Mark Baker: Discharging Static #2

Mark Baker continues his series looking at the use of static properties and methods in applications and how to test them. In this second part of the series he focuses more on some of the unintentional side-effects that could happen when you’re trying to refactor them out.

In the first article in this series, I wrote about the problems with testing static methods in classes, and showed a few approaches that allow us to write mocks for statics. Testing classes where we have static properties is a lot harder to manage, because any changes made in any test to those properties are global, across the entire test suite, not simply the test that we are running. Static properties are part of the global state, and we can’t simply tearDown() those changes in the way that we do with instances — at least we cannot easily do so if the property has a visibility of private or protected.

He goes through an example of a refactor from a static property (essentially in the global scope) to a private property. He points out the issue of setting a static value in what seem to be separate child classes, the fact that it actually changes the base value, not the individual ones, leading to potentially unintended consequences.

His main recommendation is to avoid the use of static properties all together. Where that’s no possible (like in a legacy project) he offers two potential solutions: either replace them with constants if they’re never changed or changing them to instance properties.

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