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Testing Sails Applications with Mocha and SuperTest

Kelvin Omereshone

The goal of this article is to make setting up testing in your Sails application as simple as possible. Let’s get started

A brand new Sails app

So we are going to start off on a clean slate by creating an API-only brand new Sails application. We do that by running:

sails new sails-mocha-supertest-starter --no-frontend

Note: for the above command to work, you must have installed Sails globally by running:

npm i -g sails

Structuring our code base for testing

In Sails, you will want to test your controllers, models and helpers, so we can have our test structure mirror this. In the Sails application you just created, create a directory test/ in the project root and inside it add the following directories: controllers, helpers, models.

This structure is a good starting point which you can extend to your heart content when the need arises. Let’s move on to the Master of Ceremony of our testing fiesta!

Installing Mocha

Mocha is the testing framework we will be choosing for our setup. It’s a feature-rich Javascript test framework running on both Node.js and in the browser.

We will be installing Mocha as a development dependency by running:

npm i mocha --save-dev

After the installation is complete, edit the test script in the scripts section of your package.json to run Mocha. Like so:

"test": "mocha"

Configuring Mocha

So we’ve installed Mocha and made it that when we run npm test it will run Mocha and Mocha will in turn run our automated tests in the test/ directory. By default, Mocha will run just the test files in the test/ directory and not run test files within nested directories. Seeing our test/ directory structure currently, we have got to do something about this.

Mocha comes with a number of ways for you to configure it, from passing configuration flags in the command line to using .json and .yml files. But we will be using a good ol’ JavaScript file to configure Mocha. So create at the root of your project a file called .mocharc.js.

In this file export a CommonJS module like so:

module.exports = {}

Within the object you are exporting is where you will be setting a couple of Mocha configurations. The first one is to get Mocha to look for test files within subdirectories in the test/ folder so add recursive: true within that exported object like so:

module.exports = {
  recursive: true

So now Mocha will execute tests within subdirectories of test/. Next we need to be able to lift Sails before Mocha executes any test because our controllers, models and quite frankly all of Sails won’t function without that. Also after Mocha has ran all our tests, we should lower Sails. let’s see how Mocha help us achieve this.

Mocha Root Hooks Plugins

Mocha provides some hooks in which you can run before or after each test suites but what we are really interested in is the Root Hooks Plugins.

A Root Hook Plugin is a JavaScript file that we can require which will register one or more hooks to be used all accross our test files. This is brilliant! Because with this capability, we will add a hook to start Sails before any of our tests ever run and also lower Sails after all of our tests are done!

So let’s write the Root Hook Plugin. We will create a file in test/ directory called hooks.js. In this file is where we will setup the hooks to be used accross our tests. So let’s right the content of the file. First of, we will require Sails:

const sails = require('sails')

Then we will an object called mochaHooks like so:

exports.mochaHooks = {}

The hooks we will be registering in this plugin will be beforeAll and afterAll Mocha Hooks. So let’s stub both hooks out:

const sails = require('sails')
exports.mochaHooks = {
  beforeAll(done) {
  afterAll(done) {}

Before we finish setting up the Root Hook Plugin, we need to do two things: Install SuperTest and create a test environment for Sails. Let’s start with the low hanging fruit

Installing SuperTest

SuperTest is an HTTP assertion agent from the folks at Vision Media. SuperTest is based off superagent. Basically what this means is that we can make requests to our Sails app endpoints with SuperTest and make assertions like, “does this endpoint return the status code 200?”, you get the idea!

Let’s install SuperTest as a development dependency by running:

npm i supertest --save-dev

Once that’s done, we move on to…

Creating a test environment

Sails gives you the ability to define environments for your Sails application as JavaScript files found in config/env/. By default your app already have a production.js env file. So all we need do now is create a test.js file in config/env. We need to do this so we can provide some overrides for the environment Sails will be in when our tests runs. So create config/env/test/js and let’s start fleshing it out and explaining why we need override each setting with some comments:

// config/env/test.js
module.exports = {
  // Skip grunt hook as we won't be needing it for running our tests
  hooks: {
    grunt: false
  // Disable all logs except warnings and errors.
  log: {
    level: 'warn'
  // We want to drop our database before run our tests to have a clean database each time
  models: {
    migrate: 'drop'
  // We want to use the built in sails-disks storage for our tests.
  // You can set up any database you want really in here.
  datastores: {
    default: {
      adapter: 'sails-disk'

And that’s it for config/env/test.js

Back to the Mocha Root Hook Plugin

So now that we have added SuperTest and have created and configured a test environment for Sails, Let’s finish our Mocha Root Hook Plugin. We will begin in the beforeAll hook.

  beforeAll(done) {
      environment: 'test'
    }, (error, sails) => {
      if (error) return done(error) = require('supertest')(
      return done()

Let’s zoom in into what we are doing here, we are lifting Sails by calling sails.lift this will start up Sails in development mode, however we are overriding that by passing an options object as the first argument to sails.lift and in that object we set the environment property to test. This tell Sails to use the configuations we have specified in config/env/test.js.

Next, in the callback passed to Sails, which will return an error if an error occured and a sails instance. We are then accessing our app via and passing it as an argument to require('supertest').

We then went on to assign the call to SuperTest to a global variable called app like so This global object will make app available to all our test files.

Lastly, we return the call to the done callback with the error and sails instances.


Now that we are done lifting Sails before we run any tests, we might as well lower it after all tests have been ran. We do so in the afterAll hook. Like so:

afterAll (done) {
    try {
    } catch (error) {
      return done(error)

The implementation of the afterAll hook is quite straight forward: We try to call sails.lower passing in the done call back saying we are done callback since it’s an asynchronous operation. Then in the catch block, we are returning the call to done(error) which will pass the error to the caller if there is an error.

require the hook please

So we have defined the hook but Mocha doesn’t know about it yet. We tell Mocha about the hook by setting a require property in the .mocharc.js configuration file and passing in a string which will be the path to our Root Hook plugin. Here is how your .mocharc.js file should look now:

module.exports = {
  recursive: true,
  require: 'test/hooks.js',

Timing out

Mocha has a default timeout of 2000 milliseconds. Our Sails app might need more time to lift than that so let’s increate the timeout to 10000 milliseconds?

So in .mocharc.js we add:

module.exports = {
  recursive: true,
  require: 'test/hooks.js',
  timeout: 10000

And we are done, with the setup, let’s test if everything is in order by writing our very first test.

Our very firt test

Recall we created a brand new Sails app with the --no-frontend flag? This mean we don’t have any pages at the moment so if you visit / when you run the app, you will get a 404. Let’s test if this is really true!

In test/controller create a home directory and inside it, add a file called index.test.js. Open that file and add the following:

describe('home', () => {
  it('/ - should return 404', (done) => {
    app.get('/').expect(404, done)

So what we are doing here is that, we are creating a test suite with a call to Mocha’s describe and then within it, we create a test with it function which takes a string as the first argument describing what we are testing, and we are passing as the second argument, a callback function which contains the done callback since our test will be asynchronous.

We are then accessing the app global variable we set in test/hooks.js which we set here = require('supertest')( And then we are accessing the get method, passing it the / home route and using .expect we are telling SuperTest to assert that it returns 404 and we pass in done to .expect signifying we are done with that test case.

Now head over to your terminal and run

npm test


npm t

And you should see Mocha executing one test and that test is passing ✅

Test Coverage

You may need to configure Test Coverage check for your application which allows you know how many percent of your codebase has been covered by your test. For this we will be using nyc - the Istanbul commandline interface

We will install it like so:

npm i nyc --save-dev

After installing we add a coverage script in package.json, like so:

"coverage": "nyc npm test"

So when you run npm run coverage nyc will output the coverage statistics of your application in your terminal. You can see in more ways how you can configure it [here].

.gitignoring nyc output directories

nyc will output some files and directories when it run, we don’t want to commit those so we add them to .gitignore. Add these two directories to your .gitignore



In a real world application, not testing your application is not an option, this article showed you how to setup automated testing in your Sails app using Mocha and SuperTest. We also covered adding test coverage with nyc. And we are done ✅

The code for this article is on GitHub you can check it out.