized Tests, which let you do data-driven testing in JUnit with a minimum of fuss. It's easy enough, and very useful, to set up basic data-driven tests by defining your test data directly in your Java class. But what if you want to get your test data from somewhere else? In this article, we look at how to obtain test data from an Excel spreadsheet.

Parameterized tests allow data-driven tests in JUnit. That is, rather than having different of test cases that explore various aspects of your class's (or your application's) behavior, you define sets of input parameters and expected results, and test how your application (or, more often, one particular component) behaves. Data-driven tests are great for applications involving calculations, for testing ranges, boundary conditions and corner cases.

In JUnit, a typical parameterized test might look like this:

public class PremiumTweetsServiceTest {

private int numberOfTweets;
private double expectedFee;

public static Collection data() {
return Arrays.asList(new Object[][] { { 0, 0.00 }, { 50, 5.00 },
{ 99, 9.90 }, { 100, 10.00 }, { 101, 10.08 }, { 200, 18},
{ 499, 41.92 }, { 500, 42 }, { 501, 42.05 }, { 1000, 67 },
{ 10000, 517 }, });

public PremiumTweetsServiceTest(int numberOfTweets, double expectedFee) {
this.numberOfTweets = numberOfTweets;
this.expectedFee = expectedFee;

public void shouldCalculateCorrectFee() {
PremiumTweetsService premiumTweetsService = new PremiumTweetsService();
double calculatedFees = premiumTweetsService.calculateFeesDue(numberOfTweets);
assertThat(calculatedFees, is(expectedFee));

The test class has member variables that correspond to input values (numberOfTweets) and expected results (expectedFee). The @RunWith(Parameterzed.class) annotation gets JUnit to inject your test data into instances of your test class, via the constructor.

The test data is provided by a method with the @Parameters annotation. This method needs to return a collection of arrays, but beyond that you can implement it however you want. In the above example, we just create an embedded array in the Java code. However, you can also get it from other sources. To illustrate this point, I wrote a simple class that reads in an Excel spreadsheet and provides the data in it in this form:

public class DataDrivenTestsWithSpreadsheetTest { 

    private double a;
    private double b;
    private double aTimesB;
    public static Collection spreadsheetData() throws IOException {
        InputStream spreadsheet = new FileInputStream("src/test/resources/aTimesB.xls");
        return new SpreadsheetData(spreadsheet).getData();

    public DataDrivenTestsWithSpreadsheetTest(double a, double b, double aTimesB) {
        this.a = a;
        this.b = b;
        this.aTimesB = aTimesB;

    public void shouldCalculateATimesB() {
        double calculatedValue = a * b;
        assertThat(calculatedValue, is(aTimesB));

The Excel spreadsheet contains multiplication tables in three columns:

The SpreadsheetData class uses the Apache POI project to load data from an Excel spreadsheet and transform it into a list of Object arrays compatible with the @Parameters annotation. I've placed the source code, complete with unit-test examples on BitBucket. For the curious, the SpreadsheetData class is shown here:

public class SpreadsheetData {

    private transient Collection data = null;

    public SpreadsheetData(final InputStream excelInputStream) throws IOException { = loadFromSpreadsheet(excelInputStream);

    public Collection getData() {
        return data;

    private Collection loadFromSpreadsheet(final InputStream excelFile)
            throws IOException {
        HSSFWorkbook workbook = new HSSFWorkbook(excelFile);

        data = new ArrayList();
        Sheet sheet = workbook.getSheetAt(0);

        int numberOfColumns = countNonEmptyColumns(sheet);
        List rows = new ArrayList();
        List rowData = new ArrayList();

        for (Row row : sheet) {
            if (isEmpty(row)) {
            } else {
                for (int column = 0; column < numberOfColumns; column++) {
                    Cell cell = row.getCell(column);
                    rowData.add(objectFrom(workbook, cell));
        return rows;

    private boolean isEmpty(final Row row) {
        Cell firstCell = row.getCell(0);
        boolean rowIsEmpty = (firstCell == null)
                || (firstCell.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_BLANK);
        return rowIsEmpty;

     * Count the number of columns, using the number of non-empty cells in the
     * first row.
    private int countNonEmptyColumns(final Sheet sheet) {
        Row firstRow = sheet.getRow(0);
        return firstEmptyCellPosition(firstRow);

    private int firstEmptyCellPosition(final Row cells) {
        int columnCount = 0;
        for (Cell cell : cells) {
            if (cell.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_BLANK) {
        return columnCount;

    private Object objectFrom(final HSSFWorkbook workbook, final Cell cell) {
        Object cellValue = null;

        if (cell.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_STRING) {
            cellValue = cell.getRichStringCellValue().getString();
        } else if (cell.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_NUMERIC) {
            cellValue = getNumericCellValue(cell);
        } else if (cell.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_BOOLEAN) {
            cellValue = cell.getBooleanCellValue();
        } else if (cell.getCellType()  ==Cell.CELL_TYPE_FORMULA) {
            cellValue = evaluateCellFormula(workbook, cell);

        return cellValue;

    private Object getNumericCellValue(final Cell cell) {
        Object cellValue;
        if (DateUtil.isCellDateFormatted(cell)) {
            cellValue = new Date(cell.getDateCellValue().getTime());
        } else {
            cellValue = cell.getNumericCellValue();
        return cellValue;

    private Object evaluateCellFormula(final HSSFWorkbook workbook, final Cell cell) {
        FormulaEvaluator evaluator = workbook.getCreationHelper()
        CellValue cellValue = evaluator.evaluate(cell);
        Object result = null;
        if (cellValue.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_BOOLEAN) {
            result = cellValue.getBooleanValue();
        } else if (cellValue.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_NUMERIC) {
            result = cellValue.getNumberValue();
        } else if (cellValue.getCellType() == Cell.CELL_TYPE_STRING) {
            result = cellValue.getStringValue();   
        return result;

Data-driven testing is a great way to test calculation-based applications more thoroughly. In a real-world application, this Excel spreadsheet could be provided by the client or the end-user with the business logic encoded within the spreadsheet. (The POI library handles numerical calculations just fine, though it seems to have a bit of trouble with calculations using dates). In this scenario, the Excel spreadsheet becomes part of your acceptance tests, and helps to define your requirements, allows effective test-driven development of the code itself, and also acts as part of your acceptance tests.


Published at DZone with permission of John Ferguson Smart, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)



Marc Stock replied on Mon, 2009/11/30 - 6:35pm

Maybe I'm not getting something here but it seems like you could save yourself some hassle and just use Fitnesse or Fit. You can do all kinds of data driven tests with it.

James Ervin replied on Mon, 2010/01/18 - 5:07pm

There is one little headache for using Fit, it wont take Excel Spreadsheets directly.

Anuj Kumar replied on Mon, 2013/10/21 - 9:45am

How about using EasyTest Core  module to write your Data Driven Tests. 

Using EasyTest your above test will reduce to this :

public class DataDrivenTestsWithSpreadsheetTest { 

    public void shouldCalculateATimesB(@Param(name='a')Integer a , @Param(name='b')Integer b) {
        double calculatedValue = a * b;
        assertThat(calculatedValue, is(aTimesB));


And you do not need to maintain your file as EasyTest supports loading data from Excel, CSV and XML files by default. In case you do need to load data in a specific way, you can always do that using CustomLoader feature of easyTest's DataLoader annotation.

Notice also that the test class has now become simple, easy to maintain, without any class level fields or constructors defined.

Also, if you want to return some data from your test method and compare it with some data in your test data file, then it can also be done and EasyTest supports it by default.

Have a look at the quick start guide to get up and running quickly with EasyTest  :

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