TL;DR - Take advantage of the new Swift 4 Codable protocol to encode the launch environment of your UI tests

Native UI testing in iOS does not allow direct interaction from the UI test to the app target. In other words, the test code cannot change the state of the app code while it is running.

XCUITests allow for information to be sent to the app by either the launchArguments: [String] or the launchEnvironment: [String : String]. These 2 properties can be read from the ProcessInfo. Historically, I’ve used the launchEnvironment to send specific flags, for example ["UITest-has-completed-onboarding": "true"]. However, this can get messy as more options are required and a lot of code is needed to be able to send more complex data.

The introduction of Codable in Swift 4 provides a much simpler approach for this kind of communication. In essence, a type that represents the launch environment can be encoded and decoded with very little effort thanks to Codable.

The example

Define a UITestEnvironment type that conforms to Codable with any relevant data for your UI test environment. For example:

Note: This type has to be included in both the app target and the test target.

struct UITestEnvironment: Codable {

	static let Key = "UITestEnvironmentKey"

	let hasCompletedOnboarding: Bool

	// Any other keys or data you'd like

Add a function to encode an Encodable type into a base64 JSON string to your test target:

extension Encodable {
	func base64EncodedJSONString() -> String? {
		guard let encodedData = try? JSONEncoder().encode(self) else { return nil }
		return encodedData.base64EncodedString()

Add a function to decode a Decodable type from a base64 JSON string to your app target:

extension Decodable {
	static func decode(from base64EncodedJSONString: String) -> Self? {
		guard let jsonData = Data(base64Encoded: base64EncodedJSONString) else { return nil }
		return try? JSONDecoder().decode(self, from: jsonData)

On your UI tests create the environment you need for that test, encode it and pass to the launchEnvironment:

let originalArguments = UITestEnvironment(hasCompletedOnboarding: true)
let encodedArguments = originalArguments.base64EncodedJSONString()!

let app = XCUIApplication()
app.launchEnvironment = [UITestEnvironment.Key: encodedArguments]

Read the launch environment from ProcessInfo and decode the data into UITestEnvironment on the app target where it is relevant to alter the state of the running app:

if let encodedEnvironment = ProcessInfo.processInfo.environment[UITestEnvironment.Key],
	let decodedEnvironment = UITestEnvironment.decode(from: encodedEnvironment) {
	// Do something with the test environment

That’s it! This is a very simple way to transmit information between your UI tests and your app. Since the only requirement for a UI test environment is that it conforms to Codable you may have multiple types for different tests instead of one UITestEnvironment.

I’d like to thank Nahuel Marisi for reviewing this article.