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Google Gives iOS Devs Open Source EarlGrey Testing Tool

By Jack M. Germain
Feb 22, 2016 2:54 PM PT

Google last week introduced EarlGrey, a functional user interface testing framework for Apple iOS apps.

YouTube, Google Calendar, Google Photos, Google Translate and Google Play Music have successfully adopted the framework, the company said.

EarlGrey has been open sourced under the Apache license, according to Google's Siddartha Janga. The company has provided app developers with a start guide and the ability to add EarlGrey to their projects using CocoaPods or to add it manually to Xcode project files.

Releasing EarlGrey as open source is a positive move that follows considerable efforts by Google in various open source communities, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

"It simplifies iOS development tasks. Overall, it should be a welcome addition to iOS developers' toolboxes," he told LinuxInsider.

What It Does

One of the main advantages to EarlGrey is its synchronization ability, noted Google's Janga. The tests automatically wait for animations, network requests and other events before interacting with the UI. That makes it easier for app developers to write tests without sleep or wait states and to maintain a procedural description of test steps.

Two other factors -- visibility checking and design flexibility -- enhance the testing process on the iOS platform.

Visibility checking during tests takes into account the user experience with an app. It ensures, for example, that attempting to tap a button hidden behind an image will flag an immediate failure, Janga said.

Design components involving element selection, interaction, assertion and synchronization take future growth into consideration.

"Apple is not known for its development tools, so this should make it easier for them to develop iOS apps," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"However, over time, they will be more and more dependent on Alphabet, and Android has not proven as lucrative as iOS has, so strategically, flipping to Alphabet's tools could be ill advised," he told LinuxInsider.

Strategic Move

Open sourcing any technology tends to accelerate product improvements and find potential problems, noted King. Doing so with EarlGrey will allow Google developers to focus on other critical tasks.

"It also somewhat enhances Google's position in open source by showing that the company can and does play nice with Apple-related technologies," he said.

Google's move is a throwback to how Microsoft got a grip on software developers early in its growth, according to Enderle. It's "a very Microsoft-like play" and the kind of thing it did in the 1980s and early 1990s in going after developers.

"If you can own them, you can take control of the platform," he said. "Google gets broader adoption and begins to erode Apple's control over iOS. Both are strategic initiatives for Google."

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him on Google+.

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