I am by no means a regular blogger, but the last time I put pen to paper (or fonts to screen) I suggested that the .NET unit testing cycle was just too long. This became completely apparent to me when recently working on a project with thousands of code files, where the compilation of a test project could take several minutes. Obviously, poor workstations had their portion of the blame, but I also wondered if the fact that a whole load of unnecessary files had to be compiled in order to create the testing assembly.

When going through the red-green-refactor loop we are often constantly running a few select tests over and over again, and not the whole test suite. This made me wonder, do we really need to build the whole testing assembly (and more importantly all referenced projects) just to run a single test?

The fairly simplistic idea that I had was to parse a single test file and determine only the dependencies required to make it build. I would achieve this by looking at the solution file and work out where the code files for these dependencies live on the file system.

Well, while preparing for an upcoming trip, I have had a little time off work. With this time I thought I would knock up a really quick and dirty spike to see if what I thought was actually sensible to implement. The result of which is some really nasty code with very sparse test coverage and some extremely poor design decisions. That said, I also managed to prove that (if I have the required time) I could likely make the .NET testing cycle a little less painful for myself.

My spike can be found at http://github.com/chrisjowen/WellItCouldWork, and the result is a small console app that takes the path of a test file and its corresponding solution file. Whenever the test file is saved the app parses the file to find any dependencies required referenced in the file, then builds a temporary assembly and runs the NUnit test runner against this little assembly i.e.


As I said this is just a spike so the code isn’t great, but I think that when I get back from my travels I will look to seriously do a production ready rewrite as I honestly think this would be a useful tool in the .NET world. Any thoughts?