Operations: Testing


ActionHero provides test helpers so that you may try your actions and tasks within a headless environment. We do this by including a specHelper initializer which creates a server, testServer when running within the test environment. Via the testServer, you can easily call actions or tasks without making a real request.

We have chosen mocha as our test framework and chai as our assertion tool which are included as dependencies within all new projects (generated with ./node_modules/.bin/actionhero generate). We also use cross-env to set NODE_ENV in a way that works for all operating systems, including Windows. You do not need to use these testing tools, but an example will be provided which makes use of them.

You also don't need to use these test helpers, and you may want to make a real http or websocket request to test something specific. If this is the case, you can check out how ActionHero tests its own servers for examples.

Getting Started

// package.json from a new actionhero project with `mocha` and `chai` included
  "author"      : "YOU <[email protected]>",
  "name"        : "my_actionhero_project",
  "description" : "my actionhero project",
  "version"     : "0.0.1",
  "engines"     : {
    "node": ">=0.10.0"
  "dependencies" : {
    "actionhero" : "12.3.0",
    "ws"         : "latest"
  "devDependencies" : {
    "cross-env": "latest",
    "mocha"  : "latest",
    "chai" : "latest"
  "scripts" : {
    "help"         : "actionhero help",
    "start"        : "actionhero start",
    "actionhero"   : "actionhero",
    "start cluster": "actionhero start cluster",
    "test"         : "cross-env NODE_ENV=test mocha"

To run a mocha test suite, you invoke the mocha binary, ./node_modules/.bin/mocha. This will tell mocha to look in your ./test folder and run any tests that it can find. There are ways to change the test folder location, only run specific tests, change the reporting format and more which you can learn about on Mocha's website. We asume that you have mocha (and chai) installed to your project by listing it in your package.json. If you used ActionHero generate to create your project, this should already be configured for your.

The majority of the time, you'll be testing actions and other methods you have written, so you'll need to "run" an actionhero server as part of your test suite. Many times you'll want to have ActionHero behave in a slightly unique way while testing (perhaps connect to a special database, don't log, etc). To do this, you can change the behavior of the config files for the test environment. Here is how we tell ActionHero not to write any logs when testing. Note thest test-specific configuration overrides the defaults. To ensure that ActionHero boots with the test environment loaded, the test command you run should explicitly do this, AKA: NODE_ENV=test ./node_modules/.bin/mocha. You can log this in as the test script in your package.json so you can simplify the running of tests with just npm test.

ActionHero comes with a specHelper to make it easier to test tasks and actions. This specHelper is a special server which can check things without needing to make an HTTP, websocket, etc request. If you need to check the true behavior of a server (perhaps how the router works for an HTTP request), you should make a real HTTP request in your test suite, using something like the request library (example).

Example Test

'use strict'

let path = require('path')
var expect = require('chai').expect
var ActionheroPrototype = require(path.join(__dirname, '/../../actionhero.js'))
var actionhero = new ActionheroPrototype()
var api

describe('Action: RandomNumber', () => {
  before((done) => {
    actionhero.start((error, a) => {
      api = a

  after((done) => {
    actionhero.stop(() => {

  var firstNumber = null
  it('generates random numbers', (done) => {
    api.specHelper.runAction('randomNumber', (response) => {
      firstNumber = response.randomNumber

  it('is unique / random', (done) => {
    api.specHelper.runAction('randomNumber', (response) => {

Say you had an action that was supposed to respond with a randomNumber, and you wanted to write a test for it.

More details on the specHelper methods are below.

If you want to see fuller example of how to create an integration test within ActionHero, please check out the tutorial

Test Methods

new api.specHelper.connection()

  • generate a new connection object for the testServer
  • this connection can run actions, chat, etc.
  • connection.messages will contain all messages the connection has been sent (welcome messages, action responses, say messages, etc)

api.specHelper.runAction(actionName, input, callback)

  • use this method to run an action
  • input can be either a api.specHelper.connection object, or simply a hash of params, IE: {key: 'value'}
  • the callback returns message and connection.
  • example use:
api.specHelper.runAction('cacheTest', {key: 'key', value: 'value'}, function(message, connection){
// message is the normal API response;
// connection is a new connection object

api.specHelper.getStaticFile(file, callback)

  • request a file in /public from the server
  • the callback returns message and connection where message is a hash:
var message = {
error    : error,    // null if everything is OK
content  : (string), // string representation of the file's body
mime     : mime,     // file mime
length   : length    // bytes

api.specHelper.runTask(taskName, params, callback)

  • callback may or may not return anything depending on your task's makeup
api.specHelper.runTask('sendEmailTask', {message: 'hello' to: '[email protected]'}, function(response){
// test it!
// remember that the task really will be run, so be sure that the test environment is set properly


Be sure to run your tests in the test environment, setting the shell's env with NODE_ENV=test. You can alternatively set this explicitly in your tests with process.env.NODE_ENV = 'test'

If you do not want the specHelper actions to include metadata (data.response.serverInformation, data.response.requesterInformation, and data.response.messageCount) from the server, you can configure api.specHelper.returnMetadata = false in your tests.