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Faking authentication for capybara tests within a Rails engine

If you are using engines to break up your large Rails app, you might end up with a strange case where you cannot login for your capybara tests within individual engines. It sounds weird at first, but the engine your trying to test might not have a dependency on the engine that provides authentication. It should depend on the fact that there is a user_id in the session, but how it got there is none of its concern.

Here’s a real example of engines and I currently working on:

  • User engine – contains model/table for users
  • UserManagement engine – contains controllers and views for sign in/up
  • LocationManagement engine – contains controllers and views for managing locations

Both the UserManagement and LocationManagement engines depend on the User engine. Furthermore the LocationManagement engine requires a logged in user in to access its controllers (it does this by looking for session[:user_id] in a before filter and sets @current_user off of it). The LocationManagement engine does not depend on the UserManagement engine, or vice-a-versa.

In my acceptance tests for the LocationManagement engine I need to test the creation of Locations. To do this, I first need a logged in user. Without making the LocationManagement engine depend on the UserManagement engine, there’s no way for me to login the user by visiting the Sign In page and filling in a form. So instead of filling in a Sign In form, I will set a session variable for user_id.

The Solution…

In order to set a session variable in a capybara test, you need to use a gem called rack_session_access: This gem creates a http endpoint that allows you to set session variables. It should go without saying: DO NOT allow this gem to run in production!

In your engine’s gemfile, add the dependency on rack_session_access:

group :development, :test do
  gem "rack_session_access"

The gem is actually rack middleware, so the next step is to tell your dummy app to add it to its middleware stack. In spec/dummy/config/test.rb add the following line:

Dummy::Application.configure do
  config.middleware.use RackSessionAccess::Middleware

…in your spec_helper.rb add:

require 'rack_session_access/capybara'

…and finally in your test “login” your user by…

page.set_rack_session(:user_id =>

Voila! You have the equivalent of a logged in user! Thank you Andriy Yanko for posting on Accessing application session in capybara.

  1. Joseph Palermo says:

    Assuming you have the shared secret and are using the cookie session store, it’s pretty easy to write a method that just creates a new session cookie with the correct user_id in it and use that for your requests.

    It avoids using another library and making an extra request, but requires a bit more leg work to setup the first time.

  2. archana says:

    This helped me a lot! Thank you!

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