Suppose one had a relatively large program (say 900k SLOC in C#), all commented/documented thoroughly, well organized and working well. The entire code base was written by a single senior developer who no longer with the company. All the code is testable as is and IoC is used throughout--except for some strange reason they did not write any unit tests. Now, your company wants to branch the code and wants unit tests added to detect when changes break the core functionality.
- Is adding tests a good idea?
- If so, how would one even start on something like this?
OK, so I had not expected answers making good arguments for opposite conclusions. The issue may be out of my hands anyway. I've read through the "duplicate questions" as well and the general consensus is that "writing tests is good"...yeah, but not too helpful in this particular case.
I don't think I am alone here in contemplating writing tests for a legacy system. I'm going to keep metrics on how much time is spent and how many times the new tests catch problems (and how many times they don't). I'll come back and update this a year or so from now with my results.
So it turns out that it is basically impossible to just add unit test to existing code with any semblance of orthodoxy. Once the code is working you obviously cannot red-light/green-light your tests, it usually not clear which behaviors are important to test, not clear where to begin and certainly not clear when you are finished. Really even asking this question misses the main point of writing tests in the first place. In the majority of cases I found it actually easier to re-write the code using TDD than to decipher the intended functions and retroactively add in unit tests. When fixing a problem or adding a new feature it is a different story, and I believe that this is the time to add unit tests (as some pointed out below). Eventually most code gets rewritten, often sooner than you'd expect--taking this approach I've been able to add test coverage to a surprisingly large chunk of the existing codebase.